Guests, My writing journey, Random and Fandom, Writing Tips

GUEST – Abigail Falanga – Glorious Boundries

Today, I’m glad to have author Abigail Falanga to share her insights on how the boundries of fanfiction can help you become a more creative writer!

Abagail falangaFrom Abigail:

Confession:

I don’t read fan fiction.

I don’t even write much fanfic any more.

Anyone still reading?

Good. Because, whatever my failings in the fanfic regard, what I have written has taught me so much – about writing and even about the world.

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Guests, My writing journey, Random and Fandom, Writing Tips

GUEST – Brianna Tibbetts – Fan Fiction and Your Creative Drive

Today, I’m glad to have author Brianna Tibbetts to share her insights on how writing fanfiction keeps her productive in her own writing!

From Brianna Tibbets:

Brianna TibbettsWhen I discovered fan fiction was a thing in 2011, I didn’t think I’d ever want to write it. I read it on occasion, mostly to fill in holes in character development left behind by existing franchises I loved, but I couldn’t have imagined writing it myself. Then, in December of 2012, the BBC show Merlin ended. I loved the finale, but felt distinctly unsatisfied. There was so much I wished had happened, but none of it would ever be addressed, because the show was over. So, I wrote my first fan fiction to get it all out of my system. Less than two hours later, I had five thousand words about two of my favorite characters on my laptop screen. Writing fan fiction was much easier than I’d expected.

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Guests, Random and Fandom, Writing Tips

GUEST – Author H.A. Titus – What Fan-fiction Taught Me

HA Titus - headshotContinuing my series on the benefits of writing fan-fiction, today I have my first guest. H.A. Titus is the author of Forged Steel, a short story contributor in such anthologies as Avenir Eclectia, Different Dragons II, and Quickfic Anthology 2. She’s also a contributor to the New Authors Fellowship and an online friend I’ve known for a long time. Today, she shares with us some of the lessons she’s learned while writing fan-fiction.

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Fiction, My writing journey, Personal blog, Publications, Random and Fandom

My fanfiction journey

fanfiction3Today I’m kicking off a series of blog posts about the benefit of writing fanfiction. I have some amazing guest bloggers coming over the next month to share their experiences and thoughts on the matter. But before they do, I wanted to share with you my fanfiction journey.

I’ve been a published author for nearly ten years. My first novel was published in 2011, kicking off a four book series that I would complete in 2017. When the final book dropped in December of that year, I didn’t realize how much of an emotional drain it would be on me. Those books, that world…that character…had been a part of my life for more than just the eight years it took to publish the books, but an additional three years before that as I wrote and polished that first one. If you invest in anything for over a decade, you will invest in it emotionally.

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Tips and Hacks, Writing Tips

Dear Anne #7 – Finding Inspiration

Dear Anne,

ideaToday I want to talk to you about finding inspiration. The truth is, the firing of the synapses in your mind will only take you so far in the creative process. Your brain needs a database of inspirational input in order to come up with truly creative ideas. Think of it as putting things in a hat. If you need an idea, you simply reach into the hat for one or two. But if there are only a handful of mundane daily things in your hat, you’re not going to get a lot of great ideas to work with. So you have to fill your hat with as much random junk as you can. Pull two or three things out of the hat, and suddenly your brain has a spark of creative genius.

This is what it means when people say you have to practice being creative. Being creative is not something that just comes randomly to especially creative people, but it comes to those who have stock-piled a collection of random things that they can draw upon to be inspired in their creativity. If you don’t make it a habit to keep your collection up-to-date, your creativity will begin to stale.

So where do you get these random things that fuel your inner creative genius? Here are just a few places…

1. Other stories. Reading and watching movies are great places to find unique ideas to put into your hat. It’s okay to be inspired by other writers…chances are they were inspired by other writers too. There’s nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9). The inspiration you have from other writers will come out differently with you than it did with them. You’ll have a unique spin and a unique story, even if certain elements might have been inspired by another story or movie. Take all of these stories, especially the elements you like the most, and put them into your hat.

