Writing Ranting

Let Me Hate You

A little poem from my random Bursts of Words collection.

Tell me you need me and that you care.

Let me hear you say I’m your superstar, your favourite.

Take all I offer and more.

Give me all you are and will be.

Take my passion.

Steal my creativity and inspiration.

Use me, then throw me away.

Don’t say you’re sorry.

Just let me hate you.

Image by Peggychoucair at Pixabay

Organised Creativity and Creative Organisation!

Image by StockSnap at Pixabay.

I bought a beautiful planner. I used to buy one at Christmas, but since I started teaching, I’ve bought one in August in time for the new academic year. It got me thinking how there is creativity in organisation. 

Madame Butterfly by Paperblanks

My computer backgrounds alternate in themes from fantasy images, character inspiration, nature and space. Every time I open my PC, there’s beauty on my screen. So why not my diary? I use it multiple times a day and even make notes at the back. I want creativity in my organisation.

But what about organisation in my creativity?

I rave about Scrivener because I genuinely love it. But there are many ways you can organise your thoughts and intentions. 

Here are some thoughts you might want to consider organising…

  • Characters – Give each character a page for a full description or make a quick-view table. I have both in my Scrivener file. Their role, goals, family, appearance, backstory, maybe even an image. Anything that applies to your characters whether they’re MCs or secondary characters. Try devianart for portraits or fantastical character inspiration.
  • Locations – Main buildings with descriptions. A map of you can draw one or make a digital map. Research structures that apply to your book and use images for consistency.
  • Worldbuilding – Reality or fantasy, your world needs history, culture, religion, lore. Whatever it takes for readers to understand the world from your MC’s perspective. You don’t need to use every aspect of the world or culture you’re writing about. But you need to know it inside and out.
  • Abilities – This is more important for fantasy or sci-fi but still applies for a real world story. Magic, integrated tech, you need to establish what your characters are capable off at the beginning and at the end of the book. Your MC needs some special skills or potential skills that make them stand out. This can be something new or something that they already have but find new uses for. Detective skills, relationships skills, magical skills, new tech. It all boils down to the same idea of character growth.
  • Speaking of Character growth – Add this to your character description. Events that push them to change for better or worse. Make a timeline of key moments that cause these changes to various characters.
  • Outline – Make a table with columns. The chapter number and title if you use them. Write a synopsis for each chapter leaving a space for each scene if you have more than one. List the characters in the scene so you can see if you’re overloading the reader with too many people. Put the POV character at the top of the list for stories with multiple POVs. Colour code character actions if you want. 

I’m probably missing some stuff here, but you get the point. Organising your creativity can help keep those inspirational thoughts together, making way for new ones.

You’ve Completed Your First Draft, Now What?

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

No matter how many times I do it, completing that first draft brings a sense of euphoria I can’t quite describe. It’s like winning the first race on sports day. Sure you have more to go, but at the end of the day, you have that one winning medal. I’ve drafted my pentalogy, and book one has had a revision. The rest is messy, but at least the main story is there for me to see its evolution.

Now I have my first standalone novel drafted. And it’s in pretty good shape for a first draft. Right now, I’m letting the revision ideas float around, updating my latest outline with more detailed notes. The entire structure is there ready to smooth out and decorate into a beautiful work of art. It WILL be a work of art when I am done with this story.

Here are some things to think about after your first draft.

Make detailed notes.

Whether you’ve had feedback or not, it’s always a good idea to make notes and update your outline. Add your changes and additions and POV swaps if you have multiple POVS. If you don’t do outlines, it’s still a good idea to make a list and tick them off as you go through them. I use the corkboard mode in Scrivener with the “to do” label for each chapter and its new synopsis, then change it to “done”. It’s really handy. 

Foreshadowing

Now you know where your novel is going, you can drop little clues for the reader throughout the story so any surprises don’t come out of nowhere. Explaining or showing possibilities of the characters’ actions early on can really help with this. 

Setup 

This is connected to foreshadowing but goes beyond that. You need your readers to understand the aspects of your story for it to feel like a satisfying conclusion. If you leave things too vague, then when it all comes together, it won’t have the same impact. Set up the pieces in a way that the reader understands what each one does. Show it in actions, have characters say it in dialogue, or have the MC think it. Just don’t bore the readers with long narration telling them about it unless you have to. 

Deus ex machina

If you’ve set everything up and foreshadowed well, this won’t be an issue. You have to avoid that sense of perfectly timed divine intervention just when the MC needs it. Build up to it gradually, show a little before. Keep it in the reader’s mind with casual mentions in between the more active reminders.

