More Blog Posts Coming Soon!

I have been so busy with work and writing that I have let the blog fall to the wayside and I apologize. 

June is going to be hectic, as I am trying to edit one novel, and type up my handwritten draft of another before June 30th. 

Hectic? Yes!

Blog-worthy? Maybe…

Stay tuned! 

The first ten pages of the novel edited

The sections and chapters to be edited

Advertisements

Writer Life Lesson #22: Every Piece You Write is Important… Even Fanfiction

What are you writing right now? Is it a novel, an essay, a smut filled fanfiction, literally anything else where you put words on paper?

First: Good for you! You’re writing. 

Second: Don’t stop writing and don’t ever throw it away. It’s important to your writing craft. 

Every Piece You Write is Important. 

Think about your whole writing career for a second. Whether you started writing yesterday or two decades ago, you have a writing career. Now think about all the stories you have worked on, finished or not. 

Whether they were published, or thrown into a drawer never to see the light of day again, they are important to how you see yourself and how you build yourself as a writer. 

Even those fanfiction stories you wrote in middle school and high school. 

Just by writing, whether it’s a short story for school or a long novel series, or even something small like one great sentence, you are improving your writing career and getting one word closer to finishing that story, or chapter, or book, or even series. 

By trying things in stories, even if that story will never be published, or be seen by readers, you are improving and gaining knowledge of how to make things better the next time you decided to use that idea. 

That is why I love fanfiction. Both writing and reading it. It gives me a chance to try things in a novel I hope to eventually publish and see how people react to it without actually using it in my novel yet. 

An example would be the parallels between my novel and a fanfiction story I was writing last year. 

In my novel series, a character suffers from amnesia (cliché ? Yes, but trying to make it less so). In the fanfiction, a character wakes up after an OD with amnesia, and I got to play around with how to both write and format flashbacks between the characters without it being too clunky or boring. 

Every piece is important to our growth as writers. 

Stuck on how to write something? Why not try fanfiction and see what happens!

Good luck in all your writing endeavors! 

How To Tuesday: Female Characters

Over the past three weeks of How To Tuesdays concerning characters we have talked about how to find characters, how to name them, and how to develop characters. This week, is not necessarily a new How To, it is an addition to the rest of the information we have talked about.

This week, we are going to talk about female characters and how to write great female characters. For  a lot of people, this lesson will come as news, just because it’s one of those things that some writers do not realize until it is pointed out for you, and for others some of it might be obvious, but some of it might not be so obvious.

So without further ado: Writing Female Characters

Write Them as People

For as long as people have been writing characters, they have been writing women. The difference is the idea that women are people. Some writers write their female characters as stepping stones for their male characters or plot devices to move other characters forward. This is not the way to write female characters. They deserve to be people in your work and not just a plot device for your male characters. An example of what not to do is called the Sexy Lamp Test.

The Sexy Lamp Test is easy. If you can replace your female character with a lamp and the plot stays exactly the same with no changes, then you really should rewrite your female characters.

Another common theme is to write female characters as a plot advancement for your main character. The most common way that I have seen is to kill the female character, usually a mother or a lover that motivates the main male character to go after the villain or learn a new skill, etc.  This needs to stop in popular media, but it needs to be noticed by writers, readers and viewers first.

If you write your female characters as people, your work will shine, and you will avoid the usual cliches of female characters as cardboard cutouts.

Give Them Their Own Goals and Motivation

Just like any other character, your female characters need goals and motivation too. This will help a lot with making them feel like real people. Everyone has goals and motivation, whether it is something huge like to be a scientist, or a master shopper, or a small goal like wanting to wake up on time the next morning to not be late for work.

When you don’t give characters goals, whatever their gender, you create them as cardboard cutouts just revolving around a plot. However, there is an extra element to female characters if you leave out their goals and motivations. They become cardboard cutouts with sex appeal, and this is not necessarily what you want for your female characters.

Another issue about goals and motivations. Please don’t make your female characters only goal to get laid or be laid by the main character. Yes, it is a goal, but they should have more goals than to just be a sex object for the main character.

Give your characters goals and motivations and let them exist in your story not just for your main characters, but next to them.

