Waiting for You: A Playlist (And the Wonders of Music)

I don’t know of any indie authors who haven’t made a playlist for their novels — you all have, haven’t you? — or at least picked out actors who would play their characters if their novel was ever adapted for the big screen (which, by the way, I have an Evernote file of nearly all my characters and their respective actors…).

Music is such a phenomenal concept. I’ve been playing violin for 20 years and have had such wonderful opportunities to perform up and down the East Coast, including places like Epcot and Magic Kingdom at Disney World. In my private lessons, we studied via the Suzuki Method (which Adam makes a crack about in Chapter Two of Waiting for You. I couldn’t resist.) In high school, I also was a part of my church’s youth choir, which was associated with the Royal Academy of Music. In order to advance a level (and thereby getting to wear the next color adornment over your cassock and surplus), you had to take tests in music theory.

There are even studies on the effects of music therapy in psychiatric patients. Seriously, music is such an amazing thing. The right song can make us cry when we’re sad, cheer when we’re happy, and make us belt out a tune at the top of our lungs in rush hour traffic.

This is why I think it’s a great idea to create playlists for our novels. There’s something about the perfect songs that can help convey the heart and soul, bloodmusicspeaks, sweat and tears that we’ve poured into our novels. They can be the perfect accompaniment to, dare I say it, harmonize with our work.

So, without further ado, here is my playlist for Waiting for You!

  1. All This Time ~ OneRepublic (Main theme song)
  2. One Sweet Day ~ Maria Carey & Boyz II Men (Sarah’s song)
  3. Left Behind ~ Spring Awakening (Elliott’s song)
  4. Come Home ~ OneRepublic
  5. Nightingale ~ Demi Lovato
  6. Remedy ~ Adele

    (Sorry! Couldn’t find a video to embed of this song.)


9 Resources for Showing, Not Telling

writing, show, don't tell, writer, novel, book, ebook

Show, don’t tell. How many times have you heard that? How often do we scour our work for signs of telling to eagerly correct the problem?

What exactly does it mean? Well, it’s the difference between:

Delilah felt excited.


Delilah’s eyes widened as she bounced on her toes. Her pounding heart thudded hard against her ribs and her pulse was deafening in her ears as a grin spread across her lips.

I’ve gathered some resources to help you show instead of tell! Some of these are absolute favorites of mine and I use them frequently as reference. Some also have links to purchase on Amazon.

1. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
I love, love, love this. It’s my go-to guide when I need help conveying a character’s emotion. It includes 75 different emotions your characters might feel. The beauty of it is that humans are complex beings. We might be feeling a whole slew of different emotions at once. Each listed emotion includes what that feeling might escalate to, or what cues might show that your character is trying to suppress that feeling.

2. Emotion Amplifiers by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
This is a freebie for Kindle. It goes along with The Emotion Thesaurus and is exactly as the title suggests. It lists certain conditions that might amplify what your character is feeling, such as pain, exhaustion, dehydration.

3. Writers Helping Writers
This is Angela and Becca’s website. They also have other helpful books for fleshing out your characters, The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus. They have a lot of great resources on their site. Definitely check them out!

4. Resources on using strong verbs (The Writer’s Resource)
Strong verbs can really help your writing when trying to show instead of tell. For example, if you find yourself writing “She felt [insert noun/adjective here telling what the feeling is]”, look for stronger ways to show us how she felt. This goes along with using too many adverbs. Instead of “He wearily climbed the stairs”, try “He trudged up three flights of steps.” Strong verbs give the reader a better idea of how your character is feeling.

5. Grammar Girl : Show, Don’t Tell
This one is a quick read and will give you a better idea of telling vs. showing.

6. Scribendi: Ten Tips to Help You Avoid Telling Writing
Another good article on avoiding telling in your writing.

7. Writing Forward on Show, Don’t Tell

8. The Beginning Writer

9. Lynette Noni : Show, Don’t Tell
Some great cheat sheets on conveying body language.

What are your favorite tips for showing instead of telling? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Dear Aspiring Authors

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle

To all aspiring authors out there:

You’ve got dreams, big dreams. Some days they seem so out of reach. But if there’s one thing I want you to not only promise me, but promise yourself:

Don’t give up on your dreams.

Stop calling yourself “aspiring” and just write. You are an author if you say you are.

That entire paragraph/scene/chapter you just deleted? It was good enough. Sure, maybe it needed a bit of tweaking, but it wasn’t as bad as you think. Stop being so hard on yourself; stop doubting your abilities.

I know it feels like you’ll never be good enough to write. Maybe you’ve been doubting yourself too much to finally write that novel that’s been brewing in the back of your mind for the last three years. But believe me when I say we, as writers, all feel that way. We wonder if that novel we just finished should be in the trash bin instead, or maybe we should have written that one part differently. There will always be moments of doubt, but just remember: you are good enough.

You will always find ways to improve your craft, and you should always be looking for those ways to improve. Take a class, attend a workshop, join that critique group, find a writing buddy. We’re all in this together as writers.

So take that plunge and write that novel you’ve always wanted to write. Make time to write. Believe in yourself as a writer and know that you can do it. Besides, of all the people you know, how many can say they’ve written a novel?

Your fellow author, Allison

Today’s post was inspired by this post on The Mighty!

Extrapolating your feelings and a quote from Robert Frost

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” – Robert Frost

There is much truth in this quote, I believe. If you don’t feel the emotion behind your writing, your readers won’t feel it, either. If you’re bored, they’re bored.

But what about emotions you’ve never experienced? Loss? Anguish? Terror? Euphoria?

