Improve Your Craft| Writing Fiction

I think it’s safe to say that self-publishing and traditional publishing are two different ball games. As someone who’s leaning more towards the self-publishing side, there are many factors that need to be considered, and learned, before venturing into the indie scene. Hopefully I can leave you guys with some helpful tips on researching markets and target audiences for your books sometime next week, but today, I want to explore working on the craft itself.

Firstly, I have seen many mistakes by authors who not only are debuting but authors who have 3 and 4 books published. Mistake being, lack of working on the craft. Most readers of indie books are looking for quicker reads, with engaging pacing. And to be able to do that, you have to improve your craft in a way that’s different than just writing a story you feel like writing. You have to pay attention to what’s succeeding in the market you are going for, and then work on that.

Often I sugarcoat things, but I’ll just go ahead and say…bad writing is bad writing. Even I know when I’ve written something atrocious. Ever since I was proposed with the idea of entering the self publishing industry, I have done three things. I studied the craft(something that’s ongoing in my life), I have studied the market and I’ve been researching how to step into that entrepreneur shoes of being both an author and a publisher. I will be creating in a separate post on how to do the things you are told to pay for when self-publishing, for free. So stay tuned for that.

Back to improving your craft. I will give you some pointers here.

  • Storytelling vs Great Writing
  • Story Structure
  • Read, read, read.
  • Practice makes perfect.

Storytelling vs Great Writing

Many times I’ve come across books where the writing is almost painful to get through and in most cases I don’t continue reading. But then there are books that are not written so well, and I can’t get enough of the story. This my friends is strong storytelling skills. See, it’s not every time beautiful sentences can structure your story for you. Every story needs a beginning, a middle and an end. This is the basics of any form of composition. In between those phases, you need to learn tactics on how to hook your reader and leave them wanting more of the story so that they continue turning pages. On the indie scene, you have to learn all of the above and do it in the most effective way possible. These readers go through books quickly and it’s less likely they’ll want to invest two or more weeks on one book. Not only do you have to improve on your writing itself, you have to improve on your storytelling skills. I’ll go ahead and say right here, do not use filler content to make word count. Short stories and novellas are equally as successful in the indie scene, and even more so than full length novels. I’m mentioning this because I see it more often than not. A recent book I read and enjoyed with not so great writing or grammar was The Kissing Booth. I’m not of age to be reading YA anymore, it was a bit of a guilty pleasure. This book is testament of how important storytelling is versus wanting to write like some of the greats. I might sound stupid here, but on the indie scene, it’s what it is. If your plan is to self-publish, you have to learn who your readers are.

Story Structure

Every story has at least one main character. There is a plot surrounding that character in which he or she go through a series of conflicts to reach their main goal. This is as basic as it gets. One mistake I see some writers making is taking on much more than they are capable of and the feedback you might get if you do this is choppy writing. So you want to tell a story but you also want to refine that story and not stray from your main goals. And I say goals, because there are sub plots to a story depending on what the writer intends. When you’re starting out, one advice I can give you that’s worked for myself is writing from one character’s perspective. I’m referring to first person point-of-view as it seems to be the preferred method these days. Sure, readers want to get inside more than one character’s head but that’s not necessary to show what other characters are feeling or reacting to. Part of improving your craft, is training your eye to see every other character through your main character’s eyes. Dialogue is a very easy way to show what another character might be feeling.

Read, read, read. 

I can’t remember who said it, but the quote is, “Every writer is first a reader.” In most scenarios that’s true, but I’ve also come across very successful writers who say they were not really into reading before they started writing stories. And that’s really admirable. As an introvert, I learned more from books than anywhere else. Ok, well maybe Youtube. The point is, if you lack experience with writing or even life experiences to be able to stay consistent with your story idea, you can benefit quite a lot by reading. Whatever your genre is or interests are, read those type of stories. Pay attention to character development, sentence structure, narrative structure. Pay very close attention in creating conflict and resolving conflict…first chapters and last chapters. Subconsciously, your brain absorbs this knowledge but don’t just read for reading’s sake. Approach every book like a lesson to be learned.

