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

 

 

Reading an old Manuscript

Hi Friends!

It would appear that my body does not recognize Saturday mornings. I was just up very early and no turning or twisting could put me back to sleep. So I hopped off the bed and made coffee. Something I love to do for my own sanity and everyone else’s safety, is sit down, drink my coffee and read emails or messages before the kids wake up. When they are up, my brain has to run on a different speed so it’s nice to have some time to prepare for that chaos.

For some reason, I woke up this morning with my very first completed manuscript on my mind. I’d written it way back in 2015, but it had been in the works for longer than that I believe. The writing is mediocre at best. Maybe even worse than that. The story, not so compelling if you ask me. But I am enjoying reading it…discovering those characters again. They are still alive in my head but I haven’t lived with them for a long time, since newer characters have taken up residence. It was nice to go back and get inside their heads.

Back to what I was saying about it being a horrible piece, and how I could ever think to publish such a mess for 99 cents. One thing that struck me, was the confidence rolling off the pages. I’ve never had a steady relationship with confidence but boy did I possess such drive and determination. I’ve always said back then, I wasn’t worrying too much about the audience or book covers or marketing. I just wanted to write stories and I wrote.

After learning about this indie author industry, I’m intimidated to say the least and I think that holds me back. I would love to step back into those shoes of confidence and just write. Whether it be good or bad, I just want to type “The End” on my stories. There’s so much swimming in my head, in notebooks all over my house. I just want to write. Nothing else.

I’m going to go back and finish read that manuscript and see if I connect with 2015 Kat at some point. Have a happy weekend folks! Yay for three day weekends!

xo Kat

Love & Madness by Leah Parker| Book Review

Title: Love & Madness

Author: Leah Parker

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction

Synopsis:

After a one night stand with Ty, Luna finds herself pregnant. On the up side, Ty wants to raise this baby with Luna to make it work, but they’re both basically strangers. They both make an effort until their individual struggles get in the way.

My thoughts:

Let me begin by saying this is not a happily ever after read. And i’ll follow that and say I still recommend this book because the journey of it is worth reading. Luna and Ty’s story touch on a number of issues such as depression, substance abuse and toxic relationships. What I really liked is that the author didn’t tell her audience that Luna suffers from depression over and over. She showed that. It was realistically done and very relatable. Sadness is not depression. Depression hits even when everything seems okay and everyone around you loves you and supports you.

Ty has a past with alcoholism, and that too is a greyed area. It’s a misconception to think alcoholism is a choice. There are issues deeply rooted in Ty’s past that leads him to this.

Overall, I’d say this book touched on heavy subjects that’ll give the reader an intimate insight of mental health. Romance, love, family, humor are all part of the package if you decide to pick this up. Rated four stars!

Happy Reading

Xo Kat

Where the Shadow Lies by Cassie Sharp |Book Review

Where the Shadow Lies by [Sharp, Cassie]

Book Title: Where the Shadow Lies

Author: Cassie Sharp

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis

Jael Tindle, unlikable in her community because of her unapproachable nature. She receives a note that nearly sends her to the point of insanity. The note brings with it a blast from her dark and deadly past and Jael will do anything and everything to protect her son from this past. She hires Private Investigator, Zander Williams to follow her son for his safety. But Jael isn’t so safe herself. Danger begins to follow her everywhere she goes. Everywhere she turns, the plot thickens. Zander, who is drawn unknowingly to Jael, digs up her past and is determined to protect her through it all until the mystery is solved.

My review

For a debut novelist, Cassie Sharp is a brilliant writer. Not only does she weave this dangerous tale with complicated twists and turns, she delivers it in the manner of an established author. I always stress on the fact that I read for the writing, not only the story and this book did not disappoint. The vocabulary was used articulately to give the reader a proper assessment of feelings and actions. Cassie also hit the nail on the head with showing not telling.

On the other hand, I enjoyed the events of the story itself. No plot holes. With every chapter I was left wanting to know more and more. This…takes talent. Hats off to the author. Can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

Happy Reading!

xo Kat

 

Choosing Character Names|Writing Fiction

Hello Bookish Folk!

