#NaNoWriMo and a Novel Update

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National Novel Writing Month—it’s a crazy challenge that starts November 1 and ends on the 30th, with the goal of getting at least 50,000 words under your belt. Similar to one of my favorite tools for busting writer’s block—The Most Dangerous Writing App—the idea is that if you can just get the words out, you’ll find the story you were meant to tell (and you can always go back and edit it later).

That said… I did not participate. (Bum bum bum.) At least, not in the traditional challenge. I have two novels under my belt (the first is garbage, said every author ever) so as fun as it is to write, I feel responsible to actually finish what I’ve already set out to do. So, inspired by the NaNoWriMo community and movement, November was editing month for me.

The Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland, photo by yours truly. Representative of the giants I see ahead.

I spent the month editing my beloved second novel to prepare it for a second round of publishing submissions. This was the month to kill my darlings (read that post for some seriously good writing advice). Two entire chapters got the cut. Do you know how hard it is to trash things your own creation? Things that you were once convinced were brilliant and absolutely necessary?! Ahem. I did it, nonetheless. And honestly, it was overdue.

I finished this novel in March of this year and started submitting it to literary agents in May. Sadly, I was unable to find one. Honestly, it was crushing. I realized I still struggle with rejection. Not a good characteristic for a freelancer and author. It was frustrating too. One agent told me my genre wasn’t selling well (which I disagree with). And they all wanted platforms (I swear, that word has turned into a curse around here). I’m not an influencer and have no intention of becoming one—I happen to like being a real human who focuses on my real family, rather than forcing screaming children into coordinating outfits for the ‘gram.

So I did what every sore loser does. I got frustrated and gave up. I stuck that thing under the bed and turned my back on it for several months. I’m not very proud of this part of the story, so let’s ignore how long it lasted and continue.

Then. I was getting groceries at the beginning of the month when I heard a familiar song playing in the store. It was one of the songs I listened to repeatedly while writing the novel. Now, I certainly hadn’t forgotten the book (impossible), but I had avoided it. And it all came rushing back. When I got back to my car, I pulled up the playlist I had made for that story and listened to a few more songs. And I wasn’t frustrated, I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t disappointed. I was convicted.

The Three Sisters of Glencoe. More giants in the land. I spy my sweet little toddler in a yellow coat ❤

I don’t like to throw around phrases like “I heard from God”—no, no booming voice came from the sky, no blinding light from the heavens. But I felt it. I felt the passion I once had for that project come back and the conviction that it isn’t just my story. It isn’t just something I made that I can decide to quit on. It’s a story that was planted in my mind, totally outside of my comfort zone, for a purpose. It’s a story that someone needs. Whether a traditional publisher will take it on or not, I felt the determination to continue and to explore the possibility of self-publishing. Because this is the story of church hurts, of the pain caused by purity culture, and of the long road back to faith after walking away in college. This is a story that I am absolutely convinced someone out there needs to hear.

When I hear people say God called them to something and they struggled to follow, I’ve always thought that seemed a little silly. I mean, if you know God is calling you, why not just do it? I figured I had just never been so sure. But I was lying to myself. I know for a fact God is calling me to write—and he has been since I was about 8 years old. And yet, there I was, hiding my talents in the dirt. I was looking into the promised land and saying, “No way, God, don’t you see the giants in there?” And I finally saw how silly it was.

So that’s how I ended up spending my November editing ruthlessly. My novel is coming back out from under the bed for a second round of submissions. And I’m hoping and praying that I’ll be a little more resilient this time around and be open to self-publishing, if necessary. Because Outside of Grace deserves to be read, regardless of what the giants have to say about it.



The Anthology has been Unleashed!

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Ahem, released.

This beautiful collection features 40 authors from around the world and a wide variety of short stories covering the complex relationships we hold with the idea of home. I was surprised by the arrangement according to the author’s first name. So who’s up first? Yours truly!

Photo from Fragmented Voices

It’s the first time my name has been published with a fiction title and I am thrilled to break into the industry. Even if it’s in an entirely different genre and format than my primary writing. Creative license, right?

