All Alone!

Characters might spend time alone, either before or after significant events. Preparing and processing is important for character motivation and consequential actions. It can also keep throughs out of busy scenes where it might distract from the moment.

Here are a few things I like when reading or writing characters on their own. 

  • Keep it short. Long paragraphs of time alone with their thoughts can be boring.
  • Tie it into something active, like exploring or going through old trinkets that prompt memories for the character to think about. 
  • Practicing something potentially useful is another way to make it active and have the character pause once in a while to remind themselves why they’re doing it. 
  • Make it lead up to something like a significant event that the MC is preparing for. What are they’re hopes and fears for the outcome
  • Or have the MC processing something afterwards. How do they feel about it and what are they going to do next? 
  • Maybe have them talk to a pet or inanimate object or someone they lost in an imaginary conversation. 

So there you have it. Ways for an MC to be alone without boring readers with nothing but thoughts. 

Random Update!

Don’t forget to check out my Reading Ranting for thoughts on reading and book reviews. Feel free to ask about my Writing Ranting Discord group @lovefantasy#0367. Follow me on Instagram and TikTok.

Writing is going really well. I rewrote the intro the Out of Ashes, which is now with a couple of writing friends for fresh eyes. I’m happy with the new opening. It’s a little more dramatic on an emotional perspective, but not too heavy on story points. 

We’ll see what my writerly people say, then I’ll revise it based on their suggestions, and try agents again. So far, no luck. One said they would take a look at my full manuscript in January, but they’re not taking on new clients this year. That was encouraging that they showed interest.

I’m not taking it to heart because a writer never knows what a potential agent might be looking for. You miss the mark by a fraction, and they won’t consider you. I’ve read enough people moaning about not getting an agent to know that it’s a long shot and might take a good while. 

Unfortunately, I can’t afford to self-publish any time soon unless I edit myself (BIG FAT NO NO ON THAT) and smile very sweetly at a couple of graphic designers I know to do a super cheap cover and help me format the book. I wouldn’t feel right asking for that if I couldn’t pay upfront, even if they did offer me friends and family discount. But if I won the lottery, then I’d love to commission a cover and formatting from them as a fully-paying client.

I’ve gone TikTok mad 🤪. It started off as an extension of my Instagram with writing-related reels. It spiralled from there and became a blue-haired steampunk girl cosplay. This is actually super fun for my writing since I have a blue-haired steampunk character. She started off as a secondary character, but as I wrote more of the book, I saw openings for more characterization.  

Here are some recent favourites from my Instagram and TikTok. As you can see, they are quite different, but both are meaningful to me as a writer and avid reader.

The link to this TikTok video looks questionable depending on what app you’re looking at it, but it’s a safe link.

But mostly, it’s fun and has prompted me to put myself out there more. After a rough few years with low self-esteem and serious self-doubt, it’s about time I picked myself up. I used to do all kinds of creative things,and I was good at them, but finding the confidence and brain power to do them has been hard in recent years. 

I’m also doing fun videos on Instagram in relation to reading and writing, which I freaking love doing. I bought a ring light, some cheap props, and new makeup, but apart from that, I don’t need anything. I use TikTok or Instagram’s built-in video editing software or PowerDirector’s free version for more precise editing. I’ve yet to explore Snapchat’s video capabilities, but it’s on my list of things to learn more about in order to make my videos more interesting. And as of October, I’ll be minimising content on this site and posting links to my Instagram and Facebook.

On the personal front, I’ve painted my spare room and closet, died the lower half of my hair turquoise, and am just having a lovely summer break. I still have two weeks off, plus a mini trip planned, just a couple of nights away, but I’m looking forward to the change of scenery.

Featured image from a recent TikTok and Instagram. Yup, that’s me, and I love this video despite struggling with self image for years.

Writing a Series!

Writing a series can boggle a writer’s mind before you get things figured out. If you plan to write multiple standalones with overlapping characters and world-building, then you have more freedom with plots. But if you plan for your series to be one massive story with shorter installments in each book, then you need to think carefully about how to start.

Here’s a quick list of things to consider. See below the list for more thoughts.

