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

 

 

Cutting Back on Subplots|Writing Fiction

So I want to touch on subplotting. Not the dynamics of it per se. I want to share why I continuously need to cut back on having too many things going on in a story.

Sometimes we have to learn things, and sometimes we have to unlearn them.

I started writing poetry and screenplays at the beginning of it all. My stories come to me in the form of several sub plots involving the same characters in one story. This isn’t unheard of. And it can also be executed very well if you’re an experienced writer. Despite writing for most of my life and training myself to do what I love to do, I am not a very experienced writer. Simply because I write for myself, and I’ve only now worked up the courage to share my work with others. I’m still having trouble with that. It makes me nervous as hell. But I’m bending my mind to change all of that soon, hopefully.

Feedback and critique is essential if one wants to take writing seriously.

For me, writing a novel and a screenplay which is basically dialogue is vastly different. With a novel, I have to pay close attention to my character’s body language and observations of other characters. The story doesn’t only evolve via conversations. In fact, there is less dialogue in novels. Acting instructions and scene directions are completely different from what goes on in between dialogue in books.

When the concept of my story comes to me, I see every detail in my head as if it were playing on a screen. When I begin writing, I tend to realize what an absolute mess I’ve created. Too many crazy sub plots and twists that would annoy any reader to no end.

Recently, I’ve been trying to be better at outlining before the writing begins. There’s always immense need to cut down on my little stories within the big one. I over plot. If that’s even a thing. My brain isn’t equipped to roll out a saga or a five book series, so I need to take it down a notch.

Well there it is. The how and why. Although I can’t omit that I’ve read a ton of books with no real plot. Most of the content was just fleshed out repetition. That scares me as a writer and I tend to create too many conflicted situations before my story can climax.

This post might have been all over the place like my manuscript (hehe).

Thanks for reading.

xo Kat

Am I obsessed with twins?|Writing Fiction

Like many other writers, I have this little book of ideas. It’s raw, undetermined. Most of the thoughts in there may not even reach full on story level. I have noticed, however, that there’s more than one plot involving a twin.

There’s a twin dynamic in my current work in progress so I’m getting a chance to explore into that relationship. I don’t have a twin, nor do I think I’m friends with twins so it got me to thinking…what is really my obsession with this twin thing.

Some of what I write comes from deep within. A place I find difficult to explore when I’m not writing. There’s a loner shadow that’s been following me all of my life. I have trouble connecting with people, mostly because of trust. And as I think about it now, I remember wishing for a twin so hard that my mind was a little confused for a while.

FYI, I don’t think this is weird. It’s similar to having an imaginary friend. Anyway, before I go off topic as usual, I believe that twin obsession starts with me wanting to connect with someone at such an internal level. Not just on the surface but to be able to touch each other’s souls. You see, I’ve never had that and subconsciously my stories write themselves with such emotional connections.

For instance, my main character references sharing a womb with his twin and how that affected him during his life. I can’t imagine a bond like that. My character also references things like a dislike of dressing the same or one twin seeming like the younger sibling. Of course as their lives progressed they developed different personalities but in the beginning there is such an intense closeness that can’t be explained or calculated by anything of this world.

Maybe my admiration for that makes me write twins into my stories every now and then. It’s definitely something to think about. I’m also inserting a small disclaimer that I may not have the most correct representation of twins but this segment is called writing “fiction”. So bear with me.

As always, Thanks for stopping by, and don’t forget to leave me your bookish thoughts.

xo Kat

Creativity Woes| Writing Fiction

Lately, I’ve been questioning my creativity as a writer. I’ve always felt like I had good stories to tell even though I hit dead ends when I do begin to write. There’s at least eighty summaries I’ve written, waiting to be explored upon. My brain is pretty much always working, plotting, brainstorming, creating. But sometimes, silence is all there is and it scares me. If I lose that part of myself that creates, I would be losing a lot. It would cause a heavy impact on my life. I don’t even want to think about it right now.

I’ve been digging into my brain trying to understand what’s been holding me back from completing anything this past year. It’s a mixture of self-doubt and time management. But it’s also the fact that I sometimes feel very low about myself as a creator of stories. I’m on this high when I get an idea and start plotting. I feel awesome when I write a brilliant sentence. But there’s always this fear that my book will be….well, shit. It’s a tough pill to swallow.

This past year has been great in terms of networking with other readers and authors. It’s definitely been helpful, but there’s also the fact that I’m not writing anonymously anymore. People know who I am. Previously I would use only twitter to market my books, but no one knew who I was. In the self-publishing world, you really have to market your book and yourself as an author. It’s something I want, and it’s something that terrifies me. I love being invisible. I’d love my stories to gain recognition but I don’t want that recognition as person. Does that make any sense to you? Well, I’ve learned that it doesn’t work like that and I think it’s why I haven’t been working as hard as I should be to finish my stories. I’ve been procrastinating because the next book I complete and start promoting will make being an author so real. It’s not that I can’t handle criticism, I can. I know I’m not the greatest writer. But it’ll remove a piece of my soul if my book can’t speak to at least one reader. So, I’ve been questioning my creativity very harshly, wondering if I even have the capacity to weave a story that makes any sort of sense.

xo Kat

What are you reading this week?

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

 

Let’s talk Clean Romance| Writing Fiction

Do you enjoy reading clean and wholesome romance? I’m writing one. It’s a holiday romance inspired by my love of cheesy Hallmark movies around the holidays. There’s nothing religious about any aspect of my book, just a fun, heart-warming journey and romance that occurs in the life of my protagonist. Growing up in a very Christmas oriented household, the Holidays were a big deal. From family parties to amazing food, and decorations. But since I’m a total borefest as an adult, I channel the fuzzy end of year feeling by writing about it.

I’ve had this concept for over a year and I did start to work on it in 2016. But, as you know my projects are all left hanging for some reason or the other. During the last month, I’ve spent tens of thousands of words rewriting the first two chapters. I’ve gone from really happy and excited to having self doubt and losing all motivation, but I continue to push harder because if I don’t write, I’ll wither and die.

The funny thing with turning most of the situations and people in my life into stories and characters, is writing in a specific genre. Romance is a hard one for me to write, and I’ll cover that later on. Writing a romantic suspense or something that borderlines on women’s fiction is what I’d call “my romance”. While some of my characters are pretty flawed and foul-mouthed, the ones in this book are so sweet they can give you a toothache. That isn’t to say someone somewhere isn’t selfish or doing something distasteful. But there’s no way I can taint this story. No matter which way I’ve been rewriting it, it’ll always be a clean romantic story.

What kind of a writer are you? I do get an idea first, but my characters paint the story.

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

The Pen is Mightier Than The Sword

“The pen is mightier than the sword” is an expression coined by English author, Edward Bulwer-Lytton. It’s main idea is the indication that communication is better than violence.

This is a sentence or phrase that resonates deep with me, in my own personal way. I’m not a violent person who turned writer overnight (haha). Writing has helped me overcome many fears and insecurities. It opened up doors of happiness that I didn’t know existed. Writing served as a form of therapy even when I weren’t old enough to understand all of the pain, rejection and loneliness that came with being a young adult. I wrote books of poetry during that period and I’ve since learned that writing is the only way I can truly communicate my emotions as well as put everything into perspective.

Before deciding to take on being an author, I wrote pages and pages of deep feelings completely unaware of what my ability to write was doing for me in a positive way. And, for that, one of the truest statements is that the pen really is mightier than the sword. I could’ve handled things differently in my life but I always turned to my pen. Now I’m thirty years old and holding a pen is my strength.

xo Kat