Confessions of a Writer: Tristen van den Berg


Hello my bookish and writerly friends!

Today I am featuring Tristen van den Berg, my amazing and incredibly talented critique partner! We met through twitter during the PitchWars mentee match hashtag. We both had had not so positive experiences with previous CPs (Tristen, I think you remember that one person, lol) and we were really hopeful that we would work well together. It’s been a couple of months and I adore Tristen (and yes I did have a total freakout over the fact that she shares a name with one of my main characters in my WIP). We had a good laugh about that, lol, I’m such a nerd.

So, without further delay, I’ll be handing over the blog to Tristen today. But before I do, Tristen, thank you so much for joining in on The Confessions of a Writer Tag! I love working with you and it’s amazing getting to share our work and help each other. You’ve helped me so much to grow as a writer and I am so thankful that I have met you.

For anyone interested in the tag, below are the participation guidelines, I hope you’ll join in the fun!

The Confessions of a Writer Tag was created by Nicolette Elzie (aka yours truly). It is a ‘get-to-know’ the writer interview tag, dedicated to spotlighting the creative process, works in progress, and connecting to other writers.


  • Please link back to this post, so that the original questions are always accessible to anyone who is curious and wants to participate!
  • Acknowledge the person who tagged you in your post.
  • Tag your friends and fellow writers – it’s up to you how many!

Confessionsof aWriter


1I’ve been writing songs since I started high school and played around with stories then as well, but I only got serious about it last year. Now I’m sort of addicted. It was always something I enjoyed but not really something I thought I would seriously pursue until a few people suggested that I give it a shot.

2At this stage it’s mainly YA romance with some paranormal elements. I still relate more to YA than adult at this stage and I’m not sure if I’ll move over, time will tell. Even if I move away from the paranormal or YA side of things, I definitely will stick to the romance aspect as it’s my favorite to write.

3My current WIP is about a teenage girl that discovers she has powers and how she deals with that on top of normal experiences like her first love and family drama. Here is the blurb from my query letter draft:

Iris Black’s summer is off to a rough start when she finds herself shipped off to a tiny Southern town and discovers unexpected powers and a force from her past that will do anything to keep them from her.

When Iris Black gets suspended from school the week before summer, she honestly thinks that things cannot get worse. Her mother ships her off to the grandmother she’s never met and to top it off she runs into the one person from back home that she does not want to see, Blake Levi.

Letting go of her preconceptions is the only way she can make it through the summer without going crazy. Iris tries to keep an open mind and ends up with something that is potentially far more dangerous, an open heart.

While Iris struggles to come to terms with new truths, a whole new world starts to open up. A world where change is possible, summer romance burns hot and idolized, and absent fathers are revealed to be far more sinister. Iris starts to question everything she has ever known and discovers that she is far more than she ever thought.

As the temperature rises, so do the stakes. How long can Iris keep her secret safe in a world where her very identity puts her at risk? Iris will have to decide who she can really trust before she loses it all. If she can’t face the truth it could cost her much more than she realizes: her life.

I’ve actually written the second book of her story and I’ve started with the third while I do edits on the first two. I started it in late January of 2014 and had a draft for my friends and family ready in July. I took a break and then from October to late July this year I worked on the second book.


The first piece I wrote was actually in Afrikaans (my second language) and I was in eighth grade. It was about a girl that falls in love with a new guy in town but he has a troubled past and their relationship turns sour when he betrays her with her best friend. Not the most original storyline, but it was fun. Even then I knew that romance was the genre for me. Looking back on it now I want to cringe! LOL

5When a scene finally works and you read it back and you can picture everything clearly in your mind, knowing you finally found a way to convey what you intended. It is so hard to put it into words sometimes but when you finally get a scene right… there’s nothing like it.

Also the ability to create something tangible with nothing but your imagination, there’s a certain kind of magic to it that amazes me whenever I read or write. You build/discover a whole new world and for a little while it belongs to only you. It’s transportive.

6Knowing where you want to end up but not knowing how to get there. That was one of the biggest problems I faced with book two because I had a clear idea of the ending, I actually wrote the ending weeks before I got to it, but I struggled to fill in the blanks on the way there.

Another thing that I found challenging, which isn’t actually about writing but it ties into it, was dealing with feedback from potential critique partners and the doubt and uncertainty that followed. It was my first time approaching people to critique for me and I hadn’t realized the importance of finding people that understand your style. I was quite naïve about it and it was uncomfortable for me when people were telling me they hated my MC and that I should scrap complete chapters when others were telling me they loved it and I should just tweak a few things. Style and genre preferences are HUGE game changers and finding CPs is almost like finding friends, they have to get your vision and understand it at least partially for it to work.

7Rose Hathaway from the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. I even made a reference to her in my own book. She’s badass, she speaks her mind and she gets stuff done. She fights for what she believes in but she isn’t hardened. She will go to any length for the people that she loves and I admire her. She’s flawed and she’s abrasive at times but overall I respect her as a character and I rooted for her over the course of six books, read in two days (a testament to Richelle’s writing skills). Her sarcasm and witty comments really drew me in and she felt like a real person, not just a character.

