1. For all those not aware of your awesomeness, what should we know about you?
Haha, awesomeness. I wouldn't say that, but thank you. I guess what I'd love people to know about me is that while writing is very important to me, I am also a wife (11years this month), and a mother to two amazing kiddos. I'm passionate in all that I do, which can be a flaw if things don't go my way.
2. Why do you write?
I write because the alternative of not having the escape that writing brings me is deadly. Writing saved my life. It's curbed the depression and limited the thoughts of just being done with life.
3. What writers inspire you?
I've always been a fan of James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, Robyn Carr, and Debbie Macomber. Which these four have inspired the mixture of the genre that I am currently writing. I also admire indie authors like myself. It's not easy doing it on your own, especially with little support. The real indie authors (yes, I believe there are two types) really inspire me by their compassion for the craft.
4. What does a typical writing session look like?
I have to have a clean home before I can focus on writing. I also MUST have some type of sound going because silence causes anxiety. Currently, I have FRIENDS playing in the background. I'm pretty good at tuning it out to focus on my work. As for how often, whenever the inspiration strikes. I usually use my notepad on my phone, or a notebook I carry around everywhere I go. You never know when the words will flow. I write for long periods of time when the kids are either sleeping or in school. I don't like to stop/start so often, it gets frustrating.
5. What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working on Down to Sleep, my debut novel that I am super excited about. Readers can find out what it's about, here... http://ktdaxon.com/book-nook/down-to-sleep/
It is a Romantic Thriller/Mystery/Suspense. It's one of those. It's sad that I don't know WHICH one, but it could likely fall into either category.
6. What do you love about this piece of writing?
What I love about this piece of writing is how much it has evolved since I wrote the first draft. It began as a love story, and I've added drama, suspense, and murder to the mix. I've shaken things up a bit, and the antagonist is someone I've come to love, despite his evil ways.
7. Give us a little sneak peek, what insights can you share about the main character?
I have 2 MC's. Gabby is the original MC. She's the passionate, loving, and sensitive side of me. Landon, he's the antagonist but also a MC. He is sensitive, loving, and passionate too, but he's also a tad bitter and seeks revenge. A broken heart once broken too often can do that to a person.
8. What is the hardest thing about writing?
The hardest thing about writing for me is that I am a perfectionist. I have Writing OCD. I tell myself not to edit as I go, but it's a tick with me. It's made writing this story take forever!
9. What is the most rewarding thing about writing?
I find the most rewarding thing about writing is the journey the story takes you on. It's one that is different from what the reader experiences and it molds you into someone new. Change is scary, but if you allow your writing to take you to new places, you'll learn to embrace the change that's best for you.
10. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself as a new writer?
Don't waste money on college, on a degree that won't fully serve you. I knew midway through my degree that I did NOT want to be a teacher anymore. I wish I would have saved $$ and figured out what I really wanted to do. Now, I'm stuck praying my debut will roll in enough money to cover the student loan debt. Ha! Nah, I don't write for money. I want to take my readers on a new journey, and give them a chance for new discoveries.
I love complex characters. Ones that have parts of them that are at war; parts that make them flawed (genuinely flawed, not "I'm too organised" kinds of flaws); parts that shift, change and grow. So finding an organised way to chart that depth of character was a nightmare. The templates I found were either tediously detailed (What is their favorite season? What is their favorite piece of clothing - cue eye roll) or only focused on the external. Knowing what a character looks like IS important, but for me the internal nuts and bolts are much more important - much more vital.
Below is a sample image of what I created. At the end of the post is an empty (docx file) that you can download. Free!!
Got to love free stuff.
In this post I will explain the sections, the order that I fill them in and why I think it is important to include this information.
Overarching - Beginning, Middle and End
Why the four sections?
For me characters should always be changing - getting better or worse. So to make sure I charted this change I tried to break up the story into manageable chunks. Making the character's growth feel authentic - just be careful to make the transitions gradual, starting internally before they affect the external expressions.
I feel that this is the driving part of your backstory - the part has shaped the character up to this point. Most of our characters have pretty crappy backstories and there is usually one or two events that we give them that really drive their actions or personality (e.g. dead parents, being cursed, etc.). Fleshing out how your backstory impacts on your character will give you the space to explore that character's personality in depth at the beginning of the novel.