  • Plan ahead in plot and world-building.
  • Don’t reveal too much.
  • Don’t hide too much.
  • Multiple POVs can keep things fresh.

Trust me, I’ve drafted a pentalogy, and book 5 was the deciding factor in things that I needed to play on as soon as book 1. I strongly recommend you plan the whole thing, even if book 2 and onwards is more of a rough synopsis or scribbles of world-building that only make sense to you. It helps you see where you want the series to end so you can get the journey right.

Consider carefully what elements you play on in book 1. You don’t want to reveal everything and repeat yourself in the rest of the series. At the same time, you need to hint at things you’ll need for later. Ideas that come out of nowhere can annoy readers depending on how you’ve played the possibilities prior to the reveal. This also helps with keeping things fresh in each book. 

One idea, and hear me out, is to switch protagonist in each book, or at least alternate. My Starlighters saga alternates female protags with their respective love interests as the 2nd MC. I still give the others a POV so readers don’t get disappointed if they fall in love with my 1st protagonist and her love interest, but they take a back seat in book 2 and 4 to give a fresh perspective on the ongoing story. 

I also have alternating minor POV for a couple of short scenes to give a fuller perspective throughout the whole series. You’d be surprised how much a POV switch can spice things up. 

There are so many things to consider when writing a series, but if I’ve learned anything while outlining and drafting multiple series, is that you have to account for future possibilities. 
Image by fotografierende from Pixabay

Everyone Judges a Book by Its Cover!

Writers go on about the first page or chapter of a book being a deal-breaker, and it is as far as the words go, but sometimes, the cover is what catches a reader’s attention before they even check the blurb or read a sample. 

A dull or low-grade cover will put me right off. I can’t help what I feel over an image just as I can’t help what I feel over the first page. The higher the quality and more creative, the better. Of course, I’m mostly referring to fantasy, but the quality applies to any novel in my opinion. 

I don’t mean for big fancy graphics to blind me. Simple can still be eye-catching and creative. I’m talking about smooth images, top quality graphics, and something that relates to the title, which should also relate to the book. The reader should be able to judge the book by its cover and be right.

Below are some top-notch covers on my bookshelf/kindle.

The above covers vary in complexity of imagery, but they express the general ideas in relation to the story based on the blurb and what I read in the book. Also, each one looks professional and well thought-out. 

Simple can be the best if your cover looks graphically pleasing.

When I need a break from actual writing, I like to find inspirational images and music, so I have a collection of character images and cover wishlists. I can’t use them for the book because of copyright on Deviantart, where I find most of my inspirational images. But I would beg them to sell me the images as my book covers. 

Below are some of my wishlist covers. 

Find this image here.
This would be amazing on the cover of Wings of Fire and Fury, book 1 of my pentalogy… when I get around to the next revision. 
Burning
Out of Ashes – This image is perfect in tone and content for my debut novel.
Queen-of-Ice
Blades of Ice and Darkness – This image ticks so many boxes for book 2 of my Starlighters pentalogy. 

With the right graphic designer, I know we would come up with amazing images to each of my novels. Until then, I’ll settle for these inspiring images as my wish covers.


Image by DarkmoonArt_de from Pixabay

Work/Life/Writing Balance!

It’s ironic that my last post was about how writing is the same as running a small business, and then I go and do almost nothing writing related this month. Normally, I’d feel bad about that, and the lack of creative outlet would drag my mood down. But it’s done nothing of the sort. I’ve been immersed in my job and loving it.

When your day job gets busy, it’s important to make it a priority. Your writing won’t pay the bills unless you’re an international bestseller with merch and sponsors and the like. Unfortunately, the rest of us need to keep a regular job and find a better balance. 

Here are some things I try to do to make my life easier so I might find more time and energy to get some writing or writing related things done.