Practice makes perfect.

While I can never see my work as satisfying enough to put out there, I have been trying to kick that attitude and just write without fears. Now, in the last two years, I haven’t published anything and I removed my two novellas from kindle because I wasn’t satisfied but it was a good learning process. To the world, I am not a writer because I don’t have anything published currently, but to myself, I know I write over 100K words per year on average. I say average because it could well be more than that. I write and I write and I scrap and I scrap. And I get frustrated because I’m not finishing things as fast as everyone else. But when I look back at the last two years, I have learned so much about the craft by just writing. So this writing, I consider it as good practice, as a learning curve. I have learned to write in different POVs and tenses and no matter what people say, that isn’t easy. I’ve learned to articulate and execute my stories better. I’ve learned how to work on my characters to give them definition and not be so flat and consumed by the plot itself. So that practice writing has served me as a teacher in the last two years.

You can write the story you want to write, you can write the story for a target audience. It doesn’t matter which way you decide to write your story, you should be improving your craft as you go along. Your second book should be an improvement to your first and so forth. So, if that first story is causing you frustration and you want to give up writing, always remember that your craft can and will be improved over time. I always stress on staying determined and persevering. Giving up isn’t an option if this is the road you wish to take. As always, thanks for stopping by. I hope this was helpful in some way. Leave me a comment if there’s anything concerning writing you think I should make a post about. Have a great weekend keep writing! xo Kat

 

 

What Really Hinders My Writing Progress

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, poetry, short stories, journals. Those are the places where my love of writing really took birth. I’ve always been scared to let people read my work, not because of self-doubt but because of bullying. Me, writing diligently to get my story out appears as a joke to many people in my personal life. I don’t hold it against them as many people don’t understand why some of us love to write things, they don’t understand the pride we take in creating a story.

These are some of the things that puts me in a bind me as a writer:

Finding My Voice

It took me a while to finally figure out what finding my voice as a writer really means, and I’m not sure I understand the full dynamics but I think I have a better handle on it than I did on it before. Like I mentioned before, I started writing from a very early age in a particular way. It wasn’t just writing for writing’s sake. My story was also structured in my own way. My language flowed freely as my own. Somewhere along the lines, in the bigger world, I felt intimidated to be true to myself as a writer. As someone who has touched on poetry to be able to combat feelings of depression and self-doubt, I found myself beginning to write like a robot. He said, she said, and I failed to stay true to my characters’ personalities and also my own. Having grown up in the Caribbean, we share similar slangs to that of England as well as our spelling. I’m now based in the US and it does make me feel strangely about how my voice may be received. It’s not that much different but readers may notice and that’s something I always take into consideration. I’ve had to learn how to consciously omit certain ways of speaking as well as the “u” in words like favor and color among others.

Point of View

This has been very tricky for me, even now. I began writing in third person, past tense. I write as a narrator on the outside but still in my character’s head, so I don’t head hop. This is my comfort zone, always has been. In the last few years, I became more aware of first person POV as a writer. I’ve always read first person and it didn’t bother me but I’d never written in first person except for my journal and a few very short essays. To create an entire plot and world from one character’s point of view was a challenge for me. I kept thinking that I had to join that bandwagon if I want my work to be read. Readers will think my third person is heavily outdated. It sounds stupid, I know, but all of these things go on in a writer’s head especially when you listen to other bookish people talk about their preference for this kind of writing. It stuck me the whole of last month writing one chapter back and forth in third and first person POVs. I had to take a break and reconnect with my voice as a storyteller.

Writing as A Reader

All writers began as readers, that’s something I believe. And when I read over my work, I don’t read it as myself as a reader. I read it as hundreds of others readers and critique myself from that. It sticks my story to the point of “Where the heck do I go with this?” I don’t expect everyone to love my work but I do want to feel like a credible storyteller at the end of the day.

