AH: 4 Questions to Ask Before Shelving Your Book

Hullo, world! 

It’s so great to be able to be back writing this post. Now that summer is creeping up on us (although it still feels like winter!!) time is speeding past me and I can’t believe how many things are right around the corner. I feel so underprepared. 

But worries aside, there’s been something that has been on my mind for the past few weeks…and it is on shelving books

As authors, I think we feel conflicted whenever we have to set aside our beloved WIPs. It’s even harder when your identity as an author is tied to that book. For me, I came to the tough decision of “permanently shelving” a WIP I’ve been working on for the past five years–and went right back to it this week. (I know, indecisiveness is key to all writers. Or maybe it’s just me, IDK.)

So for today’s Author Health, I’ll be looking at 4 Questions to Ask Before Shelving Your Book

Without further ado, let us commence!

A. Are you hungry? (Or simply tired?)

Yup. That’s a legitimate question to be asking yourself. I find that when I’m physically running on empty, I tend to get cranky and moody. Everything is falling apart!  My book is falling apart! Wahhhh!! 

That automatically makes me sound like a toddler, but are we actually that different from adolescents? Like, really?  

So take a break and eat real food. Boil pasta, bake bread, eat curry-on-rice, what have you. Chances are, you’ll be able to make a better decision after that. 

Food is life. Be more like Sasha.

B. Does this story matter to you?

This sounds obvious, but take a deep look at yourself and ask, Does this story matter to me? 

One of the biggest reasons I thought I had to “shelve” my WIP was because I didn’t feel like this story mattered to me anymore. My siblings kept cheering me on (in fact, this was the only story they were waiting for me to write) but I didn’t think it mattered as much to me as it did back when I started. A lot of this was due to question A–I was probably hungry. (Okay, that’s oversimplifying the matter but it’s true! I wasn’t eating well.)

If you don’t know why the story matters to you, then it’s a big warning to take a pause and list all the reasons it matters to you. When you know the story matters to you and why, you can keep going on even when it gets tough. 

Mikasa’s reason for everything.

C. Do you love any of these characters?

A big tell to shelve a book temporarily or permanently (hopefully never) is if you, the author, do not love any of the characters you write about. Now, I’d say this is probably rare. However, I did have instances when the plot took superiority and just dragged the characters away. This spells disaster because characters are what makes your story come alive. I know some people may disagree with me over plot over character over prose (sometimes), but if you don’t care about your characters, neither will the reader. 

Contrarily, if you love your characters to pieces no matter how terrible the story seems to be, there’s hope. Take a moment to reflect on each of your character’s stories and listen to how they play off each other. 

How can you not love this boy??

D. Can you stop thinking about your book?

Lastly, even if you’ve answered no to all of the above, if your answer is yes to this last question, don’t shelve your book just yet! I have so many ideas and I often don’t know where to start  (or stop). That’s just because they’re all in different stages of creation. 

One WIP has been on my mind for four years and I’ve written a third of the story and have it stewing. 

One WIP takes a long time to write, but when I do write, I can pound as many word counts in it as I need. 

One WIP is still brewing in the clouds although I know perfectly how the story begins and ends. 

Sometimes, all you need to do is to sit back and let your mind roam free. Try not to think about your book. If you can’t, then it’s still probably dying to be told. 

IDK, I’m nostalgic for Narnia…

Practical steps to take:

  1. Eat real food. 
  2. List out all the reasons the story matters to you.
  3. Listen to your character’s stories. 
  4. Try to stop thinking about your book. 

NOTE: Also, shelving books doesn’t have to be permanent. It can always be temporary!

And that’s it for today!

Thank you for reading! What did you think? How do you find out if you need to shelve a book? Have you shelved books before? Let me know your thoughts in the comment below; I’d love to chat with you!

May Afternoon Tea with SJ

Good Afternoon, and welcome to Afternoon Tea with SJ!

Today is uncharacteristically sunny and I just love typing at my desk with the sun on my hands. I had an amazing month and I can’t wait to share it with you…

-May ‘21 Afternoon Tea Setting-

Location: Cottage in a forest

Tea: Lavender, Editor’s Blend, Strawberry Vanilla

Offered with: Lemon cheese cake, Chocolate banana chiffon cake, Matcha tiramisu

So, without further ado, let the party commence!


I suffered from a reading block towards the end of April to mid May, so I read significantly less books than the previous months. I also took up books outside the Omnibus syllabus and read more nonfiction than usual. 

