12 Hard Truths for New Writers

We all have our own idea of what a writer’s life is like. Whether it’s teapots and typewriters or coffee shops and laptops, rich and glamorous or starving artist, there are these images we have built up in our mind.

Regardless of what your preconceived notion of a writer’s life may be, there are a few universal truths.

So, if you want the wool pulled off your eyes, if you want to know the reality (rather than the expectation), here are a few hard truths that are better swallowed sooner rather than later.

Writing the book is often the easy part.
When you’re writing, you don’t have to worry about getting it perfect, and that alleviates some of the pressure that comes with later stages. (Yep, there are a lot of later stages.)

Writing isn’t always easy, though.
It isn’t all rainbows and magical typing sprees where your fingers magically compose thousands and thousands of words in a single session. It takes work, time, and dedication to go the distance.

No one is going to write your book for you.
At least, not unless you pay them. Ghost writers exist, but they do charge for their time and creative abilities. (As they should.)

Editing can be absolutely brutal.
You may end up scrapping scenes, chapters, or even entire characters. Getting feedback can be rather painful. But it’s necessary.

Editing can be immensely rewarding.
Figuring out the exact detail that fixes a plot hole can be a major high. Getting feedback can be unbelievably encouraging.

Traditional vs. indie is a big decision that should not be taken lightly.
Every author has different abilities and goals. As such, every author needs to consider their own strengths and weaknesses honestly when choosing their publishing route.
Just remember, you should never pay a publisher hundreds or thousands of dollars to publish your book. That’s a vanity press, and it’s a legal scam profiting off of authors who don’t know better. I made that mistake six and a half years ago. You don’t want to do it.

There are tons of resources to help you choose the right path for you.
From AuthorTube to the writing community on Instagram to writing groups on Facebook, there are millions of writers out there debating the same thing or actively pursuing one or the other.
Ask around. Most authors are more than willing to share what they know on the subject. Just keep in mind that your skill set is likely different from theirs. You should consider their experience in light of your skills and goals.

There will always be someone who doesn’t like your work.
Every person out there is different. Writing is in fact an artform, and thus, it’s subjective. The odds of everyone absolutely loving your book are… well… low. Really low. That doesn’t mean your book is bad or that you shouldn’t write it because…

There will always be someone who loves your work.
Since writing is such a subjective thing, there is an audience for every book. You just have to find it.

Marketing can be an absolute beast.
Between figuring out the best social media platform for you and your book and putting together compelling ads that convince people that they want to give you money and take a risk on your book by investing hours of their life into something they may or may not like, marketing is a beast that can be hard to tame.

There are a lot of classes tailored specifically for helping writers learn how to market their books.
Skillshare, Inkers Con, and a million writing coaches are out there waiting to show you the ropes. Just be sure to shop around to see what classes work for you and your budget.

There is no feeling quite like holding your book in your hands.
Holding a world that you’ve created, flipping through page after page that you’ve filled with characters and places that didn’t exist before is an absolute dream. It’s exhilarating.
And it makes all the difficult parts of being a writer 100% worth it.

So keep going.

Keep writing. Keep reading.

Later.

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Crying while writing: Is it a good sign?

Many writers wonder if they’re silly for crying over their own book. After all, we’re the ones writing it. We should be hardened against the tragedies we throw at our characters.

Right?

Eh… not quite.

You see, as writers, we have to get to know our characters. We spend months or years in their heads, going on adventures with them. We learn about them and in a way, befriend them.

So, when they suffer… we suffer.

Not to mention the potentially cathartic nature of writing.

I don’t know about you, but often times, if I’m struggling with a specific emotion or event in my life, there’s a chance that at least one of my characters is going to face something similar. It won’t be exact, of course. It’ll be fictionalized and adjusted to fit their life.

But it’s there.

And getting it onto the page helps me work through it myself.

So, when they cry about something similar to what I’m going through, sympathy kicks in, and I’m pretty likely to cry.

It helps to get things out and see them through someone else’s perspective. It lends the situation a halfway objective nature.

And of course, there’s this…

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”- Robert Frost

If a scene you write hurts you, if you knew it was coming or if it snuck up on you, then it’s a pretty good indicator that the emotion is there. And if the emotion is there, then there’s a much better chance that your reader will feel it.

