Why We Hate Our Old Writing (and how to stop)

Have you ever noticed that your old writing is really bad?

Like, really bad?

Yeah, so have I. I shudder at the idea of people I know personally reading my books. Whenever I see a new review on Goodreads, I’m afraid of what people will say. What if readers judge me? What if they never read my books again?? What if I was never supposed to publish a book at all??? It’s ridiculous, of course, but from what I’ve seen, most other young authors have the same paralyzing fear. It really needs a name. Lateral Author Syndrome, maybe?

Well, here’s my unfortunate thesis: Your old writing will always seem awful to you, and that’s a sign you’re doing it right. Why? Because it shows you’re growing as an author. You grow as an author because you grow as a person. It’s inevitable! As long as you’re writing honestly, you’ll automatically become a better writer as you experience life.

But that’s a bit vague, isn’t it? We always talk about “writing honestly” and allowing ourselves to “grow as writers,” but what do those #writerslife cliches really mean?

Glad you asked. That’s what we’re talking about today.

A Brief History of a Teen Author

Most teen authors have the same (or similar) story, so let’s take a look at *shudder* my old books.

Son of Ren seems pretty awful to me right now, and that’s probably because I wrote most of it between the ages of 15 and 16, when I was still technically a kid. (Yeah, a kid who can stop a bus with their bare hands, but still a kid.) My characters were adults grappling with adult issues like political change and parent/adult-child conflict, and though I did my best to tackle them, I couldn’t fully identify with those characters. I just hadn’t experienced a whole lot of their world.

Then, at age 17, I wrote Alen’s War, which seems slightly less awful. I’ve never fought a war or led a rebellion. I’ve never so much as been on a pirate ship, let alone set one on fire. But I had wrestled a bit with my own fears and had seen other people fighting theirs, and that provided a bridge for me to identify with my characters and the issues they faced. My real life affected the fictional world I’d created. I learned to empathize with the characters on the page by letting them be real people, and the story was that much better for it.

Now, age 19, I have two main projects that have a lot in common- with each other and with me. They both feature main characters with severe depression, and they both deal with many of the heavy emotional issues I’m trying to deal with in real life. And to be honest, it can be hard to write about things that are so personal to me, but I have to. I know this story needs told because other people are struggling with the same issues. For that reason, the story becomes more and more real.

Same old story, right? Teenage authors almost always grow in their writing at lightning-fast speeds, and their books are here to document those changes. And that is not a bad thing. The fact that you realize that your old work could be better shows that you understand what writing is all about: putting a little bit of life down on a page.

Getting Under Readers’ Skin

This is what it means to “write honestly.” Real life bleeds into the words on a page. Even what seems like escapist fantasy can teach us something about the real world when the author writes honestly. It’s why geeks love utterly ridiculous stories like Captain America or Star Wars; even though the plots are fake, the people are real.

Here’s what I really want you to remember: Don’t be ashamed of your old writing, because it’s better than you think. As I’ve said before, it’s a picture of you when you wrote it. If you don’t believe me, ask the people who are reading them right now; the stories you wrote are still having an impact.

While you are worried that someone is annoyed by your incomplete worldbuilding, a reader is overjoyed that you took a chance to explore the evils of racism and the heroes who fought against it. While you’re over here stressing about your head-hopping in that one scene, a reader can breathe with relief because you gave them hope in their struggle with anxiety. While you’re agonizing over the trees, the readers are refreshed to see the forest. 

Age 16, I didn’t understand monarchical political shifts, but I did understand Elkay’s passion for doing something big, and I knew all too well how arrogance can destroy that big something. Age 17, I’d never grappled with a nationwide revolution, but like Alen, I had fought my own wars with perfectionism and forgiveness. So those are the things I wrote about, and those are the things that readers loved.

Raw, honest bits of life are what impacts readers. Hardly anybody cares about your overuse of speaker tags or your flat secondary characters, especially when they know you were pretty young when you wrote the book. (Usually, if they mention those things in a book review, they’re giving you some pointers for next time.) Readers remember how you impacted their emotions, and if your book makes them feel like they’re on a journey with real people and real problems, you’ve done your job.

So say the readers:

13 Contradictions Only True Book Lovers Understand

Happy Labor Day. And, as we like to say, happy writing.

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A Liebster Award

I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award!

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Thank you so much for tagging me, E.J W! Kids, go check out her blog, One Word At A Time. She’s got some really helpful (and practical) writing tips, plus she’s writing a pretty awesome book.

