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

 

 

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

Smugness won’t reach you very far|Writing Fiction

So, I thought long and hard if I should even address this but I think it’s important to express humbleness when you are a beginner writer. This morning I responded to a post in a writing group. The poster asked what should they do when they have lost all faith and motivation in writing? I commented by letting them know a thing or two how to combat creative blocks and I also reassured the poster that self-doubt lives in all of us. Well, I was strongly advised by another member of the group to refrain saying all of us struggle with self-doubt because they don’t doubt any of their stories.

Now I commented on that saying, “I apologize.” What I wanted to say is, “I apologize for my ignorance in this matter, Oh experienced one.” I didn’t want to get into a mindless social media war, so I just apologized and moved on. But it got me to thinking, and it isn’t the first time that I’ve wanted to touch on this subject.

I am in no way, shape or form bashing “my adviser” just to be clear. But I want to take you in-depth into the craft of writing and all that comes with it. Similarly to essay writing when your teacher marks your paper and they insert red ink corrections, so too does your manuscript need to be edited. And not just for grammatical errors. Many stories aren’t told very well and this is something people wanting to get into the writing field need to be mindful of. Your words need to have purpose to the story. It needs to be constructed well to paint a picture in the mind of your reader. It needs to read well on paper. I personally, have written like I’m writing a play in the past so it was challenging trying to get into novels.

There is no correct formula into writing your own story as well. Criticism and feedback are your friends, who help you improve on your craft. Self-doubt is your shadow. I get that we are all proud of our finished manuscript and hope that it will be received well, but the truth of the matter is, it won’t be by everyone. When best-selling authors have many negative reviews, and express their own self-doubt during their writing process, why would a newbie writer not learn from this? That the art of writing takes work, dedication and lots of thick skin. I was merely trying to express support for the original poster by saying we all go through a time when we doubt the story, or ourselves. Despite having finished a few books, I refuse to call myself an author. I call myself a writer because I don’t quite feel like I’ve written my best yet.

As readers, we’ve admired authors who made their marks on the world for many years, and we know of their struggles taking years to write a book, or writing stories that were controversial in their time. It doesn’t matter where you are in your craft, we do feel a little doubt. That self-doubt isn’t necessarily a lack of confidence, it stems from always wanting to best ourselves. Always wanting the next story to be better written.

Despite having written most of my life, I don’t always feel like I have a satisfying enough story to be published. At some level you have to question your own work and make sure that you’re telling your story in a way that you want, but in a way that’s also readable.

My point is, you can’t be smug in this business. Yes, be proud of yourself and your achievements. You’ve written an entire book. But don’t walk around with a swollen head thinking you already know everything you need to know. This is setting yourself up for failure. When you have nothing to show, you should take time to understand the business of writing. And yes, it is a business whether you self publish or traditionally publish. In today’s world, if you have a large following you are more likely to be successful than somebody in some corner of the world with a great book but no readers. So you should want to produce the best you can by taking constructive advice from READERS aka YOUR AUDIENCE.

Perception. Humility. Attention. Diligence. Knowledge.

To people who are entering this field, it is okay to be disorganized in your head. It’s okay to doubt yourself. It’s okay to take a long time. The key is finding techniques that work for you and your story.

I wish all of you aspiring writers the best in your endeavors. I hope we all do what we set out to do.

xo Kat

 

In The Gray by A.D. McCammon| Book Review

Synopsis:

Writer Lori Stevens has a brief encounter with Officer Steven Duncan one morning. She buys him a cup of coffee and the gravitational pull between them was instant and electric. Steven wants to see Lori again, but Lori doesn’t do dates or relationships. Broken by an abusive past, Lori ditches Steven and pursues her writing even further, by telling the story of Ashland. Ashland was also abused in a way society doesn’t see it as being abused. Lori connects with Ashland on that level. They both self-blame and carry around feelings of shame and guilt for something that was done to them. Some time after Lori ditches Steven, she runs into him again, only this time he’s dating her best friend, Cat.

