WritingLife: The Little Detail Of Food

Food. It’s something we need to survive. It can be a rustic fair or a fancy creation, but regardless we all need to eat. Food does more than that, though, it can bring a family around a dinner table or open the eyes of an outsider. It can hint at how wealthy an establishment is. It can also showcase what’s in season in that area and what’s valued in that culture. Food can do so much. So why does it sometimes get passed over in our writings? Why do these little details so often get overlooked?

For example, I’m a freelance editor and as such I have the lovely opportunity to work with some amazing writers. One such writer kept mentioning food but wasn’t specific to what the food actually was. I pointed it out, and they replied saying I was “too obsessed” with food. But really, those little details were actually important. The story was set in Japan and food is a huge part of their culture (of any culture, I’d wager) and vastly different than our own. (For example: In Japan it’s common to have cooked rice with a cracked egg overtop for breakfast.) Instead of saying “XX had breakfast” and move on, adding in that small detail would ground the reader in this setting and in this culture. It was an interesting back-and-forth, and eventually the writer understood where I was coming from and added those details in. I believe the setting is stronger because of that.

And I’m here to implore all writers to include this sensory activity in their stories. After all, food is important, regardless of race. (Unless…you have a race that doesn’t eat, but that opens up a whole new set of experiences!) Now, that’s not to say every page has to have some kind of food on it. Don’t overboard the reader with an onslaught of meals, as that would probably get boring. But don’t forget them either.

Like I said before, food can help build the setting and tone of your story. A meal in a post-apocalyptic world would be vastly different than a meal set on a spaceship or a meal in historic Japan. A sit-down meal surrounded by family sets a different tone than a quick meal on the run or a hearty meal in a pub.

Food can help solidify the reader in a character’s POV. Is the soup too spicy? Is the bread too soft or salty or filled with nuts they don’t like? Does the juice from that purply-green fruit drip down their chin? Burst over their tongue? Scorch their throat going down?

Food can also help shape your characters. Do they miss certain foods from back home? Do they like certain spices or sweets? Do they even know what meats or vegetables are in the soup they’re currently enjoying?

These things may seem tiny among the “bigger details” like the plotline and the character arcs and the overall setting, but these little descriptions ground the readers in your world and your character. These little descriptions make the place seem real.

What do you think? Add a comment below!

Hope you have a lovely 4th of July weekend!
Until next time!
Kellie

A Writer’s How-To: Memorable Settings

I find the easiest way to create a memorable setting is to make it unique. If your story is set in the mountains, give the mountains a cool name with some weird creatures living in it. If the story is set in space, make the spaceship feel like home and add some quirks to it. (After all, we all have that ONE FREAKING FLOORBOARD that creeks like some horror story bad guy is coming to kill you in the middle of the night.) If your story is a romance, make the setting cozy by adding in something that means the world to the main character or something that brings up some unfinished memories.

If you give the setting something specific, something unique to itself, some defining character, readers will remember it better. (It’s the same with making memorable characters!)

Three of my favorite settings are, in no particular order: Hogwarts, because of the ghosts and the moving staircase and trick doors; Serenity, because even though it fell apart ALL THE TIME it became a home and sanctuary to the crew; the Arenas in the first and second Hunger Games books, because it seriously messed with the tributes in unique and challenging ways.

Why do I like them most? They all offered something unexpected and added dimensions to the story, as well as pushed the story along. Doing so with your settings will help your readers remember them!

Readers: what are your favorite settings and why?
Writers: what are some ways you make your settings believable?

Happy Friday, and until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

If you want to write a book, here are five actual tips. (Don’t quit!)

Okay, my fellow writers, we all know that Beast article sucked. Maybe it was trying to be a tough-love kind of motivation. (Yes, it takes dedication.) Maybe it was trying to relate a truth about writing. (Yes, it can be hard.) Maybe the author was just having a terrible time as a writer and wanted to ostracize the community he desperately wanted to become a part of. (Side-eyes the article again.)