1. Events - Positive and Negative Traits
The very first series of boxes I fill in are the "Important Events" boxes. Now these may not be events that are important to your plot, and they definitely should not be the same for every character (Don't you dare Ctr+C, Ctr+V this section!). Each character will have events that are very important to them and shape who they are becoming (even if it's not mentioned in the novel).
I decided to link both positive and negative traits to an event because I believe that each event shapes us in that way. It also allows us to create complexities within the character. Things that they don't like about themselves, things that scratch when they brush up against one another. The example below is a very simplistic overview of what a changes a character might experience due to events in their lives.
Again, this is a very simple example, you can have as many or as few traits as you like. I like to mimic the number of traits to the number of events so each event has its own negative and positive trait.
2. Beliefs - Goals and Fears
Once you have the events and traits down, it will help inform your next step - identifying what the character believes, as well as what they want more than anything else at that time, and the thing they fear most.
Again - repeating myself so much - I like to link the number of beliefs/goals/fears to the number of events for each section (e.g. beginning = 3 events = three beliefs = three goals = three fears) this will not always work out, sometimes a fear or goal can encompass more than one event - if so yay! Less work is always good.
Beliefs are very integral to who a person is and what drives them. I heavily link my beliefs for beginning, middle and end to the events, this way the fears and goals relate directly to what is happening.
In the example below, the character is not making very smart choices or interpreting the situation in a great way. Luckily, I will never use this example. But it does serve its purpose well. It highlights how our beliefs change our fears and goals.
Goals and Fears
Fears and goals do not have to be complimentary. Sometimes our fear can drive us to do things that are opposite to our goals. I imagine in the story above that they fear their partner cheating so much that they drive the partner insane, straining the relationship with their insecurity. As well as their goal to prove their worth, it might come across as desperation because they are pushing too hard - worried that no one will love them.
This again adds complexity to your character and their actions/reactions.
3. Values and Moral Ambiguity
Moral ambiguity gives your character some dark edges. Ambiguity makes them a less reliable narrator, it skews their world view. It makes them more human, flawed. Moral ambiguity often goes hand in hand with a value. Much like fears and goals, often our moral ambiguity directly impacts our ability to attain the one thing we want.
This makes their plight more uncertain, as they are acting in competition or opposition to it.
A big thank you to Dawn Jonckowski for inspiring this post.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post and find the template useful.
Until next time: craft complex characters, give them more shade of gray than a certain book we all know.
I’m Nate Mangion and I’ve been world-building for most of my life, though I’ve more recently turned to digital cartography to help me creating worlds. I’ve been working on the world of Elyden for upwards of 10-years now, writing short stories and creating maps in the same world. Some of you might know me on the internet as Vorropohaiah.
World-building isn’t an easy topic as it quite literally touches on every subject imaginable: economics, geography, vexillology, physics, warfare, politics, you name it, we dabble in it. All these things are connected, each subject informing the other in intricate web that honestly should be more than enough to put anyone off world-building for good! But we’re a strange bunch and where to most creators world-building is just a means to an end (world-building to write fiction, or to create a game), to many of us world-building is the end and we just do it for the ‘fun’ of it (fun being subjective, of course)!
My area of expertise, if I can say that, is cartography, and the way geography plays a role in worldbuilding. Many political borders are drawn along natural features, such as rivers or mountain ridges (or more obviously along coastlines) - so geography shapes a country’s territories. Tectonics show us where it’s likely for a volcano to be found, and volcanic regions are known for their soil fertility, which might lead to productive farmlands, which in turn might lead to urban centres where otherwise they would not have appeared (Naples or Pompeii). The positioning of continents and mountains affect where rain will fall, which informs where a large civilisation can and cannot appear. The chance discovery of coal or oil might change the course of a nation’s history (England during the industrial age or Saudi Arabia). And so on. Good worldbuilding is informed by the real-world and my job here is to show you how when drawing a map, the place where you thoughtlessly position that river or that mountain or that gem-mine has repercussions that should not be ignored.
Approaches to cartography
When creating maps for your worlds you need to figure out what approach you’re going to take. Most commonly this is referred to as Top-down or Bottom-up.
The Top-down approach starts with the big picture and works its way down to details: world map → continental map → nation map → county map → city map. This approach is likely to give the most realistic results, but is more time-consuming, and those seeking a quicker payoff may prefer the other method. The Top-down approach is more likely to appeal to pure worldbuilders, rather than those who are worldbuilding for fiction.