Now let’s see what this tag is all about. First of all, guidelines.

The Rules of the Tag

  • Acknowledge the blog who nominated you and display the award.
  • Answer eleven questions that the blogger gives you.
  • List eleven random facts about yourself
  • Nominate up to eleven other bloggers that you think are deserving of this award (with less than 200 followers)
  • Let the bloggers know you nominated them
  • Give them eleven questions to answer

(I love this tag already. It says “up to eleven,” which means it can be less than eleven. It will probably be less than eleven.)

The Questions

If you had a whole day with nothing to do and nothing that needed to be done in the future, how would you spend it?

I guess I’d write. Write, write, write. I have so many books that I need to write, and having a whole day to crank out as much writing is possible is a wonderful idea.

What is your favorite book and author?

Favorite… book?

Of… all… time?

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Okay. *deep breath* For now, I can give you some of my favorite books. Three books that have most impacted me as a writer are The Hobbit, The Book Thief, and Animal Farm.

Oh, and my favorite author is C.S. Lewis. (Although I’ll give a close second to Tolkien or Austen.)

Ice cream or cake?

Ice cream, especially since I’m not allowed to eat gluten for the next few months. I could take or leave cake.

What is your favorite mythical creature?

Svartalfar! No, wait, dragons! No, wait, Maiar! No, wait…

It’s too hard to pick; I love them all. But let’s say that if I could have any one of them for a friend, I’d choose a dragon. You can’t go wrong there.

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What is the one chore that you absolutely hate doing?

Shopping. I haaaaaate shopping. There’s just something despicable about navigating a concrete building filled with fluorescent lights and grumpy people who don’t want to be there any more than you do. Shopping is a character-building exercise, to be sure.

Which is your favorite season?

Fall, of course. I used to live in Pennsylvania, and not to brag, but we pretty much have the best autumn ever, with colorful leaves and pumpkin candles and gentle rain.

What is your favorite breakfast food?

Waffles, except for… ahem… the gluten-free thing. I miss waffles.

Why did you decide to become a blogger and what do you hope to accomplish by it?

Ah-ah-ah, two at once! That’s cheating.

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Why become a blogger? On the more philosophical side, I blog (and just generally write) because I have the freedom and therefore the responsibility to share truth with others. That’s just part of being a Christian. On the rubber-meets-road side, I just think a lot about a lot of things, and that naturally spills over into blogging. People like talking about writing, about the Bible, and about the struggles that we all face, and a blog is a great place to do that.

And what do I want to accomplish? Well, I guess I already answered that- I want people to be able to talk with and learn from one another, whether we’re talking about writing tips, theological insights, or how to survive a particularly difficult four years of your life.

Would you rather fly or be able to breath underwater?

Fly. Then I could wear a special cloak and fly through cities and fight evil sorcerers and basically be Dr Strange.

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Yes, we really did need a random Dr Strange gif thrown in.

What is your favorite genre of music?

Does Hans Zimmer count as a genre?

What is the most recent crazy thing you have done?

Eh, I don’t really do crazy.

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Well, a few weeks ago I did dress up as Galen Erso and let my younger siblings (dressed as Krennic and Co.) throw me into the trunk of my car for a film project. Looking back, I see how that was kind of crazy.

Eleven Random Facts

  1.  I am a Christian. (As if it wasn’t terribly obvious.)
  2. In real life I’m much quieter and saltier than I seem on my blog… if that’s even possible.
  3. I’m exactly the same height as Napoleon. (5’6″, if you want to know.)
  4. I often lose count of how many siblings I have. I have a lot of them.
  5. My Spotify playlist is currently paused on a song called “I See Dead People in Boats.” Like I said, Hans Zimmer.
  6. I have never watched Star Wars: A New Hope all the way through.
  7. Rude people scare the heck out of me.
  8. I prefer to subsist on tea and turkey sandwiches.
  9. I’ve thought about becoming a film director.
  10. I’m allergic to pretty much every furry pet known to man.
  11. I like sweaters.

And now, the real good feature…

The Bloggers

For this award, I hereby nominate:

Congratulations, y’all!

