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

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

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

 

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 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

 

 

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

 

How Important is Momentum| Fiction Writing

I stumbled across a video about the importance of momentum when writing a book and although I know it’s a logical way of thinking, I don’t always apply that with my own projects. I allow many factors to affect me from completing a manuscript.

Basically, having momentum means finishing a book, at least a first draft. This is something I’m always struggling with. When I first started out writing books(not poetry), I had momentum. I wrote for a set four hours a day and in four to five months, I had a first draft and revisions completed. The book was a huge embarrassment to me mainly because I feel cheesy about writing romance and sexy times. Also, the book needs a little work before I republish it. It’s an ebook by the way. But…the accomplished feeling of having finished something that took sweat and tears was a great one.

Somewhere along the lines, I lost sight of the fact that I was writing for myself. I wasn’t writing for money, an audience or competition. In my head, I just wanted to write what I wanted to read. I wanted to bring the characters that I had invested so much time into to life. So I wrote, and wrote until I completed my story. Beginning, plot, climax. It was all there.

My insecurities started to appear after publishing my second book which I removed due to it needing a little more work. What made me feel incompetent as a writer wasn’t my newness to the field, it was all of the other things that comes with writing that I didn’t have before. It’s been hard for me during this journey to share my work as it’s always been something very private, something therapeutic in my life. Sharing my work made me feel exposed in a way. Now I’m not that writer that dislikes criticism because I believe our readers are where we grow and learn from. You learn what you’re doing wrong, what you’re doing right and what you need to improve on.

I haven’t been able to finish one manuscript this year despite that fact I wrote over 50,000 words(different projects). Some of these projects began all the way back in 2016. It’s a failure, and I hate it, and I try so hard to work on it.

Coming back to the video about momentum. We have all read books that we didn’t like and books that we loved and adored but they all had something in common. They were completed. My take as a writer is not everyone’s going to love your work and you won’t be an established author until you write and write and learn from it but the importance of finishing, getting to the last page is very high. This is something a writer just needs to do no matter what.

Stressing over an audience and what you think they want to read is one of the most detrimental things you can do to yourself as a writer. You have a voice, you have a story and it’s your right to tell it the way you see fit. And I will touch on the subject in another post of do’s and don’t’s in writing and why I think it’s wrong to give people such a stenciled idea of a creative field.

Writing fiction isn’t like copywriting and I’m very much in my comfort zone with researching and writing articles but when it comes to creativity I let fear overtake the pen. I joke about it as writer’s block but it isn’t so funny when you feel like you wasted an entire year not doing what you love to do. So my takeaway from this video that I looked at is to have momentum. Just write. Just finish. Editing, formatting, promotions, all of that comes after. It really shouldn’t be our focal point when there is a story to be told.

As always, thanks for reading. Drop me a line in the comments and let me know your thoughts.

xo Kat

 

Should Writers Only Write What They Know? | Writing Fiction

What really started me out writing stories and poetry was “Composition Class” in primary school. As early as the age of six, I had to write essays (called compositions sometimes) based on pictures or a topic. It would start with a first line sometimes, and sometimes it would be titled something like “A Day at The Beach” or “The Dog.” This required critical and creative thinking from very early on for me, and often I would slip into daydreams about different things…writing in my head so to speak. During my last year of primary school, I really had to perfect my essays as it was a core part of our exams for high school entry. I even had extra after school lessons to broaden my knowledge and understanding of how 2-3 page stories work. Introduction, body, climax, etc.

One piece of advice I got from a teacher around that time(age 10) was to write what I know. I believed that, and I applied that but I also believed that it wasn’t meant to be taken so literally. Most of my essays were based on fantasy ideas, rings with superpowers, kids with superhuman strengths. I had neither of those, so where did that come from? Which brings me to my next question…”Should writers only write what they know?”

My simple answer, pertaining to my own experiences as a content creator is no. But there’s more to it than just no. It’s understanding how to utilize what you know and add to it.

I’m inserting a disclaimer here as usual that I am no scholar or established author, just a person who writes with a take on writing what you know.

If we were to confine everything that we know only into our stories, it probably wouldn’t work out too well. As writers, we do have an audience to write for and we shouldn’t treat them poorly. Readers need to feel, and most writers can provide that but can we really provide a dynamic visual for our readers if we don’t tap into our creativity? To me, writing is an art, similar to painting, although painting is very complex to a person like me. But the creative similarities are there.

For instance, many authors create epic works of fiction. To name a few, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, Rick Riordan and many more. Their works are related to the fantasy or adventure genre. What this means is that these writers really tapped into a special place of creativity. Rowling didn’t attend a wizardry school and neither did Tolkien meet elves or dwarfs to get familiar enough to write about them.

