Friday, January 30, 2015

Writing Hardships

Writing is really fun, but it's also really hard! Here are some of the struggles us writer's face on the way to becoming the next Steven King!

1. Realizing we're not as good as we thought.  I can't tell you how many times I've shared a first-draft chapter with a friend and then realized it was a piece of junk that needed to be re-written a million times over. In the moment, we writers can become so infatuated with our ideas that we gloss over the terrible grammar, phrasing, awkward dialogue, and poor plotting. As the theory goes, our best editing work is done after we press send.

2. Getting bad reviews. When we write, the finished product is basically our child. As authors, we encourage our readers to leave honest, thoughtful, objective reviews. After all, not everybody is gonna like our book. Even famous authors get bad reviews. The hard part comes, when that person's review is nothing but insults, nitpicking, sarcastic comments, and a little of discernible truth sprinkled throughout. Then to add salt to the wound, they give you 1 star and shrink your rating to practically nothing. Ouch, right? Unfortunately, bad reviews come with the job. Constructive criticism can be helpful, but if you're going leave a brutally honest review, at least try to be nice. We authors are sensitive...

3. PCD aka Post Character Depression. After we've been working on a book for five years and we finally publish, it's like a part of our souls have died. Just think, we've been hanging out with these characters, getting into their minds, living in their worlds. Then poof! Published. Your little characters are out and available to be judged by the public. You try to start a new story, but in the back of your head you keep thing about your old hero. "She would have never let him say that about her", "If only he had been there to help". After finishing my novel Mila (A Three-Part Story), I kept accidentally putting Mila's name in place of my new book character because I'd been with her for so long. Sad right? 

As you can see, writing has it's cons, but who cares? Writing is awesome! Keep at it fellow wordsmiths!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Things Writers Can Do That Normal People Can't

Writing has a lot of hardships, but it is also a lot of fun! Here are some things that we writer's get to do that normal people can't ;)

1. We writers get to live multiple lives. Sure you can live vicariously through a character by reading, but there's something different about creating that character from scratch and slowly developing him. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Writers aren't people exactly. Or, if they're any good, they're a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person." Our characters are a part of us, maybe the parts we haven't quite explored yet. As a writer, we get to dive into those hidden parts of our soul and swim around a bit. The crazy stuff you'd never do in real life, that's what you get to do on page!

2. We're knowledgeable in random stuff. While writing my first novel, Mila, I had to do extensive research on ancient Rome and barbarian Britainnia. Previous to writing my book, I was never into history. In fact, it was my least favorite subject in school (with math centimeters behind). If I hadn't written Mila, I would not be half as knowledgeable in ancient culture as I am now.

3. Daydreaming is our job. When I was a little girl, I would pretend that the stuffed animals in my room were characters and I would have them act out the scenes I imagined in my head. Now, I still act out scenes in my head, I just do it with words. Every time we stare blankly out the window, we are opening ourselves to all kind of inspiration for our books. As writers, we get to watch movies and read books, and for us it's a form of research. When we are moved by a story, it inspires us to write our own. 

Now that you know why being an author is an awesome job, go get working on your novel!!

Friday, January 16, 2015

To The Young Authors Out There!

When I was six years old, I would write fantasy stories. I'd draw the little pictures and then I'd staple the pages together, finishing it off with a Rated E for everyone stamp on the back. (That's what happens when you have brothers who play videogames) As I got older, my writing got better, and I started writing actual books. When I was fourteen, I published my first novel, 'Mila' which was an incredible experience in what not to do. Unfortunately, my writing back then was terrible and there were a ton of historical inaccuracies in my book. Later on, I pulled Mila down and wrote a revised version at seventeen,  adding two-hundred more pages to it (part 2 and 3).

A lot of times, I'll get comments from people who can't believe I've written such a good book at my age. This is understandable since writing a book is even hard for adults. So what is my advice to young authors out there who want to shock the world with their talent?

1. Be observant! We may not have experienced everything in the world ourselves yet, but we sure can learn a lot from people who have. Asking questions, forming our own ideas, and being open to hearing views different from our own, takes us a long way in our writing careers. If you make the time to watch how people respond in certain situations, what kind of reactions people have to certain comments, what motivates people do to what they do, you'll know how to mimic that with your characters.


