So I am on the tail-end of going through my first session of Beta Readers. I have gotten a ton of great feedback and I have a lot of work ahead of me. Overall, I have positive feedback on my world-building and characters. My biggest problem is my prose and tightening the story.
What does that mean?
Well, I have no problem writing in first person. I do it all the time on my blogs. It is the voice I am most comfortable with in regaling my own story and, at times, sprinkling a bit of my own humor. However, for fantasy, tradition dictates that my novel should be written in third person limited omniscient (literally a character point of view – POV – that is not limited to the characters thoughts).
What does this have to do with my prose? Well, unfortunately, I tend to repeat a lot (a lot) of the same words. One of my beta readers took the time to highlight all the words I repeated. At least I was consistent with my repetition. But it was embarrassing, nonetheless. I need more variety in that writing. But not only did this Beta reader tell me what I needed to fix; she also gave me the tools to help!
This Beta reader’s name is Amy Butcher. I say this because she is in the process of wanting to start her own copyediting service. I found her through Goodreads and I must say that she is a gem. I will definitely continue to work with her as I take on my novel and there will be more testimonials and praise for her as I go. I just wanted to put her name out there because she is good at what she does and I definitely recommend her for anyone looking for a copy editor.
Anyway, back to my tools. Amy has recommended to me a number of books to help with my prose and working on my, so far, unstructured novel.
Here’s a brief list and what makes them useful:
- How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey
- How to Write a Damn Good Novel II by James N. Frey (both help with developing a character biography and pinning down the villain)
- How to Write a Damn Good Thriller by James N. Frey (though I may not be writing a thriller, it can help with finding a good method in plotting a book)
I know that’s a lot of Frey novels, but he’s been recommended for those who write genre fiction but haven’t taken a lot of classes (like myself).
- For prose: Vex, Hex, Smash and Smoosh by Constance Hale.
- After you have rewritten a draft: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King.
- Story by Robert McKee. This guy goes over different types of plots (mostly from a screenwriting prospective – but doesn’t mean it’s not useful). He has been recommended also for help in writing good dialogues and scenes
- Anatomy of a Story by John Truby. Also recommended to plotting and mapping out a clear structure to your story.
Phew! That’s quite a list! But you know what? If you want to write the best you can, you need to acknowledge that you should get all the tools you can possibly get. Simply reading and writing for over twenty years (I am 28, do the math) does not make one automatically a good writer. Maybe some have that gift but for the rest of us it’s just only a good start.
Off to work!
I wrote one character with the intent of making a love triangle for my
characters Rei and Bronx. It really wasn’t much of one since Rei
wasn’t interested in Maitrun in the slightest. I thought I could try
my hand at it but nope. Big fat no. Honestly, I will be putting
those two through enought so adding a third person to the relationship
felt like overkill.
But then what would I do with Maitrun? I couldn’t get rid of him
completely because he actually plays a role in some of the story
linens, but I couldn’t figure out what more to do with him after the
first book. Maitrun is not important enough to be a main character,
but he has a role to play. I guess, in a way, he was just not a
character that I was that invested in.
What was he like? Well, I tried to make him like Rayne Summers from
the online comic ‘Least I Could Do.’ I like that kind of crass humor
and even though he is a womanizer there is something about him that I
find loveable. Unfortunately only Rayne can be Rayne. I can’t
recreate that in a way that would work in my story…in fact I can’t
recreate Rayne at all. It turned out pretty bad. Then I thought back
to a similar character – Nichols from ‘Orange is the New Black.’
She has a similar sense of humor and sometimes can be a little
offputting but she really cares about those close to her and always
makes the effort to show it. Another similar character is Captain
Jack Harkness from Doctor Who/Torchwood. See the pattern? Granted
Nicky is a lesbian and Harkness is an omnisexual (he’ll have sex with
anything) I loved how they stuck out in this world of straight heroes
and heroines. Your sexual orientation is not a prerequisite for
heroics and overall badassery. I know that they are both major flirts
but that’s because they just love to love.
Then I also remembered this movement that has been gaining momentum
over the last several months: #weneeddiversebooks. I have always
agreed with this statement long before the movement emerged. In Book
of Tas’und’eash I made one of my heroes a Nigerian named Latif
because I didn’t want my heroes to be so white washed. It’s not like
I meant for that to happen. In fact, I don’t think most authors do
that. But once I became aware, I decided to put changes where I
So I came to the decision that Maitrun would now be a lesbian.
However, what would I call her? I had been wanting to come up with a
cool badass chick called Bernadette only because I love nickname
Bernie for a girl. Et voila! Bernie!
Suddenly this character had new life for me and I could come up with
more things for her. I am very excited. On the whole, integrating
Bernie more into the story will really be the only major change that I
have to tackle in Volocio. But the payoff will be totally worth it.
What about you writers out there? Have you tried to write a character
that’s outside the normal?
Until next time,
It is understood in the industry that you will need to know the answer
to this questions: who is your target audience? Even if you don’t
have a specific audience in mind, think about why you wrote your
If you wre writing a self help guide for teenagers and your
inspiration was your young niece about to enter that period of her
life then say that. Every writer writes for some reason even if it’s
just for themselves.
Emily Dickenson only wrote for herself. Her poems never saw the light
of day until AFTER she passed away. Stephani Meyer, author of
Twilight, said, “What’s funny about that is when I was writing Twilight just for
myself and not thinking of it as a book, I was not thinking about
publishing…” She had a dream of a girl talking to a beautiful man
in a forest. When she woke up, she couldn’t get the image out of her
head and also wanted to find out more so she started to write.
But when it comes to the wire, you shouldn’t say that you were writing
it for yourself. It doesn’t help publishing houses know where to
market your work.