2. Observing life. Sure you live life. You see life. You talk to people. You do things. But are you really observing what is happening? Do you listen to the subtle nuances of a conversation? Do you look for possible hidden meanings in a word or phrase? Do you speculate on the secret thoughts behind a look on someone’s face? Do you notice the variations in shadows on the wall? Do you lay on the floor or turn your head upside down just to look at things from a new perspective? Do you wonder about sounds you don’t recognize? Do you see weird things while riding down the road and try to figure out what was going on? Do you ask the question “why?” about anything and everything, not to get the real answer, but to give your creative mind a chance to fabricate an answer true or not? Never forget to take time to observe life. Watch it with all the analyzation and wonder you might new movie…always wondering what might come next and always trying to predict the most outlandish outcomes. Everything you see, everything you hear, and everything you speculate all goes into your hat.

3. Dreams. Yeah, I know. Cliche, right? But don’t knock it. Some of my favorite scenes in my books were inspired by dreams. In fact, I have an entire book in my “To Write List” that was almost 100% inspired by a particularly vivid dream. Dreams are when your brain is at its most creative and random. You might be able to use whole dream sequences or maybe just a small impression, emotion, or snippet of conversation. The point is, put these things in your hat and pull them out whenever you need inspiration. When you first wake up, take a few moments to try to remember your dreams. Think about details. Think about over-arching plot lines in the “story” of your dream. Think about the emotional affect it might have had on you. And if necessary keep a dream journal to write them down.

4. A dictionary, encyclopedia, or text book. You’ll be surprised what learning something new will do for creativity. If you read an article about the early Aztec Empire, you might find something there that you can put into your hat. Maybe a certain word in the dictionary has a sound that rolls off your tongue in just the right way to give you inspiration. Maybe a definition gives you the insight to tweak an idea a different way. As boring as it may sound, plain academic studying can sometimes inspire you in big ways. Learn random facts about history, learn new words, and put them all into your hat.

The bigger your hat the easier it is to find the right spark of creativity at the right time. Practice creativity, stock it with plenty of fuel, and you’ll find all the inspiration you need.

-odk

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Tips and Hacks, Writing Tips

Dear Anne #6 – Dealing With Life and Motivation

Dear Anne,

Life and motivation are big problems for writers. Life will always get in the way and much of the time motivation to write will be a difficult thing for you to find. I must admit, this is how I feel most of the time. When the creative juices are flowing I can write very quickly. But when I can’t get my head in the right place it is very difficult to stay motivated. Most anything can take my mind away…church responsibilities, spending time with my family, lack of inspiration, chores, writer depression (that sagging feeling every writer gets that they are a failure at writing), accidents, unexpected expenses, unexpected trips to town, TV, internet, loss of my “want to.” The list goes on and on. But if I’m going to be a writer, I have to deal with all of that and find ways to write anyway. You’re going to need to do the same thing.

So with that introduction out of the way, here are some ways to deal with life and motivation.

waiting to write1. Life happens. It can’t be helped. Admit it. Accept it. The most well-intentioned and prolific writers in the world have been derailed by life. And there will come times in your life when you just don’t feel like or can’t emotionally handle the writing process. You lose your “want to.”

But dealing with life is a part of the reason writers write to begin with. It’s their escape from reality if only for a few minutes. It’s their creative outlet that helps them recharge. It’s their emotional expression that helps them vent. Sure you must know how to balance life with writing, but life is also the fuel for writing.

You may not be able to actually put fingers on the keyboard, but you can write in your mind. Let life be your inspiration.

2. Write in the cracks. Do you have any idea how much time we waste everyday? Ten minute here. Fifteen there. Just one more Netflix episode. I know this is a rerun, but I really like this one. Find those cracks of time that you’re wasting and find a way to use them to write. Evernote or Onenote on your phone or tablet may be perfect for this. When you have a moment and an idea, jot it down. When you have more time you can return to that idea and write it more fully. Look for those little nuggets of time you can use to write a few more words.