Character development 

With any story, real or fictional, the whole idea is that the characters change somewhat throughout. It could be a minor change that leads to the characters being more open-minded to a big life change, or it could be that the book’s major change is the characters themselves. Either way, having seen where your character ends up, you can now go back and let the character change little by little. 

And now…

It’s been ten months since I started writing Out of Ashes. I won’t deny that the inspiration for the storyline came from a place of pain and vengeance. But what prompted me to write it was a dream of fire and rebirth. 

I don’t want to say more than that in case I spoil anything, but this story was incredibly personal to me, so to complete the draft with fantastic feedback was an amazing feeling. Now I can mould is, shape it an sculpt it into a work of art.

I’m open to self publishing, but I feel like I stand a good chance with traditional publishing based on the current market. I didn’t write my novel to fit the market or adhere to it, but circumstances in my story choice have coincided with what seems to be popular these days. How lucky is that? 

I have to revise it, send it for beta readers, revise it again, maybe even again, and then I can think about whether it’s ready for publishing. This is all going to happen in time, and I don’t plan to put a deadline on anything. You can’t rush creativity. Also, nothing bad will happen if I don’t get it published this year. So cheers to the completed draft and its possibilities. 

In life, we often wish we had the ability of hindsight. In writing, your first draft is your hindsight. Use it well, and rewrite that story to perfection.

Woah! Spam Comments!

Paper, Shredder, Flakes, Recycling, Cut, Shredded Paper
Image by Fill atPixabay

I feel a mini rant coming on. 😈

Little disclaimer here so I don’t upset WordPress or its loyal users: I love this platform, and I’m not moaning at WP. This rant is aimed at irresponsible users who WP has accounted for as best they can. 

So I discovered spam comments on WordPress today. Don’t ask me how I missed that since I like to look at the site stats. But there I was, checking for comment in the sidebar. I usually get popups or email notifications so I never go to the comments page. But today, I did. 

OMFG… Soooooo many spam comments. Most of them were hilariously vague or obviously advertising. But all had links to very suspicious websites or none at all and were ranting about Aloe Vera or some other product that wasn’t even related to the post. Someone wanted me to tattoo my info on my dog. I mean… I don’t even like the thought of chipping animals, but I understand the reasoning and it’s over quickly. Imagine tattooing a dog. That’s just unnecessary pain. 

One person made me laugh with telling me they were following my blog, but they weren’t even in the list. No mention of something unique to my blog so I’m pretty sure it’s nonsense. And another moaned about there not being a contact page and could I contact them directly. Well.. here’s my CONTACT page with a button always at the top, so I don’t know where you were looking, dude.

And now I feel a little better. Thanks WordPress for sending these to spam and sorry to anyone whose comments were genuine. You can comment again and I’ll approve it if you want.

Cleansing your Creative Palette!

Photo by Victoria_Borodinova at Pixabay.

I have multiple project disorder where I keep having too many ideas and projects on the go. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, and I struggle to focus on one project at a time. I’ll be working on one project, then suddenly get zapped with ideas for another, and I can’t concentrate with all these clashing ideas. 

It’s always good to prioritise one so that you can keep a steady momentum until the project is done. But it’s also a good idea to have something for when you need a break from said project. It’s a way of managing multiple project disorder.

I call it a creative palette cleansing. It refreshes your mind while giving you something to work on for the future. Keep the creative juices flowing. 

Right now, I’m focussing on Out of Ashes, my historical fantasy about witches and warlocks. And one or two mornings a week, I work on my Starlighters pentalogy, which is getting some serious attention in its outline along with some scene tweaks as I prepare for the next full revision. 

This gives me a chance to pour my ideas into two different projects while keeping the focus on one. Gotta have a dessert after really good meal, right? 

Here, have a fun cover track…

More Inspiration?

Yes please. 

I admit I get overloaded with inspiration. Just the other night I had an awesome dream that prompted a future novel. I didn’t spend too long on it because I didn’t want to distract myself from Out of Ashes. But Fae and Foe (working title) has been on my mind for a while now, and a full story idea hit me. So I got on Scrivener and spent a morning hashing out initial ideas and finding images.

It got me thinking about my first novel inspiring dream for Starlighters. Over time, I’ve found lots of things that inspired me further. Mostly music and images that I instantly connected with on behalf of my story and characters.

Enjoy…

I love Epic Music World’s compilations. Not only is it awesome music to write to, but the images prompted me to find an amazing comic and digital artist.

Ghostblade is a fantasy comic by Wlop.