My Own Worst Critic

With my teaching experience in English and learning to find mistakes where there really aren’t due to teachers making us find things wrong with a classmate’s essay, I always feel like every line of my first draft needs to be rewritten in a better way. And believe it or not, I spend more time than I should just rewriting things. 2017 has been the year of rewrites for me.

My Stories Might Be Crap

I appreciate all kinds of storytelling, the good and the not so good. A story comes from an author’s head or heart, someone who thought it worth writing, and for that I won’t bash anyone’s process, or manner of storytelling. But I tend to bash my own. There’s something sinister about reaching 30,000 words into a novel and just thinking, “What the heck am I doing?” At that point I shelf the story until further notice and begin working on another. I should get a “Work in Progress” medal.

How Do I Keep Writing?

Because I can’t stop. Writing has been my secret for a long time, a way that I’ve dealt with the harshness of the world and the people around me. It remains my greatest form of therapy. And more than wanting to get published, I write for myself so there’ll always be that.

Last week I sat down and had a long mental chat with myself about how I lost sight of the one thing I know I can do. It’s tough, it’s nerve-wrecking but nothing gets completed without perseverance. I came across a video of Hank Green(John Green’s brother) talking about how he doesn’t go for 100% because his 80% is good enough. And that resonated with me. If we keep thinking perfection all of the time, then we’ll always finds errors. I’m learning, slowly that writing comes with all of the above and not just writing.

What are your major problematic areas as a writer and how do you combat them? Have a great week all.

xo Kat

 

Every Story Has A Reader| Writing Fiction

Last week, I worked diligently on my current “work in progress”. I was happy, I hit word counts and managed to clean up the messes on the way. Over the weekend something happened, that something that always happens. I feel hopeless, incompetent and I want to discard this entire story. Not even midway in each of my manuscripts I feel whatever I’m writing isn’t interesting. I get embarrassed by what I’ve written, and I feel relieved that I haven’t published such an atrocity for people to read.

But…the flame hasn’t completely gone out yet. I think about the books I’ve read that had no great writing or insane twist and you know what? I’ve enjoyed some of those. As a book reviewer and lover of storytelling, I hate to call someone’s work bad writing. For me, books comes in different flavors, some are great tasting and some are less tolerable. That being said, there are some works that I simply could not get through but that isn’t to say the writing or form of storytelling was horrible.

Every genre or story has a reader out there waiting for it and if that’s not inspiration to share your stories with the world, then I don’t know what is. Of course it’s another miserable thing all together promoting your book and finding your audience but I think we shouldn’t be insecure of our ideas. 

As a writer, what makes you feel insecure?

Xo Kat

How Important is Momentum| Fiction Writing

I stumbled across a video about the importance of momentum when writing a book and although I know it’s a logical way of thinking, I don’t always apply that with my own projects. I allow many factors to affect me from completing a manuscript.

Basically, having momentum means finishing a book, at least a first draft. This is something I’m always struggling with. When I first started out writing books(not poetry), I had momentum. I wrote for a set four hours a day and in four to five months, I had a first draft and revisions completed. The book was a huge embarrassment to me mainly because I feel cheesy about writing romance and sexy times. Also, the book needs a little work before I republish it. It’s an ebook by the way. But…the accomplished feeling of having finished something that took sweat and tears was a great one.

Somewhere along the lines, I lost sight of the fact that I was writing for myself. I wasn’t writing for money, an audience or competition. In my head, I just wanted to write what I wanted to read. I wanted to bring the characters that I had invested so much time into to life. So I wrote, and wrote until I completed my story. Beginning, plot, climax. It was all there.

My insecurities started to appear after publishing my second book which I removed due to it needing a little more work. What made me feel incompetent as a writer wasn’t my newness to the field, it was all of the other things that comes with writing that I didn’t have before. It’s been hard for me during this journey to share my work as it’s always been something very private, something therapeutic in my life. Sharing my work made me feel exposed in a way. Now I’m not that writer that dislikes criticism because I believe our readers are where we grow and learn from. You learn what you’re doing wrong, what you’re doing right and what you need to improve on.

