It’s time for me to restructure my writing blog.

I’ve been doing this blog for three years now. There have been some highs and lows, some moments where I really felt like it was helping people, and some moments where I doubted whether anyone even reads these things I spend so much time on.

Which could be said of any part of any creative field, honestly.

But after three years of weekly posts, it feels like I might be reaching a breaking point for this blog.

My mind comes up with characters and stories and worlds without even trying, handling creative writing with relative ease. But when it comes to trying to teach or share skills, my well often runs dry.

Partly because I don’t feel like I know enough to actually teach or share any skills. Partly because technical writing (like blogging) just isn’t my thing.

And partly because I’ve already done somewhere around 150 blogs, and to be honest, I’m not sure what else to cover.

Every week, I try to put notes into my phone about potential blog topics, complete with a phrase or two to round out a couple of those ideas. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes I just can’t think of anything.

Then, when Sunday night rolls around and it’s time to sit and write my blog… I sit staring at the screen, wracking my brain for anything to write.

And it’s stressful.

So unbelievably stressful that, every week, I consider just… not doing it anymore.

But I have this problem with giving up on things. Namely, that I don’t. I hold on, forcing myself to keep going, to keep doing things because it’s expected, because it’s a habit, because it’s what I’m supposed to do.

Even if it’s genuinely stressful.

Even if I’m not sure it’s benefiting anyone else.

Even if I know it’s not benefiting me.

And while I’m proud that I’ve managed to do a blog every week without missing a single time (though the holiday and extra time off threw me off and nearly made me miss this one), I’m not sure I’m going to keep it going as I have so far.

I’ve considered making it a weekly update on my writing, as that’s what it was to start with. It was a means to keep myself accountable with my writing and editing, a way to let people know what I’m doing.

But I don’t really need the accountability aspect. I genuinely love creative writing and editing, and do those things regularly.

Plus, I have my social media pages/profiles for sharing tidbits, with exclusive stuff sent out in my newsletter. (You should sign up, btw. You’ll get a free short story, updates on my progress, and exclusive sneak peeks/excerpts.)

So, maybe I’ll cut my blog back to every other week instead of weekly for now, just to ease the strain of trying to make myself feel like an expert in four subjects every month.

My newsletter will still be weekly. That’s not really stressful as it’s more of a place for me to show you how things are going. Plus, I’m an expert on the worlds I create. Lol.

But for this blog, expect a change.

Who knows, I may restructure it entirely, transforming it into something new altogether and taking the pressure of being an expert out of the equation altogether. Because I’ll be honest, the content grind of long-term blogging is absolutely exhausting.

If that happens, that’ll be a long time coming though.

So, in the meantime, if there are any topics you want me to cover, don’t hesitate to ask. Send me a message, drop a comment on social media, whatever.

I’d say leave a comment here, but honestly, there are hundreds of bot comments backed up, waiting for me to delete them, that are just full of spammy links to other websites. Any real comment here would get buried rather than approved to be posted. Which… is another exhausting part of running a blog.

Anyway.

As I said above, if there’s a topic you want me to cover (tips on a certain aspect of writing/publishing, resources for a specific part of the journey, etc.), let me know on social media. I’m on Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.

And don’t forget to sign-up for my newsletter to stay up to date on all of my writing projects (because there are a lot of them, and thus, there’s a lot that doesn’t get shown on social media).

And of course, if you want to check out my already published books, you can do so here.

4 Tidbits for Non-Writers: A look behind the curtain

Writing a book is a lengthy process, one that most people know very little about. There are so many facets to it that, unless you’re actively writing and publishing, you probably won’t even guess at.

But I want to lift that veil, at least a bit.

We don’t print our own books.

Publishing companies (or self-publishing companies) handle the printing and distributing for us.

The exception being that most authors keep copies of their books on hand for events or to sell signed copies on their websites. Those are still printed by the publishing company but have to be distributed by the author.

Writing the book is only a small part of the process.

There are so many steps after the first draft is written that it’s insane.

The first draft is followed by numerous rounds of editing, some more intensive than others, wherein we viciously rip out pieces of our precious work or come to terms with the fact that it maybe isn’t as polished and perfect as we thought while writing (or both, vacillating between the two emotions throughout the editing process).

Then, there’s the beta reader process and the fear of feedback, followed by even more revisions.

Then, the decision of traditional publishing vs indie publishing, each of which have their own unique challenges.