The New Eleven Questions

  1. What’s your favorite thing about blogging?
  2. What’s your personality type? (Or, if you don’t know, your Hogwarts House.)
  3. Who are three of your real-life heroes? (They can be living or dead, but they have to be real.)
  4. Axe or sword, or some other weapon?
  5. Describe yourself with a gif.
  6. If you could play any fictional character in a movie adaptation of your favorite book, whom would you be?
  7. Hot tea or sweet tea?
  8. What is your favorite song/band?
  9. What’s a skill you’d really like to learn if you had the time?
  10. What’s your favorite non-fiction book?
  11. In one sentence, how would you explain the meaning of life?

That’s all the time we have today, kids! Until next time.

Just a little tidbit for Alen’s birthday…

Hey, kids, listen up! I have a very important announcement.

Today marks one year since I published Alen’s War!

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Now, I’m characteristically forgetful about anniversaries, blogiversaries, any versaries… but this year I somehow remembered. So, luckily for all y’all, I was able to prepare a little celebration.

I present, for your consideration, a personality quiz: Which character from Alen’s War are you? (I made it myself, which means it’s 100% scientific and psychologically accurate.) If you’re curious, you can head over and take the quiz to find out! Oh, and please do share your results in the comments below. I want to see just how many villainous revolutionaries we have running around.

Also, if you happen to have any other ideas for how I can celebrate my book-versaries in the future, let me know that too! Fanart contests, Twitter trivia threads, more Ship’s Log… I want to hear all your ideas.

That’s it! Have a happy Friday.

How to Survive College

For lack of a better opening, here’s a Twitter-sized anecdote.

Mom, to teenage brother: “You know, you should ask Hannah for ideas about college. She’s been doing it for awhile now.”

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But I guess, after accidentally doing college in cuttime and surviving, I really do know something about how it works.

Let’s be honest. College is an amazing opportunity (thanks for the blessing, God) that’s also terrifying and awful and will probably suck the life out of you (thanks for the sanctification, God). We do it, because we know that higher education can actually benefit us later in life provided we do it right and survive to graduation. But how? How to survive college?

Glad you asked, because it just so happens I have a list. (Mycroft has a file.) To cut to the chase, this post is about basic hacks that will help you survive college. These are just things that I’ve found useful, and maybe they’ll work for you too. And the best part is, you can start using some of them right now.

Step 1: Begin before the semester.

After all, a villain must always be one step ahead.

  • Ask advice from other people who go to college- preferably, your college. Find out about the hardest courses and how to ace them, and look for little life hacks from other students. (Hint: You’re already doing that!)
  • Do everything ahead of time. Don’t procrastinate. Figure out what courses you’re taking, get them all set up, and fill out all the forms well before the semester starts. This leaves you extra time in case you miss something.
  • When you’re not in school, practice writing essays. If you’re still in high school or are taking a summer break, now is the ideal time to practice writing a generic five-paragraph essay. Find some prompts, set a timer for 40 minutes, and see what you can crank out.
  • Update: Learn to speed-read. I neglected to mention this before (facepalm) but if you do it right, speed-reading can help you study effectively by teaching you different types of reading. Try this article for starters.

Step 2: Go in with a plan.

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Don’t get beaten by a cat.

  • Read the syllabus. Just… read the syllabus.
  • Download everything: all assignment instructions, rubrics, source articles, and anything else you might find useful. It may seem ridiculous, but it’s so much easier than desperately hunting for that old article a day before your paper is due.
  • Organize your files using your computer’s file explorer, Google Drive, or Microsoft Office Suite. Downloading stuff is no good if you can’t find it later.
  • While you’re at it, organize your tasks by day. I use Google Calendar and Tasks, which lets me assign daily tasks to myself and check them off as I go. Other people use planner apps which basically do the same thing.
  • Keep track of your textbooks. When you’re buying and renting multiple books (see below) for a whole semester, it’s really easy to forget which ones belong to you and when to return the ones that don’t. Ergo, write it down.

Step 3: Get the right resources.

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I watched one episode, so I’m allowed to use this gif, right?

  • Rent your books instead of buying them. Chegg Study and Amazon.com are great resources for this.
  • If you can, earn credit in other ways. CLEP and DSST exams give you credit for subjects you already know, and ALEKS courses give you a fast-paced review until you’re getting good grades. P.S. ACE Credit can store your credit on a transcript until you’re ready to send it to a college.
  • There are also some great study sites. Free Clep Prep is technically for CLEP and DSST, but the site has all kinds of resources for pretty much every intro-level course and subject.
  • InstantCert is great test-prep, designed for CLEP exams.
  • Quizlet is also good. Personally I hate studying with flash cards, but if they help you, Quizlet is the way to go.

