Five More Writing Tips

Hello my fellow writing nerds!

Sooo, I recently realized that I haven’t posted on here in over a month. It’s been a trying month for me, but that’s no excuse! Maybe I should try to write a bunch of posts and then schedule them? Annnnnnyway, what better way to start this little blog back up again than some more Writing Tips I enjoy:

1.) This writing tip comes from Jack London and I may or may not have used it here before but it’s one of my favorites: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” (Spoiler: It’s true for life, too.)

2.) Set your work aside for a little bit before diving back into it again for another read through. Coming back to the work with a fresh eyes helps to catch the little things you may have missed if you went straight into editing mode. It might also help you get some new ideas for the work, too!

3.) Your characters don’t have to be likable (like villains), but they do have to be believable and compelling. Add in some faults to the character. Some good things, too, maybe. Definitely some motivation for why they’re doing this terrible thing.

4). The first draft, or second draft, or third draft doesn’t have to be perfect. Keep writing, put that story on paper, and then flesh it out and mold it into something beautiful later on.

5.) Sometimes characters have to walk through fire and come out better for it on the other side. (I’m paraphrasing a favorite quote of mine from Critical Role here, said by none other than Patrick Rothfuss.) But seriously, it’s true. Make your characters go through hard things and see what happens to them while they do and see how they fair on the other side. Did they crack under pressure? Did they embrace the flames? Did they get stronger or weaker once it was over? Did they learn anything? The truth is, we never really learn things unless we make mistakes and overcome them. Get better because of them. The characters have to go through a similar transformation. (Granted, the characters could crack, too, could feel weaker, could feel sad instead of empowered and that’s good, too, because some folks do crack under pressure or don’t learn the thing after one or two mistakes.) Put them through the fire and see what comes out the other side.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope everyone is having a lovely Labor Day weekend!
Warm regards,
Kellie

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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

#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

A Random Monday Post Appears

In which I let you know that I updated a bunch of things on this blog!

I’m going to put it as a list, because that makes me feel better:

  • Updated the About section a bit to include a link to my website and such
  • Updated my Editing Services section
  • Added a BRAND NEW Books section
  • Added some more poetry to my Poetry section in honor of National Poetry Month
  • Added more links to the Non-Fiction section
  • I also changed the menu header around a little bit

Go check them out and let me know what you think!

Now, I must work on my graduate thesis. Wish me luck.
Warm regards,
Kellie

The Wax Bullet War

One of the assignments I was given in Ooligan Press lab was to read one of our backlist books and post the review on two review sites, like Amazon and Goodreads. I did just that, but I also wanted to share it here, too, since the book is a powerful one indeed. The book I read is called The Wax Bullet War, written by Sean Davis and published in April of 2014.

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The Wax Bullet War

Wax Bullet War is a compelling narrative, one that speaks to the horrors a soldier faces in war and to the struggles he faces at home. It is a powerful read, an emotional rollercoaster through death of comrades in arms and friends, to lost lovers, to ethics of war and the world, and beyond. Sean’s voice is perfect, crisp, clear, and straight to the point, filled with a dark humor that keeps the momentum of the story moving forward. His tale of PTSD when he returns home is a chilling reminder of how powerful war is and how it affects our soldiers on the ground and at home. If you’ve never been to war (or had friends or family who’ve been to war), read this book. It’s true description of what goes over there and how the men and women deal with it is an insightful read. I would highly recommend this book to my friends and family.

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So why, since I posted this review to Amazon and Goodreads, am I sharing it on here, too?

Because it’s important. Because this book is one of the select non-fiction books I’ve read that struck me as something deeper. And because I’m recommending it to all of you. It’s a one-of-a-kind read, and I’m proud that I work for the press that published it.

Have a great Halloween, folks! Keep it spooky (and safe) out there!
Warm regards,
Kellie

WritingHack: Submitting Your Work

So, these past few months I’ve been cataloging the submissions for Cirque, a literary journal based out of Anchorage, Alaska. I was an intern with them for a year before graduate school so I’ve done this before. (I’ve leveled up to Editorial Assistant, though, so that’s pretty cool, yeah?)

It’s a fun job! Basically I check the submission email and catalogue any submissions we get based on genre (Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Art). I update this giant table with all the necessary information, save the work in a different folder, and follow up with the writers and artists if necessary.