Regardless, the article was poorly written, the author comes across as a villain, AND the “tip” he gives (write everyday) while good for some people, simply can’t work for others. The author’s idea of “if you want to write a book, write everyday or quit” is a terrible mindset to have. To that end, here are five tips if you want to write a book:

1.) Read. Read so many books, inside your genre and out, whenever you can spare the time. Why? It’s important to see what’s been done in the literary world, it’s a way to build your repertoire of words (sounds weird, but seriously, reading helps you build your vocabulary), and it’s also a great space to gain inspiration.

2.) Read your work out loud. Yes, this also seems weird and maybe don’t do this in a coffee shop or other public place, but reading the scenes out loud will allow you to figure out the sticky spots, the weird transitions, the too-long sentences. It can help with pacing, too.

3.) Consider having a Post-it note on your computer (or somewhere you can dig it up easily) with an inspiring quote from your favorite author or from your favorite book. It’s something you can look at when times are rough, or when that one scene just isn’t working, or when you can’t think of how to make this one MC amazing. For me, I have this quote from Patrick Rothfuss when he guest starred on Critical Role as Ker saved on my desktop: “There are many things that move through fire and find themselves much better for it afterward.” 

4.) Try not to edit your first draft while you’re writing. It’s hard, I know. I also want to go back and fix things, but if you do that, you’ll literally never be done with the first draft. Give yourself permission to have that first draft be shit. Write whatever the hell you want. There’s always the second and third drafts to pull it into the shape you want it to be in.

5.) And finally, my last tip is a tip of the hat toward the Beast article. If you want to write a book, write. Simply write. You can write everyday. You can write once every week. You can write for a marathon weekend or a marathon month. But if you want to write a book, all you have to do is write. Write when it’s best for you.

BONUS TIP: And please, for the love of all the writing gods and goddesses and muses in this world and beyond, please don’t give up. Your story is worth telling.

I hope you have a lovely weekend.
Warm regards,
Kellie

Two Best Books With Two Best Wines

Happy National Wine Day!

That’s right. It’s National Wine Day, and how should we all celebrate this lovely holiday? By reading books, of course! Here’s two of my favorite wine/book pairings you should consider:

51MUF7bj-lL._SY346_For The Red Wine Lover
PAIR
Cabernet Sauvignon: full-bodied, gripping, blackcurrant notes, good with red meats
WITH
The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss: high fantasy, bold characters, twisting plot
WHY
With the bold taste of the wine and some nice red meat, you’ll really feel like you’re adventuring in a fantasy world with Kvothe and the others. While Kvothe’s stealing some poor chap’s coin, you’ll be stealing a lovely evening.

 

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For The White Wine Lover

PAIR
Riesling: light, fresh, apple notes, good with chicken and fish
WITH
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers: fun scifi, character-driven plot, great worldbuilding
WHY
With the refreshing taste of the wine and perhaps some fish, you’ll be simply swept away by the wacky characters and fun storyline of the Wayfarer crew. While they’re off having adventures in the black, you’ll be adventuring right there with them.
Eh? EH? It’s a brilliant idea. So after work, stop by the wine shop and grab a bottle, stop by the bookshop and grab a book, and then head home to relax! I hope you enjoy the night off with a good book and a good glass of wine.

Until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

How The Heck Do You Name Your MC?

So, you have a great story. A plot that’ll throw readers out of their seats. A main set of characters that are relatable and funny and unique. A twisted villain that straddles the line between true darkness and having a reason why they’re doing their evil deeds. You might even have a title for this masterpiece. But then you stop and realize: you don’t have a name for your main characters. What are you supposed to call them? What name would hold the mantle of the story? What should the minor characters shout as they claim victory?

