Needing to believe, and believing to be needed

Growing up, my favorite Narnia book was easily The Silver Chair. I loved when Prince Rilian came out of his enchantment, slew the giant serpent, and destroyed the silver chair. I loved dear old Puddleglum. I loved the trenches that spelled out words.

But mostly, I loved Jill Pole.

Jill wasn’t a Pevensie. There weren’t prophecies about her. She was just a girl struggling through school the best she could.

But when Eustace told her about this magical place he had visited, a beautiful place far beyond the reach of bullies and gray English skies, she believed. She believed so much that she had to go there.

And when she got there, she found that she was needed. She alone heard the signs from Aslan. She was given the quest to rescue Prince Rilian with Eustace. She kept their little trio going with her fire and determination.

And she made mistakes. Oooh, she made mistakes. But she worked doubly hard to fix them and still saved the day in the end. And as a girl who was constantly making stupid mistakes, that gave me a lot of hope for myself.

I used to think that if I hoped and believed hard enough, I could get to the Wood Between the Worlds and travel to all the lands I had ever read about or imagined, as well as the ones I had never in my wildest dreams encountered. And in a way, I did. I believed in stories the way August Rush believed in music. I believed, like Uncle Hub, that good will always triumph over evil, that true love never dies.

And I believed, like Jill Pole, that there was a magical land out there that needed me.

And now I’m building my own Wood Between the Worlds, an already-enormous collection of places and people and powers, some of which will never be read by eyes other than my own, some of which are out there already. And I’m no Shannon Hale, but even with my small-but-growing readership, I’ve had kids tell me how this or that or the other part really meant something to them. And it makes me want to cry a little every time.

Because it means that I’ve reached my magical land, and I have found that I’m needed.

And I think that’s what life is. It’s believing in something–stories, music, business, people, math, whatever–and believing in it so hard that it (whatever it is) really needs you, even if it doesn’t know it yet. Charles Wallace didn’t know how much he needed Meg. Mount Eskel didn’t know how much they needed Miri. And Narnia didn’t know how much it needed Jill Pole. But all of these ladies believed in their it, and nothing was ever the same again.

So whatever it is you believe in, be it writing stories or teaching high school math, know that you are needed. Go forth and change the world.

NaNo NaNo

I scorned NaNoWriMo for YEARS. And even after I finished it last year, I wasn’t sure I’d ever do it again.

Aaaand then October rolled around. And folks, NaNoWriMo does not let you out of its clutches so easily. For which I am grateful, because I’m SO EXCITED. (eep!)

I’ve created my novel on the website, and my outline is well on its way. Bring it on, November!

If you’re doing NaNo, add me! Username is ehbates. I’d love to see what you’re typing madly on this November!

When you least expect it…

At the park today, Scout made friends with this adorable little boy who was about her age. I got talking with his mom and found out she has one son in the Air Force (so much respect for her there) and one son prepping for Olympic trials (which son, incidentally, began his diving career with the same woman who coached me in high school). 

Stories are everywhere, folks. This is what makes Humans of New York so brilliant. Every person on earth has a story to tell, including you. Take a little time today to listen to someone’s story and find the wonder in it.

Zero Population Subplots

I have a new story peeve that goes hand-in-hand with my gripe about characters who refuse to stay dead. And that is . . .


So here’s the thing. I’ve been Netflixing Once Upon a Time season 5. And while the first half of the season was fine, the second half of the season was apparently concocted to bring back EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER we have ever seen on the show. And if you’ve watched any of that show, you know that’s a LOT of characters. Every episode is some underdeveloped side plot that has absolutely nothing to do with the main plot arc–it’s just there to say, “Hey, remember this person you saw for five minutes back in season X? They’re going to show up in the Underworld whether they’re dead or not!”

Okay. Rant over.

So how do I apply this annoyance to writing?

I have a deep and abiding love of minor characters. But there’s a reason the story isn’t about them.