May Reads 

  1. Story Genius -Lisa Cron (Nfic)
  2. The Book of Hygge -Louisa Thomsen Brits (Nfic)
  3. Want -Cindy Pon (YA sci-fi)
  4. Ignite -Jenna Terese (ARC, YA sci-fi)
  5. Wildwood -Colin Meloy (Jfic/MG)
  6. Holy Sexulaity and the Gospel -Christopher Yuan (Nfic)
  7. The Iliad -Homer (O4)
  8. Blessed Monsters -Emily A. Duncan (YA fantasy)

Currently Reading: Capsule, The House of Government, Catch-22

Overall, it’s been a slow reading month, but I finally conquered the Iliad and that to me has been a greater win. 🙂 

More tea or cake, anyone? I really adore the lemon cheese cake, do try it out!

Anyhow…this month has been saturated with various media that I re-discovered and discovered, so let’s take a look at some of them. 

Music 

I finally figured out Spotify and *blushes* have been spending way too much time there while I was working. Well, that’s what it’s there for, right??

Practising: Mozart’s Rondo in D-dur K485, Brahms Viola Sonata Op. 120 No.2 first movement, Mozart’s Requiem–Lacrimosa by Thalberg, AoT Ops. 1-5

Listening to: AoT lo-fi, TG lo-fi, Kuhlau Piano Sonatinas Op. 20 & 55, Tchaikovsky Souvenir de Florence

Movie 

We only watched one movie this month, and *drumrolls*….it’s 1917!!

If you’ve been on SJ Barnard for a while, you might already know, but I’m obsessed with history, especially of the early 20th century. I loved this movie (as I should) and want to watch it again. 

Manga/Anime

This section should probably get a bigger highlight. I finished AoT vol 32 and am officially obsessed with it. (Isayama-sensei is dementedly genius.) Also, I’ve begun to dip my toes in the My Hero Academia fandom (hullo, Deku!) and love that, too. I’m still waiting to read the rest of TPN manga–it’s on order at my library–so just wait a few more weeks until I restart screaming about it. I really want to get into Jujutsu Kaisen…any fans out there? 

Okay. Writing Life…

Um, maybe before that, do you want to try the lavender tea? It’s absolutely celestial, I promise. Or the Strawberry Vanilla tea? That one’s a template for cottage core. 😉

So. WIPs. 

Initially I was planning to edit Juliet. Because, that’s like my headstone project I’ve been working on for the past four or five years. I re-read part 1, I made notes, outlines, began re-writing and yadda yadda yadda, when I had to stop.

It wasn’t working. 

I had all these cool ideas and an actually coherent plot, tons of character analysis and everything, when the floor fell out from underneath me. I had no idea why I was writing this story. Like, for real. 

  1. Goes into existential crisis
  2. Denial
  3. Realisation something is definitely wrong with it
  4. Hides
  5. Cries oceans
  6. Sleeps

Anyhow. So now it’s permanently on hold where it might RIP or might be brought back from the dead once I hide from it long enough. *Sighs*

But there’s good news! In the meantime, I’ve been working on Osthauptstadt, the second-newest WIP on my shelf. I’m almost at the 40K mark, so I wrote around 25K! I don’t know how long it’s going to be, but I’m hoping to write at least 50K in this WIP. 

I’m really excited for university to start! I got accepted into another one with scholarships, this one the number one ranking in Canada, and I’m utterly blown. Because it’s too far for me to attend, I won’t be going there (and I decided on the other one already), but this means a lot to me. I’ve begun creating a timeline and to-do lists to get ready. But yes, college…*grins*

How about another slice of matcha tiramisu? I just love tiramisu! 

I feel like I’ve talked about most of the things that happened this May–wait, I didn’t talk about how I started running!

Prepare for astonishment: I began running tracks in the mornings!

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.

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I know, you’re probably confused. Like, people run all the time. Except, I really hate running. I used to run when I was in elementary, but then my asthma got worse, so I swam more instead. Then COVID happened and all the swimming pools shut down. I had lots of nervous breakdowns, walked a lot, but wasn’t getting enough exercise in. 

Insert brilliant idea no. 109: Running!

About a month ago, I stumbled upon Mel Torrefranca’s video, I followed Haruki Murakami’s strict schedule for a week. And it got me thinking about my health. As I prepare for a new chapter of my life, I definitely didn’t want to repeat my disastrous high school years where I was literally sick every single month. Hence, running. 

I began with 2km, which felt okay, so I slowly worked my way up to 4km. I ran 6km a few days ago, and hope to get to 10km by the end of this challenge. My focus in running is more on breathing technique–I’m using the one I learnt at karate–and so far it’s been working out! Once I got over my paralyzing fear of running, I’m finding out I actually enjoy it! (I know, marvels of marvels.) 

I also wake up consistently around a little before 5 am-6 am routine. We’re also hiking every week as a family which is super fun because we’re literally surrounded by mountains, rivers, oceans, and islands. Summer in BC is breathtaking. 

So, that’s about it! 

