The “Never Have I Ever” Writing Tag

Katie, author of the fantastically-named blog I Am Charles Baker Harris (And I Can Read), sent me this fun writing tag a few weeks ago! Tags are always a good idea (especially when you’ve been super-busy with fanfic-, article-, and novel-writing), and this one offers a peek into my life (and history) as a writer!

So without further ado…

All images from here on out are from Pinterest, btw.

Never have I ever . . .

. . . started a novel that I did not finish.

(*looks sheepish*) Sorry, but I have several unfinished novels on my hard drive. A few may be worthy of reconsideration (maybe); others would probably be more at home on a trash heap. But I’m rather sentimental: I can’t bear to throw them away just yet!

. . . written a story completely by hand.

When I was little I wrote all my stories by hand. But then my dad started letting me use his computer (back in ye olden days when “a computer” meant a bulky monitor/tower duo!) and I’ve never looked back.

. . . changed tenses midway through a story.

Never permanently. I’ve experimented with Present Tense (“I say,” “she looks,” “he walks”) a few times, but I inevitably return to Past Tense (“I said,” “she looked,” “he walks”). Present Tense is too terse and lean; I don’t mind reading it, but I don’t enjoy writing it. Past Tense, however, fits my personal writing style like a Good Boy Sweater: not only is it comfy, it gives me a lot more free range with description, action, and my characters’ thoughts.

(And Katie, I hear you laughing at my Good Boy Sweater reference, but IT’S A GOOD METAPHOR.)

. . . not researched anything before starting a story.

Do people actually do that??? I couldn’t even get more than a few chapters into Operation Lionhearted without immersing myself in the history of intelligence organizations, the different types of espionage, and science-fiction technology. 

. . . changed my protagonist’s name halfway through a draft.

I had to change the name of my First Serious Novel’s protagonist because…well, the novel itself started out as a fanfic that I eventually adapted into something semi-original. There was no way I could’ve kept the hero’s name; it would’ve been too “on the nose.” Actually, the whole story was “on the nose” in more ways than one and will never see the light of day, but I learned a lot about writing whilst crafting it.

. . . written a story in a month or less.

Short stories, yes. Novels? Alas, no.

. . . fallen asleep while writing.

No. I’ve struggled with some insomnia over the past month, and as a result I’ve been very sleepy during my morning writing time. But I’ve never actually fallen asleep while writing.

. . . corrected someone’s grammar irl / online.

In real life, yes! I don’t think I’ve ever done it online, though? You can correct someone’s grammar in real life without being petty, but it just looks snobbish online.

. . . yelled in all caps at myself in the middle of a novel.

Oh yes, I’ve done this. Sometimes, when I’m interrupted in the middle of a scene, I’ll make a note to myself in all-caps: “DON’T FORGET TO MAKE [insert character name] DO [whatever it is]!” And I definitely yell at myself while taking notes and writing outlines.

. . . used “I’m writing” as an excuse.

It is a Good and Reasonable Excuse.

. . . killed a character who was based on someone I know in real life.

In that aforementioned “First Serious Novel,” I gave a fine and heroic death to a character I’d based on a real-life, current events political figure. And he was a good guy. The Guardian Figure, no less! My mom was so mad when she found out I’d killed him off, haha.

. . . used pop culture references in a story.

Operation Lionhearted has several subtle pop culture references that I adapted for my fictional world, but which are 100% based on actual pop culture things. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not they go unnoticed. (*mysterious grin*)

. . . written between the hours of 1am and 6am.


. . . drank an entire pot of coffee while writing.

An entire pot?! Gosh, no. Talk about giving someone the jitters.

. . . written down dreams to use in potential novels.

I think so? I know there’s one particular image in my head of Jodie Whittaker dressed in a black 1940’s dress and coat while holding a suitcase; I think this image came to me in a dream, and I’ve never been able to forget it. I certainly built a character around that one image, though I haven’t written a novel around her yet.

. . . published an unedited story on the internet / Wattpad / blog.

I think I edit everything I write within an inch of my life (and the story or article’s existence)–so no, never have I ever.

. . . procrastinated homework because I wanted to write.

Not homework–but I have procrastinated on blogposts. Hah-hah.

. . . typed so long that my wrists hurt.

Oh yes, very much so–although this pain has been alleviated by having a properly ergonomic chair at my desk.

. . . spilled a drink on my laptop while writing.

No, though it’s one of my worst nightmares!

. . . forgotten to save my work / draft.

Thankfully, my word processing programs all have auto-save. But that does reminds me: I need to back up all my work on my flash drive…

. . . finished a novel.