I haven’t been able to finish one manuscript this year despite that fact I wrote over 50,000 words(different projects). Some of these projects began all the way back in 2016. It’s a failure, and I hate it, and I try so hard to work on it.

Coming back to the video about momentum. We have all read books that we didn’t like and books that we loved and adored but they all had something in common. They were completed. My take as a writer is not everyone’s going to love your work and you won’t be an established author until you write and write and learn from it but the importance of finishing, getting to the last page is very high. This is something a writer just needs to do no matter what.

Stressing over an audience and what you think they want to read is one of the most detrimental things you can do to yourself as a writer. You have a voice, you have a story and it’s your right to tell it the way you see fit. And I will touch on the subject in another post of do’s and don’t’s in writing and why I think it’s wrong to give people such a stenciled idea of a creative field.

Writing fiction isn’t like copywriting and I’m very much in my comfort zone with researching and writing articles but when it comes to creativity I let fear overtake the pen. I joke about it as writer’s block but it isn’t so funny when you feel like you wasted an entire year not doing what you love to do. So my takeaway from this video that I looked at is to have momentum. Just write. Just finish. Editing, formatting, promotions, all of that comes after. It really shouldn’t be our focal point when there is a story to be told.

As always, thanks for reading. Drop me a line in the comments and let me know your thoughts.

xo Kat

 

Should Writers Only Write What They Know? | Writing Fiction

What really started me out writing stories and poetry was “Composition Class” in primary school. As early as the age of six, I had to write essays (called compositions sometimes) based on pictures or a topic. It would start with a first line sometimes, and sometimes it would be titled something like “A Day at The Beach” or “The Dog.” This required critical and creative thinking from very early on for me, and often I would slip into daydreams about different things…writing in my head so to speak. During my last year of primary school, I really had to perfect my essays as it was a core part of our exams for high school entry. I even had extra after school lessons to broaden my knowledge and understanding of how 2-3 page stories work. Introduction, body, climax, etc.

One piece of advice I got from a teacher around that time(age 10) was to write what I know. I believed that, and I applied that but I also believed that it wasn’t meant to be taken so literally. Most of my essays were based on fantasy ideas, rings with superpowers, kids with superhuman strengths. I had neither of those, so where did that come from? Which brings me to my next question…”Should writers only write what they know?”

My simple answer, pertaining to my own experiences as a content creator is no. But there’s more to it than just no. It’s understanding how to utilize what you know and add to it.

I’m inserting a disclaimer here as usual that I am no scholar or established author, just a person who writes with a take on writing what you know.

If we were to confine everything that we know only into our stories, it probably wouldn’t work out too well. As writers, we do have an audience to write for and we shouldn’t treat them poorly. Readers need to feel, and most writers can provide that but can we really provide a dynamic visual for our readers if we don’t tap into our creativity? To me, writing is an art, similar to painting, although painting is very complex to a person like me. But the creative similarities are there.

For instance, many authors create epic works of fiction. To name a few, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, Rick Riordan and many more. Their works are related to the fantasy or adventure genre. What this means is that these writers really tapped into a special place of creativity. Rowling didn’t attend a wizardry school and neither did Tolkien meet elves or dwarfs to get familiar enough to write about them.

Do I write what I know? Yes, my past experiences has taught me a lot about emotions, feelings. And whatever genre or story you tell, the portraying of an emotion is there, jealously, anger, love, lust, happiness, pain, rejection. These are things we know and write about better as time goes by. There are still emotions that I can’t perfectly pen out on paper and it’s because I’ve never had that particular situation to deal with so I don’t write it. But when it comes to imagination, world building, character profiling….let your creative juices flow. Just let go.

As a writer, I don’t know everything. I don’t know most of my characters when I get an idea for a book or where the story is going. Recently I had a little struggle with writing about a cold climate place that I have never been to. Is it doable? Sure it is. The research & plotting part of your novel or story is very critical and should be given adequate time to brainstorm and develop before even beginning to write chapter one.

