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

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles Bk 3) |Book Review

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles Book 3) by [Meyer, Marissa]

Book Title: Cress

Book Series: The Lunar Chronicles

Number in series: #3

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Sci-fi

My Rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis

This installment begins with Cinder, Captain Thorne, Scarlet and Wolf on the run. Their mission is to over Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth.

Cress, the title character, is trapped on satellite in space. She has exceptional hacking skills and is ruled over my Sybil Mira. One of her tasks is to track down Cinder and turn her over to Queen Levana. She also wants to break free of her prison, and on contacting Cinder, the group decides to rescue her.

All hell breaks lose, when the group splits up.

My Review

A longer read than the first two books but definitely more captivating than book two. So it was a fresh outlook on the series. The writing and action was also better. In this book we see a lot of action, which is admirable since it’s so hard to capture a action with words. The book also takes some getting used to if you like less complicated reads. Meaning there is a bigger cast and the story follows most of them.

Highly recommend if you enjoyed The Mortal Instruments or Shatter Me. The premises may be different but it delivers when it comes to a wide range of characters, a lot of plot and action.

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

 

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

How much of your writing is filler?|Writing Fiction

Hi Friends!

So, I had to come to the blog for this. I started working on an old manuscript yesterday. I fixed up the 10,000 words I’d written previously, and all I had to do was just continue. Just continue! But no! Lo and behold, started rewriting it in third person POV since this morning. I honestly don’t know why I do this to myself. Ok, I do know.

As per my research, the market demands first person present tense POV. Not my out dated third person POV that still includes tons of old English words. I always keep coming back to third because it’s my narrator voice. It’s what I’ve always written and what I’m most comfortable with.

Although sometimes first person can be tricky and suck you in. I enjoy writing both now but…let me share a thought or two. So, I started re-writing the same exact story in third this morning, and I had to remove some things entirely. Now I notice this in other books too, but I don’t often talk about it.

I feel like some sentences, especially the inner dialogue isn’t necessary at all. And can be done with! I think I struggle with creating such a uniformed kind of story that choppy, messy sentences make me jittery.

Anyways, how much of your writing do you believe is filler? I think some of the narration is redundant and over explanatory when writing in first person. Because we’re basically writing the way we speak. Or the way we think we speak.

Example 1. Overthinking. Inner dialogue. Our thought process on a matter doesn’t really last a full two paragraphs.

Example 2. Oversplaining(i know that word is not real) basic actions. He looks at me, then turns around. He turns back around. Or she looks at him, her eyes widening. You can just say her eyes widened. We understand that conveys surprise or shock depending on the context it’s used. 

When I write first person, I often find myself stuck at creating entire chapters for multiple characters. And then I’m using all kinds of filler to fill in gaps that I think should have something. So I busy my character by making tea, or walking down the street for ten seconds longer than they should have. I get that first person allows the reader to step into that immediacy, and I’m not saying all books written in first person drags or fills. Read My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier or Garden of Shadows by VC Andrews. Both are told in first, and it’s done exceptionally well. I think a person has to really know their craft to be able to do this. Another point is, when your plot is not enough, you tend to fill. So work on the plot to flesh your story out instead of filling it with stuff that’s not purposeful to your story.

I’m off now. Just wanted to share that. Tell me what you think!

xo Kat

Messing with my Writer’s Voice|Writing Fiction

Hello Friends,

I hope you’re having a fantastic Monday so far. Mine isn’t going too bad. So, I’ve hit a dead end again and I think it has to do with my writing voice. My biggest struggle with my current WIP(work in progress) is not the story itself, it’s how I want to tell it. This story has been writing itself in my head for years and I started working on it way back in 2016. I should’ve finished by now. But I’m still struggling with how it’s executed.

The story can be considered women’s fiction with a touch of romance. It’s about a young woman’s journey to finding a place she could belong. I know that sounds basic but it’s all I can give away for now. What I want to talk about today is writing voices.

Everyone has their own style and manner of storytelling. Personally, I’m not a fan of choppy sentences that sound the way we speak. I don’t mind that in dialogues, but not within the narrative itself. That is because I learned to write this way from an early age so it makes me cringe to write choppily. However, because many readers said they won’t read a book written in third person, I resorted to writing and rewriting in first person. I’ve tried first person present tense, first person past tense. But the manuscript just doesn’t sound like me or mine.

For instance, I can’t write with a flow. I always have to be mindful that my high-school dropout protagonist doesn’t have a vocabulary like mine. To tweak my own words to sound like my character’s(in terms of narration not dialogue just to be clear), is not the way I see myself being published. I feel like the narration needs to roll off the page as easily as it rolls off my mind. If that makes any sense at all. So I’ve been stuck because I stopped progressing my own writing to please readers of this particular genre. Which is probably the worst thing I could’ve done because I now feel like I’ve lost my ability to write the way I used to.

I know first and foremost we should always write for ourselves, but it’s easy to get caught up in wanting to deliver what readers demand. I mean, there is a business side to everything.

Currently, I am exhausted of this current WIP having spent years rewriting it in many different ways. I want to move on to my other 30 story ideas but I would lose much sleep and sanity if I don’t get this particular one right.

Have you ever experienced something like this?

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