Writing Update: Fantasy Series, Book One!

I AM DONE WITH MY FANTASY MANUSCRIPT!

Or…so I thought when I first penned this blogpost A DAY AGO. Yes, you read that right. On Thursday at 2:30pm I was doing a little mini dance at work because I was finished with my fantasy manuscript, I started writing this blogpost on Thursday evening around 5pm, and then LATER ON Thursday night at 11:30 pm I had an idea for it, got out of bed, and typed it into my computer notes.

Such is the life of a writer.

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BUT I am almost done with it. Before moving forward, I’d like to solidify my character/story arcs for the following books. I have a really good grasp on Book Two, with lots of character ideas, a synopsis, and plotpoints I’d like to hit and I’ve even plotted some chapters out already. The other three books? More like vague ideas. So, I’m going to craft a synopsis for each of those three books by mid-April before I submit Book One to publishers.

I wanted to do this anyway for this particular series—since they’re basically standalones in the same world but do have overlapping characters—but I honestly think I had to finish this first book to really grasp how important it is to know where the story is headed and how the characters will get there. (For my own sanity more than anything else, ha!) And that’s not to say the characters and the story won’t surprise me. There were a couple of places in this first book where the story took a turn I wasn’t expecting and I just had to go with the flow and see if it worked. (Spoiler: It did!) But it would be great to have a synopsis of each book for myself…and then also to show the publishers if they ask where I’m headed with the story. Overall, though, I’m pretty excited.

Have a lovely weekend, my fellow nerds!
Warm regards,
Kellie

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EVEN MORE Writing Tips: Monday Night Madness

It’s Monday evening. I just submitted to two pieces – a science fiction short story and a true-story Alaskan-based poem – and I’m pretty happy with them so I’m looking forward to see if they enjoy the submissions, too. It’s already 11pm, and I should be in bed. I’m not, obviously, but I’m also too tired to work on my own writing…SO INSTEAD here are three more writing tips for my fellow creatives:

  1. Keep it simmering. It’s something Hank Green said on Twitter about his new novel that really stuck with me. He worked on the novel for years, but when he wasn’t “actively working on it” he kept it simmering in his mind anyway. Thinking about it in the shower and such. It’s a good idea for all writers, and one I really connected with. So, keep it simmering, everyone!
  2. Realize that you can’t write all the time and be okay with it. Know your limits. Know your boundaries. (For example, one of my limits is I refuse to work on revisions when I’m tired, so on Wednesday night, even though I planned on working on revisions, I was sleepy. I know I’m bound to make mistakes when I’m sleepy and get more annoyed at the manuscript when I’m sleepy, so I didn’t work on it.
  3. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t been able to write or brainstorm or edit or read in a while. Other priorities take precedence and that’s okay. If you’re really busy, though, try scheduling it in, an hour or so at a time, or less if necessary! Friday evening can be a reading time, Saturday morning can be a brainstorming session for your new story, etc.

What kinds of advice do you have for creative folks?

Happy Monday, everyone!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Nine Writing Goals for 2018

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

So as the new year comes in with a bang, I’m reflecting on how 2017 turned out and what I’d like to do different for 2018. Honestly, 2017 was a rough year for me in many ways, but in my writing world it was pretty good. Here were some writing successes:

  1. Losing Hold was published in April AND nominated for two Golden Crown Literary Awards: a 2018 Goldie Award in the Tee Corinne Award for Outstanding Cover Design category and a 2018 Goldie Award in the Science Fiction / Fantasy category.
  2. Finding Hekate was nominated for an award: a 2017 James Tiptree Jr. Award.
  3. I finished the first draft of the Severed Ties and got some insightful comments back from my beta readers!
  4. I successfully wrote some holiday gifts for my followers: two flash fiction pieces for my newsletter subscribers, a poem for my Instagram peeps, and a short story for everyone else! The short story, A Desert Welcome, is posted on my website under the Prompt Plot 2017 Holiday Gift, so go check it out!

I want my this year to be EVEN BETTER. Here are nine writing goals to strive for:

  1. clean up Severed Ties early this year, come up with a different title, and submit to publishers in March/April
  2. write first draft of the second book of fantasy series, submit to beta readers by end of the year (shoot for October)
  3. plot the third book
  4. have a daily writing goal, depending on what I’m working on
    1. For revising my first novel – 1/2 chapter per night
    2. For plotting out my second novel – figure out at least one plot point/character/interesting per night, WritingSnippet
    3. For writing anything – 250 words per night
  5. submit to at least five literary magazines (short stories/flash fiction/poetry)
    1. related: get published in at least one literary magazine
  6. go to one writing/geeky conference as a vendor to promote my Cicatrix Duology/other writings
  7. go to one writing conference as a writer, to learn more things
  8. work on making my newsletter more exciting/engaging and build my newsletter subscribers
  9. Amp up my social media presence some more; have fun with it!
    1. do some more stuff on my website, too

SO MANY THINGS. And I’m excited for all of them. Now, time to play some games with my family and have another cup of tea. I hope your 2018 is amazing!