Do you have any struggles in your writing process? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by!

xo Kat

Can Content Mills help your Writing Career?

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What are Content Mills?

In layman’s terms, content mills or content farms are websites that hire freelancers to generate large amounts of textual content. In most cases, a freelance writer has to bid the lowest to get hired. Because of this, many writers as well as employers don’t find the services rendered from these sites credible. Questions to explore are, “How qualified is this writer I’m hiring?” or “How reliable is this person if I know nothing of their writing background?”

Read on to get my take on content mills and you decide whether or not it can benefit you as a freelance writer.

If you’re a newbie writer, and have no experience in the writing field, or maybe you have personal experience but no portfolio to show for it, content mills can be a start for you. Although the money will seem like a disadvantage to your and you talent on most days, here’s what you can learn by using content mills.

Experience

As a writer who is just starting out, trust me when I say you have a lot to learn in the world of writing. Writing is an ever flowing kind of job. Your knowledge should be an expanding work in progress at all times. There is no “know how” or “know enough” in writing. Be mindful at this point you don’t necessarily know what kind of writer you are. You may choose a niche or topic and feel you can handle it but you won’t really know until you put yourself to the test. Signing a job through content mills can help you gain that experience. Many experienced and established writers advise against using content mills and tell newbie writers to just plunge head on into pitching for jobs.

Consider the scenario of you landing your first client and not being able to deliver because you don’t know how to assemble yourself and your skills as a writer. I will go in depth into what it takes to get into writing in another post. What I will say here, no writer knows everything. There’s a lot of research, rewrites and dealing with unsatisfied clients. This is something that you’ll want to be eased into before attempting larger jobs with a higher commitment.

Portfolio/Published Work

When you browse through job posting, you’re bound to see several potential clients asking for samples of your published work. Crafting an awesome pitch is key but with a portfolio in your pocket, you’re about to ace that proposal. Clients want visible proof of what you’re capable of doing for their company as well as your writing style and voice. Again, as a beginner you have none of these. Using content mills for a few months to a year can seem tedious and daunting, like your writing career will never kick off. Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day and at the end of that year, you just might have a full portfolio to show when approaching the kind of jobs you want to be doing.

Finding Your Voice

Another question I’ve seen on forums is, “I want to be a writer but how do I find my voice?” Here’s how you do it…try different things. Writing is art, creativity, it’s not meant to be a straight line. Maybe you’ll fare better as a business writer or medical writer, or fiction writer. But you won’t really know until you explore your true potential. Picking up small scale writing jobs in content mills can help you find your own voice. By the time you’re really ready to put yourself out there, you have a full understanding of the kind of writer you are.

Potential to Meet Ongoing Clients

Content mills have lots of ongoing jobs and once you build a relationship with a client, who’s to say you won’t be doing business with that company for a long time outside of a content farm?

Time Management

When you’re just starting out, the only things on your mind are landing jobs and making a buck. Pretty soon it can get overwhelming. You have the opportunity to learn how to manage your time in a day in order to get the amount of work you need to get done. You also get to learn your own work process, how long it takes you to write an article and how many articles you can research and write in a day. All these are things to be mindful of when deciding to become a freelance writer.

How to Approach and Converse with Clients

Another way to prepare yourself in dealing with future clients, is actually dealing with clients. Taking up short term jobs can help you with long terms jobs in the future. In freelancing writing, a lot of your meetings are done via messaging and sometimes Skype. It’s few and far you may have an actual sit down meeting. You need to develop your people skills, how to approach clients, the language you need to use professionally. Getting your point across and also understanding the client’s vision is crucial in delivering a satisfying article.

 

I may be in the minority but I believe there are a lot of things you can learn from content mills to shape yourself as a confident writer. Money shouldn’t be your driving force at beginner level. You have to be prepared and accepting of your mistakes, clients’ negative feedback and how to fix the problem with a level head. As with every talent and skill, writing should be nurtured. Starting off with content mills is a way of getting your foot through the door without a wide gap in not writing at all.

