We’re Getting Closer!

I really enjoyed the editing process so I’m looking forward to the next step in my publishing journey. I’ve got lots to do so I created a schedule for myself to keep track of everything. My deadline is fast approaching, so I’ve actually been writing this blog post in between during my breaks.

I’ve been meaning to post a novel update video on YouTube, discussing this portion of my journey, but I film on my phone and it hasn’t been working properly. I’ve got a few little clips that I backed up immediately onto my laptop just in case my phone decides to be a butt again…which is like a few times a week unfortunately. I also noticed the other day that I reached 100 subscribers on my YouTube channel, which honestly surprised me because last time I checked I thought I had only 30 people subscribed to my content. I really don’t understand how the algorithm works. One of my oldest friends from elementary school actually found my channel the other day but I have no clue how to message people on YouTube. I haven’t seen her since high school! It was funny because I had been talking to one of my buddies about her the other day. I’m hoping she reads this so I can be like “Hi!!!”

The feedback that I’ve received on my manuscript has been incredibly helpful. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned. I’ve even made little notes so that I can go back and reference some of the comments and advice I’ve been given and apply it to my other work. My notebooks only got a few pages left in it now, but thankfully I have two cute ones that I’ve been saving for an occasion such as this one.

I’ve been trying to catch up on my reading during the lock down, but I suppose I’ve had to put that on hold because of all this publishing stuff. I’ve thankfully plowed through the majority of the owned books in my TBR, and ordered two more from a series I’ve been reading. One of my co-workers also gave me some excellent recommendations, so I’ll be checking those out once I’ve got a little more free time. I own one of the books from her list so I plan on starting with that one!

I wonder if anyone at work knows I have a blog?

Hi everyone! How’s life? I miss you all!

If you follow me on instragram, you’ll know that I just started playing Animal Crossing. I’ve wanted to play for a while now and have had the game for at least a month, but I didn’t have time to start the game because I was either recording or editing…or babysitting. Then when I finally had the time to play, I got busy again! My sister’s been playing on my behalf. I finally got a house in the game.

I’d better get back to work. I’ve got some things I need to wrap up.

Editing Tips!

I made this video back in 2020 after having several people mention that when it came to editing they felt overwhelmed. Most pointed out that they had know idea where to start.

I thought that by putting my tips into a video format, that it would make it easier for people. I wanted to keep it short, and to the point. I’m someone who enjoys this process, but after years of tutoring and editing for others I’ve learned how quickly a person can stress themselves out. A lot of them will say things like, “I just wanted to write a story! Why do I have to do more work?”

I get it. I do. You feel like you’ve finally completed something and then BAM, you get hit with this realization that there’s a lot more work to do. It’s okay. It’s perfectly normal to be a little stressed out by that, especially if this is your first time completing a book.

I hope that this video will be helpful to those who get overwhelmed by this process. I spend a lot of time editing myself, and something that I have learned…and this is probably one of the most important tips, is that it is important to take breaks. Step away for an hour, go for a walk, call your folks, play a game…whatever it is, take a few moments to allow yourself to unwind. Your thoughts will flow better, and you’ll be able to edit more effectively while you’re in a good headspace.

Happy editing!

Reading and Writing

Oddly enough, every book I’ve read/purchased within these past couple of weeks has a pink and blue cover. Perhaps it’s my brain reminding me that spring is coming or my love for cotton candy ice cream?

Either way, each of these books have been fantastic and engaging. I’m thrilled every time I pick one up.

A lot of the ARCs I’d been reading/was interested in came out this month so I’ve been making a list of which ones I definitely want to check out.

Editing has put me a little behind in my reading schedule. If only reading your own work over and over counted towards your reading goals for the year. Oh well. I enjoy the editing process. I continue to learn new things about my own writing and how I can improve the development of my characters and stories. It’s almost like when you’re studying a text but instead of doing a single scene analysis, you’re analyzing it as a whole. I hope that I can apply everything I’ve learned to my other projects.

Reading books within my genre also assist me when I’m editing. They provide examples of different things that I may be trying to improve upon in my own work, which is wonderful. It also allows me to see how others go about conveying certain elements of their story, such as feelings of loss or frustration.

There are times when putting certain emotions to paper is difficult. Mainly because it is so easy to say that a character is feeling uncomfortable versus showing that discomfort within a scene. It’s something that takes a lot of practice and I truly believe that part of that practice does come from the books we consume as authors.