Traditional has months or years of querying agents or publishers, filled with rejections because most publishers only accept 1 or 2% of submissions. And of course, landing a deal means lawyers and contracts, followed by the revisions the publisher wants and a butt load of marketing.

Self-publishing means lining up professional edits and a cover artist and a formatter (though some authors do some parts of these things themselves), then all the research that goes into preparing the book’s metadata (keywords, categories, price, etc.). And of course, uploading to the self-publishing company.

And marketing.

Always marketing.

And all of that is why, for many, the writing is the easy part.

Each step in the path has its own unique obstacles. For me, writing is the fun part, the least stressful of any step, followed closely by editing (because that’s basically interactive reading).

But the tedium of formatting and the soul-destroying efforts of marketing are by far the worst.

We second guess ourselves at almost every step

Writers often fall prey to imposter syndrome. Creative fields lack the objective measurements that could tell us, with 100% certainty, that we’re doing things correctly.

Any rule can be broken. And I do mean any rule.

I once read a story that progressively abandoned more and more grammar rules as it went along, eventually forsaking even basic spelling and leaving out all punctuation.

But it ended up being the thing that made it a good story, good enough for me to remember it years later.

And if even the most basic rules can be completely and totally abandoned while still writing a good story (while other stories follow rules and turn out magnificently), that leaves a lot of room for doubt and self-loathing, two things we indulge in frequently.


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6 tips for writing better dialogue

Dialogue is important. I think we can all agree on that.

For me, it’s one of the first things that come to me when working on a story. The characters have conversations in my head, and the scene develops around them.

It’s one of my favorite parts of writing, honestly.

So, today, I want to share some tips to help you get your dialogue down in a way that’s easy to read and feels natural.

Said is not dead.

Said/says are viable dialogue tags, but a lot of writers seem to think it’ll make their writing boring somehow to use “said” instead of “whispered” or “spat” or “hissed” or any of the other million dialogue tag options.

But there’s a reason said/says is kinda the standard.

It’s neutral.

Aside from the fact that it’s just the basic action of speaking, it’s virtually invisible. The word said is a background word, something most readers don’t notice unless the book is just dialogue heavy and there are no other tags attached to dialogue.

Things like “crooned” or “shouted” are more active. They change the way the dialogue is interpreted. The reader has to actually engage with that word to interpret the things your characters say appropriately.

And though it may be an infinitesimal difference in reading time, there is a bit of a difference. Refusing to use “said” means that every time a character speaks, there’s that little split second delay of applying the manner of speech to the words spoken. Not only does that add up, it gets annoying.

So, said/says should probably be your primary dialogue tag. Others should be sprinkled over the manuscript.

Certain grammatical rules don’t apply to speech.

People do not speak with proper grammar. We say “towards” instead of “toward.” We use contractions, saying “can’t” instead of “can not” most of the time.

This should be reflected in your characters’ speech patterns unless you’re writing a character who’s unbelievably proper.

Or if you’re writing a historical regency romance.

Go easy with the slang.

Just because we don’t speak properly doesn’t mean every other word should be a slang term. Slang happens and should be a part of your dialogue (though it should be customized to the world/characters).

But it shouldn’t sound like a parody where someone is trying to be cool and failing miserably.

Dialects/Accents can be distracting when typed out.

It’s unbelievably tempting to type things up according to a character’s accent or dialect. But there is a risk associated with that.

It can be distracting or difficult for people who don’t use that dialect to understand.

But they might also be the thing that really defines the character (if done well).

As with most things in writing, it’s all a matter of doing it well. Every rule can be broken (if you do it well). Every trope can be subverted or embodied with great results (if done well).

And accents and dialects are no exception.

Get it right, and it might be the thing that makes a character relatable or endearing or swoon-worthy (depending on what you’re writing).

New paragraph for a new speaker.

For the love of everything that’s still good in this world, start a new paragraph when you switch speakers. It gets so hard to keep track of things when there are multiple speakers in one paragraph.

And it’s such a simple fix.

Just hit enter.

Personally, this is something that will make me stop reading a book. If I can’t tell who’s speaking, I can’t keep track of the characters’ motives, fears, or relationships. And the characters are the main reason I read.


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Garbage Days: A New Writing Tradition?

I’m thinking of trying something, and I wanted to share it in case it might help someone else out there.

I’m going to call them Garbage Days.