Here’s the link to the full gallery. https://www.deviantart.com/wlop/gallery

There’s even some gaming images on there, like KDA’s League of Legends track and Final Fantasy XV images.

I can’t rave about these artists enough. The imagery and music combined just brings out the best of Starlighters, because somewhere along the way, we all have the same inspiration.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get Wlop’s work on my book covers. I know I would if I could. 

Writing Advice VS How-to-Write Advice!

There’s so much writing advice available on the internet that it can be overwhelming if you’re starting from nothing. I’m not talking about people who studied literature or creative writing and are starting their writing careers. I mean people who have an idea and want to make a go if it whether for personal writing or to possibly be published. But with no previous experience, where do you even start?

I admit I was a pantser when I started. I just sat in front of my PC and typed away until it looked like a story. Then I bought a couple of writing books and started to see where I was going wrong. Then I joined a writing group and found even more ways that I had gone wrong. Now, I’m still probably going wrong somewhere. That’s okay. Even the best authors are always learning. But I feel that I have enough experience with the process of turning an idea into a story to suggest a few things to help others get started.

I was discussing writing advice on a forum recently after a non-writer asked how to get started. I offered some links to YouTube videos and suggested they follow successful authors who give online advice. Then someone said one of the YouTubers was a bad example because that author didn’t tell people how to write and that it was more about marketing. The YouTuber is a best-seller, self-published, and hilarious, but no, she doesn’t tell people how to write. Nobody should “tell” people how to write. 

Writing advice isn’t always about how to write. It’s how to plan a story from a single idea. How to incorporate multiple ideas into one story. How to build an entire world from your imagination. How to find your style. 

With no idea where to start, I think that’s the best place to start. Others are free to disagree with me, and I won’t argue on that. But the best writing advice is the kind that guides you, not dictates what you should and shouldn’t write. I would call some of my writing ranting “advice”. Because that’s what I intend, to advise people so they can choose the best path for them when starting the writing process. 

It’s always the key to learning. You have to try a few methods before one sticks. Some can dive in and learn to swim by splashing about until they float. Others watch carefully and copy (not the best example for writing advice, but you get my point). Others listen to the instructions and imagine them doing it before they get in the water. Or you could start in the kiddies pool with your feet tiptoeing the bottom with short stories and flash fiction.

Whether starting from scratch or looking to expand your knowledge, don’t let anyone tell you how to write.

Let’s Get Technical!

Office, Notes, Notepad, Entrepreneur, Hand, Secretary
Photo by FirmBee at Pixabay

Technology has changed the way people write and share and publish books. In the five years I’ve been writing, I’ve found various ways to organise and improve my writing skills. Also, it’s really fun and gives me a creative break while still being productive with my writing.

Ok, let’s get the boring disclaimer out of the way. I am NOT promoting these apps or software for any personal gain. I’m offering my personal take on how the software helps me make writing easier and more accessible. Whether the paid or free version, I use all the apps below. Also, I use Windows and Android, so any iPhone versions may vary. I can’t possibly cover all the things I use within the software, but I’ll try to point out the main benefits.

Let’s start with the stuff that’s free or offers a great basic package.

WordPress

I thought it best to start with the software you’re using to view this post. Here’s my WP page I Love Fantasy Novels. And that’s based on the free version. 

  • Great for following writing blogs.
  • The free version includes a ton of customisable themes for a blog if you like ranting just as I do.
  • Add backgrounds and personalise your icon. I strongly recommend using copyright-free images like from Pixabay, Pexels, or Unsplash to name a few. I love Deviantart, but not all the images are usable.  
  • You can make pages that aren’t available front eh main menu for special people to check out your WIP page with images and synopses. I have some, but only people with the link can view it so there are no spoilers for potential readers.
  • With the paid version, you can customize your web address and get a whole host of themes for a personalised layout. I know I’ll but upgrading when I can justify it. 
  • You can add contributors so others can share their thoughts on writing via your blog to create a great community.  
  • You can connect to your other accounts like Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, and even connect your Google photos for quick access to your images when posting.

Google Drive

OMG. I loooove Gdrive. Let me count the ways…

  • Synchronising across devices. 
  • 15gb of storage on the free version.
  • Editing documents online, including Word documents.
  • Link your account with multiple websites so you don’t have to remember a ton of usernames and passwords.
  • You can share documents for viewing, commenting or editing so others can give you critiques of your work.
  • You can link your own Google accounts so you don’t have to switch from one to the other.
  • If you use Chrome as your browser, you can make files available offline for editing on the go. 
  • Built-in spellcheck or you can use add-ons such as Grammarly. More on that in a moment.
  • You can upgrade for more storage or to the GSuite. I use GSuite at work, and it includes things like Google Meet’s full package, personalised email addresses and other great apps for business use which may come in handy for promotion and marketing.
  • You can sync all your photos to it, or send saved images directly to your Google Photos from your phone.