Having bipolar disorder, I’ve experienced an extremely wide range of emotions. But there are feelings I’ve never experienced before. For example, I’ve never felt the anguish of losing a parent, a sibling, or a child.

I like to think of it as “extrapolating” your feelings.

When I was writing a scene involving death and loss, I had to sit for quite some time — we’re talking weeks, here — and think long and hard about what emotions I have experienced. What sort of things would I feel if I were watching someone die? I’ve experienced hopelessness and despair in depressive episodes. I’ve faced death in the past and feared for my own life. It took time, but I drew from what I know. Admittedly, I cried when I wrote that scene. It wasn’t easy to dredge up all those old emotions.

Of course, there are good parts to extrapolating your feelings when writing happier scenes and remembering the better, easier memories. Falling in love. Camaraderie with your sister who has always been your best friend. Receiving that acceptance letter from your first-choice university.

I think I’ll go have a good cry now.

If I could marry a computer program, I’d marry Scrivener.

Seriously. I love this program for writing as much as I love homemade chocolate chip cookies. Also brownies. And Nutella.

I’ve tried a couple other programs in the past — Jer’s Novel Writer (which I never really got the hang of) and yWriter. I did like yWriter, and I had it for quite a while on my old laptop until I switched to a Mac. Then I tried Jer’s for a very brief time but didn’t like it much. On the plus side, both of these programs are free to download. Downside: yWriter is not available for Mac.

That’s when I made the decision to invest in Scrivener. Best $45 I’ve ever spent. Okay, maybe not the best, but certainly a close second.

It has a ton of features to help with organizing your ideas, scenes, chapters, character sketches, notes on settings, research. Like, everything. Currently, I’m enjoying the revision modes as I edit and rework parts of my novel after working with an editor and a few beta readers. I reworked the setup of my “Binder” several times until I had it just the way I like. So many of Scrivener’s features are customizable, which is awesome, as everyone has their own techniques and rituals when it comes to organizing their writing.

Here you can see just a section of my Binder. The text in blue is part of Revision mode; when in Revision mode, any new text you type is entered as a different color.

Scrivener, writing, program

Scrivener writing program

While technically you don’t have to label each folder as a chapter, I like to have mine labeled as such. It helps me visually. Each folder/chapter has subdocuments, with each scene as its own document. This comes in handy for its “Compile” feature, which allows you to save your novel to any format you wish. Scrivener will automatically separate each scene with a default separator, but you can change it to whatever you wish (seriously, love the customization!).

Scrivener also has a “Corkboard” view:

writing program

This view has a “freestyle” mode, in which you can freely move index cards around. Once you have them in the perfect arrangement, you can commit the order. Above are my chapters, but you can view each separate chapter as a cork board as well.

There are so many awesome and nifty features. Way too many to discuss in a single blog post.

You can check out Scrivener by Literature and Latte here. They also have a program called Scapple, which is also amazing. I use it to organize family histories and timelines of my characters.

Do you have a favorite program you use? Or a favorite organizational technique? I’d love to hear them!

8tracks Radio and My Love Affair With It

music, radio

I don’t know if I’m totally behind the times or if this website has just really taken off recently. I stumbled across it about six months ago. It is my numero uno site for music when writing. You can check it out here.

(Upon further research, apparently I’m just really, really behind the times. The site launched in 2008. I’m seven years behind, guys…)

What is it, you ask? And I quote from their About page: “8tracks is the best place for people who care about music to make and discover refreshingly human playlists.”

You can search for various user-made music playlists by…oh I don’t know…just about anything. You can even search for whatever mood music you want to listen to. Feeling like a sappy romantic? Search romance + sad. Want a sweet road trip playlist? Type in something such as summer road trip. Search by artist or genre. Right now I’m listening to an instrumental piece from Memoirs of a Geisha, written by John Williams (seriously, everything he does is epic).

There are some real gems to be found amidst some of the teeny-bopper playlists. Here are some of my favorites/recommendations:

For writing romantic scenes

For writing sexy scenes

For writing sad/depressing scenes

I can’t really offer much for you adventure/thriller/suspense writers. Would love to hear some of your favorites, though! Happy writing!

Just write

Neil Gaiman

Perhaps one of my favorite quotes on writing. Because that’s exactly how it is. At times, you find yourself staring at a blank screen, or a blank leaf of paper, and it just stares back you in a menacing sort of fashion. Other times, you find yourself madly, furiously writing without pause, the ideas relentlessly flowing into your mind. Some days it doesn’t quite seem fair, does it?

Here is the key: just write.

Write without worrying if it’s good. Write without wondering what a reader might think. Worry about that later. You can always go back and make revisions.

Make writing a habit. Just write something at least once a day, every day. Find things that inspire you. Music is a big inspiration for me, although I find instrumental music easier to write to (lyrics tend to interrupt my thought process). Find an image online that sparks your imagination. Look up writing prompts. Have an older piece that you could never quite finish? Dredge it up, take the main idea behind it, and rewrite it. Just get that pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard!

One of our biggest problems, as writers, is that we are our own biggest critics. How many times have you written something, only to read it over and think: “Wow this is crap.” I can tell you I do it constantly. But try this: instead of deleting it (or crumpling up and throwing away that piece of paper), save it. Make a separate folder for old or rough drafts. But don’t delete anything! One day you’ll look back on those old files with a smile and you’ll say, “I’m amazing at how far I’ve come.”

I’ll say it once more: get those fingers to your keyboard!


What do you do to keep writer’s block at bay?