  • Don’t eat food that takes long to prepare. That doesn’t mean eat sandwiches or anything from a packet. Check out my Hungry Writer page for quick prep and healthy recipes that can see you through several meals. 
  • Get as many chores done as possible the moment you get a burst of energy. It’s great to keep a list of things to do each day, but if you get ahead of yourself, you could use the time the next day to write.
  • Pick out your clothes the night before or for the whole week on Sunday night. Sounds a over-excessive, but it takes maybe ten minutes to pull out a few outfits and spares you the hassle in the mornings. I usually pick a bag, and everything matches or compliments that colour. 
  • Try going straight to your computer after you’ve eaten. It’s always good to sit and let a meal go down, so use that time to pull up your document and get to writing, even if it’s only half an hour.
  • Limit your procrastination or… and we all know it’s a thing… check your phone apps when you’re doing a number 2. Yup, I said it. 
  • If you have a long drive to work, try audiobooks. I know they can be expensive, but Audiblle has a subscription with one book included every month for around the price of a physical book (country depending). 
  • Even if you’re tired and desperate to get home, try going via the supermarket on your way home if it’s close by. It’ll save you going out again later. 
  • Speaking of shopping, make a strict shopping list in order of the supermarket layout, or in departments if you shop at various supermarkets. It’ll make it easier to see what you need and grab it as you go round.

I do most of this whether work is busy or not, and I find myself more relaxed and with a little more free time here and there. This month, I’ve focussed more on my job as an English language teacher for children both at work and at home. The academy I work for runs a summer camp in July in the mornings. We sing and dance in English, learn a little vocabulary based on the daily topic and make something fun and crafty. It’s a lot of planning in June and switching from evenings to mornings, but with 1 week left, it’s been amazingly fun.

But, this meant that I was super tired and couldn’t manage long at my computer. Even now, I’ve spent all day cleaning because I lacked the energy all week, and I just want to flop on the sofa and watch a film. I’m thinking the Troll Hunters movie for funsies. I’m five years old inside, so I love stuff like that. Or the new Masters of the Universe. I’ll think about it while I make my usual Saturday night pizza.

Anyhoo, back to my point. 

Balancing work and life and writing is hard, and even if you have the time, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll have the energy or brain power.

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay 

Shadows

I once walked in the dark, a shadow of the woman I used to be.

More shadows followed me, fears and unfulfilled desires.

I became the shadows, chasing what I thought I wanted.

Time taught me to let go and stop chasing.

But now you’re my shadow, watching when I no longer want you.

You pushed me over the edge and watched me fall.

But I didn’t hit the ground. 

I flew despite everything.

So you have no right to watch me soar.

This is my flight, not yours.

And my shadows are far below me as the glorious sun warms my wings.

So to you, my darkest shadow, you no longer darken my flight.

For more pieces like this, check out my Embracing Darkness collection.

Read Terrible Books!

Yes, I recommend reading terrible books. Why, you ask? Because it helps you learn what not to do as a writer. And that’s even better than learning what to do. It’s highly subjective what to do a how to write. I doubt any two writers will agree on everything even if they agree in general. 

But there are many no-nos that just about every writer would agree with. If not, then I worry for them. And I worry for the author of the series that prompted this post. I don’t even want to say who it is because the writing and story are that bad. I’m not the only one, and some of the Goodreads reviews made my point. I’m currently on book 3, but I have it as an audiobook in my car so I don’t waste my precious reading time. Thank you, audiobooks.

And onto the no-nos based on this particular series. They shouldn’t be a surprise, but they’re a strong reminder how you can ruin an entire series.

