Welcome to One Word More!

Welcome to One Word More! The Writing Blog of Erin Phillips!

Here, you can find out all about Erin Phillips, her novels, how she writes, what she is writing, and how to contact her personally!

Erin Phillips’ newest thriller novel, POLARITY, is now available on Amazon

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Rediscover Reading

Do you go through reading droughts like me? Sometimes I just can’t find the motivation to read a single thing. When it’s just too tempting to watch tv or be on my phone, and reading feels like a mental strain? I only recently came out of such a rut, and I don’t want to slip out of the habit again because reading has been lifegiving to me in this past season! I’ve felt more relaxed, like I find it is easier to slow down and disconnect, and more inspired, easily finding new story ideas and an excitement to write each day.

Are you stuck in a reading drought or looking to refresh your love of reading? Here are some things that have helped me climb out of the rut and rediscover reading:

  1. The Library. Sometimes, the problem is that I don’t have any books on hand that I’m interested in reading, and I tend to have shopping anxiety so buying a book when I don’t know if I will like it or not is never easy for me. I also don’t want to waste time on a book I’m not enjoying, but I feel guilty if I don’t finish a book I spent money on. That’s why I love the library! I can check out three or four books at a time that catch my interest with no strings attached! If I don’t like a book, I don’t have to finish it; I can just return it to the library and start on the next one until something hooks me in.
  2. Book Club. Last year, my cousin and fellow author, Valerie Cotnoir, started a casual book club, which has been a big motivator for me to finish reading books. We don’t have to read the same book, but every month we gather to share about what we had finished reading and what we thought about it. It is really rewarding to be able to tell someone about a book rather than just write a review on Goodreads, and it’s also a great way to discover new books!
    • If you don’t know of any book clubs that interest you, start your own with friends you know who love reading!
  3. Readathon Day. This was my latest discover and it was a gamechanger, not only for my reading goals, but for my self-care! I dedicated two full days just to reading (although even just one day or one morning would be helpful, I think) and told my husband I was just reading for those two days. I got a book I was very excited about, cleared my schedule, gathered my favorite coffee and snacks, and snuggled down for a good read. I not only felt free to relax and just read (after all, it was in my planner), but it made me so excited to sink into the story that I’m writing.

You hear it all the time: writers are readers. And it sounds like a chore, like you have to read in order to grow in the very concrete skill of ‘good writing’. But I have found that reading grows so much more than a critical eye for good writing technique, it has grown my imagination, it has grown my ability to rest, and it has grown my love for storytelling.

My goal this year is to read 12 books – one a month, just in time for book club – and have had readathon day every 1-3 months. You can follow my reading journey on Goodreads.com – and you can review my books if you have read them there as well!

The Perfect 1st Draft

Already as I have begun writing the first draft, the doubts have begun to creep in. Is there too much exposition? Or maybe not enough? I’m not giving enough description…or is there an overwhelming amount already?

These doubts can lead to two great big distractions that will keep you from ever finishing that first draft:

  1. Stop. Go back. Edit. Keep editing. Just edit the crap out of that first scene and make sure it is perfect before you move forward. Will it ever be perfect? If this scene isn’t perfect, what’s the point in writing the rest?
  2. Stop. Give up. You aren’t good enough. Or this story just isn’t working. Find a new story. Stop. Is this one not good either? Or is it me? Will I never be able to find the perfect story?

I’ve given in to both of these distractions in the past, and they both tell the same HUGE lie about my stories and my abilities: your first draft must be perfect. Who ever did something perfectly their first try? I’ll give you a few seconds to think about it. Let me know when you realize it’s no one ever. I googled it for you.

If I’ve found one thing to be true about being a writer, it is that the need for perfection is an ugly, nasty thing. Especially during your very first draft. We as humans are quite literally incapable of being perfect. (I googled that one too but you get the point.) This need to be perfect, to write perfect, to create the perfect plot or whatever it may be for you, stems from the lie that you can be perfect. Because, as we have mentioned, you can’t be.

So, even in the midst of my current draft, and having faced down this lie in every previous draft I have written, I have to remind myself to let go of the need to be perfect. In letting go of this need, I find such freedom and joy in writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect. As Ted Dekker says, story is a sandcastle on the beach. It is a way that we get to imitate our Heavenly Father, the creator of everything ever. So build, play, have fun, enjoy the process. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

[Of course, once it’s built, you can start to make it better, you can invite others to help you, because you have a whoel sandcastle now, instead of just a pile of sand on a beach of sand, but that’s beside the point for today.]

Finding the Story

Finding my next novel to sink my mind into has been a long journey. Since finishing Polarity, I have had been through countless ideas, but none of them hooked me enough to get them off the ground floor. Polarity was a suspense novel but a bit of whimsy in the world, and I was desperate to be capture by another idea in the same way.

I thought that maybe I should write what I enjoy reading the most: domestic thrillers. I had several very intriguing ideas, but none of them found focus, and I struggled to flesh them out beyond the initial “what if” question. I invested a lot of time into these ideas, exploring location and characters and plots, and one day, maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to repurpose the best pieces for another story.

Then, I thought that maybe I should watch what I enjoy watching: spooky ghost stories. I am obsessed with Harpers Ferry, WV, having tried to write several stories in this location in the past. My husband took me on a mini vacation to finally see and explore Harpers Ferry in person at the end of 2019, and I was even more obsessed afterwards. I set my mind on a ghost story, hoping to get sucked in completely to the idea.

Discipline and determination can only get you so far.

Just in the same way that a good book can hook you on the first page and then you can’t stop reading until it’s finished, I have to get hooked by my story. It has to pull me in and make me believe that there are endless possibilities and a strong throughline. And none of the ideas I had were capturing me.

On the side, of course, I am writing musicals with my husband, and there was one idea that we kept discussing but Jeremy (by hubster) was firm that the story was overdone, even if done in an inauthentic way every time we had seen it turned into a movie, play, or musical. Plus, he argued, we had so many other great, unique ideas that were fresh.

But that story idea kept coming back to me with a passion, because it was a story that I wanted to have told without the whitewashing and rose-colored glasses. When you strip away the beauty montages, the love story, the perfect faith, there is a much more relatable and inspiring story. That was the story I wanted to be told by someone but every time I felt let down.

So, after years of casually studying the story, the history, the context, I knew I wanted to tell this story. That was over a year ago. And I kept putting it off for one reason: I didn’t want to write a Bible story. And I didn’t want people to be shook because all the things they imposed on the story had disappeared, or at least shifted in a darker direction. This story wasn’t VeggieTales, after all, so I set out to figure out a way to take away those reconceptions and present this story as something fresh. Something people would find themselves sinking into and forgetting, even for a moment, the story they grew up hearing.

And then the pieces began to fall into place this past summer. I had that burst of inspiration that helped me to finally find the lens through which I wanted to tell this story.

It has been so refreshing to be hooked, to be pulled in, to sink deeper and deeper in understanding of the world, the characters, and the story. My hope is that this story will refresh you as it has refreshed me; that these simple words would be a call to courage, to faith, to righteousness for you as they have become for me:

“Perhaps you have been chosen for such a time as this.”