It’s the perfect topic and collection to spend a little time with over the holidays. If you need some airplane or road trip reading material, check out the digital download from Fragmented Voices here and be sure to read about the authors at the end. Before you go, I’ve got a sneak peek at the psychological thriller that kicks off the collection.

His house is 63 steps to the east and 14 across the street. I still don’t have that ability to close my eyes and say “click” to remember everything, like the detective books I loved as a kid. But I know his house. I’ve seen it in my nightmares often enough.

63 Steps, Anna Daugherty


The Struggles of an Irish Last Name

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Photo by Megan Johnston on Unsplash

It was during the potato famine of the mid-1800s, when an Irish immigrant and his cousin showed up in the United States speaking mostly Gaelic. When the immigration officers tried to issue their official documents, they asked the ruddy Irishmen for their last name. The Irishmen replied, “Ó’Dochartaigh.”*

The poor officials stared at the men and asked them to repeat it. “Ó’Dochartaigh.” And one more time? Perhaps out of laziness, or misunderstanding, the “Ó” was dropped entirely. One official wrote down “Dockerty,” hardening the middle “ch” sound a bit too much for the sake of clarity. Meanwhile, the other one wrote down “Daugherty,” attempting to recognize the sound, the voiced pause in a name, without following any laws of the English language.

It only took a single generation, maybe two, before Mr. Daugherty’s children and grandchildren had lost touch with their Gaelic side entirely. Speaking only English, they had no ability to form the gutteral middle stop that belonged between “Dah” and “her,” before ending with “tee.” It was only a matter of years before they stopped bothering to pronounce all three syllables at all. By the time the original Ó’Dochartaigh passed away, his misbegotten grandchildren were simply known by “Darty.”

However, dropping sounds is a simple, natural matter. Language evolves over time quite by itself. Changing official documents is another matter entirely. No one was willing to lose touch with their Daugherty heritage, or bother with the lines at DPS to change their driver’s license (I suppose I’ve jumped a few decades here). So they continue to live with the cumbersome middle letters “ughe.”

Photo by Jessica Johnston on Unsplash

This isn’t even my own story, of course. I married into the problem of those four extra letters, leaving behind a life of ease and fluency as a Dobbins—plain, English, straightforward Dobbins. And despite his own struggle to live with the name, my husband is a traditional American male whose very identity is bound to his last name. So we continue, forever missing emails that were addressed to a Daughtery. Because, after all, most English speakers are used to writing the word “daughter,” misplacing the T in Daugherty, and tacking a Y on at the end for good measure. Daughtery, Daughtery, Daughtery.

I’ve learned to live with it. When I check-in anywhere or give anyone my name, I spell it slowly and deliberately, particularly around those middle letters. “DAU- G – H – E – R -TY.” And every time, I can’t help but think how lovely, how simple it would be if they had anglicized it to its true destiny: “Darty.”

If you don’t think it’s really that bad, just tell that to Social Security. It took them three tries to print my new card after I got married. And you should see the looks I get in public spaces. At a doctor’s office, for example; when the nurse comes to the door, clipboard in hand, and calls out, “Anna…” [cue look of panic] “Dau– Daughtry?” There’s a reason we carefully chose first names for our children that were easy to say and spell.

Luckily my mother-in-law passed on a handy rhyme that helps: “‘Darty,’ like party.” I use it often. And that’s how most people remember it. The few who do, at least. Though if they ever need to send me an email or look me up, God help them.

Oh, to be a Daugherty without the ughe!

*Obviously a largely fictionalized bit of fun.



Flash Fiction Announcement!

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About three months ago, I was out for a run at dusk, when I came up with a creepy idea for a novel. I had the whole synopsis in my head in an instant. The only problem is I don’t write psychological thrillers. And I have another novel I’m working on publishing now, with several more planned in my head. So I turned it into flash fiction instead. To my absolute shock and joy, Fragmented Voices accepted it and will be publishing it in their autumn anthology!