The Bottom-up approach generally starts with a particular area or region - a city, nation, or part of a nation - and is expanded upon when needed. This is what you’re looking for if you’re creating a setting for an RPG or novel that’s unlikely to move to other regions, and you can spend more time concentrating on the immediate area, rather than waste time on mountain-chains half a world away!.
There is no right or wrong way, and each has it’s pro’s and con’s though I personally prefer the more thorough Top-down approach, as it allows you to create a believable world in which you can later develop cultures.
For this article I’m going to concentrate on the Top-down approach, but all parts are useful to both approaches.
The Big Picture
I won’t go into planetary characteristics like planet mass, distance from sun, etc. Though important to the Top-down approach, it’s not really in the purview of this article. Suffice it to say that choosing a binary system, or a planet with two moons, or a planet that’s twice the size of earth should realistically have lots of repercussions on worldbuilding (rotation and orbit; tides; and gravity, respectively, in case you’re interested), but I’ll let more knowledgeable people talk about such things!
For the sake of this article, the big picture refers to things like tectonics, mountains ,rivers, deserts, climate and so-on.
Note: Much of what I’m going to mention in the following sections assumes that the world is spherical. Torus worlds and flat worlds are relatively common, though come with their own rules, particularly regarding tectonics. A planet built by gods might not be constrained by the laws of plate tectonics (though if it was created long-enough ago, it still might be).
Climate is probably one of the major contributing factors to creating distinct cultures and nations that’s either taken for granted or overlooked entirely. This is one of the more difficult areas to implement in your cartography and world-building, though it is the one with the largest margin of error, if realism is an important factor in your world-building. If you ignore things like climate bands and atmospheric circulation, you could end up placing a forest in a region without the conditions to realistically support one. As always with such insights, you shouldn’t totally bind yourself to them, though it’s good to know about them so that your decisions are at least informed.
Climate describes long-term patterns in weather in particular regions. Where weather can change from day to day, climate is generally constant, excluding outside interference. Things like latitude, terrain and nearby oceans all affect climate, which is what makes it tricky to implement in world-building.
You can divide both northern and southern hemisphere into three distinct bands between the equator and 30 degrees, 30 degrees and 60 degrees, and 60 degrees and 90 degrees. These can be called tropical, temperate and arctic bands. These bands are also used to calculate atmospheric circulation, as seen below. Flora and fauna from one band will struggle to survive in another and biomes are typically unique to each band.
Note: the sizes of these cells are not constant across planets - the Hadley cell in Venus can reach up to 60 degrees, whilst Jupiter possibly has multiple Hadley cells.
The rain shadows mentioned above are simply areas on the leeward side of a mountain (facing away from the wind). Mountains block the movement of rain-clouds, allowing only warmer dry air to pass. This is why the Tibetan plateau is so arid - the Himalayas stop rain clouds from moving beyond them. Check your world map, thinking about the Hadley and Ferrel cells and prevailing winds in relation to any mountains to see where regions of rain shadow might be located. Those areas shouldn’t have much rainfall, rivers, or vegetation.
Something else to note is the less ocean your world has the drier the world is going to be - you’re going to have less rain, more continental deserts and overall less vegetation away from windward coastlines.
Winds and currents broadly follow the directions of the Hadley and Ferrel cells, so winds tend to blow to the west towards the equator within the Hadley cell, and to the east in the Ferrel cells. Remember the doldrums around the equator, where winds are relatively weak. Also keep in mind that currents moving towards the equator from the poles will be cold, with the reverse true for currents moving towards the poles from the equator (Gulf Stream)
In some areas prevailing winds are known to reverses direction (monsoon in India), which happen when temperature on land is warmer or cooler than that of the sea and happen in areas where the equator is covered in sea, with a continent along the 30 degrees line.
Koppen Climate Classification
I mentioned tropical, temperate and arctic bands earlier on, which are the simplest way to express climate bands. The Koppen Climate classification, published in 1884 categorizes these in far more detail than I can ever get into in this article. Broadly, there are five categories:
Below is a list of the more common climate classifications and what areas of your world they apply to. Exceptions can and do exist however, due to localized conditions.
Note: that the above is only a rough interpretation of real-world analogies and if you were to create a climate map of your world and show it to two different experts, they would likely disagree as to the exact climate zones to implement. There are so many factors - prevalent winds, currents, mountains, rain shadows etc. that it’s impossible to create an accurate climate map that everyone would agree upon. So do your best and make sure that you have an in-world explanation for blatant abuses of the above - particularly forests in rain shadows: I’m looking at you, Fangorn Forest!