Make Them Show Emotion and Change Throughout the Story

There is nothing worse than a character that does not react or change during the plot and action of a story. Whether they are male or female or anything in between, if they don’t change and react, then they might as well be a cardboard cutout or a lamp. This is especially important for female characters, because so often they are just there as plot devices and motivation for other characters.

Let your female characters react as people, let them show ugly emotions like anger and hate and let them react as real people would. Don’t keep them shiny and pretty, let them get dirty and downright ugly. Let them react and show them as you would a male character. Make them cry, or scream, or yell and be more than just sex appeal.

Make them change throughout their story, but make them change for the right reasons. If the only reason your character changes is because they get into a romantic relationship, then you need to examine your plot and try something new. This plot device is so overused, and so not the message we want to send to our young people. This is a common theme in teen romances that it needs to be corrected somehow. It starts with us, the next generation of writers and authors and creators.

Let your characters, whether male, female, or anything in between, be human and your writing will be the best it has ever been.

Happy Writing!

Writer Life Lessons #19: Learn Everything You Can

Some of you may be looking at this title and thinking “Learning? But I’m a writer and I already know what I want to write about”. I understand where you are coming from, and I know how daunting it sounds to learn new things, but there is a reason for it.

Learn Everything You Can because you never know when it will come in handy for your next draft, or even in your own life. If nothing else, it’s interesting factoids at parties. Entertain yourself and your friends!

When you have a voracious appetite for learning, it makes writing easier. Not only do the ideas flow better, because you know more base information to come up with ideas, but you more easily can identify plot holes and glaringly obvious mistakes that might have made your reader put your book down and never pick it up again.

I’m not saying that you should go to college, or back to college, just because you want to write about astrophysics. I am saying learn what interests you. With the addition of the internet and smart phones, tons and tons of knowledge is at the tip of our fingers. If I wanted to learn Mandarin Chinese tomorrow, all I would have to do is type it into my nearest search bar and find the link that interests me most.

The learning doesn’t always have to be online either. There are books and podcasts and shows on television, groups in your area. If you can think of a way to learn, it is probably out there in your community. Anything and Everything is out there if you know where to look.

I take this lesson very personally, because as of now, I have been in school for most of my life and am just starting to break out into the workforce. I have learned a lot in all the schools that I have been in and all of the classes and units that I have taken. Even now, after I have graduated, I still am learning new things everyday. I want to know as much as possible, so my characters, my scenes, my writing can be as amazing as real life, and so I can help as many people as possible in my life.

Recently, I learned the basic information about computers and laptops, and brought my old laptop back to life with a few parts from my lovely boyfriend, and the assistance of my dad. It’s running great now, and it is what I am using to write this post right now. Sure, I could have just bought a new laptop, when I get a job, but I get the satisfaction of knowing that I fixed it and that I have a new experience and new knowledge to fall back on.

So go out and learn something new, and be proud of that knowledge!

And as always:

Happy Writing!

Writer Life Lessons #18: Finish Your First Drafts

Progress is measured in several different ways. If you are an athlete, progress is measured by how well you perform at your sport or sports. If you are an artist, progress is measured by your art portfolio. If you are a writer, progress is measured by words written on the page, and the amount of pieces you finish.

Can you call yourself a writer before you finish a piece? Of course. If you are putting words on the page, or the screen, or whatever you write on, you are indeed a writer. Can you call yourself an accomplished writer? Sure! But do you have anything to show for it?

When I first started writing, by hand, in pencil, in spiral-bound notebooks, I used to read unfinished pieces to my best friend. Yes, I was a writer,  and yes, I wanted to feel accomplished. Some of those drafts I finished, but a lot of them I just left him hanging, waiting on the next cliffhanger, for the next chapter or sometimes even word.

The lesson for this week is: Finish Your First Drafts.

There are tons of quotes out there about finishing what you start, how blank pages are ugly and how you can’t edit a blank page. All you have to do is google the words “writing advice” or “writing quotes” and you’ll get a ton of advice on how to write, how to finish your drafts, and even how to edit them.

Yes, this advice (Well most of it) is true. To move on, to mark your progress and to grow as a writer, you need to finish your first drafts, or at least move on to a new project if you get stuck. There is nothing worse than looking at an unfinished piece years later and thinking “Now where was I going with this?”.