As writers, we have this deep desire to share EVERYTHING we know with the readers. But we know way more about our minor characters and our worlds than the reader needs–or wants–to know. Subplots are good insofar as they support and drive the main plot. But when a subplot becomes irrelevant to the story, you have to let that subplot g0, often along with a character or two.

You don’t always have to kill the character. But for goodness’ sake, let them move on. Move away. Get a new job. Drift. Have a mid-life crisis. Run away from home. Not knowing what happened to a minor character is much more believable and relatable than knowing exactly what happened to all seventy-two characters in your story until the end of their lives.

If you try to keep bringing back every character, there will come a point where your readers can’t keep them straight, or they won’t even care anymore because there are just too many to become emotionally attached.

All right. Now I’ve gotta go watch some more Once Upon a Time. Because let’s be honest, Killian Jones. (Who came up with that name?!)

The gift of changing your mind

I’m supposed to be cooking dinner, but Elfwyn (I finally came up with her screen name!) is asleep, and Scout is out back with Grandma. So I’m granting myself twelve minutes to crank out this post that I’ve been mulling over.

In the past couple of weeks, my respect for two different authors has grown enormously because of their willingness to publicly admit that they made a mistake. Not only that, they both took steps to correct what they had said wrong.

Our world today seems to view any change of opinion as weak, wishy-washy, spineless. But the thing is, no one on this earth is perfect. Not even super awesome authors. Sometimes we say dumb things, do dumb things, even believe dumb things. And when these dumb things are pointed out to us, our first instinct is to defend ourselves. After all, nobody likes to be called out, especially not in a space as public as social media.

It takes incredible strength to bite down on our pride and admit that we were wrong. Or even that we might be wrong. It takes self control to stop talking long enough to listen to another who has a different perspective than us. It takes greatness of heart to try to view the world through another’s eyes.

But the effort is worth it. When people seek to truly understand each other, everyone comes out of it changed, even if they agree to disagree in the end.

I’m going to leave you with this great paragraph from Neil Gaiman, because the man knows his way around words:

“What I tend to see happening more and more is people retreating into their own corners. People seem scared to get things wrong or be shouted at so they form villages in which they agree with every other member, and maybe they go out and shout at the people in the next village for fun, but there’s no interchange of ideas going on. I think we have to encourage the idea that you’re allowed to think things. I have thought a great many stupid things over the years, and I can tell you that there’s not one stupid thing that I ever thought where I changed my mind because someone shouted at me or threatened to kill me. On the other hand, having great discussions with good friends, possibly over a drink, has definitely changed my mind and made me try to do better. You’re allowed to do better, but we have to let people do better.” (source)

I’m back! + Book Formatting Services

After several months of survival mode, I’m finally sleeping a little more and am ready to reenter the blogging sphere! I’ve missed reading all your beautiful words and am looking forward to catching up with everybody.

For you writerly types out there who are considering self-publishing, I’ve now added a page detailing my book layout design services. I love giving books that final polished sheen that a good layout provides, and hope to be able to help with some of your books in the near future.

So talk to me! Tell me what you’ve been doing the past few months! Any exciting book news? Good reads? Crazy summer adventures?

Et out by jackrabbits

“My life reminds me of a sign that hung by a rusty staple to a run-down barbed-wire fence in Texas. It read:

Burned out by drought,
Drowned out by flud waters,
Et out by jackrabbits,
Sold out by sheriff,
Still here!”

(Gordon B. Hinckley)

Hey there. Haven’t been around much. We’re in the middle of the first of two moves we’re making this year, and we had an outbreak of pink-eye this morning, not to mention that it’s allergy season and there’s been a cottonwood seed blizzard of DEATH outside for the past week.

But it’s all cool.

It’ll be a hectic month, but I’ll get back to blogging one of these days. In the meantime, I’ve become a Twitter addict, so you can find me there: @ehbates.