And don’t we want our readers to feel the things happening in our books? To relate and emote?

So don’t feel silly if you cry while you’re writing.

It may actually mean you’re doing a better job than you think.

And even if it doesn’t mean that, you’re certainly not alone. I cry while writing, all the time.

So keep going. Rip your heart out and put it on the page.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

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How to Design a Book Cover: Part Three, Design Basics

Now that you have some basic knowledge of typography and some resources to pick and choose images from, lets talk about the art itself.

There are a lot of things that come into play when creating art, and the rules and practices change depending on the medium and the style you’re working within. There’s a reason it takes many people years of study to become proficient in any artform.

Today, we’re going to cover a few basics. But first, the most important thing to remember is that your cover needs to do a couple very specific things. It needs to get (good) attention, it needs to convey something about your book, and it needs to fit the genre of your book.

So, with those things in mind, here are some things to remember while selecting artwork:

Composition

A good composition will have a defined focal point. You don’t want your cover to have so much going on that it loses all focus. Then, you run the risk of confusing readers or just flat out scaring them away.

You can use leading lines to direct the viewer’s eyes to certain areas of the cover. These can be a sword or a sweep of hair or a lifted arm. You can use these leading lines to show the viewer around the cover or direct them to the focal point.

Odd numbers of items/people and ‘S’ curves are very appealing in compositions.

Color scheme

Do you need a color scheme? Yes.

Your cover should be cohesive. If you have clashing colors and no discernible reason for those colors to be there, you’ll only scare readers away.

Pick a few colors that work together and stick with them.

Eye-catching

The entire point of a cover is to draw readers in. Thus, it needs to catch their eye.

You don’t need a massive landscape shrunk to fit on the cover. You don’t have to have explosions and boobs.

You need something that is aesthetically pleasing, something that stands out.

Genre appropriate

And yet, your cover needs to fit in.

Every genre has trends. Sometimes it’s okay to break from trends, but they do happen for a reason. They show what readers expect from that genre and helps a reader easily identify what kind of book they’re looking at.

Study other books in your genre to get ideas of the current trends.

Relevancy

Your cover should tell potential readers something about your book specifically so they have an idea of what they’re getting into.

If you have a dragon on your cover, they know to expect a dragon in the story. If you have a sword and some magical effects, they know to expect a sword and sorcery type book.

If your cover has a bloody knife on the beach, they know to expect a summer murder story.

Make sure your story gives a hint at what they’ll find within the pages. Just don’t beat yourself up trying to get the whole story onto the cover. Again, you don’t want the cover to become overwhelming or confusing.

Lighting

If you’re combining different images, you need to make sure the lighting is the same in each one. The images will have their own light sources within them, coming from their own directions.

You need to flip the various elements to align these light sources, otherwise you might end up with a character whose boobs are lit from one direction, the highlights on their wings are on the wrong side, and their shadow goes a completely different direction.

And that just doesn’t look right.

You may even have to adjust the lighting and shadows manually in photo editing software.

Aspect Ratio

Don’t squish an image to fit it onto your cover. It will be obvious. And it will look terrible.

Borders

Please, don’t.

The picture already has a natural border. It’s called the edge of the cover.

Use all the space you have available on that cover. It’s your first attempt to draw a reader in. It’s a major marketing tool.

Why waste it with a border?

Of course, as with any artform, rules and advice are more like guidelines. Professionals can break any rule if they have sufficient reason and do it in a way that comes across as very intentional. It just takes a lot of skill and work to get it to work.

So, one of the most important things to do when designing a cover is to get feedback. From authors. From readers. From artists. Seek feedback, and listen. Make changes as necessary.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter here to stay up to date on all my books and get sneak peeks at my own covers and character art. Come back next week for more writing related tips and tricks.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

How to Design a Book Cover: Part Two, Resources

For those of you tuning in for the first time, I want to reiterate. A professional graphic designer is almost always the best option for your book cover. But some budgets just don’t allow for it, and believe me, I understand that.

So, for those of you who either can’t afford a pro or just want to make your covers yourself and don’t care if it’s advised against, I want to share some tips to help you do it just a little bit better.