8I have a lot of time to write and I know many people say you should write every day but I noticed that if I force myself to write, it shows. The work feels forced and boring. So I don’t really schedule it. Sometimes I write 1500 words a day and sometimes I write 6000 a day but I try to write at least a few thousand words a week. It depends on if I have something to say. I write the best at night, I stay up quite late generally and I’ve found that it’s easier to immerse myself in the story when it’s dark and everyone else is asleep. I set up a playlist with songs for certain scenes and it really seems to work for me. I’m completely focused and the whole picture is sharper. I try to imagine the book as if I was watching a movie!

9No, I haven’t been to college. I took a gap year last year after high school to try out different things and see what the right fit was for me. I almost went off to au pair in the USA but opted out at the last minute because I was seriously considering studying education and got a job as a substitute teacher at a local elementary school. I learned that while I do like to teach, I don’t want to be a regular teacher.

I’m studying to be a personal trainer at the moment but studying writing was something that I also seriously considered for a while. What it came down to was lack of job opportunity for writers or journalists in South Africa. It isn’t in much demand so I went with something that I also enjoy that would open more doors. I do intend to go to some classes or writer’s retreats and such once I have the money and opportunity.

10Grammar errors seem to irritate me the most, even when I make them by accident, it really irks me. Spelling errors I can sort of understand more, people type fast or they spell phonetically, but grammar should be something that is taught from a young age. A little part of me dies every time someone confuses “there, their and they’re” or “your and you’re”.

11“Write the story that you want to write”

You can’t make everyone happy or be on trend all the time, you have to spend months on that MS so it will go much better if you’re writing something you feel compelled to write, rather than what you think will be popular. It will be harder to push through and get it done if you don’t want to write it or you don’t believe in it.

“Don’t do it if you don’t enjoy it”

It’s clear when someone enjoys what they’re doing, the passion for it shines through any spelling or grammar mistakes. Those can be fixed but you can’t fix a lackluster attempt at anything, it just feels sad. Do it because you love it, first and foremost. Don’t go into it with the sole goal of getting published, it’s a labor of love.

12Don’t get discouraged but be realistic.

It’s hard to stay positive when criticism starts to come your way. No one knows how many hours you spent editing or rewriting, they only see what is right in front of them at the time. For the most part they want to help you and you should listen to what they have to say, but it is still up to you to decide if you will take the advice or not. You have to stay true to yourself and what works for your vision. They may not always be right and you have to try to not take it as a personal affront. You need to be sure of yourself and your vision to be able to fight for it even through doubt.

You also have to realize that there may be some merit to what they’re saying; no one’s work is ever truly perfect. Sometimes we get too cocky or stubborn and refuse to make changes. The truth is there is always room for improvement. So keep your head up, don’t take it personally but don’t be bull-headed because of your own pride.

13I follow quite a few writers on twitter and I search writing related hashtags often, there are also a few motivational writing accounts that I follow. With regards to blogs, I mainly google a specific problem and then read relevant blog posts by various bloggers, so the only actual blog I follow at the moment is Nicolette’s, but I’m working on it. I hope to discover a few more through this tag. I’m still new to the writing community so I’m finding my feet. Writing forums are also a good place to get tips and encouragement or even just for some camaraderie.


I’ve been singing all my life, so that is still a big part of how I spend my time. I give vocal lessons at a high school and from next year I will be directing their choir as well. I enjoy pole fitness, I just had my first competition and I loved it, I’m definitely going to do another one in the near future. I read whenever I get a chance to and I love watching series. I’ve been contemplating MMA, so I’ll be trying that soon as well, depending on how well my self-defence class goes next weekend.

15Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I hated the ending and I probably wouldn’t read it again but the book really stuck with me. It isn’t something I would normally read and I was almost forced to read it out of lack of other options, but it captured me and it was very emotionally stirring. I was sobbing, I couldn’t put it down and I couldn’t forget it after I read it. It made me think, and that is why I chose it as the best book I’ve read this year.

16Does Game of Thrones count? I haven’t really watched many movies this year; for the most part I’ve been watching series. Game of Thrones is just so rich, visually and with regard to the characters and their storylines. It is quite brutal, which is evident in the fact that two people jumping off of a 50ft wall in an escape attempt was the happy part of the final episode.


Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers and the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead.

18Jude Deveraux and Johanna Lindsey. I love historical and contemporary romance and these ladies are not only masters of both but also of occasionally merging the two. Their books are full of romance, feisty heroines and alpha males and they never fail to cheer me up. I also love Josephine Angelini and P.C Cast’s mythology based books.


I plan to hopefully finish book three, or at least get close, and edit some more on books one and two. I also want to get it out there to a few more people for beta reading and critiquing. I might query some agents but it depends on how polished I can get it. I have another WIP that I put on the backburner that I’d like to work on soon as well.

20TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest


I would like to tag @AnnaRMercier, @bonewriting, @maggieeilertson, @dylanncrush

That, my friends, was my lovely and amazingly talented critique partner, Tristen van den Berg and those were her Confessions of a Writer. Show her some loving in the comments!

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