They just released the cover of the book and I am so excited about it. It’s a collection of short fiction and essays from 40 authors about the complicated topic of home.

I must admit, this is going to be far from my usual writings. It’s not the Christian women’s fiction I’m currently looking to publish, but it was so fun to stretch my fiction-writing skills to a new genre and style! Also, after working on a novel for months that is now languishing in the waiting-to-be-published stage, it was encouraging to be able to put a piece together and see it progress to publishing more quickly. I’ll be sure to post it when it’s available!

October Reads

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This month has been entirely non-fiction. After a very stressful few weeks, I’ve been on a self-help binge. I try to solve all of my problems through books (not sure whether to attribute that to my introvert nature or my Type 5 personality). That isn’t a bad thing, of course. There’s a wealth of information out there, why suffer with a problem unnecessarily? For some reason we tend to believe things like parenting and relationships should come naturally. But they don’t. In fact, I love Herbert Spencer’s take on this:

“What is to be expected when one of the most intricate of problems is undertaken by those who have given scarcely a thought to the principles on which its solution depends? For shoemaking or housebuilding…a long apprenticeship is needful. Is it then that the unfolding of a human being in body and mind is so comparatively simple a process that anyone may superintend and regulate it with no preparation whatever? … Better [to] sacrifice accomplishments than omit this all-essential instruction.”

Herbert Spencer

Without further ado, here’s a sneak peek at the things I’m working on.

The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Rearing the Preschool Child, Thomas Millar
10/10. Book of the month pick.
Good luck finding this 1990s out-of-print book. But do try. Because it is absolute gold.
My mother-in-law gave me this book a few months ago and it sat in the long queue of my reading list until I was utterly fed-up with certain toddler behaviors and started looking far and wide for a resource (see picture above for some of my personal parenting library). Honestly, I was tired of the modern parenting advice: Talk about their feelings, let them express their feelings. Most modern parenting advice is focused on correcting the parent and calming their responses. Which has its place and I’m not bashing it as part of parenting, but when that is your only method, you’ll soon find yourself living with a tiny tyrant who believes you are slave to their fits and emotions (ask me how I know). So I remembered this book and pulled it out for some good old-fashioned advice.
And Millar delivered!
It’s old-school without corporal punishment. This book is short. It’s easy to read. And it lays out a plan that walks you step-by-step through every conceivable toddler behavior (buy a good timer). My favorite thing? It provides reasons for correcting behaviors. He talks about training children out of egocentricity, teaching them to respect authority, and building a healthy conscience, among other things. He addressed one of my personal struggles, which was the transition from saying “no” to young children only for dangerous things to training them up in good behaviors (because it’s much easier to allow a messy room than letting them touch a hot stove). And he does it all with a heavy dose of absolute sass. You’ll need a sense of humor to read Millar. One of my favorite lines was about teaching a child to hang up his coat. Paraphrased, Millar says, “Sure, you can pick it up for him. Then when he’s grown, ask his wife how she feels about doing it for him too.” Oh snap.

No More Perfect Kids, Jill Savage
I actually listened to this one instead of reading it. Why don’t I do that more often? It’s better than podcasts and I could fit in so much more “reading” in the little pockets of time like driving and running errands, washing dishes, etc. Back to the book itself: There have been moments that really connected with me, and other parts where I wasn’t sure I was the right audience (there was a lot of talk about older children). Based on this book, I’m now interested in her other one too, No More Perfect Moms. She has some wonderful tips on accepting our children for who they are. I think the part I appreciated most was early on, when she said we set our children up with an impossible expectation: We want them to be unique and special, yet also entirely normal and accepted. Yes.