All the above should give you a good foundation for a world map. You should have a general idea of your coastlines, where your mountains are located, where rivers should flow and the generic climate. The specifics can always be fine-tuned later on - you can tweak your coastline, specify the height and span of mountain-chains, pinpoint the course of a river, etc. Such things can be kept for when you need to specify them.
Key things to remember:
Atmospheric Circulation - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_circulation
Climate - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate
Endorheic Basin - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endorheic_basin
Genesis of common ores https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ore_genesis#Genesis_of_common_ores
Koppen Climate Classification - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%B6ppen_climate_classification
Plate Tectonics - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plate_tectonics
Rain Shadow - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rain_shadow
River Basin - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drainage_basin
River Delta - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_delta
Trade Winds - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_winds
Trewartha Climate Classification - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trewartha_climate_classification
Atmosphere of Jupiter - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Jupiter
Hadley Cell venus - https://www.seas.harvard.edu/climate/eli/research/equable/hadley.html
Number of atmospheric cells per planet - http://earthscience.stackexchange.com/questions/992/what-factors-determine-the-number-of-hadley-cells-for-a-planet
One artmospheric cell postulation - http://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/21838/what-would-the-climate-be-like-on-an-earth-like-planet-with-only-one-convection
Part Two: The Smaller Picture (6th Nov)
Part Three: Civilizations (13th Nov)
An impassioned exercise in absolute futility.
That's as confident an answer as I can give when it comes to illustrating what it is to write the odd, sub-genre of paranoid fiction.
It's writing, and writing, and writing, then deleting entire pages, entire passages, entire stories, only to immediately replace them with the same exact phrasing. It's spitting fragments and nonsense on a page, with phrasing so out there it's complete gibberish, not understandable in the least, but it's the closest thing to the gut feeling, the truth of the instance that one can get, so, "It'll have to do."
It's writing something that makes others uncomfortable.
It's writing something that haunts, and leaves the reader even more ignorant of the content than before they consumed the story. It's leaving the reader feeling as though they understand, but wondering if they do.
And above all, paranoid fiction is there to hurt and twist a brain that feeds on it, so that it won't be the same, can't be the same afterwards.
Never, ever, never again.
You've read it - paranoid fiction. I know you have.
If not in whole, then at least in part, a part, some part of a story or book that you've loved, or hated.
It was a suspenseful turn, where you read it.
A break of confidence - your confidence - in having it all "figured out".
It was that time when you doubted yourself and trusted the story, because nothing was making sense. The rope, the plot was unraveling and the strands were too far apart to ever come back together, and you knew that, but you didn't know how to process it, how to make sense of it.
And perhaps, probably, that moment passed in the story, in the book you read. It passed so that, in the end, everything worked out wonderfully, either in finality or in cliffhanger. But end it did, and everything made sense, everything was understood, and the moment of doubt can be written off as a clever writing tactic, a wonderful use of narrative - a literary device.
That feeling, that instance you've probably read somewhere, is what paranoid fiction is.
Only much more.
Paranoia is the story, and the main character.
In paranoid fiction, the uncertainty and doubt is written - must be written - as the main character. It is central to the story. It is the plot, it is the catalyst, it is the conflict, it is the resolution, it is the everything.
Questions are never asked, because to ask a question is to suppose that there is an answer waiting to be given. Instead, things, ideas, concepts must be proposed, but only in a way completely definite, so that the reader forms assumptions and manifests their own doubts.
So, in paranoid fiction, you will never read:
"He'd never been on the other side of the door. He'd never opened it, and was given no hint as to what lay beyond the blase woodwork. Putting his ear to the door, he strained to hear what lay beyond, but no sound reached him, leaving his understanding dark, unfulfilled.
Nothing in the above passage could be considered paranoid fiction. Everything is a question. Everything is fluid. The man's doubts are painted thick. There are no assumptions to be made, no doubts to be had, no wondering as to the reliability of the narrator.
This, however, is what one would read in a paranoid narrative:
"The shut door, the door unopened ever stood before him, and he knew...
This is paranoid fiction.
The door is unopened, yet the main character knows who's on the other side of the door. He knows that it's a specific person, and that person has brought another specific confederate whose presence is troublesome for the main character. None of this is questioned, but it causes questions in the mind of the reader. Even if they aren't aware of the question, they are left with the feeling that something isn't lining up.