Yes, you can leave your pieces and come back, but eventually you should try and finish them. This is an area where I need to take my own advice, I have about three times the amount of works in progress than I do works finished. The point is: I do intend to go back to them once I finish current projects, or if I don’t continue them I at least plan to rewrite.

Finish your first drafts, even if they suck, because there is always room for improvement. There are some pieces that I look at, from several years ago, and when I reach the point where I stopped writing for whatever reason, I wish there was more there. Often times I think “I wish I could remember where I was going with this”.

You can take a break from pieces, but at least write a little outline so you know where you left off, or even a little note in the margins that explains what happens next. You will thank yourself when you come back to it later.

Finish your first drafts so you can edit them and make them shine later.

Happy Writing!

The Fear of Editing

Writers write. Or so you would think. Do artists art, or musicians music? Well, yes, in a way, but there is more to being a writer, artist, and musician than just a word that describes what we do. Being a writer is more than just putting words on a page, it’s also reading and editing and rewriting. Being a writer is way more than just writing.

I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I didn’t realize that for a long time during my first decade of writing. I think part of it is the media that surrounds writers. When an author comes out with a new book, we, as consumers don’t see that struggle, we don’t see the sleepless nights, and the thousand or so cups of coffee that went into fueling that masterpiece. We just see the finished product, all shiny and new with a stunning cover and a title that makes us want to read it as soon as we touch it. I think media has a lot to do with the notion that writers just write. Think of any movie that has a writer as a main character, does it show the editing process, the struggle to rewrite? Chances are, it doesn’t.

This is a huge reason why editing, and rewriting and whatever else editing entails, can be frightening. All the doubts that maybe we didn’t encounter when we wrote the first draft, can jump out at us. The improper word choices or clunky phrasing can jump out like monsters from the closet. Even the names of characters and places can make us scream like frightened children, afraid of the dark. The fear that the first draft is the best draft you can get could quite possibly eat you alive!

There is no one way to edit. It could be all your piece needs is a line edit here or there, or whole sections could need to be rewritten or scrapped. Maybe it’s everything under the sun needs to be changed, and the whole piece needs to be written from scratch. There is no “catch-all” formula for editing. It all really depends on you, and your writing, and what it means to you.

When I first started even thinking about my first novel Spark before I even augmented the title, or even realized it was meant to be a series, I wrote an outline of what I wanted including characters, places, and a bit of plot. I had planned to write the whole thing, first book, from one characters perspective, but at the last minute changed it to third person. I followed the original outline pretty closely, but found that the last chapter would be too many pages and that I still had so much to say. I ended up splitting the last chapter into four more chapters, which worked at the time. I thought I was done when I wrote those last words. Done, copy, print, send it out to an editor.

Then the book then became a series, first of three books, then of seven books, and then finally nine (or so I hope). I read through the first book again, after it was so graciously printed for me, and there were some sections that I cringed at for what felt like days. It was pretty bad for a huge chunk being written in 30 days, then left alone for nearly four months and then finished pretty quickly in the three months following. It was terrible, but I didn’t know how to edit it, what to add, what to take out, where to move things. It was a disaster.

So how do we, as writers and editors, get over our fear of editing?

The simple answer is: We dive right in.

Let it Sit For A While- Like a fine wine, let it age for a few months. Distance yourself from your piece, as strange as that may sound. Work on something else for a while, so when you return to it, you can view it as a reader instead of the author. The recommended time really depends on what the purpose is, if there is a deadline, and how long the piece is. If you spend 15 years writing an epic, you’re not going to let it sit for a month and dive right back in. Give it enough time to become interesting again so you don’t remember every plot point, character dialogue and plot twist. When you are ready, usually when you forget what it was based on the title, or forget exactly what the characters names were and why you chose them, move to the next step.

Make A Backup Copy- This step is SUPER IMPORTANT! You may think that you don’t need to make a backup copy, but let me assure you, yes you do! It may be cringe worthy, and you may never want to look at it again, but you should still keep a copy. Why? The simple answer is this: That was the original, the first draft where you just put your ideas down unedited, unfiltered. If you decide to go back, that you’ve edited too much, that you want to keep something from that first draft, you have that copy to fall back on. Finishing something is a milestone, and you should keep a copy of it, even if the first draft sucks.