If you do find that this is your answer the ask yourself why someone
like you would read your work? I will use myself as an example:
When I first started Volocio, I was very heavy into reading Young
Adult. The stories drew me in more. I did venture into more adult
fantasy but I found their info dumps to be a little too much for me at
times. In my experience the adults fantasy worlds tend to be a little
more complex. Don’t get me wrong, they are complicated because the
writers create such real and vivid worlds with its own vast history
and culture and prophecy. It is wonderful what these writers can come
up with but sometimes the back story is a little too much more me.
Other times I loves it. Depends on my mood. Even today I am still
more drawn to books that sit in the Young Adult section.
So I guess my work will be geared as YA.
So there you have it. One of your first homework assignments as you
write your work. Even if you are writing forself, remember that there
are others like you with your similar tastes. Figure out what that
means to you.
Until Next Time,
I started writing Volocio when I was about thirteen. When I started
to write it, I was literally just writing down my daydreams, the
adventures I wanted to have. My two obsessions at such a young age
were Star Wars and Sailor Moon.
What I loved about Sailor Moon was the power over the elements,
reincarnation, fighting evil by the moonlight, winning love by
daylight, and finding your true love against insurmountable odds. Of
course my favorite Sailor Scout is still Sailor Jupiter (this is why
my main character Rei can wield lightning) It’s also interesting that
Sailor Moon has been re-released in a new version. I am twenty-eight
now but I feel like I am thirteen again.
On the other hand, what I loved about Stars Wars I later learned came
from Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero with a Thousand Face.’ I mean the
architypes you find in most classic epics. There’s the hero’s
journey. You can take a look at this awesome chart I found.
You can compare this with a lot of epics. You will find that, for the
most part, they fit. Try is now with ‘The Matrix,’ ‘The Hobbit,’
‘Divergent,’ ‘Narniva,’ and ‘Song of the Lioness.’ They work because
the writer intentionally or unintentionally drew from the architypes
to give you the story you are familiar with.
If you are not familiar with Joseph Campbell then I highly recomment
that you either pick up ‘Hero with a Thousand Faces’ or (if you can
find it) the PBS interview with Joseph Campbell called ‘The Power of Myth.’
Very cool stuff! You will learn a lot.
Until Next Time,
Oh my! It has certainly been a while! I apologize for being MIA for so
long but don’t worry, I’ve been writing.
First off – I moved to Germany! Yup! I met a wonderful guy and moved
here to be closer and here I am! It was a very crazy and hectic
process and I documented everything in my travel blog:
Be sure to visit – it’s quite entertaining! I had started it back in
2011 when I attempted a trip to the UK by myself (note: it was a
success) It was a way for my family back home to keep an eye on me.
Now that I have moved, this blog is the perfect communication key by
enabling me to reach as many people at one time. At first I was
blogging everyday up until I moved here but now I only update on
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
As a result, I have been able to get back to work on Tas’und’eash.
However, since coming to Germany I have suddenly inundated with ideas.
It’s great but there is a tiny hitch at the moment. For my first two
months here in Deutschland, I am living in this small room:
As you can see, there is no desk. I know what are must be thinking:
you’re in Europe! Go to a cafe! I don’t really do the sit in a cafe
and write bit. I will do it if a fellow writer wants to try some
place new or nice but I prefer to work from home with little
distraction. My boyfriend and I should be getting an apartment soon
so I will then be focused on getting a desk. Yay!
So what other projects am I working on? Well, I will have to save
that for another post. There is so much to do! But in the meantime,
I should also get back to writing this blog. It’s a good way to
document where I am going with this (hopefully) getting published
Until Next Time,
A while back, I went to a reading of Neil Gaimen’s newest book: The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It was my first reading of an author. Got my copy of American Gods signed (hurrah!) and got to hear him answer questions from the audience.
One of the questions concerned writer’s block. How does he work passed it?
First he talked about his time as a journalist. He spoke of having deadlines. He was not allowed to have writer’s block. I went through the same thing when I was a ghost writer on a tea blog. In the end you had to just write through it.
Gaimen also talked about that there were days that he had to force himself to write and every word that came from his fingertips felt like shit while on his good days the words felt like gold. And yet when he went back and read everything it was really all the same.
If you find yourself stuck, just keep writing. Stephen King called it “shoveling shit.” It certainly is but it will be the only way to get through. The more you write the easier it will become. You may have to find another outlet in the meantime if you really just can’t write your particular project. I always keep a journal and I currently have this blog as well as my traveling one for my impending move to Germany (yay news!). But even if I am not writing Book of Tas’und’eash then I am still writing something else. Each time the words flow more easily and thus I will keep writing.
What do you do when you find yourself with writer’s block?
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
I’m alive!!!!!!!!!!!! I have been knee deep in writing and reading. I have finished book 1! I felt like I was sprinting to the end of the book. I don’t even want to look at it for a while so I am working on book 2 which has been a great and fun change of pace. I plan on working on it for a while and then I will go back to book 1 with fresh eyes.
Anyway, concerning my quote above. When I haven’t been writing, I’ve been reading. A lot. Reading as many books as you can get your hands on is just as important as practicing your writing skills.
“A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.”
I certainly have been using my whetstone 😛 This last year, I had been taking public transportation through the Windy City in order to get to work. It’s about 45 minutes each way and I always carry a book with me. As a result, I have been devouring book after book. I think that every book helps in your writing. It’s just as important as writing a blog to practice your style.
Sorry if this post reads a bit disjointed. I am multitasking. I wanted to at least reach out to wordpress and let everyone know that I am still alive and kicking.
And now I leave you with a question: what books do you like to read? How does reading help you in your writing?