Despite the circumstances, Lori and Steven form a friendship which is neither good or bad. It’s In the Gray.

My Thoughts:

This book is a romance about two people coming together, but the priceless take away from this story is its message. Abuse isn’t black or white, and victims living in grayed areas can often feel isolated. They might believe their pain is meant to be overlooked because of the unclear picture that most of society has of abuse. I appreciate the author telling the stories of Lori, Ashland & Juliana in this series to bring to light the stigma that women face as victims of abuse. It’s an eye opener for all who live with this secret and guilt. I myself, am not free of this kind of abuse and I never speak about it. I try to uplift my fellow women and encourage them to speak out, but I NEVER EVER speak about my experiences with abuse. Before I say anything I’m uncomfortable with, I’ll say this one thing. This story is inspiring, and I feel like a small seed has been planted in my head to be open with my story. It’s still very difficult for me to mentally process what happened in the past and I doubt it very much I can write a tell-all about myself but I do work small fragments of myself into my stories.

My rating: 5 stars!

 

Follow author A.D. McCammon on Facebook and Instagram by simply searching her name. She also has a FB Reader Group called AD’s McReaders for her readers to connect with her and her writing.

Xo Kat

Red Lights, Black Hearts by Fabiola Francisco| Book Review

Author: Fabiola Francisco

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Synopsis:

The story follows Sam, who works in the Red Light District in Amsterdam. In the beginning we learn that Sam has been running from her past and possibly herself by fleeing to Europe. She eventually meets Max, a traveling businessman from Germany who shows her that she can be loved, she can be healed. If only she would look deep within herself and want that for herself.

My Review:

The writing was beautiful…philosophical and poetic. Even with nothing going on, it was interesting to read. Red lights, Black Hearts is a testament of Sam’s healing. She explores the depths of her pain and suffering. She finds comfort in Max’s company and words, which lead her to love herself again, build herself up from the ground.

The book starts of kinda steamy but then it tapers off into therapeutic conversations between Sam and Max. Max serves as her support system throughout the book. She didn’t want him, she needed him. That was the vibe that I got. Overall, a neat story about redemption and healing.

My rating: 4 stars

Here’s the link to add the book to your TBR! Follow the author on Facebook, Instagram and join her FB reader group Fabiola’s Fab Reads to connect with other readers who loved the book.

Check out Red Lights, Black Hearts by Fabiola Francisco

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31142569

Xo Kat

Netflix is Taking Over My Life!|Movie Writing Prompts

I am a relatively new Netflixer. Because I’m a dinosaur and still pay for cable I only thought of subscribing to Netflix back in September. Well, whew! It was like opening Pandora’s box. And not because I’m an avid movie or TV watcher but because of all the incredible foreign content on there. I’ve always been an international movie watcher. Grew up looking at Hindi movies even though I didn’t speak a word of it. In the Caribbean, Hindi movies are a thing. It’s our only connect to our East Indian ancestry to be honest. Because apart from Hindi movies, I didn’t learn about the many different cultures and languages of the beautiful country until my twenties. But by then I was able to sing an entire song in a language I did not fully understand.

Why am I telling you this? Because Netflix has all these different movies and series in different languages and it sucks you in to be honest. When I first subscribed, I started looking at a Spanish series called El Barco. These episodes were like one hour long but they weren’t boring. They were very captivating and I kept wanting to know more and more so I lost a lot of sleep until I finished that series. Then came the Turkish dramas and OH EM GEE! These really rope you in. My house is disgusting when I start a Turkish series because it consumes my life. I go into the bathroom with my phone, I stand the iPad on the shelf above the sink when I’m doing dishes. Like, I dream about these characters like I’ve lived with them. I’m so invested in the show that it’s just on my mind all of the time. Recently, I’ve looked at a Korean movie and I’ve added some to look, and I’ve noticed that a lot of other countries base their movies on Korean movies. Which means that Korean movies might be some interesting stuff.