YES!! I finished my First Serious Novel, its sequel (also trunked), and Operation Lionhearted–plus a novel-length Doctor Who story and two novel-length Man of Steel stories.

. . . laughed like an evil villain while writing a scene.

I admit, I made myself laugh out loud the other day while writing an action scene full of sassy flirting between two married characters. Their friend, who had to listen to them bantering while he pinned down a bad guy, was not at all impressed.

. . . cried while writing a scene.

I don’t cry, but I do get emotional. Especially if I turn on music that’s well-suited to the emotions I need for the scene. (Pro-tip: always, always, always play the song “Shelagh Gives Birth” from the Call the Midwife soundtrack whenever you’re writing a birth scene.)

. . . created maps of my fictional worlds.

YES. I did this for Operation Lionhearted. It helps me keep track of my character’s locations!

. . . researched something shady for a novel.

While caring for an apocalyptic/dystopian plot bunny last year (the inevitable result of watching Chernobyl, I’m afraid), I became a wee bit concerned that the FBI agent assigned to me might be quirking an eyebrow at all the research I was conducting on hydrogen bombs and radioactivity.

Have you ever cackled like a villain while writing? Used dreams as inspiration? Scarfed down an entire pot of coffee? I’d love to hear those stories 😉

I Ship it Like Fedex (AKA, The Other Valentine’s Day Post)

Thank you so much for all the encouraging comments on last week’s post! I appreciate each and every one, and I’m so glad if that “recycled” article blessed you in your own purpose-filled journey.

But as content as I now am in my singleness, I’m still a hopeless romantic–especially when it comes to stories. I love a good old-fashioned fairytale–all the best love stories reflect the Greatest Love Story in some way or another, right?

I’m also the kind of person who couldn’t possibly name just one OTP (One True Pairing). Who needs only one little ship when you could have a whole ARMADA, hmm?

So NO, I’m NOT anti-romance. I love my OTPs. I love the fact that they all counterbalance and believe in each other, and I just want them to be happy, keep house together, and have many beautiful babies. Some of my OTPs are canonical, others are most decidedly not, and none of them are in any particular order in this postbut they all make my heart go pitter-patter!

(All pictures are from Google, Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter.)

The Doctor & Clara Oswald

I place this ship within the “Canonical Column”–but even if you don’t ship them romantically, it’s hard to deny the chemistry and devotion between the Doctor and his Impossible Girl. They’re such a Power Couple, there’s even a whole Gallifreyan prophecy about them and the universe-defying love they have for one another. “Whouffaldi,” as this ship is called in the Twelfth Doctor’s era, may very well be the flagship of my Armada, especially since I’ve got a whole series of fanfic about them under my belt.

The Part That Made Me Ship It: The Doctor to Clara: Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”

Steve Rogers & Peggy Carter

What’s not to love about these two? Peggy knew Steve was a Quality Gentleman™ long before he was transformed into a super-soldier–and he thought she was the bee’s knees the moment he first laid eyes on her. This an old-fashioned “friends-to-lovers” romance full of chivalry, missed opportunities, devastating loss, and–ultimately–a happy ending. Throw rotten tomatoes at me if you please, but I’ll always be glad they finally got their Happily-Ever-After in Avengers: Endgame.

The Part That Made Me Ship It: The scene in Captain America: The First Avenger where he said he was waiting for the right partner and she just looked at him like, “I think I’m gonna marry this boy.”

Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff

Steve gets TWO WHOLE MENTIONS in this post: we just wanted him to be happy! Before I knew he and Peggy would end up together, my sister Carolyn convinced me there was some serious chemistry going on between Captain America and Black Widow. It’s not canonical, but I still ship it in its own context! Steve and Natasha couldn’t be more different, both in personality and background–yet they learn to trust, tease, and comfort each other in a way that reminds me of an old, adorable married couple.

The Part That Made Me Ship It: Natasha: “If it was the other way around, and it was down to me to save your life–and you be honest with me–would you trust me?”  Steve: “I would now. And I’m always honest.”

Queen Victoria & Lord Melbourne

Okay, this one is DECIDEDLY in the “Non-Canonical Column!” And yet…IF the Victoria miniseries was fictional, and IF I were the writer, Victoria would’ve ended up with Melbourne and NOT with Albert, who does very little in their relationship other than make her feel small and stupid. Melbourne, by contrast, believes in her, loves her, and never ever ever insults her intelligence. I still have Extremely Strong Feelings about this (and yes, I did write fanfic to assuage my broken heart).