I’m curious to see what types of books I consume the most this year and how that reflects my writing.

Quick Editing Update/Advice

March is here! Aside from the first day of the month being very chilly, I thought today was lovely. I spent the morning in one of my favourite places in the world (among books, would you believe that?) and then snuggled up at home with my blankets and fangirled over Dick Grayson for an hour before reading. Dinner was also great. It’s been a great day.

I’ve been doing a lot of editing. So much in fact, that when I’m away from my manuscript I’m continuously reviewing scenes in my head. It’s been fun. I have a much shorter deadline this time around, so I’ve been trying to manage my time effectively.

It’s can be challenging trying to balance everything but each time my schedule changes and becomes busier, I try to keep track of each thing I’d like to accomplish. Depending on how busy I get, this can be a daily or weekly task. I find that allowing myself to be flexible, helps me not to stress out about things. If I’m ahead of schedule with one thing, then I have the time to spontaneously go off and do something for a few hours.

I believe that a part of self-care is taking the time to do the little things you enjoy. For me that could be reading a book or watching a show. Sometimes it’s doing several very small things like putting on my favourite perfume or listening to a great playlist while I get ready in the morning. Whatever it is, it allows me to take some time to rest.

I highly recommend implementing breaks in your schedule, as if you were at say an 8 hour job. I’m not saying to write for 8 hours straight or anything but give yourself a deadline and allow yourself to step away from your manuscript for fifteen minutes. It can really help to come back to a scene with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s a lot more effective than staring at your manuscript all day stressing out of a single line of text. Step back. Breath. Try again.

Novel Update

It’s been a while since I’ve post a writing update vlog/blog. Today I spent the afternoon writing, after watching Netflix for an hour. I binged two different shows in January and am pretty bummed out that I’ve finished them. I’ll probably check out a few different shows on Netflix until I find something new.

I’ve been going back and forth between two different writing projects, the first is the sequel to my debut and the other a novel that I’ve been working on since last summer.

I wouldn’t recommend working on several projects at once. It can get kind of hectic…then again I find that multi-writing occasionally works for me. If I’m stuck on a scene in one book, I’m able to work on something else while I brainstorm. As long as I’m still writing I don’t get writing block, which prevents me from feeling stressed or burned out.

This was something a professor of mine recommended and it’s probably some of the best writing advice I’ve ever received.

Anyway, I’ve made good progress on my sequel so far. I’m currently on chapter six. As for my other project, I’ve been editing and rewriting a few scenes. That’s actually been going fairly well. I definitely want to set a completion deadline for both. Setting a deadline is a good habit. It keeps me on top of my work, while also managing my other jobs.

I ordered pizza for dinner, which I’m definitely looking forward to. I ended up moving my laptop onto my vanity since the mirror isn’t finished yet, and am going to try writing from here for a bit today while I wait for my laundry to finish. I figured I’d be less distracted sitting on a stool versus laying on bed, wrapped in my fluffy red Indigo blanket. I’ve also got some stuff in my sketchbook to finish colouring…so I think I’ll do that after I post this.

I’m pleased with how my writing has evolved since going through the editing process. It’s kind of weird writing after doing so many edits…and editing for others. I can’t stop thinking “Oh this words one of your crutch words. Change it!” or thinking about better ways to have my characters interact with their surroundings. I’m applying so many different things that I’ve learned from reading and writing and studying the craft all these years, which feels…really nice. It’s just nice to see my own growth. It’s not something I usually pay much attention to unless I decide to revisit my older work.

I’m hoping to post a writing vlog sometime this month. I’ve got a lot of books to read on top of work, so I’m praying I can get to that soon. In the meantime, I’d best get back to work. I want to start colouring before my pizza arrives!

#HarshWritingAdvice: Twitter’s Writing Community is Trending

It’s not every day that the writing community trends along with Grimes and Elon Musk’s baby getting a haircut.

Sadly, this tweet, like many tweets on Twitter, is receiving a lot of backlash. Why? Well, it makes the claim that writers are constantly in competition with their peers.

Personally, I loved Tessa Dare’s response to this. She starts off by saying how “harsh” writing advice and “bad” writing advice are often confused.

It’s true. I’m sure many writers on and offline have come across bad advice being tossed around under the guise of harshness.