3. Write what you’re passionate about. In an interview with Joss Whedon, the writer and director of The Avengers, he answered the mystery of how he stayed so prolific in his work. How did he get so much done so quickly? His answer was simple…he writes what he’s “into” at the moment. In other words, if there’s a particular scene that he can’t get out of his head, he writes it. It doesn’t matter where it is in the story…he writes what he’s into. And once he gets all of those things out his system, he begins the slower process of piecing the story together with the scenes he skipped. If you’re having trouble being motivated to write that boring scene you’re just not into, skip it and write the one you’re passionate about.

one word - neil gainman4. Butt in seat. (This is actually an official battle cry of writers everywhere.) Sometimes it’s just this simple. Sit your butt down in front of your computer and start writing. You’ll be surprised at how difficult this can be. Life and everything will tell you to ignore that seat. But that seat will start staring at you…pointing its finger. You’ll begin avoiding it. You won’t even look at it. You know it wants you and you can’t ignore it forever. Just sit your butt down and write.

Because writing is a discipline.

In an earlier letter I talked about studying what you want to write by reading the things similar to what you want to write. But you must also realize that writing, like anything worth doing, requires practice. It’s a discipline that must be exercised whether you feel like it or not.

I was in the band throughout high school and college. I was a music major and a band director for a few years when I graduated. At one point I was practicing over an hour a day on my instrument. Many of those days I didn’t feel like it, but if I wanted to be an accomplished musician I had to do the work whether I felt like it or not.

Singers practice singing. Athletes practice their sports. Artists practice their art. I’m sure you know that practice is essential to getting better at anything, but the often overlooked part of practice is that you must PURPOSE to practice. A baseball player doesn’t just accidentally show up for practice. A dancer doesn’t accidentally show up for rehearsal. And you won’t accidentally write.

There are days the baseball player doesn’t want to practice. But he goes anyway. There are days when the dancer doesn’t want to rehearse. But she does anyway. There will be days when you don’t want to write. And those may be the most important days for you TO write.

Just get your butt in the seat.

one word - stephen king5. One word at a time. This is Stephen King’s secret to writing. Just write one word at a time. Neil Gaiman says to just put one word after another until it’s done.

One word leads to one sentence. One sentence leads to a paragraph. One paragraph leads to another, and so on until you’ve written a whole page. Pages lead to chapters. Chapters become books. Don’t know what to write or where to start? Try writing just one word.

6. Find your routine. Habits are habit forming. If you write every day at 4:30, then that time becomes sacred. You’ll schedule your entire day around that sacred time. You’ll feel incomplete if you miss it. Find your habit…a daily habit. Whether it’s an hour, thirty minutes, or just fifteen minutes…it doesn’t matter. Just lock it in and say, “This is MY writing time. Do not disturb.”

But no matter how good intentioned you are about writing with a routine, life happens and you’re going to drop the ball. One of your scheduled writing times will be interrupted. And the next time you’ll find it easier to be distracted, until one day you think, “Hey, I should really start writing again.” That’s when it hits you that you STOPPED writing and you’re kinda okay with that. Never be okay with that.

Find your routine and protect it like a wild animal.

7. Kill the time wasters. You can’t write if you’re letting time wasters suck all your extra time away. You may intend to sit down and write and spend all your time on Facebook instead. Then you’ve missed your writing time. Your routine becomes a Facebook routine and not a writing routine. So you must learn to recognize the time wasters and kill them.

Close Facebook. Turn the TV off. Put your phone in another room. Get rid of any and every possible distraction around you. Open your story and use your writing time to write. That’s when you have time well-spent.

I hope this helps you when life derails you. Don’t let lack of motivation be an excuse for not writing. If you want to be a writer you’ve got to learn to write even when life gets in the way.

-odk

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Tips and Hacks, Writing Tips

Dear Anne #5 – Basic Story Planning

Dear Anne,

I write this letter on basic story planning, because that’s what you need right now. We’ve had some conversations already on this very thing, so I want to give you some more basic tools to help you properly plan your story.

