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

 

 

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

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

 

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

Is Third Person POV Dead?|Writing Fiction

Just like anything, I’ve come to realize that writing books is a business in itself. At the end of the day we all want to be our authentic selves in hopes that at least one person will receive it positively but it’s also true that we write for an audience. Particularly in the romantic genres, in the last few years I’ve been seeing a lot of first person present tense POVs. I read it but it doesn’t always read well to me, because that’s my preference. Everybody has their own tastes even when it comes to reading.

I’ve asked the question first person vs third person in a couple of writing groups and the group with majorly romance writers and readers favored first person. Recently I read on a blog that reading in first person helps the reader connect to a character better as it reads like you’re inside of the person’s head. The blog also went on to say that when something reads like a chick diary it’s more relatable. While that may be true, authors who write in third person are still successful in publishing. Some of which I enjoy quite a bit, like Nora Roberts, Susan Mallory.

It’s mostly on the indie scene I see first person being more preferable and that’s scary for someone like me who is choosing to go the self-publishing route. I have written in first person, I’ve switched entire books in first person but I’ll tell you where it goes wrong for me.

I spend a few sentences throughout my story noticing things that my characters may not necessarily notice. For instance, my MC who is a guy may not care what the color of a curtain is or the set up of a bedroom. There’s also the self-description thing that makes me cringe. Personally, I find it hard to describe myself or brag about myself and again, not all of my characters care what they look like but I do want my readers to have a feature or two in mind. And I find that reflection thing that I see ever so often in other books is not really my thing.

My writing voice is also not my character’s voice. I enjoy using different words to describe and elaborate on things and I can assure you my main character may not always share that vocabulary. So it’s hard for me to articulate the story that I want in my main character’s voice. I don’t head hop because it’s confusing to readers and even me as a writer. I do focus on one character at a time but just in third person POV. It’s called third person limited whereas the other is called third person omniscient. This I will cover in another blog post so stay tuned for that one.

Lastly, I have been writing in third person POV as early as the age of seven. In school, I had tons and tons of essays to write and I even started writing my own stories so I had time and practice with writing in third person. It’s why it comes more naturally to me as a narrator.

What POV do you prefer and what are the challenges you face? Why is one or the other easier for you?

As always thanks for stopping by. Here’s the link for my newly created Facebook Page if you want to keep up with me there. https://www.facebook.com/Bookish-Kat-582027968799821/ I always love discussing bookish things with bookish people! Find me on Instagram @bookishkat7

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?