Some authors have no issues finding the right name for their characters. Some authors spend days or months trying to find the right one. I belong in the “days or months” category. It takes me ages to figure out a name that I like, but because of that I’ve developed a set of tools that helps me. Maybe you could use those tools, too? Here are three ways I discover my character names like the ones in my Cicatrix Duology:

Try To Determine What They Represent In The Story
This is an old technique but I use it all the freaking time. Is your character brave? Strong? Shifty? Honorable? Scary, maybe? I used this for both my Across the Stars business owner Cassidy Gates and the big baddies Acedians (not a single character but are important enough they are a single big-bad entity). I knew Cassidy would be smart and independent and more clever than Mia, she’d be able to see through Mia’s ruse in a way no one else could, so I researched those traits and found her name. For the Acedians, I wanted to reflect their last stage, where the human part of them is taken away and they’re basically a shell for Donavin’s use. Adecia means “apathetic” and worked perfectly.

Pick Them Because Of An Inside Joke
Now don’t walk away from this or scoff. It’s a weird way of thinking, but my spaceship captain Mia Foley falls into this category. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to name her, and originally it had been Maria but then I kept on thinking of the song from Sound of Music and kept humming “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria” in my head whenever her name came up. (Spoiler: In the two books, her name comes up a lot.) It wasn’t working out. So I thought about her story, about her past, her capture, her running, her always trying to stay one step ahead. And then it hit me, she literally tried to be M.I.A. (missing in action) after blowing up every ship. I realize it’s not the standard military way of using it (where it explains a missing person after a battle) but she tried to disappear. It made me chuckle and when I wrote her name in the story, it just worked.

Try One Of Those Name Generators
I really enjoy combing through the random name generators to find unique names for my characters – like Nin, who you’ll meet in Losing Hold. I never use the actual names that pop up but I like combining certain vowel sounds I see and figure out if it works, especially for last names or fantasy names.

Those are my tricks of the trade. What are some of yours? Leave a comment!

Hope you’re having a lovely Easter (if you celebrate) and a lovely Sunday (if you don’t)!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Ten Writing Tips

Writing can sometimes be hard. Here are some of my favorite writing tips to make it easier:

1)  Give yourself treats for writing something. (I know, I know, it’s like kindergarten all over again. Do something good? Get a little gold star on the corner of your paper!) But sometimes motivation is hard to come by and little treats (like a new pen, a new notebook, a new character sheet, or let’s face it, that new show you’ve been dying to watch) can make it easier to actually sit your butt down and write.

2) You don’t have to write linearly. Some writers swear by writing linearly; they write out a huge outline and just plow on through it. And that does work for some authors, but certainly not for all of them. Feel free to skip around. If you’re stuck on a particular scene or chapter, leave that and go to a different section. You might find that writing out an entirely different scene helps you finish the sticky one.

3) J.K. Rowling once said, “Sometimes you have to get your writing done in spare moments here and there.” We tend to think writers spend all day writing their lovely prose and intense characters, but honestly, we all have other things to do like juggling full-time work, friends, and chores. Find spare moments to write, even if it’s just ten or fifteen minute pockets throughout the day to write down a character trait, an idea for a specific scene, or that specific scene itself.

4) Always carry a spare notebook. No, seriously, always have another one somewhere because when you lose your trusted red notebook that says Keep Calm and Carry On you’ll be super upset. (I know this from experience.)

5) Don’t shy away from painful scenes. Emotional, psychological, physical. Any of kind pain. They can be a bear to write, but they can be vastly important to growing a character. I had some scenes in Finding Hekate that were really hard to write, especially the flashbacks, but I knew it would deepen her story.

6) Have a dedicated writing time or place. When you’re there, block everything else out and write. This is your craft and like any other artist, you need time to do your work.

7) Look around you for inspiration. Seriously, see that random person drinking coffee? They could be your next character. Remember that one guy who always sits in the corner of the library? Use that mindset to create a mysterious background. Those flowers you saw on the way to work? Craft a new flora in your world. Inspiration is everywhere. Dialogue, setting, plots, and characters are all around you, so if you’re stuck in some anti-writing mud, look around and listen.