In her tweet, Tessa also points out how without peers within your genre, your audience would have nothing to read while you, yourself are working on your next release. Some authors only release one book a year. Others might only ever release a handful of books ever!

Some twitter users (mainly one who has removed their tweet since), thought it unfair of her to make such a statement. They couldn’t believe a New York Times bestselling author would have “the audacity” to comment on the competitiveness of the industry. Basically, trying to gaslight Tessa Dare by saying she couldn’t possibly understand, being a successfully published author.

Tessa was quick to clap back and the reading community backed her. She also elaborated on her statement in a separate tweet to avoid blasting this person.

“Especially when it comes to NYT publishing contracts, it’s important to note this business is not a meritocracy. The playing field is not even. Privilege, connections, timing, and just plain luck are all factors, and I have benefited from all of them to one degree or another. But one thing that doesn’t help in publishing is treating this business like the Hunger Games, where eliminating the competition is how you win. The absolute worst time to sell a historical romance is when no one else is successfully doing it.”

This is something that I agree with, there are many factors that come into play but if we treat industries like these as some sort of cutthroat competition, we aren’t doing ourselves or our peers any favours!

Sure, I work in what is considered to be competitive industries, but I don’t look at it that way. With my acting, I look at each person I meet at an audition as a new friend. More than likely, the people you run into at an audition, you will end up working with in the future. It’s a small world after all!

Here’s a real life example: when I auditioned for Tiny Tukkins, I met one of the sweetest actresses I know! We casually talked in the waiting room before our auditions and wished each other the best. Although both of us didn’t end up on this show together, the following week at a different studio I was called in by the director to play a character, on another show. Turned out, the girl I’d had a nice conversation with at the audition was one of the leads on this show. One week later and we ended up working together! Imagine if we had been cold to each other at that audition the week before?

I absolutely hate this cutthroat, competition mentality.

Nothing turns me off of a person more, than when that person targets their peers and treats them like the enemy.

In recent months I have witnessed so many authors/writers bullying others in the community. They attack anyone who writes something similar to their book. Even if it’s something as little as a person having a similar trope like…the girl next door. They consider everyone around them their competition, rather than their fellow peers as a potential opening for new readers.

This “I’m not here to make friends attitude” is ludicrous. Some go as far as to leave negative reviews on other authors books, just to help boost their own sales. Why? Why do you have the time to do stupidness like that? My harsh advice to those people would be, stop wasting so much time worrying about your peers and focus on your book. If you feel like you need to sabotage someone else, maybe you should spend a little more time perfecting your craft.

I personally don’t like associating with these types of people. They’re just plain mean. I don’t see the point in treating others like my enemy, when we have something in common. We can help each other navigate this business. We can provide each other with resources and wisdom.

If it weren’t for the wisdom given to me by others in the acting world, I may have signed with a sketchy agency. If it weren’t for the advice and critiques of my peers and professors, I would have continued making similar mistakes in my writing! You cannot grow without the help of your community in industries like these. It is the connections that you make with others, that encourage you to keep going and to put your best work out there!

I’ve wanted to go on a rant about some of the bad/harsh advice floating about the community for some time now…because the negativity and the jealously towards one another is gross and discouraging. My favourite thing is seeing others announce that they were accepted for publication! It brings me so much joy to see others doing well, and prospering in this industry because I know how hard we have all worked to have our dreams realized.

When I see people acting petty and cruel towards their peers in this community, I automatically unfollow them. I don’t have time for that. This isn’t grade school. It makes me miss the old writing websites I used to submit poetry to. People were supportive, and even when they gave criticism it was both constructive and respectful.

It’s not hard to be nice.


Raising the Stakes: Revisiting & elaborating on a previous blog post

I received a comment last week asking me to revisit and elaborate on my post “raising the stakes” where I talked about struggling with a particular scene I’d been working on with my editor.

To summarize what I’d written in this post, it took me watching cartoons to fully understand how this was done properly. I had to create an atmosphere and situation in which the character’s were truly fearful of what lay ahead.

I decided to do a bit of reading on the subject, because even though I’ve been writing and studying the craft for a long time I like to explore others thoughts on the subject as well. I don’t believe that there is one concrete way of going about every single aspect of this craft. In fact, I feel that each individual eventually finds what works best for them and that only comes after years and years and years of practice.