Step 4: Work.

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Don’t let your dreams be dreams.

  • College is basically a job, so treat it like one. Work hard and take it seriously.
  • Do your school from nine to five. School starts promptly at 9am and ends right before dinner (with good breaks in between), and then you can watch Netflix. This way, you probably won’t have to pull any all-nighters.
  • Get over yourself. The truth is college often makes you work hard at things you don’t even like- for example, recording videos of yourself talking. Just do it anyway. Chances are you’re a lot better at school than you think.
  • Sleep at night. I shouldn’t have to say this to you adults (and almost-adults), but put your phone away and go to sleep before 11pm.

Step 5: Make it fun.

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Life can be fun.

  • Make yourself have fun. Let’s face it, college isn’t always fun, so you have to find little ways to enjoy it. It’s as simple as talking yourself into being excited or choosing essay topics that sound interesting and don’t stress you out.
  • Listen to music that makes you happy and helps you study. Try Spotify or Pandora, or just plain old YouTube if you can resist the cat videos. (I’ve heard video games soundtracks can help people focus on tasks.)
  • Reward yourself with snacks. After thirty solid minutes of writing that dull essay, give yourself a snack. A healthy snack. Maybe a little chocolate if it’s a really dull essay.
  • Find fun ways of studying. Do you like to sit and read outside? Can you make up a song to memorize the rulers of England? Do you learn better mind palace-style? Try it and see.

Step 6: Think twice before making a dumb decision.

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See, Cap said so. Better listen to Cap.

  • Keep at it. Everyone feels awful in the heat of the semester: some people are tempted to cheat, others just want to give up trying. Both of those are wrong. College really is a huge opportunity, regardless of how you feel now. Don’t waste it.
  • Talk about your problems. Ask your mom for advice when you’re stressed out, or have your friend group ask you every week how you are doing. It does wonders for accountability.
  • Don’t be stupid. Cheating is always a wrong decision, and it almost never improves your grades even if you’re not caught. (For example.) Remember, school is for learning, not proving what you already know.
  • Get the help you need. Try Chegg Study or check out the resources in your university’s library. Think about it: for 30 bucks, would you rather buy two crappy essays or actually learn how to put your thoughts on paper?

Step 7: Live a life outside of school.

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Sorry. This gif is too much to resist.

  • Start a project outside of school. Volunteer, learn to make bread, or get a part-time job. This gives you balance and lets you invest in something besides three months of papers.
  • Don’t let college kill you. Drink water so you don’t die. Find some kind of exercise that you like (or, at least, you don’t hate); if you live close enough to your campus, try walking to school instead of driving.
  • Talk to other humans. Don’t just be grumpy about how misrepresented the Puritans are; go rant to a friend about it. It helps you process and understand the facts better, and in the meantime you’ll actually be talking to people.
  • Give your brain a break. Try watching a movie on repeat (like, ahem, Doctor Strange) or re-read your old favorite book. Just find something to help your brain relax.
  • If you need to, quit during the summer. Most people take a summer break. College is brain work, and sometimes you just need to rest.

And here we are. This list is not a lifesaving device, but hopefully something on it will make your life at college a little bit better. At the very least, you should be able to survive.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. *evil cackling*

Yes, it’s still my blog

Are you lost? Did Hannah A. Krynicki’s blog disappear? Is it all over??

Never fear. It’s still the same blog, just with a cleaner look and a new name. (Hanashlyn is what you get when you ship my first  and middle names.) It may be unexpected… but to be fair, I warned y’all on Twitter, and three of you said it was okay:

So do you like it? I like it. It’s so much cleaner and more elegant this way, I think. I’ll probably be making some minor tweaks this week, but this should be my basic blog design for the next year or so. P.S. I said the same thing about Alen’s War and then changed the color scheme to the exact opposite on the color wheel, so…

And I’ll be back soon with more posts and gifs and other bloggy goodies. In the meantime, Happy 4th!

Are You a Legalist??

willywonkalegalistHave you ever met an anti-legalist? They’re like the legalistic sort of church folk, only they take things to the opposite extreme. The legalists like Christian movies? Great, let’s hate Christian movies! Legalists don’t read Twilight? Read all the vampire stories!

If you by some miracle haven’t encountered an anti-legalist, go read some random Christian blogs that rant about the dangers of purity rings, or find an online support group for kids whose parents didn’t let them watch PG-13 movies. That should give you the general idea.