8) Set a goal for yourself. Even if it’s just 200 words per day, set it and keep it. Even if they’re a crappy 200 words. Even if you won’t use them, write them anyway. Once you start writing regularly, like any habit, you’ll want to continue writing.

9) Neil Gaiman once said, “The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” It’s true! Write your story the best way you can, in whatever form you can, on whatever subject matter you can. It’s your story, no one can tell it better than you.

10) Stop using little words such as very, really, just, and that. They’re useless modifiers that bulk out your word count when you don’t need them to. Here’s an example of how you can remove “very” from a sentence. Instead of writing “She ran very quickly to Sarah’s side.” write “She rushed to Sarah’s side.” Doing so will tighten your work.

What are some of your favorite writing tips? I’d love to know in the comments!

I hope you’re having a lovely Friday! Stay safe out there.
Warm regards,
Kellie

A Reflection

I just finished applying to a job and that got me thinking. It’s amazing how much things can change in a year. Last year I had just completed the button-making party for Write to Publish 2016. I was nervous because I’d been working on this day since March 2015 and Chels and I wanted it to go well. (Spoiler Alert: It went well.) I had written a blogpost with the same title as this one and in it, I mused how things were different than the year prior and about how things would be different next year, too. I mused that I’d be graduated, that I’d find a job, and that I might even move to a new location. (While knocking on allll the wood, of course.)

Well, it is “next year” and yes, things are different. I did graduate last year. It was an amazing weekend and I’m so happy I got to share it with my family and friends. Turns out the wood knocking didn’t quite help as quickly as I would’ve liked because I haven’t gotten a job, yet. This fact is honestly the most disappointing thing thus far but I have to keep my hopes up that’ll it happen for me. I also haven’t moved, yet, which makes sense because I would’ve moved for a job. Even if I do get a job in Portland, I was thinking about moving from this location to elsewhere. I love this apartment and it’s been a good home for the past two and a half years, but it’s quite expensive and I don’t need to be near the university any longer.

Next year? Well things will change again, of course. I’ll have a job, I’d moved, and I’ll be facing another challenge that life will unexpectedly throw at me. It’ll be different, but I know I’ll be able to handle it.

For now, though, I have to be focused on finding a full-time job, something that’s been my obsession since I graduated. It’s getting harder with each month, honestly, harder to push on and apply to yet another position even though I’ve applied (and lost) so many before. But I’ll do it, of course, I have to. I’ll write all the cover letters, re-do all the resumes, and participate in all the interviews until I land a position.

Wish me luck!

I hope you’re having a lovely Tuesday!
Warm regards,
Kellie

LifeGoals in 2017

Well, here we are. There are only two more days in 2016, and as this year comes to a close, I’m left to wonder what my goals are for the new one. To that end, I’ve complied a list of goals I’d like to complete in 2017:

Secure a Job
This one’s a no-brainer for me. It’s been my goal since I graduated PSU, but since 2016 was a little harsh, this one has to be the first one on the list. Here’s hoping 2017 will bring more opportunities!

Create and Stick To a Fitness Plan
Note how I didn’t say, “go on a diet.” Diets are tricky and they have a bad connotation in my mind because they remove food that I enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, my fitness plan will still cut back on the unhealthy foods—cookies, I’m looking at you most of all—but it won’t remove them entirely. (I hope to create healthier versions of the unhealthy food.) My plan will also include finding workouts I enjoy—like zumba, step, or swimming—and doing them more often in order to lose weight and become stronger.

Write More/Launch Losing Hold
I’m currently working on the first book of my fantasy series! It’s the first draft so it’s just me getting the story on the page at the moment, but I plan to have the draft done by end of March/beginning of April. Why? Losing Hold is slated to launch in April and that was the perfect deadline for me. Launching Losing Hold is also a goal for this spring, so I’ll be working on a marketing plan and then initiating it, too. I also plan on writing more in this blog, as I seemed to have fallen off the wagon a bit.