Read Your Work- This step should be a no brainer. You have to read it to know how you want to fix it. And why would you not want to read the finished piece in its entirety? Especially after you’ve let it sit and age. You could surprise yourself with the ideas, or the words you added. You have a right to be proud of it, and enjoy it just as a reader would. Read it several times, make notes in the margins, read like an editor would, finding words or phrases or scenes that don’t work. After reading it through, anything can happen. The choice is yours.

There are some people out there who think that writers shouldn’t self edit their own work. I can understand why, we’re too close to our own projects, we don’t know the business as well as professional editors, we don’t know grammar and the rules as well as we should… the list is endless, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give our work a once over and make it tighter.

As writers we should learn the tools of our craft, and put our best work forward, instead of focusing only on the work of others. Sure, you could pay to have a professional editor go through your draft, but they can be pretty pricey, depending on your number of words, and it could be weeks and weeks of waiting. Why not learn a new skill yourself, and get that satisfaction of editing, and not have to wait on someone else?

Another tip: It doesn’t hurt to really be in love with your work, whatever it may be. It’s ok to put it away for a while, but make sure you want to come back to it.

That first book I was telling you about, I’m still editing it and learning as I go. Right about now, I’m about to start draft 4, which means more rewrites, but it’s getting closer to that first image of brilliance I had almost 5 years ago (And even better with editing!)

image

The first draft and part of the second. Still in edits, even after 4 years.

What has been your experience with editing and the fears that sometimes follow?

Publishing in the Modern World

When we write, when we put words down on the page, we often want to be heard, we want our words to mean something. Sometimes that means just putting words on the page, and sometimes that means something huge, like publishing. Publishing is one of the best opportunities for writers, and it is a huge step, no matter what path we,as writers, choose for ourselves.

There are many options and so many choices to make when we decide to enter the publishing world. There is everything from publishing on a blog for just a few followers to sending your work to one of the big publishing companies for millions upon millions to read (if you’re lucky). In between, there are more options and so much to decide in a short amount of time. There is a lot you should know about publishing, and so much you should research for yourself. Publishing has changed so much since books began to become mass published and there are so many terms and conditions that may be confusing to first time researchers.

These are only for short story markets so far, but some do cross over to novels and non-fiction.

Simultaneous Submissions- This refers to how many submissions you send into separate publishing companies. Say you have a story called “Bob’s Lunchbox” and you think it’s the most amazing story ever so you send it to Company A, Company B and Company C. That would be a simultaneous submission and most publishing companies frown on that. They usually prefer that you wait to hear from them before you send your masterpiece somewhere else.

Multiple Submissions- This refers to how many submissions you send to that same company. This means if you have more than one great masterpiece, “Bob’s Lunchbox”, “Purple Robe”, and “Rest for Bob”, you send them all to the same company, Company A. Most publishing companies don’t like that either. They prefer you send one story at a time so they can process that one, decide what they want to do with it, and then get back to you before you submit your next piece.

Previously Published- As writers, we should know what “previously published” means, but with the internet and so many types of art becoming readily available, that definition becomes a little fuzzy. Most literary magazines, publishing companies, and online publishers define previously published as “Anything that has been distributed for audiences on websites, print, or digital”. This means on social media, writing websites, and yes, your blog. But don’t fret when you print it on your home computer, in print refers to anything with a barcode. Say, the createspace option for winners of NaNoWriMo. It may be amazing to have your book in print, but if you want to publish it, and publish it seriously for mass audiences, skip the offer.

These are just some general terms that are on most submission guidelines pages. There are probably a lot more options out there and a lot more terms to research, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. You should do your own research for your own publishing ventures and carefully decide what path you want to pursue. I am not an expert, I am a researcher, just like you, and a writer that wants to inform and protect my fellow writers.

Best of luck if you decide to publish, and best of luck in your writing!

image

Publishing can be scary, but you will learn a lot just by researching

Do you have plans for publishing? Where are you going to start?