And just as the reader begins to assume that somehow the main character knows what's going on, what waits on the other side of the door, the narrator contradicts everything, passively, with the line, "...where he knew they waited." It isn't that the narrator agrees. It's more of a "I believe that you believe it" instance.
So is there, or isn't there someone on the other side? Does the main character know, or is he not to be trusted? Is the narrator reliable, or is the main character?
None of these questions were given in the text.
Everything was stated as a fact, and because of this, when they begin to contradict logic and other facts previously given, the level of doubt rises, while the level of confidence plummets.
By the end of the snippet, nothing can be taken for truth, because everything has been stated as truth, but we know not all viewpoints can be accurate if they aren't lining up.
In this way, paranoid fiction establishes an ultimate goal:
It makes the reader wonder, it builds arguments, and inspires opinion in the face of lack of absolute proof. In essence, for the reader to have an opinion means they are acting on faith alone, and in the face of science and reason, faith is absurd. But when all the evidence is contradictory, what else does the reader have to fall back on?
Thus begins the cycle of paranoia, of insanity.
Proving to establish belief, while believing that proof is there in its clear absence.
Like I said before, paranoid fiction isn't comfortable. It gives no answers to the questions one has, but stands firm, unyielding in its proclamations of ridiculousness as fact.
Not unlike the world, yes?
Then again, what do I know?
I grew up with an imagination too big for the little girl trapped inside a rather ordinary, non-magical body. Having read stories by C.S. Lewis, J.K Rowling, and the man himself, J.R.R. Tolkien, I dreamed big. (And by BIG, I mean dragons!) There wasn't anything that I didn't feel I couldn't accomplish after reading those stories. All except one thing, to write my own story.
Now, I know what you're thinking. "But H.A. aren't you supposed to be lifting us up? Telling us how to do it!?" Well, here's the thing. I don't know how to do it. I don't know the perfect formula because I'm still working on finishing my first draft. That's right. I haven't finished my YA Fantasy novel yet. The key word is yet because I still believe that I can do this. Even better, I believe in you. (Yes, I'm talking to you. Don't roll your eyes at me! Just sit down and listen!)
Here are a few things I've learned along the way. From one doubtful writer to another (unless you've got confidence. In which case own the shit out of that confidence, and NEVER let it go!)
On to the list!
I know every writer says this, but I can't stress this enough. You don't have to go full-blown crazy as I do. With the floor covered in index cards, sharpie dotting your arms and a very questionable cup of coffee either from that morning or last night. Just do a little something. Simple notes. Anything at all, just to keep all your dragons in a row.
Learn your audience:
It doesn't matter what you like to write, this is important. Whether we like it or not, trends are a "thing." Now, that's not to say you have to write those trends because screw them! You can write whatever the heck you want! However, knowing what trends are prominent in your genre will help you get a better understanding of what ideas are working and which ones…well aren't. Don't be afraid to push the limits, and don't be scared to do it your way. Just keep up with your genre and know what's going on.
Learn your weaknesses and strengths:
These go hand in hand. You can't possibly improve without knowing where you excel and where you flatline; which brings me to my next topic!
Share your work:
This has been the hardest thing for me. For years, I cowered away in my tiny dark cave hoarding all my work, guarded by my dragon, never allowing a single bit of my work to see the outside world. I wasted so much time, never sharing my ideas or work, all for what? Just for me to be exactly where I am right now, still finishing my draft. Don't get me wrong; sharing is scary. I have a near panic attack every time, but sharing my work got people talking. It got people asking questions. It got them telling me (Some even screaming it) that I was good. Honestly, that has made all the difference. It helps silence the little voices in my head who tell me. "You can't do this." Those little voices who get me to spend two hours reading the same paragraph screaming that it's awful. There will always be those who don't believe in you, but there will always be a sea of people who do, but you can't find them until you start sharing, which brings me to my final thought.
Make friends and network:
This one sounds like it doesn't belong here, but I promise you, it does. For years, I have always struggled to talk about my writing with my friends. Not that they don't support me, but more like they just don't get it. They don't get the hours of painstaking exhaustion looking over the same sentence, or the countless nights of no sleep where I worry about that scene I wrote five hours ago. Joining twitter gave me that opportunity to meet other writers, just like me who have a slight addiction to coffee, GIF use, and the occasional writing meltdown. We all understand the struggle.