Basically, I want to sit down and write literally anything. A short story, something new, an alternate ending, stream of consciousness, a random character description that’s been rattling around in my head…

Anything.

Things just feel so cluttered sometimes, and I’m always paranoid that I’ll forget the details. It gets a bit distracting at times.

So I think having a Garbage Day every now and then might help.

I guess if you don’t want it to sound so negative, you could call it Spring Cleaning or some other prettier name, but I tend toward blunt and sarcastic, so Garbage Day works for me. Lol.

I’m not sure how often to do this or when I’ll actually be able to start, but I’m kinda excited to see what the hell will come out of it.

Will you be adopting Garbage Days as a writing tactic?


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The Importance of Description (and three tips for doing it well)

I often rage about overly-detailed books. I don’t like being bogged down with unnecessary information.

But you can’t strip it all away either.

I mean, you could, but the result may not pull your readers in.

It’s a fine balance, and the line lies somewhere different for everyone depending on style and genre. But no matter what, you need some scene descriptions. Your characters probably don’t exist in a void. They interact with things around them, and those things interact with them.

If they’re outside, the wind might tousle their hair.

If they’re in a kitchen, they might lean against the counter while talking.

These little things that might feel superfluous are important because they connect the character, and thus the reader, to their world. It means that, instead of floating in a dark nothingness, the characters have mass. They take up space within a world, even if it’s a made up one.

That gives them weight. It makes them more realistic and thus, more relatable.

So, while you don’t want your reader to feel like you’re suffocating them under red velvet curtains layered over lace sheers that pool on the white marble floor whose mineral veins streak and sparkle from one ornately wrought wall to another…

You do need some detail to make sure the character feels grounded, in a literal way.

But how do you do it without overwhelming your reader?

Broad strokes first.

Maybe their eyes drift over the forest before them, rising to the mountain range behind it. Or maybe they’re looting in the apocalypse, and enter a trendy office space with colorful furniture.

These general notions give the reader an idea of what’s around the character without slowing things down or becoming overwhelming.

Sprinkle in some details.

Don’t info-dump. Instead, add a detail every so often, punctuating dialogue or movement with it.

When I enter a room, I don’t often stop in place to take in every detail down to the fabric a certain item of clothing draped over a chair is made of. Most people don’t.

These things are noticed slowly over time, if at all.

Show it through the lens of your character.

Instead of describing the room in the aforementioned (and dreaded) info-dump and then saying that your character is walking through it, maybe say that their footsteps echo in the cavernous space, boots thudding against the stone floor. That gets the action and some description taken care of in one sentence without bogging anything down.

Or instead of detailing worn down furniture and then describing your character’s anxiety, show them worrying ceaselessly at a loose string on the threadbare couch.

Showing what the character interacts with directly really helps to anchor them.


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Artbreeder Tutorial for Authors: A Crash Course

Artbreeder is one of those amazing websites that has the potential for truly wonderful things (portraits, landscapes, anime, buildings, paintings, etc.). Or… images that seethe with existential horror.

And depending on your needs, either of those could be perfect.

The latter seems easier to make by accident, so today, I’ll be covering the nicer looking images.

So, let’s start at the beginning.

Artbreeder is basically a place for people to smash pictures together, edit the individual components (aka genes), or use their “Children” feature to get similar pictures, all with a few clicks.

Copyrights for the images created on the site belong to the individual user, since the user created those images through a series of personal creative choices, though they’re also public domain. (Here’s the official terms and services. Don’t worry, it’s surprisingly concise at a mere 4 pages with reasonably-sized text.)

I use it primarily for headshots for my book characters (which is what I’ll be doing in this little tutorial of sorts), though the basics apply across the site.

As you can see above, the things you see on this site will run the gamut. That’s just the main screen when I visited, and it will likely be different when you visit.

Now, up at the top of that image, there are two choices. Images and Genes. You can click either one, or at the top right of the screen (not in the picture) there are the options to Create or Browse.

I usually sift through images to find a hairstyle close to what I want. (There are more options for tweaking facial features than for hairstyles.)

Today, I’ll be making Jake, one of the characters from my NaNoWriMo Project (The Monsters that H(a)unt Us), as I walk you through this.

So, go ahead and pick a character and find a picture that gets close, even if only in the hairstyle. Or if you’d like to just wing it for this first experiment, pick a random image that you like and maybe this will inspire a story about the person you create.