Time and time again I’ve come across the following in writing groups:

  • How do you name characters?
  • Where do you find character names?
  • Character naming is hard.

I thought I’d put together a post with all of my tips in case someone asks again 😉

  1. Be mindful of genre – A fantasy story involving elves won’t have names similar to a romantic comedy.
  2. What era is your book set in? – I’ve seen current popular baby names in books, but these characters are between 18-30 years old. Some of these names weren’t even known back when these characters were babies. Similarly, if you’re writing something set in the Victorian Era, then your character names should coincide.
  3. Different Initials for Different Characters – It tends to get confusing when you name two main characters or even a supporting one with similar first name initials or similar sounding names. Eg. Jason & Jacob
  4. Ethnicity/Origin – If you wish to diversify your cast, you need to name them accordingly. Some research can help you decide on a suitable name. If you’re like me and write diverse characters but the book isn’t based on their diversity, a particular name can help the reader gain an idea of what your character looks like.
  5. Special Meanings – Sometimes you want to name your character according to the theme of your book. A perfect example is the cast from the Lunar Chronicles. Wolf. who is a werewolf is called Wolf. Some names can give meaning to your story as well. And not just in fantasy but in contemporary. Names like Hope, Faith, Harmony also have underlying meanings to the plot. Another example could be Holly or Eve for a Christmas themed novel.
  6. Name Check – Most names are more common than you think. If this in some way bothers you, do a name search in google. It’s recommended to avoid name association. However, with common names like John Smith you’re bound to come across in abundance.
  7. Names that are easy to pronounce – I have a different opinion here because I do like to write people of different ethnicities and cultures. My suggestion, or what I’d do is to include a pronunciation guide at the front or back of your book. Maybe even a little definition or origin information depending on the kind of book you’re writing. Again if you’re writing fantasy, names that are hard to pronounce are inevitable. So don’t let that deter you from naming your character.

Hope this helps! Thanks for stopping by and if you have more tips on naming characters, please comment them down below.

xo Kat

I Outlined Something and It’s Not Romance|Writing Fiction

Writing update: I have been working thoroughly on the same few stories for the past three or four years. Most of which fall into the women’s fiction/Romantic comedy plots. Although these stories come easily to me, as well as the dialogue, I have a hard time writing them. It’s the “in between dialogues” I have a hard time expressing. I think as a person I’ve grown to where I can’t articulate love and romance the way my sixteen year old brain would. Don’t get me wrong, I do adore my stories and I think there’s something special about the originality of my plots. Maybe not the writing so much. It needs some work hehe. But…lately I’ve been feeling like something is missing. I don’t feel proud of these stories in the way that I should. Writing them for myself is one thing, but I still don’t feel accomplished enough to show these stories to others.

When I started writing longer stories, my end goal was to get into fantasy/supernatural/horror fiction. Because these genres generally take longer to plot and write, I thought maybe I could dish out some quick love stories in the mean time. However, I have been struggling. And my mind won’t shut up. About the future. About where I want to take my writing.  To be frank, I won’t even consider traditional publishing with the romances I write. The plots may be good, but the writing is not. There is just something I can’t exactly pin point that I don’t find there. When I read work from years ago, my voice is actually there. I don’t know why I’ve been experimenting with my writing based on questions asked in social media. My previous blog post deals with losing my writer voice.

These days I can’t hear it and it frustrates me to no end. Not only do I want to be a good story teller, I want to be a writer. And there’s a difference.

So, earlier today and not for the first time a thought crossed my mind. An idea about Caribbean folklore. I’ve often been afraid of delving into my country of origin in fear of not doing the country and people justice. I fear not correctly portraying something or offending somebody. Every idea needs a good plot as well.

And by the time I took a shower tonight, the plot and the protagonist had written themselves in my head. Suffice to say, I’m feeling good about it. I feel comfortable. Maybe I’ll come back to my romances once I’m done or once some inspiration hits me, but in the meantime, I roll with the supernatural story. I hate wasting time so at least, I plan to work out the details and make a broader outline over the next week or so.

Fellow writers, do you make writing as complicated as I do? Sometimes I annoy myself. I exhaust myself. Truly.