Grammarly

Right now, I use the free version, but I intend to upgrade for the creative language suggestions at some point. Even the basic version is more advanced than Word’s editor, so it’s worth downloading. 

  • Works with Word and Chrome as an add-on, and also as a standalone app.
  • Great for picking out phrases and those pesky words like there, their and they’re. I completely admit I get caught out by those when I’m concentrating on my creative side as opposed to my grammar side. They don’t mix. 
  • It has various versions of spellcheck based on the style and register you’re going for.
  • It’s easy to edit with highlighted words and phrases based on colours as well as a personalised dictionary attached to all apps you connect your Grammarly login to.

Pro Writing Aid

Pro Writing Aid isn’t unlike Grammarly, but the pro version is compatible with Word, Chrome, and Scrivener, and many more. I use the free version on Chrome because it offers just a smidge more that the free version of Grammarly.

  • Checks SpaG errors in Chrome.
  • Works with any text input and Gdocs.
  • Has some stylistic suggestions and explains why it’s a better option.
  • Paid version works with a whole host of apps and software.

Discord

I’m still working on this from a writing perspective, but its free version is really versatile. I love it. Download it here for free.

  • Create chat groups to discuss whatever you want, including writing.
  • Create channels to keep conversations organised.
  • Invite users from all over the world and add moderators as your group grows.
  • It has both group and private messaging as well as video and voice calls.
  • There are amazing add-ons called bots. I have RYTHM where anyone can add music links or playlists and it plays like a radio station for everyone who connects to it. 

Natural Reader

This text to speech software has both an online version, a free desktop and paid version. I use the basic, free version. Here’s the link.

  • You can choose from American, British, male, female just in the basic version.
  • Free Chrome add-on.
  • Talkback is really good, but in the free version, you have to copy anything you want read aloud into its own software or use it through Chrome. If you use GDocs, then it’s not an issue. 
  • The paid version has plug-ins for Word along with various other software.
  • You can sample some of the premium voices for a limited time each day. This is great for short pieces of writing.

Microsoft OneNotes

This is either a free app, or slightly better version with Office 365, which I’ll discuss below. I find this great for brainbursts and jotting down thoughts quickly.

  • Quick notes, thoughts, or links on your phone or PC/laptop anywhere, anytime.
  • You can print to OneNotes the same way you can a PDF. Sometimes the format is different, but sometimes it works better depending on what you want it for. 
  • You can create tabs, each with multiple pages so you can organise your thoughts and ideas in categories or novels. Whatever works for you.

Now for the stuff I subscribe to.

Microsoft 365 (Previously Office 365)

I pay for an annual subscription to the personal version which varies depending on the country. But I feel like it’s worth it. There is a free trial, but for ongoing use, you have to pay.

  • 1tb of synchronisable (not a word but it should be) storage and online access.
  • The full Office package with Word, Excel, OneNotes upgrade etc.
  • Sharing with other users.
  • Great formatting options.
  • Word has its own tts option, but it takes a while to get used to. Personally, I quite like it and got used to it just fine.

Scrivener

Same as Office 365, you get a free trial before shelling out for the full package. I’ve found it immensely helpful in organising my writing. Also, I haven’t even used all the features properly yet so this is just what I use so far. Check out their site for more info.

  • You can create separate collections for each novel or series.
  • You can organise folders for novels, versions, chapters etc.
  • You want to add feedback from your critters, you can do that in another folder.
  • There are character and worldbuilding templates.
  • It has an ebook maker so you get an idea of what an actual book will look like.
  • It has a built-in editor.
  • An iPhone user told me she can access her Scrivener on her phone, but there are ways to access the individual pages via Android if you have a txt editor on your phone. Or make the notes in a note app like OneNotes, and copy them when you’re on your laptop or PC.
  • You can add general or detailed outlines and synopses for your novel as well as individual chapters.
  • You can organise chapters or scenes with colour codes for different POVs or locations or whatever else you want to file them as. 
  • Mark things “To Do”, “Done” etc to help with productivity.

Critique Circle

CC is an amazing writing website where people can share and critique one another’s work either with a free or premium account. I’ve learnt a lot from feedback as well as giving it, and even though I was terrified when I first shared, I found people were pretty nice, bar a few grumpypants. Click here for the site and here for my profile.