The first article I read, “5 Surefire Ways To Raise The Stakes Of Your Story” broke down what it means to “raise the stakes,” noting that each story must have them in order to keep the reader invested. Stakes allow for character development, and create a steady pace for the plot. The higher the stakes, the larger the consequences and the larger the consequences the harder it is for a character to make decisions.

It is our actions and decisions as people, that help others characterize us. We are more often than not judged upon our “character” versus solely on things like our appearances. Now, although a character’s appearance in a novel is important it is also important to remember that what the readers connect with in the end, is the character’s personality.

A good example of this is a novel like Catcher in the Rye, which is told in the first person point of view (P.O.V). When reading this in university, I absolutely adored it. I thought Holden was funny, charming almost, despite not being the greatest person. My professor at the time, did a survey, having us do just a quick show of hands, to see who liked the book. She, like myself adored Holden’s character and was shocked to find that the majority of the class absolutely hated the novel.

Why did they hate it?

Well, they hated Holden.

The three of us who liked the book (including the professor), loved him. We thought he was hilarious.

If the reader doesn’t like the character, they won’t like the book and most characterization is not done by what the narrator tells you about the character, but what the character does in contrast to what is being said about them.

This why we have cases where a book has an unreliable narrator, as these narrators are flawed. They tell us what they want us to believe about the character and those around them, but it is through the actions taken by these characters that we piece together the “real” story.

A character’s reaction to the stakes within the story, gives the reader two options: care about the character, or ditch them.

Another article that I looked at was from Well-storied, where they gave a list of 7 main things that one could/should consider when trying to determine what the main stakes of their story are:

1. What does my main character want (e.g. happiness, revenge, forgiveness, love, etc)?

2. How does my main character plan to achieve this? In other words, what is my character’s story goal?

3. WHY does my main character want to achieve this goal? What’s their motivation?

4. How is the path to achieving this goal out of my main character’s comfort zone? 

5. What does my main character stand to lose if they don’t achieve their goal?

6. How will my main character’s life, beliefs, etc. change for the worse if they don’t achieve their goal?

7. If my main character fails to achieve their goal, what are the consequences for those my main character loves? 

These are definitely great questions to ask when thinking about the plot. Of course, you should develop your character before attempting these questions. Trying to fill these in, without fully understanding who your character is can be extremely difficult, even if the questions seem very straight forward.

Something that I like to do, is create a list of character building questions. I started doing this years ago by making character sheets for my story binders. In these binders I would have a character sheet that had a full body drawing of my character in their favourite outfit. Along with that, I would write down their name, age, family members, personality traits, hobbies, interests, music preferences, favourite colour, favourite food/desert, if they had any pets, favourite subject, favourite movie (if applicable), what languages they spoke, a list of their friends and enemies…and anything else that seemed relevant to the story.

I will say, that those things alone don’t always help you fully understand the voice of your character, which I feel is just as important as knowing what sort of story you want to tell about them.

This article goes on in more detail about the other components that one must consider when raising the stakes, which as I mentioned, require you to understand who your character is. They talk about using the same questions for the stories antagonist, and also looking at things like “is there a time limit for the character” or how a character’s fear of something might cause them to question their goal.

The next article I looked at was by NY Book Editors, titled, How to Raise the Stakes in Your Novel and Create a Gripping Story. This article starts off by warning about the dangers of raising the stakes too much, or piling them on so heavy that things like characterization completely get overlooked by the author. This is definitely an important thing to point out, as when discussing the previous articles, I myself spent a great length of this post emphasizing that characterization and raising the stakes work hand in hand. There needs to be balanced. If the reader has no reason to care about the characters in the story, why should they care that a giant monster is about to devour them?

I have read books where the characters just fall flat. It is just as disappointing as a book where the plot seems to drag on and on for what seems like years. It takes time and practice, but finding a good middle ground is definitely the ideal. I know that as a reader, I need to care about a character in order to care about what happens to them in the story, otherwise I get bored. In a manga I reviewed a little while back, I was extremely bored with the leading character. I could care less if she ended up with the male lead at the end of the series. The side character’s however, were interesting. I’ve been debating on whether or not I’ll continue the series SIMPLY because of them. The issue here is that as a reader, I’m debating. You don’t want your readers to debate whether or not they’ll drop your story. You want them to like it…and having a balance between the stakes and the characters allows for a satisfying read.