I also want to start by saying that I am not an expert. Just an author with a background in art who’s made some mistakes and learned from them.

Last week, we discussed typography, an incredibly important, often underestimated part of the cover, so don’t forget to check that out next. This week, we’re talking about that beauty that goes behind the words.

The artwork.

You need good artwork. High resolution images, no watermarks. (Please pay for the art if it isn’t free. Don’t steal it or crop the watermark out.)

Please do not draw something by hand and then scan it into your computer. Your hand drawn art may be beautiful, but it isn’t the best medium for a book cover.

Please don’t jump into Microsoft Paint and just draw random things.

If you don’t have extensive experience with graphic design, your best bet is to find professional artwork. There are plenty of sites with gorgeous artwork available for commercial use for little to no money, and today, I’m going to list a few resources.

Canva
Great for sourcing free and paid images and illustrations.
Free and paid versions available.
Get started here.

Pexels
Tons of free images, videos, and vectors.
Option to donate to the artist to help support them.
Get started here.

Pixabay
Tons of free images, videos, and vectors.
Option to donate to the artist to help support them.
Get started here.

Artbreeder
Great for making landscapes, portraits, people, and creatures.
Commercial use allowed because you’re the one “creating” the artwork.
Takes some playing around to learn how to properly use it.
Free and paid versions available.
Get started here.

Now, for those with a little more experience, there are renders. You can buy bits and pieces, characters, props, backgrounds, and creatures. They do have to be pieced together in photo editing software to form a full image, so it requires a bit of knowledge with graphic design to get the lighting and layering correct.

Here’s my two favorite render sites:

The Render Shop
Wide variety of renders for every genre with more available almost every day.
Diverse and inclusive characters.
Freebie Friday.
Special things available to members of their Facebook group.
Get started here.

Sleepy Fox Studios
Diverse and inclusive characters.
Get started here.

All of these are great sources for artwork. Some require work to put them together (namely the renders), but all have the potential to help you produce a good cover.

Go forth and explore. Take some time to get ideas and play around. I’ll be back next Monday with a blog about picking appropriate images for your story.

Don’t forget to check out last week’s blog here to learn about the text that goes on the cover.

If you like gritty stories with lots of character development, sign up for my newsletter here to get a free short story and stay up to date on all my books.

Plantsers, Pros and Cons: A Guide for New Writers

It’s time for the final installment of this little guide to writing methods, and today, we’re talking about the pros and cons of being a plantser.

Now, pantser and plotter get bandied about rather freely. But plantsers don’t get quite as much discussion, despite being the group that includes most writers.

So, in case you don’t know, a plantser is someone who falls somewhere on the spectrum between plotters and pantsers.

They do some planning, but go off the rails halfway through. Or maybe they do no planning to start, jumping in to get a feel for the world, and then they step back and iron out some details for the end of the story to make sure everything gets tidied up.

They might do detailed character bibles and maps, but leave the story arcs to develop as they go.

The point is, to some degree, they plan, and to some degree, they figure it out as they go.

There are a lot of things that can go right with this method and a lot of things that can go wrong.

So let’s go over a couple.

We’ll start with the benefits.

1. Freedom to adjust as necessary.

A major part of this writing style is centered around the belief that not everything is going to be planned out perfectly ahead of time. Things may need to change later on, and that’s okay.

This method allows the freedom to step away from the outline as needed.

2. Enough structure to cut back on writer’s block.

Of course, the dreaded block is still possible in any writing method, but having a plan of some sort, even if it’s just five bullet points and a page of backstory for your main character(s), can help alleviate the dread of staring at a blank page.

3. Those blessed A-Ha moments.

With this writing method, those wonderful little epiphanies can happen during the plotting stage AND during the writing stage, spurring you on in either part of the journey.

And now, some of the cons.

1. Meandering plot lines.

All that freedom means that sometimes the plot can wander a bit too far. There’s always the chance that you could get caught up in a tangent, falling down a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with the main storyline, but it catches your fancy and you go chasing after it.

(Sound familiar? That’s because this is a potential pitfall of pantsing, covered in part one of this series.)