Simply put, you have to know your story before you can write your story. There are writers who construct a plot first and populate it with characters to act out that plot. There are writers who create characters first and then give them something to do. There are even writers who have something to say to the reader or society, and they create the plot and characters in order to say what they want to say.

I’ll talk about these three approaches in more detail later. But what I want you to know is no matter what the approach or which approach you naturally take, these writers all have the same thing in common…they have an idea of what they want to write before they write it.

Even “seat of the pantsers” (writers who write by the seat of their pants without detailed planning) have something in mind – a goal, certain characters, developments, or plot points – before they write. Writers like this are usually more character driven, and they KNOW their characters.

It may sound like knowing your story is a no-brainer, but it’s easier said than done.

First, let me restate what we discussed in chat. Create timelines. This works really well when getting to know your characters. The more you know about their past, the deeper the character becomes. Your readers may not always need to know this information…but YOU know it, and it’ll help shape the personality of your characters and even help to determine their actions and motivations.

Speaking of motivations…this is essential when working on your characters. What do they want? How are they going to get it? I don’t want to get too deep into character development (that’s another letter), but you can’t plan your story if you don’t know what your characters want to get out of the story.

Next, I want to say a word about outlining. I’m a big outliner. Some writers are not. Some writers think outlining is the only responsible way to write a story. To each his/her own. But I do think that some form of outline is necessary to create a balanced story without spending months or years on rewriting. Balance is absolutely necessary, and the writer who goes into a story without some kind of plan has a difficult time creating that balance from scratch. Often they write many many drafts, just to fix the story problems they could have worked out from the beginning with an outline.

That’s my opinion though. Other writers might argue with me. (And if they’re reading this, feel free to leave a comment with your planning method!)

However, my outlines are not incredibly detailed and they are fluid. In other words, I write one or two statements about what I want to happen in a chapter. But I am open and willing to let the story change if the story wants to change. Then I adjust my outline accordingly. There have been times when I had a clear outline early in the story, but I wasn’t sure about things later. I let the story tell me what to put in those places. (Kinda having that issue with current book at the moment.)

Writing a good story is like raising a child. A good parent guides their child in the right direction and teaches them the right way to live, but allows them become who the unique person they want to be. Guide your story. Teach it how to be a good story. But let it become what it wants to be.

However, the clearer and more detailed your outline, the faster you can write your story.

snowflakeFinally, I want to talk about snowflaking. This is a method of planning developed by the godfather of story planning, Randy Ingermanson. He developed what is known as the Snowflake Method, and even has software available to help you do it. You can find out all about it here – http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/.

This gist of it is that you start small and build outward, the way a snowflake grows. First, write ONE sentence that accurately describes your story. That’s a lot more difficult than it sounds! He even suggests spending an entire hour just on this one sentence.

Once you have your sentence, you then expand it into a single paragraph, of about five sentences long and covering all of the major developments. Next, you take these five sentences and you expand them into paragraphs. You’ll now have a page long summary of your story, broken into five sections, each ending with a major plot point or disaster. Then take each paragraph of this page and expand it into a full page, so that you have a 4-5 page summary of your story. From there, you’ll probably be ready to hammer out your first draft.

Ingermanson says it should take you about a week to do all of this, if you’re taking your time and really thinking it through. I do want to point out that if you read his instructions on it, you’ll see he breaks it down into four sections and I have suggested five. That’s because I use a 5-stage plot system that I’ll tell you about later.

The Snowflake Method also recommends you do this same kind of snowflaking for every major character. Start with a single sentence about the character, expand it to a paragraph, and then expand that to a page. You should include that character’s specific timeline and plot development, even if the reader never reads about it. In other words, describe the story briefly from THEIR point of view, even if that’s not how the final story will be written. Include important history, background, and training. Include the character’s goals and motivation in the story. You’ll need to do this for every protagonist and villain…any character that is important to your story.