Happy First Day of 2018!
Warm regards,
Kellie

 

 

 

A Sprig of Rosemary

So, originally this blogpost was going to be about how I didn’t have any inspiration for my second fantasy novel. How the first one seemed to flow much easier than this one and how the plotpoints I created made sense. How I was so stuck on this second book that I was going to do something else for a while (even though I used that excuse before concerning this WIP). How I was just so freaking disappointed in myself for not figuring things out in my fantasy world, for letting my writing self down, for not being creative enough.

That was what my blogpost was going to be about.

And then something amazing happened. I opened up my documents, turned on some Lord of the Rings music, and just stared at the words for a little while. Stared at the my confused words like: “Plot?” and “What is her motivation??” and “Character arc???” All questions and no answers, the tiny red ellipses beaming like shameful reminders of my lack of my creativity. I just…stared. And wondered. And listened to the Lord of the Rings fantasy music swell and ebb. I thought about my main character and the world I had created and the magic I wanted to explore and the darker side of the realm. I thought about my first fantasy book still at the beta readers and wondered if they’d like it or if I’d have to scrap something I loved. I wondered about the ties from that book and into this one, how corrupted versions of the crafting abilities could become and how I wanted to showcase another version of that in this book. I just took some time, sitting in front of my WIP fantasy brainstorming documents and listening to LOTRs, really contemplating my manuscript and what I wanted this story to be about.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, an idea came into my mind. It’s not a fully fleshed out idea. It’s not the entire plot of my manuscript. It’s not “everything.”

It’s actually kind of a small idea, now that I think about it…a sprig of a larger branch of a larger plant. A sprig of rosemary, perhaps, that I can offer to my creative muse.

But it’s something. Something to build off of. Something to be excited about. And something that ties in my MCs motivations, the corrupted version of magic I wanted to explore, and an interesting plotpoint to weave throughout the story.

It’s something. And my advice to anyone else struggling to write, doubting their creative muse, doubting their writing?

Don’t force it. Whenever I would sit down to write, I’d think, Okay, Doherty, time to do this. Time to be creative. … … Go. Go, already. Creativity?? When nothing came, it would eventually spiral into, Okay…okay…okay…nothing. Bah! 

Don’t feel bad. So, because I wanted my creativity to spark so badly, I was disappointed when I didn’t think of anything. It doesn’t help to think that, but every writer doubts their craft.

Keep going. Allow yourself some time to think. Sit with your budding creation and wonder what could happen, what kinds of things you’d like to write about, whatever’s cool or interesting or intriguing. Think about your world and your characters. Sit with it for a while and see what happens.

(And, put on some music, too! But that step is optional.)

Here’s hoping you have a creative weekend!
Warm regards,
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

Inspiration: Where Do Stories Come From?

Stories. Where do they come from? What is that one spark that makes you traverse the long, windy road that is a completed story, whether it’s a poem, flash fiction, short fiction, or series of novels? That idea has to come from somewhere, right? It’s a question that authors get all the time during interviews and to be completely honest, that one “aha” moment can come from anything, anywhere, anytime.

Sometimes it’s a location that jogs the creativity. Or that couple walking down the street hand-in-hand. Sometimes it’s as simple as a sense-memory from your childhood or a dream or another book. Sometimes you have a really great one-liner that you just can’t stop thinking about. Sometimes—like in the case for Suzanne Collins—it came come from simply flipping through TV channels. Sometimes—like in the case for J.K. Rowling—a fully fleshed character walks into your mind like they’ve been there for years.

So, really, that spark of inspiration can come from anything, anywhere, anytime, and that’s the excitement of being a writer. You never know when an idea will smack you across the face and demand you pay attention. It can be the littlest of things that makes your creativity churn.

Case in point, here’s where the spark for the entire Cicatrix Duology came from. I had a short story due for my undergraduate writing club and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what to write about. Completely stumped. Then, these three simple lines popped into my head:

“We have come to collect you, Mia.” Her left hand twitched. “We have come.”

That’s it. Not the scifi aspect. Not the plotline. Not even Mia herself. Just those three little lines. But those were enough to spiral my creativity into overdrive and start asking questions. Who wanted her? What’s with her left hand? How long had she been running? Why was she running? After that, the scifi aspect clicked into place, then the scar, then the character, then…well…everything else.

So here’s a little tip: Pay Attention. Write those things down. Even if you can’t get to the idea right now, put it in a ToWrite folder and save it for later. You never know when you’ll want to come back to it.

If you’d like to read the Cicatrix Duology, you can get Finding Hekate here and the (newly published!!) Losing Hold here.

Until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Fantasy Inspiration (A Song You May Find Familiar)

Inspiration can come from anywhere, as we all know, and I’m inspired by a lot of things when I’m walking around or just going my daily business. (Like trees and people and flowers and conversations. You know, the usual.)  I scribble things down in a notepad or the Notes section in my iPhone and go about the rest of my day, thanking myself for jotting down the gem to use later on because I KNOW I won’t remember it.

But when it comes to actually sitting down and writing the story? Well, that’s a bit different. I tend to gravitate towards certain things…okay, one certain thing…

And it’s probably because my current WIP is a fantasy and this is a fantasy-based song (obviously) and lets just admit that I love the LOTR soundtrack, but honestly, it’s so much easier to write when I have this on in the background. I dunno why, it just is. So I go with it.

What kinds of songs do you listen to while writing?

I hope you’re having a lovely Sunday night!
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

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