Hope you enjoyed this piece. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think and what’s your approach as a freelance writer or if you’re considering dipping your toes into the writing pool.

xo Kat

(c) 2007 Kat Degnich. All rights reserved.

 

How I Outline My Novel

There are a few different effective and straightforward methods to outline a novel, however, I do it in my own way. Recently I’ve seen some questions pop up about outlining novels so I thought I’d break down the way I do it since it seems simpler to me, and in another post, I will discuss the other methods thoroughly.

I think my way of doing it is very close to the snowflake method but as you learn more about it, you’ll see that I don’t stick to it fully. I just want to let you know that even though there are actual methods and names for them, there is no wrong way you can do this. Whatever works for you will be best for you. As writers of fiction, things are almost always jumbled and coming to us rapidly and out of nowhere so we tend to note this down all over. From notepads, to phones, to different apps and software. You name it, we’ve written on it.

So without further ado, let’s get into it….

STEP 1

I would call this your idea phase. You know that moment when an idea hits you but it’s only a sentence long? This is just step one. Fun fact about Kat: I used to begin writing with just that first idea and it was horrible. I found myself being stuck more than usual. This is where you’re going to brainstorm. Write down all of the ideas, thoughts, characters, names, whatever contribution you have to bring to this novel, just write them down. It doesn’t have to be in specific order. It doesn’t even have to make sense at this point.

STEP 2

Now that you have all of your ideas down it’s time to really think about the main plot of your story. An idea can go anywhere whether it’s romance, suspense, thriller or a mixture of genres. Try writing a summary of what you’d like your story to be about.

STEP 3

Create character profiles. I’ll briefly explain here how I do this as I plan to create an entire post to help with character profiling. This takes some work, some critical thinking. Not only are you going to name your characters, you’re going to create a description of their physical attributes as well as what they do and what they stand for. For example, if your character’s name is Sophia and Sophia has long blonde hair, green eyes etc etc Then you’ll need to add to Sophia before you start writing. What does Sophia do? How does Sophia think or react? Does Sophia have a shy persona or is she outgoing? What are her likes, dislikes, boundaries.

STEP 4

I’d recommend naming and explaining as much characters as you can at this point. The main ones, their family members(if they have a part in the story). While writing you’ll most likely add characters or omit characters. Have no fear, these changes are doable and nothing is set in stone. Having a base of characters gives you ammo to write with so along with your main plot and setting, you can write something without having to stop every few paragraphs.

STEP 5

I should have mentioned setting earlier but here’s why I left it out until now. During your summary stage, you would have most likely mentioned the location or setting in which your book takes place. Let’s call stage five, research. Whatever you want to put into your novel and you feel like you need to know more about it, get on google and research the heck out of it. Look for pictures of places, houses etc You can save them for later use, or you can just makes notes as your description comes to life in your head. Another thing you want to research is jobs functions, weather of a particular location etc. Anything that you feel you need help with in creating a better summary.

STEP 6

Summary number two! So now that you have all of this information, write a complete summary with the added details of your characters and settings.

STEP 7

What you’ll do from here is expand your summary. Don’t get rid of any of your earlier work by the way. Expand your current summary. Add your sub plots or scenes as I call them. Any specific quote or line you need to place somewhere, add it all in. You can redo this as much as you need to in order to create your desired outline.

STEP 8

When you feel like everything makes sense, start writing. Having this guide will help you to write on days that you’re uninspired or lost because you’ll know what’s going to take place. Even if you get stuck take a time out and then get back into it. Remember this is only the first draft and another fun fact: My first drafts are often horrible and written very poorly with a few brilliant things in between. Patience is virtue when it comes to writing. Take your time, try to finish that first draft even if you’re not completely satisfied. Anything can be corrected, omitted and modified later on.

I hope this made any sense at all and I hope it helps you in your writing process. Good luck!

xo Kat