I use a little bit of snowflaking, but I don’t do the entire Snowflake Method. I do the smaller story summaries, but I don’t go beyond the one page. Once I get my one page, I launch into my 5-stage plot system. I also do not do the detailed character writing, though a probably should. Those things don’t really work for me in my current books, but they might work for you.

And that’s really the whole trick to this. You NEED some kind of planning…whether it’s plot planning or character planning or some combination. But you have to find the planning methods that work best for YOU. What works now might not work later as you grow and learn as a writer. Keep trying and experimenting until you find that magic formula that is YOUR process, bearing in mind that as you mature in your career so will your process.

-odk

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Tips and Hacks, Writing Tips

Dear Anne #3 -Types of Projects

Dear Anne,

By now you should already be writing. You’ll never be a writer if you never write! In your case, Anne, I know you’re already busy working on your first real project. I’ve been reading and nudging you in a few areas, and I’ve already begun to see some growth. Keep it up!

But because you’re already writing, I wanted to take this letter and go over some of the different projects you may choose to do. Being a writer is a very broad term that covers many different writing disciplines. I happen to be in a somewhat unique position, in that I’ve dabbled in most of them…even the non-fiction ones. If you want to try your hand at non-fiction (things like magazine or newspaper articles, how-to blogs, academic papers, etc.), know that those things are a completely different animal than fiction disciplines. I can teach you some of that too, but it’ll be different rules and approaches to things. Just let me know, and I’ll write a letter on those things, too.

For now, I’ll just stick to fiction. The types of creative fiction you might choose to write are, in order of length: epic/series, novel, novella, short story, and flash fiction. There’s also poetry and screen-writing. Poetry I’ve done, though I’m bad at it; screen-writing I haven’t done, though I’d like to try it one day. I have a friends who do both, so if you want more info, I can get it.

I want to talk about the novel first. A novel is a lengthy work, typically between 40,000 and 200,000 words. It is a complete story, with a definitive beginning, middle, and end. It fully develops its main characters, settings, and major events, with a climax just before the end. I’ll talk about all of those different things in later letters, but I list them now because some of the other projects don’t always need all of those things.

Some authors can write more than one novel in a year. Those that do are very prolific at what they do. Most novelists do good to complete one in a year. A novel is a major commitment that takes a lot more time than you think. Many aspiring writers want to start with the novel, and they quickly get so bogged down in the overwhelming task of finishing it that they quit writing.

And speaking of being overwhelmed…those same aspiring writers often have grand ideas of a huge saga or series. These are multiple novels, in some ways self-contained with all the elements I listed for the novel, but they also span over huge story arcs between several books. That’s why I cut the novel off at 200k, because anything larger than that many publishers and editors would recommend splitting into multiple books. Sure, some single novels are that big or bigger. I’ll define those large single volume stories, that probably should be divided as a saga, as an epic. The saga is a multiple volume story, that follows a unified plot. A series is simply stand alone novels (or novellas) that use a recurring set of characters, settings, and/or themes. Got it?

My “novel” that I worked on in high school was supposed to be a three book saga. After college I wrote a stand-alone novel that was the prequel to that trilogy. (Your dad has read it.) But I still haven’t gone back to try that trilogy again…because it’s a huge overwhelming story that I still don’t feel ready to tackle yet.

It would probably do good for you to choose smaller projects for now. Save your grand novel, series, saga, or epic idea for later in your career. You’ll be glad you did.

A novella is simply a short novel. It follows pretty much the same rules as a novel, but on a smaller scale. A novella might range between 8k and 40k words in length. Within that, you could even break it down again, with another category called a novelette, which is even smaller than a novella. To be more specific, some literary awards define a novelette as a work between 7.5k and 18k words, and a novella between 18k and 40k words. Other awards don’t distinguish the two at all. It’s kind of arbitrary, which is why I gave you a general 8k to 40k. So if it’s between 8k and 20k, call it a novelette. If it’s between 20k and 40k, call it a novella. If it’s over 40k, then it’s a novel.