Boundaries, Henry Cloud
Everybody’s heard of this one, right? It’s hugely popular. I had no idea it was so Biblically based, but I was fine with that. In fact, coming from the “be nice” Christian culture, it was very helpful to see Biblical support for boundaries. I’m only about halfway through this one (picking and choosing chapters based on “hot spots” in my life). The thing I’ve learned so far: that I’m not nearly as good at setting boundaries as I thought I was. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Anger, Gary Chapman
The relationship expert behind the Five Love Languages writes about discerning “good” anger from “bad” anger, how to handle either, and how to handle it in various relationships. I appreciated the brevity of this book and the quick summaries at the end of each chapter. It was a highly readable ebook for me. I’ve struggled with anger as a go-to defense in high-stress situations and am working on it. I’m not feeling any radical changes in my life yet, but hey, it’s only been a month. His thoughts on anger definitely float around in my head during potentially heated moments.

Help! My Bible is Alive!, Nicole Unice
If you can get past the slightly cheesy title (sorry, Nicole), the book itself is wonderful. It has been a godsend (ha). Unice walks you through the basics of studying the Bible, and it really does make that big, intimidating, seemingly outdated book come to life. It’s an easy read for beginners, with plenty of depth for experienced Christians. I was familiar with many of the concepts, but actually walking through them in the book made it become personal. I find myself automatically dissecting verses in my head now. I started the month of October literally avoiding my Bible, and I now find myself reaching for it automatically. That’s as good a review as a book can get.

Honestly, there’s half a dozen more self-help books I’ve picked up this month, but these are the only ones I’ve really read through. If I get back to the others, they’ll be on my November list. Otherwise they’ll languish in book purgatory until I have a bad day and need tips. I’m a slow nonfiction reader, I can’t quite gobble them up the way I can a novel. But I love them nonetheless. Anybody else have a list of nonfiction titles waiting for you? What’s on your list?

Anxiety and the Never Ending To-Do List

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My mind races when I go to bed. I pull up the notes app on my phone and add another thing I don’t want to forget: call the children’s museum and renew our membership. I lie back down and wait. My mind spins through things I already did, things already on the list, and finds another new one: clean the upstairs toilet before our guests come over. I sit up and add it to the list. The list is endless. I will never conquer the list. When I do anything else, like workout, go on a date night with my husband, or play with my children, the list is there, taunting me with the things I’m not doing.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

I’m a list person. I love lists. There’s nothing wrong with lists. Sometimes when my mind is spinning, it’s actually helpful to write it out and I realize there’s not really that much to do. But I’m realizing lately that when I get caught in anxiety-mode, the list tends to fill up needlessly. It fills with silly little things that really don’t matter, though they all seem vitally important. Get a lightweight jacket for my youngest. Return the shoes that didn’t fit my oldest. Wash the hand towels. Are these things worth stressing over? I’m learning to move some things to the To-Don’t list. Not a real list that I keep, but an empty void that frees up white space in my mind. I need white space to function.

Here are the questions I ask myself when my to-do list gets out of control.

  1. Will I forget this if I take it off the list? If the answer is yes, there’s a chance it’s worth forgetting. If it’s something I would forget and never think about again (maybe leaving a review for a purchase), then I let it go to the To-Don’t list. If the answer is no, then does it even need to be on the list? In the haze of To-Do Mode, I have put down silly things like “make dinner.” I’m not going to forget to make dinner. I can take that off the to-do list. It’s not something to stress over. I’ll do it this evening. If I might forget, and forgetting it would really be a problem (say, buying a gift for a loved one’s birthday), then it can stay on the list.
  2. Can I move this to a different list? Buying that jacket for my youngest? Move it to the shopping list. I’ll let go of the idea of checking all the kids resale shops and just buy it at Walmart next time I’m there. Off the to-do list, and now part of my regular weekly shopping trip.
  3. Can I do this in less than 5 minutes? If so, do it right now. Wash the hand towels? I can go grab those and toss them in the washing machine in less than 3 minutes flat. Cross it off and get it done. It’ll make the rest of the list feel more approachable.
  4. Can I let this go? Those shoes that need to be returned? They cost $15. It would probably be most responsible to return them, and of course save a few bucks. But maybe the 30-minute roundtrip to the store isn’t worth it. Maybe the stress of another item on the to-do list isn’t worth it. Maybe I can just stash them in the closet until they fit my youngest, or pass them off to another family.