Thank you for reading today’s post! What are some things you did this May? Did you meet any great books? (Or join new fandoms?) How was your writing this month? Do tell me all about it; I’d love to chat with you!

5 Steps to Cut Back Screen Time & Increase Creativity

Hullo, world!

I’ve been meaning to write this post last week but changed my mind. (Things happen, don’t they?) This has nothing to do with today’s topic, but I’m happy to announce a few things:

  • Jenna Terese’s Ignite cover reveal is in 2 weeks (The release date is June 2nd)!! You can add it to Goodreads now!!
  • Finding God in Anime’s cover reveal is coming up soon 🙂 I can’t wait to read other people’s submissions!!
  • I began running. If you didn’t know, it’s like the ultimate sports I loathe. It’s been two weeks and I’m having a hard time believing I’m still doing it. 

And, of course, digital minimalism

Becoming a minimalist has been one of my goals for 2021, and the biggest portion of it is my screen time. I’ve researched the average phone usage and the consensus seems to be about three hours or more. That’s only the time spent on one’s phone, so it doesn’t count the time spent on computers, TV, and other devices. 

In January I set my goal to 1 hour per day on my phone. I knew I was wasting a lot of time on it, and I tended to relapse easily after media fasts, so I came up with a circular method to make sure I can keep this quota.

So, let me introduce to you the 5 Steps to Cut Back Screen Time & Increase Creativity

1: Set phone limit to 1 hour 

If you own an iPhone, you can go to the control centre and place a limit. I have a limit of 1 hour on All Apps. I do know the password, however, in case I need to use it and am pretty confident to be self-controlled. 😉 Or not. 

When starting, it might be a good idea to have someone you trust (i. e. parent, sibling, friend, &c.) set the password so that you won’t be able to access your phone when your time’s up. 

Be ruthless like Levi!

2: Delete unnecessary and/or apps available on the computer

This is huge. Before I had a lot of apps on my phone I barely looked at and/or I could also use on my computer. The funny thing is, when I open my computer, I’m usually more focused on my task, so I wouldn’t waste my time as much on say, things like checking my email, but when I’m on my phone I could spend the next fifteen minutes going down a rabbit hole

Delete apps like Levi would…

It also saves phone storage so you can use your phone for things you need. 

Examples of Apps I deleted: Twitter, Google Chrome, Safari, YouTube, Goodreads, &c. 

3: Outline time usage for a given day 

At the end of the day, it’s also a good idea to check how well you did. Something that has helped me was to go back to the reason I’d need my phone in the first place, then plan the phone time usage accordingly. 

I try to post on Instagram as basic self-branding, so I couldn’t quite get rid of it, but I can set a timer for five minutes and post during that time frame. If I know I’d need to record myself for the translation ministry, I would block the thirty to forty minutes needed and work with the remaining time. Or maybe I’m going to chat with my friends overseas on Line. 

Being conscious of how and why and where you spend your phone time helps you be more aware of the phone utility. A phone, at its fundamental level, is a communication tool. The rest of it is usually possible to do elsewhere. 

A moment of revelation!

4: Put the phone away after the limit 

And once your time limit comes up, physically remove your phone from the environment. I would put it in another room or my desk drawer, just any place I can’t see it. This sounds kind of silly, but if you can’t see it, it doesn’t distract you

Okay, now I’m having too much fun at AoT gifs…

For the first few days, you might want to lock it up or ask someone to hide it for you. 

5: Analyze & Assess phone usage each week; plan strategies accordingly

Finally, at the end of the week, go back and check your average weekly usage. My weekly usage does fluctuate, but at the end of the month, I’ve been able to keep it to about an hour for the past three months and it’s been great! 

I do have days I went around my limit or didn’t plan my time as well as I should have done, and those are really good moments to go back to why you’re using your phone and how you can better maintain your time. 

Seriously, everyone should drop what they’re doing and go watch or read AoT!

On Computer screen time:

A little side note for those of you thinking, But I don’t use my phone that much. What about other screen times? 

Good point. Although I haven’t started to crack down on this as much as my phone (partly because I write on and off on my computer and work/study on there), I do have a few tricks to stay focused on one task. 

  • One thing I love to do is the 3 tab limits. Sometimes I see people who have a million tabs open on their computer, which drives me crazy. Recent research shows you can’t actually multi-task, so try tackling one thing at a time. 
  • I also write out my tasks in detail on a post-it note which I stick on my computer. This way, I know why I opened my computer and can stay focused on those tasks. 
  • The 15-minute rule. I would write or do tasks in fifteen-minute sprints and take a break at the end of three rounds. I know I can stay focused, glued to my computer for hours on the end, but try to force myself to take breaks. 

And that’s about it! 

What did you think? What are some of your ways of cutting back screen time? How do you stay focused and use your time wisely? (Or not?) Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!