Jake tends to sweep his sandy hair to one side, so here’s the image I’m starting with:

Below are options that other people have made from that image. Off to the right are the options Edit-Genes, Children, or Cross-Breed. I’m going to start off with the Children option, as shown in the picture.

The site’s Morphogen algorithm makes new randomized versions of that image for you, and gives you an automatic separation from the original image. You have a little bar below the three auto-generated options to select how similar you want the children to be to the parent.

But if you like one of the kids, you should click it. Once you hit the little refresh button (right below the bar for similar/different), the kids that were on screen disappear. If you click them, they appear in your profile under images you created.

So, I chose my favorite child, as seen here:

But he still wasn’t quite right for dear old Jake. So, I clicked on Crossbreed, clicked search, and typed in blond (I left the ‘e’ off because he’s a he, and the ‘e’ is typically for women, and I wasn’t sure if that would matter).

The guy on the far right is the one I decided to cross breed with.

With this lovely picture to smash together with the favorite child, I actually got something I like right off the bat (the far left). But there are slider-bars beneath the two images on the right to choose which image you want the new one to take after (face structure and art style).

Since I’m pretty happy with my turnout, I’m going to move to Edit-Genes, but you feel free to move those little slider bars to your heart’s content. Just be sure to click Save (below the slider bars) if you like the image on the left (so it doesn’t disappear). Once saved, it’ll show up at the bottom, as well as on your profile under “Created” so you can come back to it later.

Now, I’ve saved and clicked my new image, and I’m ready to edit some genes. This is where the finesse comes in (or the existential horror).

As you can see, there are a lot of options.

Gene Explanations:

I haven’t quite figured out the Chaos gene, which makes sense. Chaos is, well, chaos. It doesn’t make much sense to me.

But other genes available to edit are a little more intuitive. Age and Gender do exactly as they say. Width makes for a wider or narrower face, where Height lengthens or shortens their head. Yaw adjust whether they’re turned one direction or the other. Pitch is whether they’re tipping their head back or down.

Then, there are the various race options. These adjust bone structure, hair color/type, skin tone, eye color, etc.

Art affects the realism of the image. Less means it looks more like a photo. More art means it looks like graphic art.

Then, there are color options, if you want to add more of a general shade. Hue runs through a slider bar rainbow, casting a filter over the entire image.

After that, there’s Saturation (low means a black and white image, high means a very very brightly saturated image), Brightness (to lighten or darken the image), and Sharpness (blurry or super crisp).

Happy (adjusting squint of eyes and the creases at the corners of the mouth) and Angry (adjusting the furrow of brows and the set of the mouth) come next.

Then, Blue Eyes and Earrings, both of which would be tricky to get without these little options.

Eyes Open and Mouth Open come in handy when making a character happy. The happy adjustment usually closes the eyes and doesn’t always look right with a closed mouth. So, anytime I make a character happy, I adjust these two things as well, as evidenced here:

Just Happy….
Happy with eyes and mouth adjusted… Doesn’t that look more genuine?

Then, there are options for hair color (Black, Blonde, or Brown) as well as Makeup, Glasses, Facial Hair, and Hat.

Below all of these, there’s an option to Add Genes, and let me tell you, those genes get wild. There are options for Orcs, Vampires, Forest Creatures, Cyber Noir, Sad, Gene Combo Sixty Nine, and something called “Brown to Fish,” as well as many others to play with.

But Jake is a human, so I’m not adding those to him.

Now, I adjusted his gender a tad to the right to get a bit more ruggedness, and his age down just a bit to get him closer to 26. Then, I added just a touch of facial hair, and I got this:

Note the very minor adjustments. -0.07 (age), 0.2 (gender), and 0.116 (facial hair), as well as 0.172 to get his hair a little lighter.

And I have to say, I’m pretty happy with how he turned out.

Caution with the Genes.

My two biggest pieces of advice to you are to be cautious and save often.

Move slowly when making adjustments on those genes. A little change can have a big impact on far more than just the single aspect you want to change. (For instance, Pitch and Yaw can completely change facial structure. Morphogen seems to have some difficulty with the perspective change.)

Hat and Earrings can have some… interesting effects, too. Hat at -2 does this:

Whereas Hat at 2 does this:

I don’t know why.

But as long as you save your product often, you can always come back to it if you want to start over, and each gene has a little refresh button by it to move it right back to 0 with a single click.