This brings us to the short story. If you’re paying attention, you saw that some works as small as 7.5k can be classified as a novelette. That’s a really small novelette. I’ve read short stories longer than that. In fact, some people just refer to novelettes as long short stories. A short story is usually between 1k and 8k (novelette size), though a short story can get longer in some cases. But at some point you just have to give up on it being a “short story” and just call it what it is…a novelette.

So what’s the difference? I’m not sure there is one, really, but in my mind I like to think of it like this. A novelette has all of the foundational elements of a novel: character development, setting, story development, tension, climax, resolution, etc; just on a smaller scale than a novel. But a short story doesn’t need all of that.

A short story is a specific scene in the life of your character. It’s a snapshot…a moment in time captured on paper. The reader doesn’t need all the exposition details you’d put in a novel…just the important ones to the story. The story doesn’t need as much development, because you’re really only developing one scene and one major character. Short stories tend to focus on emotions or morality rather than fully developing a plot.

I’ve written short stories, but I’m bad at them. I like detail too much and I write on much larger scales to ever be good at short stories. But I have a friend who is a very active short story writer, so if you want some more on that I can get her to write a letter for you.

Finally, there’s flash fiction. Flash fiction is what you call anything less than 1,000 words. At this size, you can’t help but take small snap-shots of what’s happening, and you have to be very clever to get the dramatic elements you need to keep it interesting. Flash fiction can be broken down into other categories, such as: micro-fiction (300 words or less) and nano-fiction (50 words or less). Of course, the smaller the word count, the less details you get to write, and the more clever you have to be to weave a complete story. Try writing a complete story in 50 words or less! It may not be as easy as you think!

Before I end the letter, I want to tell you about two things you might try. First, there’s a thing called fan-fic or fan-fiction. Basically you take the characters and settings of your favorite things and you write your own stories with them. It’s fun and there are entire communities online out there where fan-fic writers get together and share their stuff. You could write a Doctor Who fan-fic, where the Doctor shows up at Hogwarts and takes Dobby to his home planet (because house elves are really aliens). There are no rules on what you can do with fan-fiction! Just have fun! Well…there is one rule. You can’t publish them. 🙁 (Although, there have been cases where fan-fiction was so popular that a publisher changed all the details and published it as an original story. Fifty Shades of Gray was originally fan-fic of Twilight. How sick is that?)

Second, there’s this thing called NaNoWriMo…that’s National Novel Writing Month. It happens in November, when writers all over the world, professional and amateur alike, commit to writing a complete 50,000 word novel during the 30 days of November. You can go to the website and officially register to participate (it’s free) and log your progress along with writers all over the world. Or just unofficially declare your participation. I’ve done the unofficial thing (as a way to try to get motivated to finish the book I was working on) but I never completed the month out. I’ve never won NaNoWriMo. To win all you have to do is finish your 50k word novel and you get to claim yourself a winner. It might be a fun thing for you to try…but it’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of pre-planning before November even gets here.

So there you have it! All kinds of exciting projects for you to try. Let me give you a quick breakdown of them. Remember, the wordcounts are only guides…there’s no definite rule…and some writers may even disagree with me on these definitions. But you’ll probably know what it is you’re trying to write, even if it doesn’t always fit into these wordcounts.

  • Epic – A fully developed stand-alone work 200k+ words.
  • Novel – A fully developed stand-alone work 40k-200k words.
  • Series – Multiple stand-alone novels that use the same characters, settings, and/or themes, that don’t necessarily depend on one another and usually tell separate stories.
  • Saga – Multiple novels with the same characters, settings, and/or themes, that depend on one another for a continuing story.
  • Novella – A fully developed stand-alone work 20k-40k words.
  • Novellete – A fully developed stand-alone work 8k-20k words.
  • Short Story – A developed “scene” 1k-8k words.
  • Flash Fiction – A developed “scene” 1k words or less.
  • Micro Fiction – A “scene” 300 words or less.
  • Nano Fiction – A “scene” 50 words or less.