So here’s my thesis: Legalism and anti-legalism are twin forms of idolatry. Why is that? Because both lifestyles are based on people’s opinions and our own desire to leave an impression, rather than on God’s will for us. And why is that? Well, that’s what the post is about.

We need to start by defining the terms. What are legalism and anti-legalism, and what’s wrong with each one?

The problem with legalism is that it is contrary to the Gospel. No one can (or should) question that. In essence, legalism takes good and beautiful choices, and uses them to become standards that all Christians should follow. It assumes that we and our perfect homeschool families and flawless courtships (complete with a first-kiss-wedding) can and must earn the approval of God. Anyone who doesn’t do worship services and potlucks exactly the way we do just isn’t as awesome as we are. Our way is the right way, and theirs is the wrong one. God forbid we should ever be associated with those people!

But guess what? Anti-legalism is also contrary to the Gospel. It operates under the premise that moral standards that are not specifically commanded in scripture are a threat to our freedom in Christ. It assumes that Josh Harris and God’s Not Dead 2 must be spurned and ridiculed; Harry Potter is the only way to prove that we are truly free in Christ. Anyone who even tolerates the idea that kids shouldn’t date until age 18 just isn’t as awesome as we are. We must fight legalism and the judgmental attitudes of others! Our way is the right way, and theirs is the wrong one. God forbid we should ever be associated with those people!

Do you see what’s so tragically laughable here? Legalism and anti-legalism are, at their root, exactly the same concept taken to two different extremes. In both cases, decisions are based less on what God is asking me to do, and more on how I see myself and how others will perceive me. It’s just like boys and girls throwing mud pies at each other on the playground because the opposite gender hypothetically has cooties- never mind the actual mud on your own clothes.

Now, to be clear: calling your relationship “courting” instead of “dating” does not make you a legalist, and reading a book by Suzanne Collins does not make you an anti-legalist. The problem is not the action itself, but the motivation behind the action. Both forms of legalism happen when we take the focus off of God and put ourselves and our works in the spotlight. The mindset in both cases is one of “people need to see what I’m doing for God, not what God is doing in me.” Legalism and anti-legalism are both idolatry because the ultimate standard is how I appear to others.

I have to look perfect at church. 

I dare not look too perfect at church. 

I have to save my children from a life of sin.

I have to save my parents from a life of judging lest they be judged. 

People, it’s time to wake up! We simply have to stop putting that pressure on ourselves. God didn’t assign us the responsibility of being perfect; who are we to assign it to ourselves? If gaining the approval of man through my own behavior is my motivation, then there’s no room for God. And a life without God is the most dangerous life I can live.

So what’s the point? Well, here’s a quote. I don’t care if you like Doctor Strange or not (based on what I’ve seen, you probably don’t), but the Ancient One aptly summed up the truth everyone is missing:

It’s not about you.

God is the center. People are not God, and we never will be. It’s not our job to live perfect lives in front of others, nor to prove to others that we have the truth about living perfect lives. If that was really the case, we of all people should be most pitied. It would mean that Jesus’ death doesn’t really matter after all, and God has forsaken us. It would mean that it’s up to humanity to save itself. That sounds blasphemous, yet it’s exactly what we proclaim when we live to create an impression on others. And we can do that just as easily when we’re reading Harry Potter as when we’re listening exclusively to Christian music.

Sure, it’s okay to hate Christian movies, just as it’s okay to skip the Divergent trilogy. But what’s your reason for disliking either? So often, we make decisions based on how we appear to others. If I refuse to spend money at Starbucks, will people think I’m legalistic? If I wear this, will people think I’m making myself cheap? Sure, we should have a care about how we treat others, but here’s the thing: people are always going to judge us. Remember the farmer, his son, and their donkey. If we build our lives based on other people’s perceptions, we will end up dissatisfied and depressed. It’s impossible to create the perfect impression forever, and God didn’t make us to live like that anyway.

The thing we need to change is our motivation. We should really be making our decisions based on what God asks us to do. That’s the life He created us to live. Where does God want me to spend my hard-earned money? Does my clothing reflect the honor that God has given me as His son or daughter? And yes, people will still judge us or think ill of us, and sometimes that will hurt, but it doesn’t matter as much when we know we’re doing what God would have us do. It’s truly amazing how the earth grows strangely dim in the light of God’s glory and grace.

It’s all about God, anyway. What right have we to add to His commandments?