Now, most of the submissions I receive are normal. I’d say over 95% are good. The writers do everything correct, attach all the right things, and generally make me feel wonderful about the community I’ve immersed myself in.

The other 5% though? Well, they are the…interesting bunch. And because they are…interesting…and make silly little (or possibly intentional?) errors, the editors might not take them seriously.

In hopes of derailing any future mistakes by my writer friends who may wish to submit to journals (Cirque or otherwise), here are some things you should watch out for:

Follow the Guidelines
Be sure to read the submission guidelines. Every journal has them up on their website so read them, understand them, and follow them. If you have a question, let the editors know! If the submission says they only accept a Word document or a cut/paste work into the body of the email, do that. It does not mean they will accept PDFs. It does not mean they will accept already designed poems with boarders and flowers. It does not mean they will accept pictures, unless specifically in the Art category. And it certainly does not mean they will accept a picture taken of your desktop of an open Word document displaying the poem you wish to submit. (I laughed at this…and then cried a little.)

Title Your Work
This one is self-explanatory. Okay, all of these are, but this one especially so. Title your work. Title it something that’s connected to the work in some way. Or title it anything, really. Just name the freaking work. Don’t tell the editors that “This has no title,” and they can pick whichever string of words from the piece they want to for the title. Doing so will not end happily. (Granted I’m a nice person and picked a good string of words, but it could’ve easily gone downhill.)

Listen to the Reply
When the editor (or in my case, the editorial assistant) gets back to you and asks you for a 100-word bio, they mean a 100-word bio. And saying “sorry for going over the 100” is bull because you clearly went over the word limit intentionally and is cause enough for them (me) to reply, “No worries, we can always cut it down for length.” While we can, and will, do this, doing so only gives the editors more work. Listen to the reply. Listen to what they say. If they say 100 words, give them 100 words (or less)!

Write Professional Emails
I’ve saved this one for last because it ticked me off the most. When writing your email, be sure to use a professional tone. If you start off the email with “Babe” and end it with “What more do you want?” it’s going to taint your submission (if not get it completely rejected for unprofessionalism). These editors have your work literally in their hands—they can just as easily delete the submission if they want to. If you don’t take the submission process seriously, the editors won’t take you seriously either.

So, fellow writers, be part of the 95%. Please. If you’re part of the 5% it’ll dampen your chances of getting in and will just give the editors something to buzz about around the water cooler. And not in a good way.

[FYI: If you’d like to submit to Cirque, submissions closes on September 21st! See here for details.]

Warm regards,
Kellie

Throwback…Friday?

Sometimes I like reading my own blog. It’s like a journal, and I like seeing how far I’ve come. Plus, it helps me figure out what I want to write about. This is a post I did on February 22, 2014.

I like it, so I’m sharing it again.


When I was younger and imagined my life as an writer extraordinaire, I figured I’d have creative breakthroughs every single day. Every. Single. Day. That every one of my thoughts would be my next best seller. That I’d be typing happily away on my computer – in my office, in a coffee shop, in the library – many GREAT THOUGHTS would hit me, I’d pick one, write the others down, and be set for that day.

I figured since inspiration is everywhere, the GREAT THOUGHTS would just come to me… easily. Simply. Without stress. Without pain. Without the hours and hours of time dedicated to it or agonizing over it.

I, of course, was wrong.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I have many great thoughts… that one time I figured out how to fix a footer in a pesky Word document that no one could quite figure out all by myself, that brilliant idea for a Full Moon Event involving glow sticks and a Frisbee, that time I paired cottage cheese and eggs and discovered the most amazing breakfast food of all time. Those are great thoughts…but just not the right ones.

Truth be told, GREAT (writing) THOUGHTS don’t come around very often.

Sure we have a pack of GOOD IDEAS sneaking around our ankles, and two or three INTERESTING CHARACTERS tugging at our hair… but GREAT THOUGHTS?

GREAT THOUGHTS tend to travel by themselves. They are rarely seen and, once had, hidden away, locked in a cage in our mind until we nurture them enough to let them see the light. (And by nurture, I mean feed them our souls in little chunks, let them drink our time away, and claw at our imagination for fun.)

GREAT THOUGHTS rattle their cages until they make us uncomfortable enough to share with others – tugging at our creative ropes, wanting to join the fray with the undeniable ARCHES, the handy PLOT TWISTS, and tumble with ALL THE FEELS. Enough to make us share them with OTHER UNKNOWN WRITERS who are just as desperate to find that one GREAT THOUGHT as we once were.