But let me tell you what I think really hooks me. Apart from me just loving other cultures and languages and yearning to learn more about them, I think it’s the brilliant writing behind these movies and series. It is just plot after plot. Fast paced, in depth. It is just mind blowing to me. And it’s a huge inspiration for me as a writer who likes to write fast paced, mind boggling stories. Honestly, if you as a writer have the patience to look at international movies, I suggest you do. Examine the people, their motives and everything that goes on. It’s like a writing prompt almost. I think it also explores villains in such a way that they can be hated and then redeemable. There’s also elements of just plain evil and the writing is done so well. Even the smallest character has an important part. These shows reveal character development so well. Like they aren’t just going in circles episode after episode, season after season. The characters really do change, develop, come into their own etc. I just really enjoy it. And if I could learn to write stories like these, I would be ecstatic! I cannot stress how well the storytelling is. And they’re mostly tear jerkers. I am a very hard person to cry over movies. I think the only movie I cried for was Titanic and I was ten at the time. I cried because I felt bad for the actual people who died on the ship. As a ten year old learning that reality, it was a bit much. I think most people cried seeing that. But these international dramas have me so emotional. For days, I walk around like a shell of myself just feeling all kinds of sad or happy.

It’s the writing, I tell you. It can’t be anything else. Of course, actors do have chemistries with the parts they play and they play it so well but writers are so under credited in movies and shows. They’re the real backbone of this thing and they have my respect. I will drop another post giving you some suggestions of what I’ve looked at so far.

Have a great Easter weekend! My Spring Break started with laundry and I still have to get a few things for my kids’ baskets. I’m just happy that I don’t have to set an alarm for the next week or so.

Xo Kat

Is my heart still in it?| Writing Fiction

I’ve always written for self-fulfillment more than anything else. This I’ve said a gajillion times, and nothing’s going to change that. It’s been almost four years since I’ve been considering publishing, and I’ve been faced with many highs and many lows. I understand it all comes with the territory of writing. It’s no easy feat to plot and write a book. And I thoroughly admire those who do it prolifically.

It’s been getting easier with my second child being a toddler, to find more time to write, and that I’ve been doing relentlessly. I have many storylines outlined and plotted waiting to be worked on. Last December, I told myself no more BS. I need to really get these stories out of my head and uniformed into a readable format.

It’s been going well so far, but I’ve been feeling like giving up. It’s not fear of rejection that’s been causing this, it’s lack of passion. Most of the stories I’ve been working on since has some kind of romance surrounding it, whether it be fantasy, paranormal or just contemporary. Honestly, I’m not feeling it anymore.

Some days I wake up and I feel exhausted of writing romance, like it’s not for me. Like it’s not what I want to produce. Don’t get me wrong, these stories are near and dear to my heart and I’ve spend so much time invested in them, but I just can’t help but think I should venture into another genre. I’ve always plotted other kinds of stories, being a horror fan, specifically based around paranormal and supernatural. But I never took it as seriously as I take my contemporary storylines.

I think I need a time out and it’s driving me insane. I’ve been working so hard these last three months and I can’t type those little two words yet, “The End.” I feel incompetent in a field that I’ve always loved and enjoyed being a part of. Pieces of myself are withering away just thinking about giving up.

Stories are my passion, and will always be.

I hope everyone’s having an amazing and productive weekend thus far.

Xo Kat

Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi|Book Review

I’ve got back to back book reviews 🙂 And I’m happy that I completed four books in January so far. My secret goal is to do four a month but I don’t want to do any bragging yet because I know myself. Life gets in the way.

Finally finished Shatter Me, and started Forget Me Not by Willow Winters. I finished that last night. It was that good. Without further ado, let’s get into the book review.

Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi

Initially I thought this book was fantasy YA. I honestly didn’t know much going into it other than people get hurt when the protagonist touches them.

Juliette Ferrar, a seventeen year old girl has been imprisoned in an asylum for three years. The asylum is not your usual asylum, as she suffers abuse and starvation during her time. She’s completely isolated and only gets shower liberties once a year.(I can’t remember if that’s right.) Her parents have forsaken her since she’s hurt people in the past by touching them. She feels like an abomination and loathes herself. The world has also fallen apart and a movement called The Reestablishment runs things in this dystopian novel.