Good luck and go write something!
-odk

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Tips and Hacks, Writing Tips

Dear Anne: An Introduction

Have you ever had friends for so long and did so much together that your children all call the other parents aunt and uncle even though they are not really? That’s who Anne is. She’s my niece that’s not really my niece. But we were there before she was born. Her father sang at my wedding.

Anne is now 15 (as of 2016). She’s the oldest of all the children from both families, the next two being 12 going on 13. Anne has not only fallen in love with the wonderful world of books, but she’s beginning to understand that human creativity is not limited to those worlds created by other people. She’s beginning to have ideas of her own and is writing them down. It’s the beginning of becoming a writer…a moment every writer remembers.

I began to write much younger, actually. I was 11 when I first started…fan fiction based on a the old NES video game Dragon Warrior. I spent the next few years piddling around with ideas, writing short stories that never really went anywhere. In high school, I began to write more seriously. I wrote several short stories and a good deal on my first novel. Those writings have never been released to the public, but that novel is on the list of future projects I’d like to revisit.

I took a break from writing in college, but picked it up again afterward…writing my first real novel. That too has not been publicly released, but is on deck as needing to be rewritten and released as soon as my currently published series is completed.

My first published book came after I spent much time and effort trying to get that doomed “practice novel” published. After I wrote that second book, I again became frustrated trying to get it published. There was an underlying problem with both of those books that I didn’t understand.

The problem was simply that I didn’t know anything about real writing.

No one ever taught me. No one guided me. I never read a book on writing. I just liked it and I did it. I tried to copy some of the authors I enjoyed most, but I had no concept of modern style or personal voice. It wasn’t until the 11th hour trying to get that second book published that I finally convinced someone to point blank tell me what was wrong with my writing. And they did. I was able to fix the problems and it was finally published.

All that to say this…my niece Anne is in a similar situation at the beginning of her writing journey. She wants to write, but she knows very little about it. But unlike when I was getting started, I can be there to help guide her through it all.

Anne has asked me to mentor her. It is somewhat fortuitous that she did, because lately I’ve been thinking about my early experiences and that I’m now in a position where I can help and mentor young writers who desperately need it like I did. Hopefully, as I help Anne, I can help others.

I’m going to be posting blogs on my website, starting with the very basics all the way to publication, about the writing process.

My audience…Anne.

Each blog will be in the form of personal instruction directly to her. She’ll read each post and we’ll talk about it privately as she works through her own projects. But I want these blogs public so that other young writers might also take advantage. If there are any other teens that want to be mentored, I’ll do my best to help guide you too. Maybe there are some other authors out there like myself that want to help. Just let me know.

I have plenty to write about and a long way to go. I’ve compiled about 60 topics so far, and if I write on one of these each week, it’ll take me over a year to get them all! So, without any further introduction, let’s get started!

Dear Anne,

I pinged several of my author friends and asked them for some advice. I asked specifically for one piece of craft advice and one piece of practical advice that they might give to a 15 year old that knew nothing about writing. Most of these things I’ll cover later in full blogs, but the advice is important enough that these writers believed them to be the most important things for you to know now. In fact, you’ll notice that several of them repeat similar things. Take these pieces of advice and digest them, until we get to talk about each in more detail. Message me if you have questions.

Kat Heckenbach, author of Finding Angel and Seeking Unseen, and one of my editors says:

“Read the genre you want to write. A lot. Get to know what’s already out there, so you’re not writing a book that’s already written. At the same time, remember that EVERY book is different. You are going to be inspired by other authors’ ideas. You may find that someone has used almost the very same idea you have come up with as an element in your story, but don’t let that stop you from using your idea in your unique way. Practical advice: Every professional has their own opinion about how a novel should be written. Some say outline, some say don’t. Some push minimum words counts, writing early in the day, working in the same spot every time, whatever. You need to find what works for you. Maybe structuring your day and writing the same number of words each time works, or maybe you need to go days or weeks without writing and slam thousands of words out at once. No one way is “right.””