2. Writer’s block.

All that freedom could lead to uncertainty. Details, or even major events, that haven’t been ironed out ahead of time could trip you up later on, causing delays.

3. Rigidity.

You could end up sticking too close to the outline, even when the characters have grown into something different than you originally planned. This could lead to stunted characters. It could also lead to pacing issues if the story or characters develop at a different rate than you originally anticipated. (This might sound familiar, as it’s a potential pitfall of plotting that we discussed in part two of this series.)

Basically, all the potential pros of pantsing and plotting apply, as well as all the cons. Really, it comes down to how you mix and match the two writing methods. The biggest strength of this method is that you have the flexibility to pick and choose exactly which part of the other two to keep and which to discard.

And really, finding what works for you is the most important thing. Every writer is different. We all have different backgrounds and personalities.

There is no one right way to write a book.

That’s important to remember. There are many people who swear by plotting things out, and many who swear by writing by the seat of your pants.

I fall into the latter category, but I know that doesn’t work for everyone.

So, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve written 20 books, if a piece of writing advice doesn’t work for you, throw it out. What’s important is that you finish your book.

The rules about how to write a book are more like guidelines and should be treated as such.

Play around with different writing methods until you find what works the best for you and keeps you writing all the way to the end of the book.

Come back next week for part one of my next blog series, Graphic Design Tips for Authors. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to stay up to date on all my book releases and giveaways, get exclusive content and sneak peeks, and even receive a free short story at sign-up.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Pantser Vs. Plotter: A Guide for New Writers

Last week, we covered the pros of plotting and the cons of pantsing a novel. And I’ll be honest, it hurt a little to be so negative about my own writing method. But this is going to make up for it.

This week, I get to sing the praises of writing like a pantser (aka a discovery writer).

So, let’s dive in.

1. The story progresses at the exact pace it needs to.

If you write an outline and then start writing, strictly adhering to the outline, things may not happen when the characters and plot would actually get to them.

You may have a moment where a character figures something out that’s meant to be a eureka moment, but your reader figured it out seven chapters ago and has been wondering why the MC is so blind. Or you might have your character piece things together too quickly, completely blindsiding your reader.

As a pantser, revelations and developments come about naturally, thus evolving at the exact moment the story needs them to happen.

2. Characters can develop at the exact pace they need to.

Following an outline too closely can rush or drag out character development, just as much as it can hinder or expedite plot lines, leaving readers wondering why a character changed so quickly or why they seemed to stagnate for half the book.

As a pantser, the characters grow and change naturally, coping with the events of the story as they happen or driving the plot forward with their developments.

3. Authentic, realistic characters

Now, this is not to say that plotters can’t write realistic characters. They 100% can. It just takes more work ahead of time. By this, I mean character bibles or personality tests taken as the character or extensive mood boards or notes galore.

But when writing, it isn’t uncommon for pantsers to let the characters take the reins.

Which means those characters have to be whole people in the author’s mind in order to make these decisions and act/react in ways that line up with their personalities. They’re just there, like old friends whispering secrets and showing us the way.

4. The story can be changed as it needs to.

Sometimes, as you write, you realize that something just doesn’t work. Maybe you learn something new that reveals a piece of your book to be incorrect or implausible to such a degree that it might ruin the immersion.

Pantsers are accustomed to changing the story as is necessary to ensure plausibility, continuity, and entertainment.

In a situation like this, plotters who choose to stick too closely to their outline could endanger the viability of their story by refusing to change things.

5. Exploration

Pantsers get to experience the story for the first time as they write it, providing a sensation akin to reading. Writing this way means that you still get all the excitement and mystery of creation as the scenes unfold on the page. The writing process is punctuated with epiphany moments where things just fall into place.

Plotters can do that during the outline process, sure.

But epiphanies mid-writing session can really spur you on, and if they happen while away from writing, they can get you genuinely hyped up to get back to writing.

Now, I am biased toward the panster/discovery writer end of the spectrum, as I’ve mentioned that this is my preferred method. But that does not, in any way, mean it’s the only way.

For those of you just coming into this, last week’s blog was dedicated to the pros of plotting and the cons of pantsing.

Check that out here for more information.

Be sure to come back next Monday to learn about the writing method that most writers flourish with.