We've all been there, and we are all here to support your journey, whether your journey is just beginning or nearing the end. There is always a writer ready to swoop in and make all the difference.
That's all I've got. My dream is to inspire those as I have been inspired and I know that whoever is reading this, is going to be a great inspiration.
Shout out to my very own saving grace, the #writerbaetribe for screaming a lot louder than the rude voices in my head. You three make all the difference, and I am so thankful.
Trust me, I ran into many fictional walls (and maybe some real ones). Each one of my manuscripts have had their own issues and difficulties, but I managed to find ways around them, ways to break down the wall, and ways to make the story that I dreamed I could.
When I decided to write my first manuscript Memoirs of a Reaper, I struggled to make the plot and paranormal aspects of it to feel genuine. I had to bridge the gap between life and death in a way that was believable. It had to be in a way which someone could look into the darkness and wonder how many Lost Souls were watching and waiting to devour a human's energy or pass a maternity ward and imagine how many Givers were providing new souls to those entering our world. I wanted people to also feel comfort knowing that the passage to the afterlife could be as comforting as they believed it to be. So where did I even begin you may be wondering? Well, at the root of all questions, of course, the meaning of life.
Yes, I went there. The meaning of life! Writing about this can sometimes be taboo. What was our purpose here? Who created us? Did I believe there was a God or anything bigger than us? Not only did I have to dig deep within myself, but I also had to do a lot of research on what others imagined. And believe me, the options and ideas were endless. I grew up with the Christian belief that there was a God, a Heaven and a Hell, but was it something I truly still believed? The answer that I discovered was in fact, no. I honestly had no idea what I thought was out there, so how could I possibly write a believable version of the afterlife that people could accept (*deep sigh*).
It meant I needed to create my own. So I did.
Sometimes starting from the foundation of creation is the only place to begin. So I put together the ideas that I liked from my research and created my own personal version of Heaven, Hell, and who ruled them. From there, it started a ripple effect of a type of chain of command. There should be someone working under these rulers I created. Right? Just as a Kingdom has its hierarchy, my afterlife also had positions and rules they needed to follow and eventually, after many many edits and rewrites, I completed what I saw as an appropriate afterlife to where we all end up when we pass and it seemed even some explanation of death itself! (whoa, have I blown your mind yet?)
Another issue that I wrestled with, especially in my second manuscript Escape From the Circus, that focused more on supernatural aspects. was trying to stay away from any of them having magical abilities (I save that for my retellings!). My entire novel could be believable and feel realistic until I throw in a quick expelliarmus which shatters the world I worked so hard to create. I had to find the line between reality and irregularities and ensure I stayed on the correct side. As much as I wanted my main characters to cast a spell on someone and get their way, it couldn’t be an option.
So how does one keep the magical realm at bay? I know it’s hard! Trust me, I fought this battle many times. I had to ask myself after every so often when I wondered if I had crossed the line, “is this something I’d see in Harry Potter?” I mean, I seriously had to consider WWRD (what would Rowling do) and try to do the opposite because I didn’t want my manuscripts to be magical in that sense. I wanted them to be fantastically magical in their own unique way.
The research and organization it takes to write a paranormal or a supernatural YA novel that feels like a real life retelling can be the ultimate struggle, especially when you’re just a muggle. Not that writing other genres is any easier, (they all have their rough patches) but trying to find the right balance takes time, constant rewrites, multiple think tanks, and asking yourself the question of “could this really happen?” before putting it into your final script.
Let me say that again. Friends are fantastic!!!
Get some, collect them, put out an ad, whatever it takes. Find some support (your dogs don’t count, I don’t care how cute they are). So, find your writing tribe and lean on them when the uphill battle feels a little too overwhelming. We are all human. We are all in this together. We all struggle. And we all struggle because unless you’ve been blessed with perfection in writing talent (trust me, you haven’t) then you need help.
The whole point is to just push through and never give up. To always tell yourself that nothing is impossible and that it’s okay to hit a wall (hopefully only a metaphorical one). As writers we have to realize that those walls don’t just build themselves. We have to remember that we are the ones that create those walls and we can destroy them with motivation and force which begins with a single word. You just need to find the right word and the cracks will begin to take hold and eventually crumble the blockage to open the path to your final work of art. Always.
Much love and happy writing,
Find me on social media!
***Join J.M Sullivan and me on our daily #authorconfession to connect with other authors, find support, and get new ways to look at your current WIP, plus who doesn’t need a good confession?