Do More Activities
I sway to being a homebody more than anything else. This isn’t exactly a new discovery; I’ve always liked hanging out at home. After all, I have tea, a computer with internet access, food I can cook into something yummy, and my two cats…it’s a cozy and comfortable space. Plus, since I don’t have a job, going out and paying for things I don’t really need—like a drink or a book or a meal or a movie ticket, etc.—seems unwise. I do take walks and go to free things, but I hope to do more activities in the coming year. Meetups come to mind! And wherever I get a job I hope to engage in after-work activities and really try to put myself out there more often. It’s something I always want to do, but don’t do nearly enough.

Make New Friends
This one goes hand-in-hand with the “Do More Activities” idea. Since graduating from PSU, my friend circle has diminished quite a bit. A lot of my friends moved away to bigger and better things (namely: jobs) and I’m quite happy for them, of course! But it means I don’t hang out with friends nearly as often as I probably should. Because of that, I plan on making some new friends this year!

Annnnnd that’s all the goals I’ve formulated thus far! I might add more as time goes on, of course, but I like how the list is shaping up. They all seem like accomplishable goals for me, and I’m excited to learn what opportunities 2017 has in store.

What are some of your life goals for the new year? I’d love it know in the comments.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday this weekend!
Warm regards,
Kellie

#IndieAuthorDay

Today is #IndieAuthorDay. It’s a day where publishing professionals (writers, agents, librarians, etc.) gather together and celebrate independent authors. It’s a day where folks talk about the hardships and successes of being an independent author. It’s a day that shines a light on them and their community, while also celebrating local libraries in North America.

And it’s a day that I didn’t hear about until today.

Granted it’s brand new (today was the inaugural launch) and I’ve admittedly been entrenched in following the political pulse of the nation this past week instead of the writing pulse (which is a fault of my own).

But I’m a bit sad that I didn’t hear about it until today.

I would’ve wanted to join in on this celebration and conversation. And I did, a little bit. While I missed the local event here at the Portland library, I was able to catch the presentations on YouTube and retweet some key messages from others. And there’s always next year! (On that note: Mark Oct. 8th on your writing calendar, guys, because its something we should all celebrate!)

It seems like a great idea, though, and with all the other stuff happening in the world right now (and not just political stuff, but also Hurricane Matthew and various amazing cons that I’m currently not at), I’m happy to have heard about it at all. It appears like the inaugural event was a success, too, which is awesome, and I’m quite glad it was trending on Twitter so I can take part in it, in my own small way. (Social media connectivity, FTW!)

Good luck, indie authors, and keep on writing!
Warm regards,
Kellie

#WIPJoy

 

One of the great things about social media is the chance to communicate and connect with people across the globe. Another great thing about social media are the hashtags, because it allows you to pair down all the posts and really see what people are talking about concerning a specific subject. It allows you to join in a conversation more easily.

A hashtag I’m particularly enjoying this month is #WIPjoy. Started by fellow scifi/fantasy author Bethany A Jennings, #WIPjoy is a month-long celebration of your current work in progress (WIP). The writers follow a specific set of guidelines for their daily posts (including #WIPjoy and usually the specific day, example: #WIPjoy D22) specifically about their writing and then can look at what other authors are doing for theirs. Here are the guidelines this year:

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It’s a great hashtag to join in and look through because it connects you to other writers online, it allows you to really dig into your current work in progress, and you can see all the cool things other writers are doing. Plus, it’s fun! It’s a celebration of writing, how can it not be fun, right?

It’s especially good for me since I needed a boost this month to think about my current work, a five-book fantasy series I’m tentatively called The Broken Chronicles. My folks are visiting and we’ve been doing a ton of adventuring in this state of mine, so I haven’t been able to work on my novel very much. This #WIPjoy allows me to keep my mind on it, if only for a short time of the day.

It’s been a lot of fun. If you’re participating, shoot me your Twitter handle and I’ll send you some love! If you’re not participating (or don’t use Twitter), what work in progress would you talk about if you were?

I hope you have a lovely day!
Warm regards,
Kellie