Have a great weekend. Talk to you soon.

xo Kat

Taking Inspiration from other Authors|Writing Fiction

Over the last year, and up until this morning, I’ve been coming across posts by other writers asking how to combat lack of inspiration/motivation. Some days you just can’t bring yourself to sit and write, your thoughts are all over the place. We all have our down days. Now it’s easy to share different techniques, such as taking a break, reading, doing a writing exercise etc. but until writer’s block really hits you, you won’t understand how hard it is for a writer to crawl out of his/her shell.

Lack of inspiration/motivation has a lot to do with self-doubt. At least in my case. So in this post, I want to say, if you’re experiencing some problems, take a step back from writing altogether. Search for videos of authors who inspire you, authors who write in the same genre. Hearing about their struggles and how they overcame fears can help you overcome yours if you have made the long term commitment to write. Writing isn’t just writing, it comes with all of the above such as self-promoting, correcting your own mistakes. It’s no easy feat. It not only takes skill, talent, discipline, it takes courage. So my advice to anyone dealing with these issues of self-doubt, is to seek help by listening to other authors. Their successes are motivation in itself to get the job done, to follow your dreams.

Let me know if this is a thing you do and if it affects you positively!

thanks for reading!

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?

Working from Home| Storytime

After the birth of my first daughter, I think what bothered me most was being a full time stay at home mom. Of course, both my husband and me decided that it was best for our situation as we don’t have any family close by to help out and I was not about to put my newborn baby in daycare. Not that I have anything against people who do so, but it was just not right for my family at the time. Firstly, daycare costs an arm and a leg in my area, I would be working just to barely make that payment. Secondly, we knew that we wanted another kid close in age. Last August my youngest turned two, and within the last year I have been wanting to get back to work.

Most of my work experience and all of my education was done in my home country so it was a matter of sitting down and figuring out what I wanted to do. I majored in Information Technology but it’s something that I’m not interested in getting back into. Too much time has past and I’ve lost my zeal in that field. So I did research and tried to analyze what kind of job to get or what course I should do to enhance my skills. But there was the matter of paying for daycare, and before and after school programs for my kids. After doing the calculations, I realized it wouldn’t be worth it, unless I could land a really nice paying job right off the bat. Having not been in the work force for a number of years, we all know how rarely that happens.

So again, I sat down and thought about the things that I know how to do best, my skill-set and how I could utilize that to make money from home. Working from home is a decision not driven only by making some extra cash. I’m at a low when I’m unproductive and feel very sad or depressed if you want to call it that. My husband often argues that I do a lot for my kids by being very present in their lives doing this and that but still, I was raised with a strong work ethic and I needed to get back into it. What I do know, is how to write and I’ve been working on books for years and years. However, it’s hard to make an income as an author. The book takes years, then it takes years of networking to get people to notice your book. Even then, it still may never work and  I don’t want to treat my stories as something to sell. At the end of the day, I write for me. For self-fulfillment and if someone happens to like it, then I’d be elated.

Around the same time I was researching working from home(this summer), one of my friends messaged me about a website that basically hires freelancers of various kinds. Graphics, virtual assistants, and writers among others. I saw it as a small window to start offering writing as a service. It hasn’t been that long and the money isn’t that great but I’ve learned how to balance working from home and family time. Although, it’s difficult and I’ll create an entire post about my experience. I’ve also gained some exposure to working with clients, and experience in the field that I’m pursuing. I know I’m not on it as much as I should but for the mean time, it works for my and my family. I’m available to drop my kindergartener off and pick her up, be present for different things that I’d most likely have to skip out on. The last several months has definitely been an eye opener, a learning curve in my life.

Reading over this post, I realized I haven’t mentioned what it is exactly that I write. I write copy for websites, specifically sales copy of various kinds. There’s a list of other services that I do offer and a website is currently in progress for that. I just wanted to share my not-so-spectacular story about how I derived at the decision to work from home. Hopefully it all works out in the future but one thing I can take from this entire experience is that you really have to want something and you have to work hard at it. There’s always so much more you can do to progress.

Have a great week ahead guys, thank you for stopping by and stay tuned for another Work From Home post.

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