Morgan Busse, author of Daughter of Light (Follower of the Word series), Tainted, and Mark of the Raven says:

“I would advise that if you are serious about writing to get into the habit of writing. That doesn’t necessarily mean writing every day, but writing consistently and pushing on until you write the “end”, that way you know you can write a book and finish it and know somewhat how long that takes you so if and when you sign a contract or need to meet a deadline, you know if you can do it and how long it will take.

Have a website. It can be as simple as a wordpress blog or more extravagant. But as people discover you as a writer/author, they are going to look for you on the internet. Have a place where people can find out about you and your writing. There is nothing more frustrating to me than to find a writer I like and discover they don’t have a website where I can find out more about them. Facebook, Instagram, and twitter don’t count. Those medias are changing all the time, so you need a website, a permanent place for you and your books.”

Mike Duran, author of The Ghost Box, The Resurrection, and The Telling, says:

“It’s cliched, but I’ve always loved the old proverb: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” No matter where a person is in the writing journey, they can only ever start from where they’re at. This will mean taking “first steps,” using the knowledge they have, developing the tools at their disposal, seeking out those they respect, and networking with like-minded people. It’s a huge process, one that takes time. Simply from a technical perspective, there’s much to learn about style, grammar, plotting, character development, etc. When you compound that with needing to understand the industry, the market, advertising, and platform development, it’s like an immense mountain looming before you. But the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. The aspiring writer needs to give themselves permission to take time. Becoming a good writer is a long haul. In some ways, it never ends. What ever “first step” is right in front of you, take it.”

Wayne Thomas Batson, author of Dreamtreaders, The Door Within, and Isle of Swords, says:

“1) Work long and hard on your hook, ie: first sentence, first paragraph, first page, first chapter. Crush that with suspense! Publishers often don’t read any more than this before deciding whether or not to publish your book.

2) Outline. Always. But don’t be afraid to break your outline if a good idea pops up.”

Robynn Tolbert, author of Star of Justice and Daughter of Anasca says:

“Advice: Finish what you start, no matter how awful. Writers need practice finishing things. Method: keep all your notes forever. You never know what you’ll write next or how long it will be, and you will not remember any of the details.”

Kristen Stieffel, associate editor of Havok Magazine, writing mentor, and author of  Alara’s Call says:

“When you’re creating stories, remember that stories about happy people in Happyland are booooring. What grips readers are stories about struggle, whether it’s an internal struggle over temperament or faith, or an external struggle against a villain or natural forces. Preferably some combination of those things.

Writing is often called a “craft,” but it’s also an art form. Like any other art from—dance, music, painting—writing requires practice. A piano student makes time to practice every day. That’s the only way to become proficient. In the same way, a writer must make time to practice every day, whether that’s writing stories, blog posts, or journal entries. Writing every day demonstrates your commitment to your art and helps you improve.”

Greg Mitchell, author of The Strange Man and Rift Jump, and screenwriter of Amazing Love and the SyFy Channel original Zombie Shark, says:

“1. Write for yourself. At the end of the day, you’ll never be able to chase the trends or predict what will be popular. If nobody buys and read your books, you still have to feel like the writing was time well-spent. Write for yourself. Others will follow along. 2. Be professional. This is a business of relationships. You’ll go further on your personality than you will on your writing. Be friendly, be kind, be willing to sacrifice, work hard, meet your deadlines.”

Finally, I say:

1) Write all the time. Practice it, read writers you want to be like, and finish what you write. That’s what makes you a writer. No one gives you that title…you claim it by BEING a writer.

2) Back up everything you write…and do it with a the deepest sense of urgency and paranoia. Programs like Google Drive and MS Onedrive can be set up to do this automatically on your computer. Even then, find a way to back up to multiple places. There’s nothing worse than working hard on something for a long time, only to have a computer glitch erase it.

Now…go write something!

-odk

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