But sometimes it takes… well… time for GREAT THOUGHTS to come around. For a few writers, GREAT THOUGHTS appear regularly – and if you’re one of those writers, I’d love to know your secret – but for most of us, the breakthroughs just won’t come that often. It may not happen for years.

But the secret to writing, I’ve found, is that we can’t wait around until that GREAT THOUGHT shows up. Follow those GOOD IDEAS down the creative path for a bit. Spend some time with the INTERESTING CHARACTERS and ALL THE FEELS to discover what works. Be mindful of the ARCHES in other books and craft some PLOT TWISTS that would make even the smartest of reader fall off their seats in shock.

Just keep writing.

That one GREAT THOUGHT will come sniffing around soon enough.


Somedays I wonder where all my GREAT (writing) THOUGHTS are, but I’ve still been writing, too, so in the end, that’s what counts.

Have a wonderful weekend! Try to stay cool out there.
Warm regards,
Kellie

Thoughts on Dieting

I recently read a book about dieting for my Copyediting class. I usually don’t read diet books, but it was for an assignment called “read something outside my usual genre.” Normally I read fantasy, science fiction, post-apocalyptic, romance, and YA novels. I like the escape factor of these books. They allow me to get away from the stresses of the world for a while and tap into my imagination. So I decided to as far away from that idea as possible and pick a book that would ground me in the real world and make me think about something many people struggle with: weight loss. Though, to be fair, the book I eventually did choose—I’ll Have What She’s Having: My Adventures In Celebrity Dieting by Rebecca Harrington—seemed to be more of a humorous book rather than a serious one.

Rebecca Harrington (Vintage Original, 2015)
Rebecca Harrington (Vintage Original, 2015)

It was an interesting book—huge spaces between the paragraphs and unnatural apostrophes in the header aside (thank you, publishing classes, for making me never be able to read a book again without random noticing the flaws)—one that detailed how Rebecca tried different celebrity diets. And celebrities… they eat weird things when dieting. (Think a piece of steak on top of peanut butter on top of bread. Or cooked and mashed carrots with seeds that you supposedly roll into balls to eat. Or nothing but spicy water for three days.) But it was an interesting read.

So when my mom and sister tried this new 21 Day Transformation Challenge that’s supposed to make you see how much sugar you’re eating and then wean you off it, I decided to give it a whirl. (Mind you, I figured I’d try it while I was eating a cookie. Not the best time to make decisions.)

The first week was horrible. Yes. Horrible. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so bad for other people and I fully realize now how much I depend on sugar to make me the energetic creature I am today, but I went a whole week without sugar. Not even natural sugar. So no cow’s milk, no honey, no bread (did I mention we couldn’t have grains, either?), absolutely no cookies, and, to my horror, no fruit. That’s right, folks, no fruit. No Fruit.

No.

Fruit.

This was the Atkins diet all over again. (Of which I failed after Day One.)

To be fair, dinner wasn’t that difficult. I normally have some combination of meat and veggies (or just vegetables) for dinner. I couldn’t have a side of rice or cuscus, but I could live with that for a week. Lunch wasn’t that bad, either, since I could have tuna or frozen vegetables. I could deal with that, too.

But breakfast? Breakfast was horrible. I usually have fruit in the morning. I ALWAYS have fruit in the morning. It’s just an easy way to eat breakfast—smoothies, frozen, thawed, fresh—I eat fruit for breakfast all the time. I also always have a piece of fruit sometime throughout the day. (Thank you, Mom, for instilling that in me and then subsequently taking it away when suggesting this “challenge”. I kid!) So to not have fruit was horrible. Plus, I couldn’t have my usual tea in the morning either—black tea with milk and honey—so breakfast was a sad, stressful occasion. (Stressful mainly because it’s almost finals season here in grad school land.)

I got grumpy. No joke, actually grumpy. I’d like to think I hid it well from people, but when anyone asked that would be my first response, “Grumpy.” (So maybe I didn’t hide it well enough.)

Still.

I did it.

I’m not entirely sure it worked, because the whole week I wanted a cookie, and now, even with fruit, I still want a cookie. But I’m significantly happier with fruit in my diet. I even have more energy. (Like I could complete my 30+ minute high-intensity Zumba routine easily when, without fruit, it made me tired halfway through.)

