Self-Publishing Diaries: Pantsing

Featured Photo by Kat Stokes on Unsplash

Outlining takes time. It’s smart, but it’s also been my kryptonite. In the past, I’ve used outlining as a way to feel productive, but to ultimately procrastinate. My approach to this 30-day draft is to wing it. And, that decision might be a nail in this project’s coffin. At the end of this, my novella will be some incoherent mess. But, the goal is to have a finished piece. I’m not going to be too torn up about it not being some ground-breaking piece of literature.

I’m currently at 4276 words. Under my goal by 724 words. The night’s not over yet, but unfortunately, with the workweek right around the corner, that’ll probably be it for me. During the week I’m lucky if I can get in a couple of hundred words here or there.

In all honesty, I wrote the majority of those words today in a frantic frenzy to have something to document. Accountability is amazing for getting me going. That and the fact that I desperately needed something to occupy me today. I couldn’t bear another minute of getting sucked into Netflix’s endless queue or aimlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed where the writers I love talk about the stories they’re creating.

This draft has become one of the few things I look forward (the only other things on that list are Gun Gale Online and lemon sandwich cookies. Yes, I’m a bit pathetic) to when I get up in the morning. Even though I don’t pound out a ton of words for my draft every day, I have made it a habit to work on other pieces as well.

I suppose writing, in general, is what is keeping me sane. My depression has stolen so much from me. It’s stolen my desire to care about anything or anyone. When I’m writing, that lack of caring works to my advantage. I’m not bogged down with doubts. I keep typing because what else is there to do in what currently feels like a very empty existence.

This post is kind of turning into a drag, so I’ll end it with my stats and goals:

4,276 wrds/30,0000-ish wrds (If I can end it in 25,000 I’ll be fine)

12 pages written

22 days left

On average I need to write 1,169 words per day to reach my goal in time.


Next week on Self-Publishing Diaries I’ll talk about my novella’s plot and how I plan to craft my self-publishing alter-ego. ‘Cause I’m not ready to publish under my name just yet. Read my first entry here, where I decided enough is enough and I should just write and publish a dang novella. 

Self-Publishing Diaries: The 30-Day Draft

Last weekend, after locking myself in a bathroom for forty minutes and crying until my head hurt I realized, I had nothing else to lose. My job has become a place where I can put myself on auto-pilot, entering data like a robot in need of a software update. On weekends I sulk by reading romance and listening to true crime podcasts. The repetition finally got to me and I became overwhelmed with the reality that my days are numbered and for the past few months, they all looked the same.

I’ve decided I’m going to write an utterly horrible romance novella and publishing in the next two months. Write it in thirty days, edit it in ten, and market it for whatever time is left. Because I desperately need something to distract me from what feels like an empty life.

This project is going to be like a crash course for me. One good thing I’ve gleaned from university was due dates. No matter how much I didn’t want to write my first draft, those dates kept rolling in with professors expecting evidence of progress in their dropboxes. Writing on my own has no accountability. I can go months without penning a word and no one’s going to say anything.

This diary will be an expectant professor. This novella will be the groundwork for what I hope will be a career in writing romance. I have nothing more to lose because crying my eyes out on that cold, hard bathroom floor was proof at this point, I don’t enjoy any aspect of my life. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like I’ve done something worth celebrating.

Day One: Outline + 1,000 words. Feels a feat, but I have the whole day to either watch Netflix, lie around on social media, or write something that will take the mind of my sadness. Writing’s the only option I haven’t tried. God, I hope it works.

Updates will be weekly.

This is going to be utter crap. But, hey, in the end, I’ll finally be able to say I finished something.

The Extinct Internet Community, Sarahland and How I Started Writing Online

I decided I was going to be a writer when I was nine years old. I’d carry a spiral notebook and manila folder around, convinced when inspiration struck I could not waste one second. My manila folder was home to all the loose-leaf pages filled with world-building attempts. And since this was before the days of Pinterest, I used to clip out photos of models that I decided my characters would look like in clothing advertisements from JCPenny’s or Macy’s and glued them into a homemade flip book. None of my stories had endings because I could barely keep my attention on one before another plot idea sparked up and begged me to write it. This act of story hopping went on for about four years.

At the age of thirteen I got my first computer, a chunky desktop with a glass screen and tower I sort of “put together” (I took a computer building class because at the end they let me have the computer I was working on for free). The most exciting thing about having this computer was that it allowed me to use Word. Finally, I didn’t have to figure out how to keep track of my loose leaf pages anymore. Every story I wrote would be carefully stored on the computer’s drive.

My writing and reading habit eventually lead me to an online community created by Sarah Dessen for her fans: Sarahland (a now extinct online community). Community members, mostly girls between the ages of 12-18, discussed everything from their love of YA romance to their days in the outside world. Our community was small and welcoming. It’s something I owe a lot to because during that time I didn’t have any real-life friends I could talk to. Sarahland was the first – and probably only – time I really felt safe in a community online.

Each user got their own blog, but it was rare to actually see someone using the blog for life updates or observations. Instead, quite a few of us used it for sharing our creative writing. Inspired by Sarah Dessen, we penned stories of young heroines falling in love and growing up. I jumped at the opportunity to have an audience, immediately coming up with a story that was inspired by my favorite recent read at the moment: Twilight… I know. Oh, boy, do I know. Thankfully, my bad boy vampire turned into just a bad boy (because my work was very groundbreaking) and I posted once a week with chapters that couldn’t be longer than 600 words.

The work was entitled Nick Hather. It followed Tori and Nick, two lovebirds dealing with family drama and addiction. I found the first three chapters thanks to a few emails I sent to someone who offered to edit my work. And I can promise you those three chapters are the most cringe-worthy things I’ve ever written (besides the original draft where Nick was a vampire). I was homeschooler who knew nothing about drug addiction or high school, in general, was writing an edgy star-crossed lovers tales based on what I’d gather from YA literature from the 2000s. Try to imagine that. Can’t? Here, I’ll help:




Despite the huge, “No!” feeling, Nick Hather will always have a special place in my heart not only because it was the first story I finished but because it was the first story I ever shared.

I start thinking about Sarahland because I’m revisiting another story I began when I was a teenager. This one has much more potential to be revived so I’ve dedicated myself to rewriting in hopes of finishing something I started around nine years ago. In all honesty, I’ve been struggling to keep pushing forward in writing the story and it makes me wonder how the younger version of me kept writing. Now, I’m so focused on if the plot is progressing in a timely manner or if my character development makes sense. Back then none of that even mattered. I just wrote.

But, of course, I don’t want to be that teenager who didn’t know much about writing outside of what she’d seen other writers do. I need the freedom that I once had when telling a story, but I also need the structure I’ve gained from growing up and learning. Revisiting this story is the perfect opportunity for me to work on finding a healthy balance in my storytelling.

I’m curious: Are there any extinct internet communities that you feel you’re the only person who remembers? I’m not talking about sites like MySpace or Friendster. But what about those ones that weren’t ever big but still meaningful and helped you express yourself?


If you do happen to remember Sarahland and was a member, hi! Even if we never spoke on the site I feel like we’re long lost, friends. Hope you’re doing well.