The Part That Made Me Ship It: Melbourne: “To me, Ma’am, you are every inch a Queen.”

Rey Skywalker & Ben Solo

I refused to ship Rey with Kylo Ren for four whole years because I have Principles™–but in the wake of his beautiful and very heroic redemption, I have NO QUALMS about the (100% canonical) love between Rey and Ben SoloThey only got a short amount of time together (a tragedy from which I may never fully recover), yet the trust, selflessness, and compassion they had for each other not only turned me into the world’s fastest “Reylo” convert, but singlehandedly cured me of a severe case of writer’s block

The Part That Made Me Ship It: The moment pictured above, when all he has to do is smile at her and she knows Kylo Ren is dead and Ben Solo is alive.

Captain Kirk & Lieutenant Uhura

This is a Non-Canonical Pairing, but I blame my sister Emily for dragging me on board this one. Kirk and Uhura have some lovely little character moments in the Original Star Trek Series, including several scenes where he is either very protective and gentle with her, or she is exhibiting considerable emotion where he and his safety/wellbeing are concerned. I ended up writing a whole series of short stories about these two, and I must say, I’m still very proud of them!

The Part That Made Me Ship It: Honestly, it was that awful episode “Plato’s Stephildren,” but when Uhura basically admitted she was in love with Kirk, I nearly hit the roof.

Clark Kent & Lois Lane

I’ve shipped these two for nearly my whole life. It started when I first saw the Christopher Reeve films as a kid, simmered in the back of my mind for about fifteen years, and was joyously resurrected when I saw Man of Steel. Amy Adams’ Lois believes in Henry Cavill’s quiet, enigmatic Clark–while he, in return, lives in awe and adoration of this fearless, high-spirited journalist. I wrote three novel-length fanfics about these two–and I still think Amy and Henry are awfully cute together.

The Part That Made Me Ship It: I don’t remember what sparked my interest in the Christopher Reeve movies, but the scene in Man of Steel when Lois and Clark touched hands in the desert sealed the deal for me.

Juliet Ashton and Dawsey Adams

Out of all the relationships on this list, Juliet and Dawsey’s is probably the one I’d most like to have for myself. I relate so much to Juliet, and Dawsey is exactly the kind of guy I’d want to marry: a humble, hard-working homebody. The “friends to lovers” trope is also my favorite kind of romance, both in fiction and in real life. Juliet draws Dawsey out of his own introversion, and he grounds her in the quiet enchantment of Guernsey.

The Part That Made Me Ship It: I’m pretty sure I shipped this one almost from the beginning of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Beren and Luthien

I’m gonna say it right here and now: Beren and Luthien’s story is way better than Aragorn and Arwen’s. It’s adventurous, terrifying, humorous in places, and intensely romantic–and it even has a bittersweet (rather than purely tragic) ending. And Luthien is a far more active, interesting heroine than Arwen…though not even Beren can hold a candle to Aragorn. This was Tolkien’s favorite story in his own “legendarium,” and I admit, I kinda want to write a modern-day retelling one day.

The Part That Made Me Ship It: Beren to Luthien’s father: “Here I have found what I sought not indeed, but finding I would possess forever. Neither rock, nor steel, nor the fires of Morgoth shall keep from me the treasure I desire. For Luthien your daughter is the fairest of all the Children of the World.”

Emma Woodhouse & Mr. Knightley

Last but not least, the sparkling, hilarious, and poignant relationship between Emma and the no-nonsense, quietly heroic Mr. Knightley is my #1 Jane Austen OTP. Emma needs Mr. Knightley to balance her high spirits and bossy ways–but he, in turn, needs her to lighten his loads and bring her sunshine into his life. The BBC’s 2009 miniseries, starring Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller, remains my favorite adaptation of this absolutely delightful romance!

The Part That Made Me Ship It: “Will you dance, dear Emma?”

Who are your OTPs? Did any of them make this list? Let me know in the comments! You know I’d love to fangirl with y’all about all my darlings 😉

4 Special Encouragements for Saint Valentine’s Day!

Much of this post was originally published in 2017, but I’ve altered and added to it to reflect my current convictions on the purpose-filled, Christ-centered life. I hope it blesses all my readers, no matter who or where you are! 

Happy Saint Scholastica Day! This is the feast day of one of my favorite Christian heroines, the strong-willed, learned twin sister of Saint Benedict of Nursia. I’m so thankful I get to start this week reflecting on a woman who devoted her entire life to Christ and His people. Scholastica (and other Christian heroines like her!) inspire and encourage me…especially when I need some confirmation that my “unwedded bliss” really is something to celebrate.