The next article, by The Creative Penn touches upon the same thing, but more so in regards to how creating tension in your books, can help to drive up sales. Obviously if you are publishing your work this comes into play, however I personally don’t like to look at my books in terms of sales while I’m still in the stages of writing. I like to enjoy my books, so I look at them from a readers perspective. I always write what I want to read. To me looking at my work, as someone who reads books (usually in the same genres), is the best way to determine whether or not the tension is strong enough. Of course, once you’ve gone through and edited yourself, you’ll pass the manuscript on to your editor, or beta readers or your agent (or even just a friend) for the final test.

Still, regardless of my personal feelings toward that, I agree 100% that as the article states, you want the book to be good enough that readers will recommend it to one another.

I’m always on Twitter or Instagram recommending books. I work part-time in a bookstore, the majority of my job is recommending books! Depending on the genre or section, each of us that work there, know someone on the floor who has extensive knowledge of something that might pique the customers interest.

This article by The Creative Penn, talks about creating “reader glue” which to them means that when a book is well written (the stakes and characters are balanced, etc) it creates an, “intense emotional experience.”

The final article I looked at from WHW (Writers Helping Writers) mentioned how the main plot and sub-plots will have different stakes, each contributing to the story in their own way. I liked that they pointed this out, as I didn’t see much mention of this in the previous articles.

In books that I read about the writing craft back in middle school, specifically those about crafting novels, I paid a lot of close attention to the chapters on sub-plots and their significance to the overall tension of the story. It’s usually within the sub-plots that the reader gets a closer look at the character and how they react to different situations.

I always think about those adventure stories, like The Hunger Games series, where there is this underlying romance sub-plot. Although it plays a small role in comparison to the whole “try not to die!” aspect of the books, it is still significant as it shows the readers how far Katnis is willing to go in order to survive.

Her playing into the wants of the viewers by pretending to fall in love with Peeta so that she can not only keep herself alive, but him as well tells the reader a lot more about who she is, versus what she herself says in the narration. She pretends to love Peeta to keep him alive even though she knows that manipulating him will break his heart.

This one sub-plot tells the reader that Katnis would rather not have to go through the games alone, we even see this with her connection to Rue. Although she keeps much of her thoughts to herself, she is protective. In Rue she sees her younger sister, the one who she would do anything for. In Peeta she sees warmth and innocence. Innocence is probably the one thing Katnis is constantly trying to protect and it might be because she by participating in the games has lost her own. She’s no longer naive about the world around her. She sees the evil being done and the only option she has is to survive…but what is she willing to do to Rue and Peeta, who remind her of the life she once had?

All of these things build tension. A characters actions in relation to those around them throughout different sub-plots.

I personally think that the whole love-triangle thing clouded aspects of Katnis’ character (mainly because of the Team Peeta versus Team Gale), as throughout we constantly see Katnis losing more and more of this innocence in the sub-plots of the three books. Who she ends up with isn’t insignificant but it does show us how deeply Katnis was affected by her participation in the games. She sacrifices more than just love…she sacrifices herself. She loses everything that made her, who she was before she entered the games.

I really like this example and I could go on and on elaborating on it, breaking down each of the books and how the sub-plots contribute to Katnis’ characterization but I won’t. The idea here is mainly to provide an example of how by balancing the stakes both within the main and sub-plots with the character development (who they are at the start and who they are at the end), creates a story that readers will enjoy and probably come back to.

In my case, I’ve made reference to books in this post to use as examples. Someday, someone (maybe even me), could use your book to do the same thing. They might revisit their favourite passages or gush about it to a friend.

I can definitely say that the parts of books that we readers tend to recall are the points where the author raised the stakes.

The Experiment

Yesterday I decided to try an experiment, where I rewrote the first chapter of a book I’ve been working on in third person P.O.V. I then read it to myself in that P.O.V and then again in the original 1st person to compare them.

I decided after much deliberation that the first person P.O.V works best for this book. It captures the character’s voices better and I feel that in this second draft, I’ve gotten a better idea of who each of these character’s are and how each of them impact the story.

I’m honestly hoping that between reading my current ARC, and my voice over work that I’ll be able to finish reworking and editing the second draft by the end of the month. That would be golden. I want to stay on top of my writing goals this year so for me to get through one of the books on my list within the first month of 2021 would be a great start.