This isn't going to be much of a post today. I don't have the brain space to create one of my normal posts. So instead I will remind everyone: take care of yourself. Make time for some self care, to make sure you are mentally and physically healthy.
Being a writer we forget just how much of ourselves we give when we write. We give our time, our mental energy and often our blood, sweat and tears. Because we love writing. And don't get me wrong, I will continue to do so for as long as there are stories in my heart. But not today - this week I need rest.
I need to catch up on reading. Watch some terrible tv and just take care of myself.
When I was a teacher, I put everything I had into being the best for my students. And it swallowed me up. Ipushed harder for better results, for faster correction, I chased excellence. And I burnt out.
I gave so much, without refilling the tank, that one day I just stopped. I couldn't go on. The passion I once had, it had been drained from me. I could no longer remember why I had given up so much sleep, why I had passed on social events or even what I was trying to prove. So now I pay attention to my body. To the signals that I am doing too much. I listen and I obey.
It's been almost two years and I am still not fully over my burn out. So, please don't listen to people who will make you feel guilty for taking a day off. Don't listen to anyone telling you that you'll never meet a deadline, that your book will never be written, or that you are being lazy. They are not going to be there to console you when your passion fades, they are not going to be there when you are too tired to get out of bed (for the third day in a row) and they won't be there to help you pick the pieces of your life back up when you are starting to feel better. They think they have all the advice, but those people aren't going to be there when the poop hits the fan. So don't listen to them, even if it is a voice in your head telling you these things. The thing I learned from my burn out is:
Your wellbeing is worth more than a paycheck or deadline.
Having to postpone a deadline by a day, a week, or even a year doesn't matter in the long run. What will matter is if you push yourself too hard - to the point of breaking - over a date that isn't more important than your health.
Until next time: Be kind to yourselves.
If you’re like any other writer out there, you want to write something that is four things: original, stands out, well written and engrossing. Trying to do those things in certain genres can be challenging. For example, two big popular genres are Young Adult and Romance can be quite hard to be “original” in. Those two genres are so grossly over populated, and it is hard to break into the market quickly. (Trust me I know.) So, if focusing on one genre can be hard, then why try to walk the line and make it dual genres? Well, the answer to that is simple; it broadens your audience outside the normal Young Adult or the normal Romance.
I love writing Science Fiction and I love reading Fantasy; trying to write and market those two genres by themselves can prove challenging also for the simple fact that you have readers that have been reading that same genre for decades. They will have biases from previous books, they would have tried their own hand at writing and let’s face it, there are millions of them out there. But if you tackle genres like Young Adult and merge it with a little Science Fiction, you are not only attracting the newer, younger readers, you are also snagging those that may rather read the more adult-y version.
Most Young Adult now-a-days have specific tropes that go along with it. The idea that the young teenage boy has a crush on a girl or there will be a love interest at some point in the novel or series. (Pick one Young Adult book out that doesn’t. No, seriously do it, I’d like to know.) Science Fiction has similar tropes; for example, there will be technology that is unexplainable, at least for now. I’ve a few Science Fiction novels and one of my favorites is Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein. (The movie was nowhere near the complexity that his novel was.) It features a ton of technology that we would think impossible but it is explained so well within the book that it made sense. Flying Infantry Suits with nukes that are used to take over hostile planets are awesome, just saying
Now I bet what you’re saying now is “Well, that’s great but how do you do that?” My answer to you is “Write it.” It’s that simple, seriously. You take what you have read in other Young Adult (the angst-y teenager with love interests) and toss in that added mix of Science Fiction. The great thing about Science Fiction is that it doesn’t have to make a whole lot of sense science wise. Just as long as you can explain it well in your book and it makes sense. Now, I am not saying this is the only way to merge genres; there are several supernatural romance novels out there doing well. (My wife could attest to that.) What I am saying is; your imagination is your only limit. (That and your motivation to write.)
Speaking on motivation; I spent around two years writing my Young Adult/Science Fiction novel. (Zackery Henderson and Pandora’s Hope) It encompasses the best of both; the young teenager almost to adulthood, and the unexplainable technology of Science Fiction. I mix things up by adding Greek mythology into the story. It took me years to accumulate enough courage to take my writing into an attempt at publishing. I’ve written and rewritten several stories that were just for me. I am sure everyone who had an aspiration to write, did so for their own enjoyment. Since I took the leap, and written a book that was Young Adult and Science Fiction, I am published. I am no were near a popular author and my book sales are minuscule at best, but I wrote the darn thing. That’s the biggest, hardest most stressful part. It starts with you, and it starts when you began your story. Write.