Valentine’s Day isn’t always easy for single, unattached people. I know it’s gotten so much easier for me in the past few years, but the temptation to feel sorry for myself (or throw up all my emotional defenses until February is over, haha) is still very real. God has been so faithful, though, constantly reminding me of the following truths since I originally shared them with my readers three years ago…

1. God loves you more than you will ever know.

“Faith,” Ann Voskamp writes in her book The Broken Way, “is confidence in God’s kindness no matter the confusion of circumstances.” God loves his sons and daughters so much, and He’s in the business of drawing us closer and closer to Himself. He works all things for our good…even when we can’t see what or where that good might be.

When my one and only “serious relationship” crashed and burned, it hurt so much. I didn’t understand why God would seemingly set me up for something wonderful, just to jerk it all away from me. Now I understand that He wasn’t just protecting me from a very perilous situation; He was also teaching me something I desperately needed to know: I love you more than any man ever could. I’ll be with you even when everybody else fails you, and I will give you peace.”

@ Pinterest

Jesus knows what it’s like to be broken. He knows the pain of loneliness. He knows what it’s like to feel betrayed and forgotten. He felt all those things as a carpenter of Nazareth. You’ll always be safe taking your broken hallelujahs to Him because He always understands, and He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)! He takes great delight in you, quieting you with His love and rejoicing over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

2. You are RIGHT where God wants you to be right now.

I’ll be 28 in a few weeks. My mom was married with three babies by the time she was 28. I have two choices: I can either fret and wonder what’s wrong with me and why I’m “so behind schedule”…or I can remind myself that God ordained every twist and turn of my story before the foundation of the world.

@ Pinterest

Here is a truth that I now stand upon: There’s a reason I’m unmarried, and it is a good and purpose-filled reason. I’m confident now that God has me in this place because He wants me to be so grounded in His love and goodness, I’ll be better equipped for whatever challenges life has in store for me. He’s molding me into exactly the kind of woman He wants me to be!

3. NOW is the time to invest in yourself & your relationships with God, your family, & your church!

I used to think self-care was selfish. There is a self-obsessed, navel-gazing kind of self-care, but there’s also nothing wrong with taking the time to make your soul happy. By taking care of yourself, you’re simply equipping and strengthening yourself physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally–which, in turn, makes it so much easier for you to focus on serving God and others!

Fill your head and your heart with God’s Word; that is the most important thing. Spend some time outside every day. Enjoy stories (the real ones as well as the imaginary ones) of kind, noble heroes and heroines. Fill your head and your heart with God’s Word! Create something, even if it’s just a pan of cookies–but not too many cookies, because your body needs nutritious food, too! Fill your head and your heart with God’s Word!! Find a way to serve your community or your church, even if it’s just serving in the nursery or bringing a meal to a new mama. Get a good night’s rest. Belt out your favorite songs in the car (did you know singing out loud for an hour can boost your immune system?). Fill your head and your heart with God’s word!!! Hug someone (did you know hugging can boost your immune system, too?). Count your blessings and write them down (gratitude can alleviate depression!). Did I mention filling your head and your heart with God’s Word???

@ Pinterest

Take the time to embrace what God says about you, to enjoy your beautiful life, and to “do your little bit” in your corner of the world. And remember, you don’t have to be a politician, a missionary, a pastor’s kid, or even a mother to make a difference. The only person you have to be is you.

4. You don’t need anybody but Jesus to be truly happy.

The 2015 Cinderella film ends with a song called “Strong.” I have my quibbles with the admonition to “Trust in your heart”–but there’s one line I do think is true, at least to a certain extent:

“A bird all alone on the wing can still be strong and sing.”

Of course, we are never alone if Christ lives inside us. We must cling to that truth, especially when we do feel “all alone on the wing.” But we must also cling to the truth that we really can “be strong and sing” right where we are, because of the fact that Christ lives inside us.

@ Pinterest

You don’t have to wait for your life to begin, because your purpose-filled life began a long time ago. You don’t have to sit around waiting for the perfect mash-up of Steve Rogers, Tom Branson, and Mr. Knightley to come a-knocking on your door, either. If that person exists, he’ll come when the time is right.

And if he doesn’t? Well, there’s plenty for you and me to do and learn in the meantime–and more than enough people in our lives to love.

As for those cruel, cutting thoughts in your head about how nobody will ever love you for who you are, or how you’ve been totally forgotten…they are lies–all of them–because God loves you so much and He will never, ever forget you.

In the light of that truth, we really can be strong and sing our little hearts out.