  • Everyone can share and crit in the public queue with a free account. 
  • Stories are organised by genre and can have a subgenre so it’s easy to find stories you’re more likely to enjoy.
  • The credit system is great in my opinion. You get credits for each story based on the length.
  • There is a weekly cycle in the public queue to make way for new submissions every week. 
  • With a premium version, you can make a private group and invite the critters you think will bring out the best in your work.
  • There are public and private discussion areas where you can share thoughts on writing, ask for feedback on short snippets or poems, and ask other writers about anything that will help with your writing from life experiences, writing advice or brainstorming. 
  • You can organise your stories by novels so people can jump easily between chapters. You can even add outlining info and character descriptions.

We’re in the 21st century people. This is digital evolution.

I Dare You!

Warning: Graphic images of adult content.

How many ways can you be daring in your writing? 

It’s all about showing the most vulnerable side of your characters, which might represent your most vulnerable side, too. No matter your experience, there are certain emotions that can push our writing to its limits. 

There are many events in a book that can make readers uncomfortable, angry, or thrilled for your characters. I’d call any of them a compliment if that was your intention. I’ve read many a torture scene that grossed me out (it’s only fiction) or a sex scene that had me raising my eyebrow or an emotionally tragic scene that brought a tear to my eye.

Death.

Sex.

Insanity.

Abuse.

I’ve read a few pieces inspired by extreme emotions or devastating events. They mean so much more when they come from a place of true emotion, good or bad. This is what connects me to a story and what I hope connects readers to mine. I’ve had amazing responses from my crit buddies to the emotions I’ve poured into my work. 

Don’t fear that vulnerability. Own it and write your heart out. Trust me, it feels amazingly empowering.

Show your crazy. 🤪

Not My Thing!

Photo by Annie Sprat

This is a little bit of rant here. But I hope you see my point that critiquing work in a writing group isn’t just about sharing an opinion, it’s about encouraging writers and bringing out the best in their work. Critique honestly and constructively. Writers join these groups to share and grow, not to be discouraged or insulted.  

Last post, Brainstorming, was about the positive side of sharing your work with writing buddies. But there are downsides. 

I’ve had many a critique where my writing buddies have pointed out issues. That’s exactly why I share my work there so I can get feedback on what works and what doesn’t. It’s what writers do to improve and get support as they go. 

I’ve also critiqued many stories that I wouldn’t have critiqued if it weren’t for knowing the writer or returning a favour. I enjoy critiquing these stories because it forces me to think outside my usual wheelhouse. But if I don’t feel like I can adapt to offer constructive thoughts, then I’ll send a message to explain.

Something that bothers me both personally and empathetically is when critters say “This isn’t my thing,” or “I’m not a fan of this genre…blah, blah, blah,” but they feel like they should give you their biased thoughts anyway. I’m sure they have good intentions, but more often than not, they just waste their time, and yours. 

Why critique something that isn’t your thing? 

Many are returning a favour or welcoming newcomers to the group. It’s great to reach out in this sense. But it’s also better to say “I read part of your story, and while it’s well-written, it’s just not my thing, so I don’t feel like I can give you a realistic critique based on the target audience.” The number of times I wish people would have said this rather than critiquing something they just aren’t into and giving and being unnecessarily negative.

Someone outright insulted a fellow writing buddy’s work because her amazingly emotional and personal short story wasn’t their thing. They said they hated it. Why do that to an aspiring writer? This was beyond wrong for that person (not returning a critique or following up any previous correspondents whatsoever) to insult her work for no reason at all. The same critter actually did something similar with my work only a month or so before, but I saw their negative critique for what it was, lording some sense of experience over me since they thought I was new to the site. I was a returning member and more than familiar with his type. 

Okay, so this was a pretty nasty experience. Many of the “Not my thing,” people aren’t this bad. They’re just not useful. Would you ask a sci-fi fan to read your historical fiction novel if they weren’t open to it? Or a romance fan to read a war story? Maybe they choose to read it with an open mind and actually enjoy it as I have. If not, you’re just wasting your time and the writer’s while risking insulting others. 

It’s great to look for other genres to critique beyond your favourite or what you write. Just remember that the writer has a particular target audience in mind. Mystery fans, fantasy fans, teens, middle grade, adults. If you don’t feel like you fit into that group or can’t adapt to that group, then you should seriously consider what you can offer the writer in their journey to being published. Because they are still on that journey.

I’ve chosen my critters carefully for my private group where only they can see my work. I feel strongly that each one offers many benefits in their feedback on my work and appreciates my writing and story as well as my personal hopes for it in the future.  

It’s okay to say “It’s not my thing so I’m not going to critique your story”.