They’re the Plantsers.

And don’t forget to subscribe for a free short story, as well as exclusive content, sneak peeks at covers, and all the details on my upcoming book releases and giveaways.

Most importantly…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

A Pantser’s Guide to Tackling Continuity Errors

So, you don’t plan your books ahead of time. Me either. That doesn’t mean our work has to be riddled with continuity errors or plot-holes.

And avoiding those pesky problems is far easier than you might think.

I have three tried and true tricks to keep things consistent within my books, and today, I’d like to share them with you.

First (and easiest) of all: Take notes.

I don’t mean print it out and highlight key sections. I don’t mean fill notebook after notebook with every detail. At that point, you may as well just plot the book and take out all the fun of discovery that drives us to be pantsers in the first place.

What I mean is this.

When you start a new project, start two documents. One for the story, one for the notes. In the notes document, when your story unveils a new character, jump over into the notes document and jot down their name and whatever information you have about them (hair color, eye color, height, if they’re an asshole, etc.).

Then, jump back into your story and keep on writing.

Don’t stress about their background or what role they’ll play in the story to come. You’ll figure that out later.

This is just so that, when you come across that character later, you have an easy way to refresh your memory. That way, you don’t have a character with blonde hair and freckles show up later with dark hair and a tan.

Whatever develops for the character as you go, feel free to drop it over in the notes document.

You can do the same with world building stuff.

If you come up with a detail you know you’ll need to remember later, put it in your notes. You don’t have to flesh it out right then and there. You can let it marinate until it comes up in the story with more explanation later.

But at the very least, you won’t have to scour your entire WIP looking for what color fur you gave that one animal you made up that your MC’s little brother liked when they were growing up.

Second: Get other people to look at your work BEFORE you publish.

This one is significantly more difficult than the first little trick, because showing your precious to someone is nerve-wracking to say the least. But honestly, you should be doing this anyway.

There are so many things you need a second (or third or fifteenth) set of eyes for.

They come into it without expectation. They don’t know what the world you’ve built is like. They don’t know these characters.

Which means that they’ll see it differently than you do.

They’ll see it how it is.

Not how you meant it to be.

Our brains fill so much in. Words get mixed up or left out, but since we know what’s supposed to be there, our brain fills in the gap.

That also means that sometimes little details get glazed over.

We know what’s supposed to be there, so when a detail comes up that doesn’t quite line up with the previous scenes, our brains just make the correction and keep going.

But other people come into our WIPs with fresh eyes. They haven’t been staring at these pages for weeks/months/years. So when we focus too hard on the big bad evil guy or the incredibly specific personality quirk we want to shine and miss little details…

They stand out to other people.

And wouldn’t you rather fix them before the book is available for the public?

I would.

So, reach out to friends and family, talk to writer friends, get critique partners and beta readers. There are tons of groups specifically for that on Facebook.

Get eyes on your work.

Third: Build REAL people, not just characters. Build REAL worlds, not just words on a page.

This one will potentially require the most effort, but it’s my favorite one.

If your characters feel real to you, they’re more likely to act in real ways. If they feel like old friends, you probably won’t forget what color their hair is. If they move the plot on their own, making choices and doing shit, those actions are a little more likely to be in keeping with their personality and their circumstances.

The same is true of the world. If it feels real, you’re less likely to have a character start a scene on a beach and then magically end the scene in an office building. Unless you’re writing portal fantasy.

So, if you have to go for a walk and daydream about what your characters like to do when they relax to make them feel more realistic? Do it.

If you need to study psychology to get a better grasp on personality development or how people deal with a specific issue or sociology to see how different societies effect the people within them? Do it.

If you need to draw on real emotions from your life to inform your character’s reactions to events in the book? Do it.

Make them real, and their details will be harder to forget.

Now, go forth and write books with undeniable continuity. People will be impressed.

Or, more likely, they won’t notice, which is kinda what you should hope for here because seamless continuity goes unnoticed, whereas continuity issues stand out and jar the reader.

Stay tuned on social media in the coming weeks for the reveal of Soul Bearer’s new cover and a preorder giveaway featuring A Heart of Salt & Silver book swag.