  • Don’t bore your readers with backstory or history lessons, especially long conversations that don’t lead anywhere or just keep going round in circles. If the character is learning new things, that’s okay, but bear in mind that your readers might not want to know every single detail that goes beyond answering the essential questions in that moment. 
  • Don’t overdo descriptions to the point they become info-dumps rather than visual exposition unless it’s particularly important to the character on an emotional level. Find a nice balance between descriptions for your readers and the reactions of your characters.
  • Make sure your book stays relatively consistent when it comes to age category. Things like love scenes and swearing, for example, need to be toned down for YA but freer for adult. That’s not to say you should throw sex scenes in every other chapter (unless it’s a romance or erotica, which is a whole different tone) or have overly foul-mouthed characters all the time. And please have character be realistic when it comes to sex. It’s one thing to get a little embarrassed when over-sharing or if another character spills intimate secrets, but getting overly squirmy and making a big deal of someone’s limited experience is more YA than adult. Adults can be immature at times, but keep their immaturity realistic and limited.
  • Don’t overdo character traits to the point they’re in every scene or made a big deal of every time. Traits are important, and it’s okay to have another character point them out occasionally… within reason.
  • Don’t be vague on things that your characters (especially POV characters) should know inside and out unless it’s really not necessary in that scene.
  • On the other hand, don’t save things or hints of things until the final chapter or later book in a series that your characters should know. It’s okay to drop a brief mention of things that don’t mean much at the start, but you need something to set the foundation for when you do need them so it doesn’t feel like cheating or a deus ex machina.
  • Don’t avoid the learning curves. I mostly mean this in relation to magical abilities, but it applies to general skills too. Your characters need to learn to use said skills and even struggle at first, maybe even have a fail or two to make it more effective when their skills finally click. That clicking moment is a big deal for your characters.
  • Don’t forget the plot. I’m a huge fan of character-driven story, but the book needs some semblance of a plot that coincides with the character’s goals. Establish their personal journey from the start, and the main plot should slot in.

Oddly enough, this particular series has a tone of very specific elements that my series has. I was super miffed to read the place names, nicknames, even many character traits and arcs that are identical to mine. I’m not worried though. My story is way better since I don’t do all the stupid things I’ve mentioned above, and there’s an actual plot.

So reading terrible books actually helps you as a writer avoid those major let-downs for readers.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay 

Therapeutic Writing!

As it’s mental health month, I thought that now is as good a time as any to talk about how writing can be therapeutic. Living with a mental illness sucks, and I get overwhelmed with emotions easily. Sometimes I don’t know how I feel and why, so I get to writing.

I write short pieces as you’ll find in my Embracing Darkness collection and Duet for One based on the darker emotions or completely confusing situations. Then there are my novels, which include moments or reactions from my past that I’ve adapted for my novel. It’s like a creative diary.

One novel in particular started with a dream prompted by some horrible events during an extremely hard time. After realising I had more to write on that, I turned it into a full-length novel. It was very therapeutic for me and helped me deal with a horrific and confusing situation. 

You don’t have to write everything exactly how it happens. That’s the joy of creative writing. Turning it into something abstract or fantastical can be just as helpful if it gets your emotions out. I’m a fantasist, and the only way I know how to deal with my emotions is to make it something fantastical.

My writing helps me put my emotions into something that I can make sense of and process in a creative way. Next time you’re going through a rough time, try writing about it. You never know where it could lead to.

Image by 育银 戚 from Pixabay

Screw Book Purists!

With the release of Shadow and Bone on Netflix, I got to thinking how huffy some readers get when a great book makes it to the screen. Book to TV or film adaptations are getting a bad rep with book purists. Well… great stories should NOT be limited to one medium.

I’m all for books. I love books. On my bookshelf. On my Kindle or Google Books. In audiobooks. I love all book formats. Reading or listening to books forces my imagination. I focus on visual words to lose myself or I listen to someone reading a story like meditation. 

So when a great book pops up in a series or film, I jump at the chance to see what it looks like. 

My mind adjusts and is more open to another version of the book. Because let’s face it, that’s all it is, another version, an adaptation, a director and screenwriter’s interpretation of the story. 

We have to separate the mediums of the written word and the theatrical adaptation. 

To huff and moan about these adaptations is futile because it is not always meant for the same people who read the original book. By adapting a book to another medium, it’s reaching out to new fans, new people to appreciate the greatness of the story.

To huff and moan that anyone had the audacity to turn the book into a visual adaptation is to deny people fantastic books that captured so many readers. Some people don’t have time to read or struggle with reading, or find it hard to turn the descriptions into something visual. 

We all deserve great stories in whatever form of media suits us best.

Let’s talk examples…

A Song of Fire and Ice was adapted to the TV series, Game of Thrones. I started reading the books after I saw the season 1 of the TV adaptation and wasn’t a fan of the books. I just didn’t enjoy the writing style, but I liked the story, so the TV version was more my thing.