So, what did I learn? Well, I don’t exactly need to eat cookies. I also found out that sugar is in everything, seriously everything, even things I didn’t expect. (I’m looking at you, “natural black beans in water”.)

Overall, I think the rest of the challenge will be a bit easier now that fruit is back in my life.

If you want to try to not eat sugar or grains for a while and look at food labels with a horrified expression when you find out just how much sugar there is in everything we eat, check out the 21 Day Transformation Challenge. (Seriously, though, the WOW workouts are amazing, and I have to admit, the advice they give is pretty good.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to eat a strawberry.

Strawberry and Chia Seed Pudding
Strawberry and Chia Seed Pudding

Warm regards,
Kellie

The Emotion Thesaurus and Why Everyone Should Use It

Hello everyone,

has the excuse for not updating regularly—I’m in grad school—become old news yet? Possibly. And yet.

Yet.

That is still the case.

Regardless, today I want to talk about The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi and why everyone should use it in their creative writing.

I’m copyediting a manuscript—of which shall remain unnamed—for one of my classes and it has brought to my attention how much I loathe repeated actions. At best the common actions are repeated—like “looked”, “smiled”, “pointed”—at worst the not-so-common actions—like “they picked a tea leaf off their lip”—and I found myself hating it. Not just hating it but actively getting mad. Not at the characters, or the plotline, or the setting—of which the story could use more of, if honest—but at the sheer repetition of actions and how most of them showed nothing of how the character was feeling about the situation at hand.

I wanted more. I wanted other actions. And I wanted emotions behind those actions.

While there are many ways to show emotions, I’ve found myself turning to again and again to The Emotion Thesaurus.

I found this book a few years ago after a friend recommended it. We were sitting in Jitters, a café back in my hometown, and chatting about our stories. It was a common occurrence. Our writers group met once a week and, trust me, it was a welcomed gathering and one I found myself looking forward to every Monday.

We segued into writing books—as we segued into discussions about life, kids, work—and this book came up. I bought it immediately after that discussion. (On Amazon, I hate to admit, please don’t judge me. Back then I didn’t know!)

The Emotion Thesaurus is a wonderful book. It is extraordinarily helpful. Each emotion has a spread dedicated to it, giving a basic description of the emotion and physical signals that one commonly feels when having that emotion. The spread also goes into detail about the internal sensations, mental responses, and cues of acute, long-term, or suppressed emotions. These are all things you can use to describe how the character feels, outwardly or inwardly, and they are true to life. Trust me to that, they are definitely true to life.

For example: Say you want to show how sad your character is via their actions. (As you should, show their emotions through their actions, they are just like us and we do that all the time.) You would turn to page 134, with the heading “Sadness” and essentially pick from the actions shown there. (There are so many to choose from!)

Here’ s an example of how this book can help, using the Sadness cues they give:
Shelly’s chest ached, and her vision blurred. “I can’t believe…” She couldn’t finish the sentence, couldn’t form the words. Burying her face in her hands, she slumped in her chair. She just wanted to leave. Wanted to be alone. Wanted a drink.

See how pretty that is? See how filled with emotions? Even without knowing what happened, there are still enough cues in there for the reader to know she is sad about this mysterious something.

How about with happiness? Do you usually use “smile” to show that one character is happy to see another? The answer is Yes, yes you do. Because everyone does. It’s a common action. But there are other actions you can use to portray happiness. For example, on page 84, under the “Happiness” header there is a whole slew of actions that portray this emotion:

Humming/whistling/singing
Telling jokes
Laugh lines
Fluid motions
Enthusiastically waving
Stepping lightly
Initiating contact with others
Leaning in
Initiating random acts of kindness

Is “smiling” on the list? Yes. It’s the first (and second) physical signal—An upturned face and Smiling.

But is it the only action listed there? No.

This is what I’d like to see in the manuscript I’m currently reading for school. Actions. Emotions. Is it too much to ask of the author? No. Is it a bit too developmental for a copyedit? No. (For this class, at least.)

This is what I’d like to see more of in writing, mine included. So, next time, if you’re ever stuck on an action and find yourself turning back to it every time, read this book.

I highly recommend it.

Until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Postscript – I’m going to be updating my blog design sometime this week. Be sure to come back and check it out!