Here’s the truth: I never considered myself a science fiction writer.
Fiction, yup. YA? Heck yeah! Sci-fi? Well that’s a bit of a stretch.
In fact, the first time the words “sci-fi” came out of my mouth when I was describing my recent novel, it was a bit difficult to get my tongue around the syllables. It’s my first time; can I really call myself a sci-fi writer? I mean, I know technology insofar as I can operate my laptop and a smartphone and two out of five times, I can plug a USB cable in the right way on the first try. The last science class I took was in 2003. It was Astronomy. Helpful—you’d think—aside from the fact that my most enduring memories of that class involve someone we dubbed “Astronomy Boy” (long story) and the fact that my professor seemed utterly convinced that the past tense of “squeeze” was “squoze.”
But I love Star Wars and Firefly and I’ve seen my fair share of Star Trek and Quantum Leap (“Oh boy…”) and I got an A in that astronomy class, and I’m a professional writer, so sure, I could write science fiction.
Well, let’s just say I learned a lot. And I’m still learning (because: #amediting).
So if you’re about to step into writing sci-fi—or any genre, really—for the very first time and want some ideas on what to watch out for, here’s a look at some of the big lessons I learned:
Do your research. And when you think you’ve done enough? Do more.
I thought I knew what I was talking about with certain things. I thought mermaids were synonymous with sirens (they’re not) and any star could supernova (nope). While the mermaid issue was a quick fix that didn’t tremendously impact the story, the supernova issue is going to require some pretty big rewrites that could have been avoided if I’d done just a little more homework.
Which leads me to my next lesson…
Find people who are smarter than you. And ask them questions. All the questions. Even the dumb ones. (Maybe especially the dumb ones.)
Use absolutely every connection you have, especially when writing in a new genre. Check out what other writers are doing, both those on the shelves of Barnes & Noble and those who exist in fandoms and sites like Wattpad. Read blogs and articles about writing sci-fi (like Melissa’s awesome post on world-building, which I will admit, is prompting more than a few rewrites on my own work).
Also? Use your friends! If they’ve got a particular interest in your genre, ask them lots of questions. Chances are they’ll know the answer. I constantly pestered a particular friend who provided in-the-moment responses to my dumber probably-should-have-Googled-before-pestering-him science-y questions. (Me: “What’s the scientist that would study planets and stars and space and help plan space travel? Is that an astrophysicist?” Him: “Astrophysics is the study of the motion of stellar bodies. You’re on the right track.” Me: “Huzzah! Okay, good. I’m just happy I didn’t call the character an astrologer.” Him: “Me too. I’d have disowned you.”) Lucky for me, even after all the [stupid] questions, he’s still my friend.
Get thee a sci-fi fan for a beta reader! They find things. Things you need them to find. Even if you don’t want them to find these things.
You want to have a variety of different beta readers: those who will give you the tough love that you need, those who are 100% your biggest fans and will write comments full of smiley faces and hearts, and those who know a lot about the specific subject matter you’re writing and can find all the errors in your science. And I do mean ALL the errors. (Sigh…)
This same friend who would disown me for calling a scientist an astrologer is also one of my beta readers and has been crucial in evolving one of the major plot points of the story. (Don’t worry: For all his troubles, he’s been rewarded with a dose of posterity via a character named after him.) Because he understands how the science of star explosion works (clearly better than I did) as well as how critical that level of catastrophe is to my plotline, he was able to offer alternatives to keep the danger but not require more willful suspension of disbelief than a scientifically-informed reader could stomach.
But most of all? Just write!
My biggest advice when writing a new genre for the first time is this: Just do it! Don’t talk yourself out of it simply because you’ve never done it before. As I used to tell my dance students: We were all beginners once. It’s about having the courage to take that first step.
For me, this entire experience eventually became less about the particulars of being a sci-fi writer and more about just telling a darn good story. Because if the story isn’t good, it doesn’t matter how sound my science is or how obsessive I am about the particulars of a spaceship or an alien library. At the end of the day, it’s about the solid joy of telling a story in such a way that will have others experiencing and loving it as much as I do.
Look for more on Dawn’s adventures in sci-fi writing at www.twitter.com/dawncjonckowski and search #TheWeightofStarsandSuns