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

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.

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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?

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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? *

Writing My Book

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It's been over a year since I first began working on my now finished novel. Sometimes it's still hard to believe. Even if my novel doesn't go anywhere - which, it will, I'm determined to make something happen with it - it was still an awesome journey I took, writing a book. I learned a lot in my faith as I wrote it, something I didn't even know until I was finished. Since the pathetic blog post I wrote when I finished it gave you absolutely no information, I thought we'd visit that process of writing a book. I want to remember it all, so here we go...

Fall 2013

Working super hard at a novel that had all my emotions from entering fifth grade.

Spring 2014

That novel was just not clicking with me. I knew I could do better. I knew that we could always be questioning our writing, too, but I just had to take a break with that story. I kept it (a lesson learned the hard way danggit), but I decided to begin a new story I'd really felt confident in. The story (which I called HOURS APART) was postponed at a little over thirty thousand words, a record for me.

In the spring at the end of my fifth grade year, I began the story I have now finished. Beginning a sparkly new idea is a blast at first, but later it takes tons of grit to persevere through. My goal was to finish my book by Christmas 2014.

Winter 2014

I was getting super close. Before I started typing, I set a goal for myself at forty thousand words to reach. When I filled the white space with that many words and still had more to go, it was a great feeling! I still had to finish the book, though.

Around Christmastime, I only had four or five chapters left. I remember it was the day after Christmas, and I was telling my mom I was almost!!! done!!! That feeling though when you finish completely. I was so thankful to God. This book was going to be about faith because I want to spread it everywhere, and it was just an amazing feeling for me. As an adult, it takes grit to write a book. As an impatient little eleven year old, it took even more. I prayed, though, that God would help me persevere through it and that He'd use me. And He did.

There were plenty of errors. Some of the things I learned in my language classes this year you could tell were obviously lacking, but that's okay. That's why I'm editing it. I was also stoked that I had exceeded my goal of forty thousand words. I finished at a little under sixty thousand! I don't want to be one of those people who's just throwing out phrases about glory to God, so when I say glory to Him I MEAN IT. Writing a book is not easy, and there's really no way I could do it without God guiding me. No way I could have done it as fast - I was shocked that it didn't take at least a full year. It's taken over a year to be edited completely, but I expected that.

Spring 2015

This would be the time where I started revising on the document. I have my own process that goes through it about six times. It's no joke! Before I begin, I like to read through what I've done without making any corrections. I don't really read the books I'm writing until they're done! Sometimes I'll read a chapter if I need a refresher on something, but I don't read the whole thing until the end. It's really cool to read it beginning to end and be like, I wrote this. 

Afterwards, I go through and just make any corrections I need to start with. After that, each time has a certain area I'm correcting, and I just keep doing that. I wanted somebody to look at it like a teacher, but I think a lot of them were really busy, and I never heard back. I let my blogging buddy who I'd been talking with for quite awhile have a peek at it, but other than that, it's just me who's read it. I think I'm going to keep it that way, too. I definitely don't have all the grammar rules figured out, but I would say I have a natural ability with spelling, punctuation, and just writing good sentences. If God can help me finish it, He'll help me edit it. He's not just going to drop me there.

I also think, worst case scenario, I send it to an agency, and they will write back if I have some major areas I need to work on. Again, God always remains faithful. I know it will work out.

Summer 2015

It took awhile to print my book because of how long it was, but finally I got it in the summer. It was HUGE, probably because I had it double spaced. I worked on editing quite a bit, and then I made the online corrections.

Now

...I am working on the finishing touches, and I'm learning it will never be perfect, so I'll just do my best.
...I am trusting that God will use me and this book to glorify Him.
...I am pushing away doubts and lies of Satan, and I am fully trusting God's truth and promises. All glory goes to Him through it all - whatever happens. Thank you all for being such an encouragement in my journey, this is only the beginning!