I loved Netflix’s adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments. The TV series, Shadow Hunters, held the same amazing stories and characters with exciting variations for anyone who’d already read the books, which I had—all six if them. The TV series played on the same character challenges and personal issues while spicing things up so existing readers were teased with variations of the existing story. 

I read Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone a couple of years ago and quite liked it. Now there’s a Netflix serious of the books. I’m excited for it and have seen the first couple of episodes to find a fun balance of similarities and differences. And Ben Barnes pulls off another great fictional character after his portrayal of Dorian Gray and Prince Caspian from the Chronicles of Narnia, more classic stories brought to life. 

And let’s not forget Lord of the RIngs and The Hobbit. These were just as epic on screen as they were on the page. Releasing them as movies renewed many fans’ love for these fantastical and inspiring adventures.

Not everyone has the time or ability to read books. But a 2 hour film, or 40 minute TV show per week reaches an even bigger audience and may encourage people to read the book too, having found a story worth reading. 

TV or film is never a true representation of a good book, so we shouldn’t expect it to, and book purists should shut up and stick to their books only book club or whatever.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

Writing Has Ruined My Reading!

Warning: This gets ranty. But since this blog is about ranting…

Also, shout out to my writing buddy T-Rex who prompted this post. How he puts up with my rants, I’ll never know. 

As I mentioned in First Chapters Are the Worst, I’ve found more and more books go against what I’ve learned as a writer. Two of the books mentioned in that post were self-published (the two with the shorter lists) while two were traditionally published. All highly successful.

With the help of my CPs, I’ve honed my skills, taken the time to become what I thought was a good writer so that I could find an agent who’ll give me the best chance at becoming an author. I could self-publish, and I will if I get rejected by all the agents I’ve queried (It’s ben almost 5 weeks). But I want a good agent who can get me a great publisher, who knows the market, and can sell my book better than I could on my own. 

In theory, with the right marketing, anyone can sell a book. I follow a few successful self-published authors. And if you have just enough good elements to catch those hungry readers, then your success will only grow. As I said in my post on first chapters, success isn’t just down to us as writers. It’s down to agents, editors, publishers, and readers.

Many of the CPs I interact with warn against too much world-building, uninteresting protagonists, and character overload. But I’ve read so many bestselling books that go against this advice along with more specific prose issues. I skimmed some of my favourites from recent years and was surprised at the “writing donts” in them that I didn’t notice before. I was pretty shocked to see so many 5-star ratings and praising reviews compared to the low percentage of those who I agreed with in my new mindset. 

 One in particular was riddled with issues. The world-building was overdone by far, like multiple paragraphs of “what the fuck is this?.” As for the romance… It barely registered when it actually mattered. I mean, the protag slips into bed (sleeping only) with her “off-limits” bow,, who’s she’s kissed like twice. Like, lady, this guy risked a ton for you, is totally into you, and you deny both your feelings. Again, what the fuck?

I don’t mind when couples dance around one another for a reasonable length of time before things get physical. Or when things genuinely keep getting in their way. But when couples share feelings, have opportunities to be together, even if just for a fleeting moment, and don’t properly act in it until like book 4, that’s when I get annoyed. 

As for world-building… 🤬 It bugs me when my CPs tell me certain things are vague from what I’ve shown, because I REALLY like to show what I can and save the “telling” for emergencies. So I drop a short and sweet two or three-line explanation (selective telling) to clarify, and the next CPs deem it an info dump. THREE LINES??? And this is another confusing issue since my recent reading involves so many heavy info dumps from bestsellers. What is a girl to do?

New thought. I need to find a better balance for my work based on the books in my genre, especially those whose readers are my potential readers. Knowing the market is half the battle, and I realise I got my market a little off. That’s not to say I’m going to rewrite all my books to emulate these authors. I like my voice and how I can vary it for my different writing projects. That’s another thing that leaves me bored with authors is when all their narration sounds the same, even in different series.

Adapting is not the same as sacrificing. We all adapt as we learn and grow, or we get stuck in our ways, leading us nowhere. I choose to adapt.

Image by InstagramFOTOGRAFIN from Pixabay