Yeah, I said giveaway. It’s about that time.

Release day is less than a month away, after all.

Preorders available here: mybook.to/AHeartOfSaltAndSilver

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Word count got you down? Don’t worry about it.

When trying to find a metric to measure your story by, word count seems to be the go-to. That’s how you separate novellas from novels, flash fiction from short stories.

Too often, people get hung up on the length of their story, trying to pigeonhole it into a specific category.

But you know what?

Your story will tell you when it’s done. Whether it’s too long or too short for the category you wanted it to fit in, it’s done when it’s done.

Cutting the juicy bits so it can be submitted as a short story or adding a bunch of extra bullshit so you can call it a novel instead of a novella isn’t going to improve your book.

It just fucks up the story.

And the story is more important than what category it falls into.

If you primarily write standalones in a genre filled to the brim with series (First of all, if it’s fantasy romance, hit me up. I’m always looking for a standalone fantasy romance. Second of all, looks like we’re in the same boat.) that doesn’t mean that your books are less worthy. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. It doesn’t mean your books won’t sell.

It just means that your stories, to date, are not the norm.

And that isn’t a bad thing.

It just means marketing might be more difficult because each book is a bit of a blank slate, whereas marketing a series means that each successive book already has an audience that you can build upon.

But if you intentionally stretch a standalone into a series, adding fluff here and there, it’s going to detract from the overall quality.

Same goes for cutting stuff out specifically to slip it in under a word count threshold. The character you cut because they added one too many subplots might have been the character that provided relief for a dark story or the character that provided the edge necessary to offset an abundance of silliness.

They might have been the character readers would fall in love with.

Is that sacrifice really worth getting the story finished at a certain length?

No.

Of course, add or cut things when you need to. If something needs more backstory, provide it. If something needs less exposition, get that shit outta there.

But don’t do it for the word count.

When I started writing The Regonia Chronicles, I intended it to be one book. Not a series with a prequel and everything. But then, it expanded to include a second alien race and three additional planets (It already had a couple).

Now, each time I sit down to work on it, it looks more and more likely that I’ll be splitting it into three books rather than two. Because that’s what the story needs. All that other stuff was necessary to make the original story idea make sense, I just didn’t know it when I started writing because I’m a pantser.

A Heart of Salt & Silver was intended to be a novella, but it blossomed into a novel.

Meanwhile, Second to None came in at half the word count that I thought it would.

And you know what that means?

It doesn’t mean that I didn’t fill enough pages or that I filled too many. It means that the story ended exactly where it needed to end.

It found its natural resolution.

Writing a good, solid story is far more important than meeting a specific word count. There’s an audience for every length of story within every genre. Some of those audiences hide better than others, but they’re there.

So stop stressing over word count and just write the damn story.

Do it the justice of letting it be the length it needs to be.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing with Curse Words: What to Consider

Should you write with curse words?

This question gets bandied about in writing groups far too often. It seems like people are afraid to break certain rules, and cussing is just one of those things where readers either don’t care at all or they care A LOT.

And the people who care A LOT about cussing tend to get super offended by it.

So I see where there might be a bit of trepidation when it comes to putting cuss words in your book.

So, should you do it?

It kinda depends. The answer for me and my books is… Fucking go for it. Lol.

But that answer might be different for you. Which means we have to get back to that “It depends” part.

First and foremost, what age group are you writing for?

I write books meant for adults, so it’s no problem for me.

But your book is going to be a hard sell if you drop a bunch of F bombs in a children’s book.

Unless it’s a “kid’s book” that’s actually meant for adults. Like “Go the Fuck to Sleep” by Adam Mansbach. Then, it works.

YA isn’t real big on cursing either. Despite the fact that most people reading YA novels frequently use those words, within typical guidelines for that age range, cursing is to be kept to a minimum.

As always, there are exceptions to the rule. Ellen Hopkins might use some cuss words, I don’t remember. It’s been a bit since I read her books. But she tends to go for the gritty depictions of real life struggles that teens face, so cuss words make sense in her books.

You should also consider your genre and the conventions within it.

Christian fiction isn’t going to have curse words. If they appear, it might be a little slip on the worst day of the MC’s life, and it probably won’t be any worse word than “crap” or “damn.”