2. Compare yourselves to the best, not who you are better than. One of my favorite storytellers is J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. Now, I will most likely never be as good as her, but if I could even come close, I would be legendary. By comparing myself to someone great, I strive to reach a high goal. If I was to say, "Twilight is popular and my stuff is already better than that," I wouldn't be pushing myself to be better. You can always find someone worse than you, that doesn't make you good.

3. Have seasoned authors critique your work. Before publishing Mila (A Three-Part Story), I joined a critique site, not realizing that you had to be eighteen years old. Oops. On the bright side, most of the authors were in their later lives and had some great advice on how to improve my stories. Because I didn't tell them my age, they critiqued me as an adult without any of that, "It's good for your age" stuff. Take their critique with an open mind because your first few stories probably aren't as good as you think.

4. Strip down the core emotions from things you haven't experienced. In my novel, my main character is a mother. I have never been a mother myself nor have I ever had my child taken from me. So how do I relate to my character without experiencing half of the things Mila does? Well, I have loved people. Maybe not a child of my own, but my family members. Maybe I've never lost a child, but I've lost things that I've loved, even if it was just a pet. The key to connecting with characters different from you is stripping their emotional scenarios down to a smaller scale. Emotions like love, fear, heartbreak, betrayal are things everyone goes through in their own ways. Taking that emotion and using it for our art is what being a storyteller is all about. In the words of 18 year old singer-songwriter Birdy, "I don't think you have to experience things to understand them."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

5 Types Of Characters Readers Hate

Characters are one of the most important aspects of your novel. You could have the best story in the world, but if we don't care about your characters, we won't want to journey with them to the end of the book. Today, I'm going to talk about the top 5 types of characters that readers hate.

1. The whiny character. I think this type of character is perhaps the most annoying because we all know people like this in real life. That person who is always a victim, always throwing a pity party. They never see themselves as the problem, only others. These people are CONSTANTLY complaining. Then to make matters worse, the author usually tries to make us empathize by having all of the other characters hate them for no reason. 

2. The stereotypical character. The smart Asian kid, the nerd with glasses, the handsome jock, the wise old man. Nobody wants to read a book where every single character is just a walking cliche. Not only does it make your characters seem like they were copy and pasted from every story you've ever heard, but it perpetuates old ideas instead of bringing new ones. Readers don't want to hear about the black kid who listens to rap. How about we write about a black kid who is fond of country music or a white kid who loves to dance. People are more than their exterior, let's act like we believe it!

3. The indestructible character. This type of character is the worst when it comes to plot driven novels. What gives us that uneasy feeling in our chest when we read an action/thriller/adventure book, is the feeling that our hero could die at any moment. When writers make it where the only thing that could possibly hurt our character is *cough* kryptonite, we lower the stakes to practically nothing. These types of characters make us roll our eyes because no matter what happens, we know they're gonna make it to the end.

4. The "too perfect character" is similar to the "indestructible character", but different enough that I'm going to give it it's own section. There are two parts to this kind of character. The first is the behaviorally perfect character. It's that person you see and think, somebody buy this guy a halo and start calling him angel because he can do no wrong. Not only are these characters boring as heck, but because they aren't flawed, it leaves them no room to grow. No growth means no arc. Stories that resonate with readers are the ones that connect them on an emotional level. We can't relate to perfection, so don't make your character flawless.

5. The passive character. This is the person that can't make any decisions. This is the person you take out to dinner and they couldn't care less about where you eat except that one place. Characters like this make it difficult for the reader because they slow down the story. Whether you are trying to get the ring to mordor or trying to rescue the princess, this person is stopping on the wayside to pick flowers. Because of this, the author starts making decisions for them. Let's use the example of a love triangle. Our main character Emma falls in love with Bryce and Stan, but she can only be with one. Assertive Emma would act, deciding which one she loves more. This could be over a period of time of her actively getting to know both boys, but she will eventually make a move. Passive Emma might mess around with both boys, leading them on because she is unsure of what she wants. The author will step in and try to make it easier for Passive Emma, maybe by having one of the boys go off to college so that she doesn't have to choose. Life is full of decision making so your book should be too. Never step in to conveniently help your characters. Make your characters ACT. You may even be surprised where they take you.