Clearing out my to-do list creates breathing room in my mind. Once I stop and ask some questions about the list, I tend to realize life isn’t (or doesn’t have to be) quite as overwhelming as it felt only minutes ago. Add in a quick breath meditation with a positive phrase (one go to: “I am enough, I have enough”), and I usually feel refreshed enough to tackle the things on my list that actually matter.

Your turn! What is one thing you can cross off your to-do list, without actually doing it? Try it. It’s a whole new world of freedom once you do.

September Reads

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Yes, this post is running a bit late. I’ve got an entirely updated list coming up for October but luckily had this one saved in my drafts. Anyway, here were last month’s reads! The fiction side is entirely novellas. I’ve been feeling the quick read. I tend to get sucked into a story and can’t put it down. So when it’s a full novel, that knocks out a few days where I hardly get anything else done. At least with a novella, it’s only about one day before I get back to washing dishes and feeding my children (calm down, I never forget to do that, I just sometimes do it with a book in hand).

Your turn! What’s your August reading list look like?

Using the Enneagram as an Author

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The Enneagram has taken over the personality types world. Goodbye four-letter combinations, hello number types. But it’s helpful for more than just understanding yourself and those around you. As a writer, understanding the Enneagram types helps me understand characters: what drives them, what they’re afraid of, and how they might react in stressful situations.

My current read has been The Enneagram, A Christian Perspective, by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert. I love the way he digs into the root temptations and growth opportunities. And as a type 5 married to a type 3, I think he nailed those types (the ones I know best). The charts at the back make for a quick and easy reference to remind me about each type. Admittedly, some of his symbols and images of each type are a bit caricatured (the book was written in 1989 and I think his explanations of the representative countries for each type come across a bit tone deaf today). But overall, having a strong grasp of the Enneagram makes character building much easier.

The Enneagram, A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert

I’m currently writing about a type 3 and type 4 (I try to mix up the types in each book, it challenges me to see the world through new lenses). Here’s some ways the Enneagram influences my writing:

  • What Motivates My Character?
    • There’s a lot of information in “writing world” about identifying your character’s main goals and motivations, but adding the Enneagram helps add a “why” to any goal. One of my current characters grew up in poverty and has been told her entire life that she won’t be successful. As a type 4, she is deeply motivated by uniqueness—she’s determined to prove them wrong.
  • What Does My Character Avoid?
    • Rohr’s chart includes an avoidance. My second lead character is a type 3, and while he can’t avoid failure completely, I take into consideration the type’s other flaws and sins (such as deceit) to portray how he handles failure. He will always turn it into a joke, manipulating the situation so that he always comes out on top (a habit Rohr discusses in depth in the chapter about type 3).
  • How Does My Character Interact with Other Types?
    • Combining the 3 and 4 has been particularly fun in this area. The four is driven by authenticity, while the three tends to become a chameleon—adapting to any situation to look his best. Knowing this affects how they interact with each other and those around them. Fully grasping this is important to the flow of the story—once I lock down a character’s world view, I can’t have them turn around and toss it to the wind in the next conversation.
  • How Does My Character Grow?
    • Most books in my genre follow a change/growth arc. You’ll see the characters grow and change throughout the story and following an Enneagram growth arc helps outline this more clearly. I know from Rohr’s book that the type 3 conversion is about finding hope and worth in God, following God’s will rather than the path of popularity or material success, and learning to be vulnerable. These will be crucial elements for my character’s growth arc.
  • Edited to Add: How is My Character DIFFERENT from Their Type?
    • I don’t identify fully with everything about my type. In fact, I do some things completely differently. So don’t feel trapped by the Enneagram either. Use it to get to know your character, but also take into consideration how other factors come into play (birth order, upbringing, religion, past wounds, etc.). They don’t have to follow everything about their type to a tee.

I’m sure there are countless more ways to use the Enneagram in a novel and I’d love to hear about them in the comments!