She’s joined by another prisoner at the beginning of the story, who turns out to be her childhood friend, Adam Kent. Oddly, Adam is immune to her touch. As they figure this out, they both plan to escape the asylum and the brutal Warner who wants to use Juliette’s abilities for his own twisted aspirations.

My Thoughts:

This novel is very uniquely written and I can see where many readers can be put off. However, I liked it. I enjoyed it but I probably won’t read another series with this type of narration. I see it as Juliette’s personality, but I wouldn’t want to read another book character in the same tone. Juliette uses an abundance of metaphors and similes all throughout the book. One really has to acquire a taste for it. She also narrates by repeating phrases over and over and there’s lines in the book scratching out unnecessary narration.

I couldn’t believe this book was professionally edited judging by it’s lack of punctuation and cringe worthy numbers instead of spelling out the actual word. I finally accepted that it’s probably what they were going for.

I admit the writing is beautiful, capturing and over descriptive at times. There are many hook lines to tug at your heart and that’s what carried the story in my opinion. This novel was a lay up novel. No real plot and climax. And at the end, although I’m curious to know what happens next, I feel like I’m stepping into the world of X-men. The romance aspect weighs in more heavy than anything else in this story. But I can understand the audience that this caters to.

This is just my two cents. I don’t hate it and I hope the rumors about a TV Series are true. I’d watch it for sure. I always stress that I’m not a YA kind of reader so for me to really want to know more about this series, that says a lot.

Thanks for reading! Leave me a comment below and let me know if you’ve read this one before and what you think.

xo Kat

 

Christmas On Thin Ice by Holly Blair | Book Review

Book Title: Christmas On Thin Ice (A Juniper Falls Holiday Romance)

Author: Holly Blair

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis: Lily Jordan has just found out that she is pregnant for a famous golfer who ditched her. With the recent demise of her parents and the debt they left behind, Lily and her two brothers has to come up with a plan to save their family business, a tree nursery and skating rink. In comes Noah to save the day by offering to buy a percentage of the Jordans’ business but Lily isn’t too keen on losing her family business, or heart so quickly. 

My Review: Rated 5 stars in Goodreads because this book was a warm and enjoyable read to kick start my holidays reads. A very short book, actually a novella that can be finished in just a few hours but it’s content is full of feeling and substance. Great writing too. I completely recommended this to any who enjoys clean Hallmark type Romance as much as I do. 

Happy Reading! Xo Kat

My Reading Story

I don’t know why I thought this topic interesting hehe. If you’ve read my blog before you’ll see that at a young age, I was gifted books a lot and we always had tons of them around so reading came natural to me. My love for reading developed mainly because I grew up in the nineties, being born in the late eighties. And I didn’t have access to internet, TV time was also limited during the school week so reading was my little form of entertainment until it became an escape. My parents put no restrictions on my reading so it just elevated into an obsession…I mean addiction…no I meant hobby!

I’d get so wrapped up into these stories and at about the age of seven I felt like I was too big for picture books. I’d really hate talking to seven year old me now hehehe. I remember being a snob to someone who asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said a book(of course), expecting to get a brand new Nancy Drew, I got a little kids picture book.

In elementary school, I was all bad to the bone with the book open in my lap during class, and in high school, I skipped classes to live in the library. You know at the time, it was awesome. Telling this story now, I seem like a bore fest. During my escapes to the library in high school I really broke out with the content I was finding, Mills and Boons, and witches. It was awesome, yeah I keep saying that but it really was.

Books are these things that people ignore, don’t even give a second glance to but inside them lives all kinds of magic and feelings and people(ahem…I meant characters). I absolutely love being emotionally invested in a story and sometimes I get anxious because I just can’t keep up.

Leave me a comment and let me know what fun reading you’ve been up to 🙂

xo Kat