Do I write what I know? Yes, my past experiences has taught me a lot about emotions, feelings. And whatever genre or story you tell, the portraying of an emotion is there, jealously, anger, love, lust, happiness, pain, rejection. These are things we know and write about better as time goes by. There are still emotions that I can’t perfectly pen out on paper and it’s because I’ve never had that particular situation to deal with so I don’t write it. But when it comes to imagination, world building, character profiling….let your creative juices flow. Just let go.

As a writer, I don’t know everything. I don’t know most of my characters when I get an idea for a book or where the story is going. Recently I had a little struggle with writing about a cold climate place that I have never been to. Is it doable? Sure it is. The research & plotting part of your novel or story is very critical and should be given adequate time to brainstorm and develop before even beginning to write chapter one.

Do you have any struggles in your writing process? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by!

xo Kat

Can Content Mills help your Writing Career?

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What are Content Mills?

In layman’s terms, content mills or content farms are websites that hire freelancers to generate large amounts of textual content. In most cases, a freelance writer has to bid the lowest to get hired. Because of this, many writers as well as employers don’t find the services rendered from these sites credible. Questions to explore are, “How qualified is this writer I’m hiring?” or “How reliable is this person if I know nothing of their writing background?”

Read on to get my take on content mills and you decide whether or not it can benefit you as a freelance writer.

If you’re a newbie writer, and have no experience in the writing field, or maybe you have personal experience but no portfolio to show for it, content mills can be a start for you. Although the money will seem like a disadvantage to your and you talent on most days, here’s what you can learn by using content mills.

Experience

As a writer who is just starting out, trust me when I say you have a lot to learn in the world of writing. Writing is an ever flowing kind of job. Your knowledge should be an expanding work in progress at all times. There is no “know how” or “know enough” in writing. Be mindful at this point you don’t necessarily know what kind of writer you are. You may choose a niche or topic and feel you can handle it but you won’t really know until you put yourself to the test. Signing a job through content mills can help you gain that experience. Many experienced and established writers advise against using content mills and tell newbie writers to just plunge head on into pitching for jobs.

Consider the scenario of you landing your first client and not being able to deliver because you don’t know how to assemble yourself and your skills as a writer. I will go in depth into what it takes to get into writing in another post. What I will say here, no writer knows everything. There’s a lot of research, rewrites and dealing with unsatisfied clients. This is something that you’ll want to be eased into before attempting larger jobs with a higher commitment.

Portfolio/Published Work

When you browse through job posting, you’re bound to see several potential clients asking for samples of your published work. Crafting an awesome pitch is key but with a portfolio in your pocket, you’re about to ace that proposal. Clients want visible proof of what you’re capable of doing for their company as well as your writing style and voice. Again, as a beginner you have none of these. Using content mills for a few months to a year can seem tedious and daunting, like your writing career will never kick off. Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day and at the end of that year, you just might have a full portfolio to show when approaching the kind of jobs you want to be doing.

Finding Your Voice

Another question I’ve seen on forums is, “I want to be a writer but how do I find my voice?” Here’s how you do it…try different things. Writing is art, creativity, it’s not meant to be a straight line. Maybe you’ll fare better as a business writer or medical writer, or fiction writer. But you won’t really know until you explore your true potential. Picking up small scale writing jobs in content mills can help you find your own voice. By the time you’re really ready to put yourself out there, you have a full understanding of the kind of writer you are.

Potential to Meet Ongoing Clients

Content mills have lots of ongoing jobs and once you build a relationship with a client, who’s to say you won’t be doing business with that company for a long time outside of a content farm?

Time Management

When you’re just starting out, the only things on your mind are landing jobs and making a buck. Pretty soon it can get overwhelming. You have the opportunity to learn how to manage your time in a day in order to get the amount of work you need to get done. You also get to learn your own work process, how long it takes you to write an article and how many articles you can research and write in a day. All these are things to be mindful of when deciding to become a freelance writer.

How to Approach and Converse with Clients

Another way to prepare yourself in dealing with future clients, is actually dealing with clients. Taking up short term jobs can help you with long terms jobs in the future. In freelancing writing, a lot of your meetings are done via messaging and sometimes Skype. It’s few and far you may have an actual sit down meeting. You need to develop your people skills, how to approach clients, the language you need to use professionally. Getting your point across and also understanding the client’s vision is crucial in delivering a satisfying article.

 

I may be in the minority but I believe there are a lot of things you can learn from content mills to shape yourself as a confident writer. Money shouldn’t be your driving force at beginner level. You have to be prepared and accepting of your mistakes, clients’ negative feedback and how to fix the problem with a level head. As with every talent and skill, writing should be nurtured. Starting off with content mills is a way of getting your foot through the door without a wide gap in not writing at all.

Hope you enjoyed this piece. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think and what’s your approach as a freelance writer or if you’re considering dipping your toes into the writing pool.

xo Kat

(c) 2007 Kat Degnich. All rights reserved.