And the character will likely regret it.

Unless it’s a reform/convert type book, in which case there might be a flashback, but even then, the foul language would likely be kept to a minimum.

Aside from those things, you should also consider setting. If you’re writing a book set in the Vatican 200 years ago… There probably won’t be any cussing.

Whereas, if you’re writing something in a modern day bar and you don’t include cussing, the flattened dialogue will almost certainly break the immersion.

But do you want to know the most important things to consider when deciding whether your books should include cussing?

It isn’t whether it’ll be embarrassing if your family or spouse or close friend reads it. That should never dictate what you write.

It isn’t whether the market hates or loves it, because there’s a market for just about everything.

The two most important things to consider are:

1. Is it right for the character?/Does it line up with their personality?

2. Is it right for your author voice?

If the answer is yes, then damn the doubt. Damn the fear of what others will say. Write those fucking cuss words.

If the answer is no, leave them out.

It’s really that simple. If it’s the right thing to do for you and your book, just fucking do it. If it isn’t right for you and your book, then don’t.

Give yourself the freedom to write your book the way it needs to be written.

Just be sure to market the book accordingly so you don’t get people who want grit reading clean books or people who expect clean books reading stories that have been carpet bombed with cuss words.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Why are we comparing short stories to novels?

Hi, guys!

Recently, in one of the many writing groups that I’m a part of, someone asked if people write short stories when they give up on writing a novel. As if writing a short story were something that could just be done with no thought or skill, whatsoever, because supposedly, it’s the easiest thing to write.

And that kinda stuck with me.

I was just flabbergasted.

That level of prejudice toward a type of story just… hadn’t occurred to me before then. I write stories of all lengths, flash fiction, short stories, novellas, novels, and now, series. So, I know that each one poses its own unique challenges.

No single one of these defines a writer’s skill.

None of them denote having given up.

Series require the solution to some problems, but the tension of certain things left undone for the next book. The characters have to develop and grow (or fall apart). They have to encounter one stumbling block after another, without it reading as if you’re literally just trying to draw the story out to make money on a second book. Or a third. Or a seventeenth.

Novels require all the loose ends to be tidied up by the end of the book, and hopefully enough intrigue to carry the reader to that point. Throwing in just enough obstacles to carry the characters (and the readers) through 70,000 to 110,000 words is a difficult balance to strike.

Novellas and novelettes have to operate on a smaller scale or go out with one hell of a bang. You have to choose your words carefully to get the exact right meaning across, which should be done regardless of book length, but especially so when you don’t have the word count to spare. And you have so much less space to truly develop your characters. It can be done, but it can be a challenge.

And then, there’s short stories and flash fiction.

Building a world, developing characters, and putting together a plot (then wrapping it up) in less than 7,500 words for a short story or less than 1,000 words for flash fiction is not an easy feat.

You have to grab people so quick. You have to make them give a shit about the character immediately.

Because there aren’t enough words not to.

So to say that failed novel writers become short story writers is a load of bullshit.

Writing short stories instead of novels has nothing to do with whether an author is successful or creative or smart. What it truly comes down to is the number of words it takes to successfully express a given story.

That’s it.

Some stories are meant to be a series that keeps you hanging on from one book to another. Some are meant to come in, punch you in the face with 700 words, and leave you reeling.

That’s just how it goes.

The stories should decide what length they are.

The writer’s skill or work ethic has nothing to do with it.

So, if you write short stories or flash fiction, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Your work poses it’s own unique set of difficulties.

Overcome them and show those judgmental jerks who’s boss.

Now, as far as my own work is concerned, I’ve been forging ahead on projects of varying lengths over this past week.

I did a full round of edits on a short story called Born of Heathen Gods. I’m torn between releasing it on its own or saving it back for an anthology, down the road.

I made some progress on this round of edits on Where Darkness Leads, cutting out over 1,000 words of info dumps/repetition so far.

And I’ve written over 5,000 words in The Regonia Chronicles. Some pieces are falling into place within book two, and I’m pretty excited to keep moving ahead.

Just not tonight.

Today’s 12 hour shift in the sweaty ass tire factory really took it out of me.

So for now…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.