Oh, and beware of using this site on your phone. The slider bars are very sensitive and sometimes the different genes overlap on phones, resulting in unintentional changes.

Play around a bit.

This site has a learning curve, but it’s worth it in the end. You just have to give yourself permission to play around a bit. There will be some absolute monstrosities along the way, but that’s part of the fun sometimes.

And as long as you save often, you can always go back.


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Why I Love Having Multiple Works in Progress

With the exception of this month (because my NaNoWriMo project has absolutely dominated my book time), I always have at least one WIP in the writing stage and one in the editing stage.

But I’ve never really explained why.

Partly because I’ve learned that I can, and since I have a tendency to push myself to the fullest of my capabilities, that means maintaining multiple WIPs.

But it’s also to keep them all fresh and exciting.

It sorta helps to keep the “oh look, a shiny new WIP” syndrome at bay.

No matter what mood I’m in, I have a WIP to suit it. I can pick and choose which one to work on, day by day, hour by hour.

So if I sit down to do some book stuff and don’t feel like fantasy, I can jump into sci-fi instead. If I just don’t want to edit, I can write instead.

That means that I can always make some sort of progress.

And at the end of the day, all that matters is that progress of some sort was made.

Of course, I’ve made an exception for NaNoWriMo, as many writers do. This month is basically the month where a ton of writers collectively lose their damn minds, and for once, I’m not exception.

I’m giving it a go, and my NaNo project has sucked me in.

But even so, I plan to try and sneak in some editing this week. (Because deadlines are a thing, even in the self-publishing world.)


Find me on Goodreads.

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Maintaining Sanity During NaNoWriMo (and writing for deadlines)

NaNoWriMo is intense. This is my first year trying it, and it’s one hell of an undertaking.

But here are a few ways to maintain your sanity.

(And these tips work outside of NaNo, too.)

Move around.

Go for a walk to get a change of scenery. That might be all you need to get past a bit of writer’s block.

It also helps reduce the risk of blood clots.

So, at the very least, you should get up and move around once every half hour or hour.

These breaks also give your eyes a chance to rest since staring at a screen for a long time can cause headaches (which never help anything).

Have a snack and drink at the ready.

You know you’re going to get all settled in, start typing, and then need something to drink. Then, you have to move the cat off your lap, unplug the laptop, set it aside, and haul yourself out from under five blankets.

Okay, so the details of that scenario are just personal experience, but you get the gist of it.

It’s always frustrating to have to get back up once you get into the groove, so just make sure you have a drink and a snack on hand.

Water is probably the best choice for that drink, btw. Most people I know walk around partially dehydrated all the time, and much like staring at a screen for a long time, this also causes headaches.

Try a different font.

It sounds silly, but sometimes typing in a different font can actually help. It just breaks things up, keeps it fresh.

I alternate between Comic Sans, Calibri, and Times New Roman so my brain doesn’t get used to any particular one.

Minimize distractions.

Some distractions can’t be avoided (small children don’t always listen and just might interrupt you despite all your attempts at privacy), but most can.

Either turn the tv off or switch it to something you won’t get caught up in. Sit in a room by yourself if you need to.

If you can’t leave your phone alone, turn it off or leave it in another room.

And no social media. That’s for break times, not writing sessions.

Let go.

Writing is supposed to be fun! So let yourself enjoy it.

Yes, NaNoWriMo is a marathon.

But don’t let it ruin writing for you. Give yourself permission to miss a word count goal for the sake of enjoying your writing process.

Letting yourself relax into your writing sessions might actually end up being the thing that helps you reach your goals anyway.


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Creating a Fictional Language: Things To Consider

Whether you’re new to writing or a veteran, creating a language is a daunting task. It’s a world all unto itself.

Language is usually a fluid thing that adapts and changes over centuries, even more so now that the internet has forced nearly every aspect of life into hyper-evolution.

But when creating a language from scratch for our books, we don’t exactly get centuries to perfect it. (Not unless you’re secretly a vampire.)

So, to help break this herculean task down into smaller pieces, I’ve put together some tips and things to keep in mind while creating your language.

Admittedly, I’ve only made one language for my series, The Regonia Chronicles, (and I’m still filling out the dictionary now that I have the things below ironed out) so this is not a comprehensive guide to language creation.

More like… a jumping off point.

Alphabet

Your language does not have to have the same alphabet as ours. Much like English vs. Chinese vs. Arabic, there can be some major differences.

So, your language will likely have its own alphabet, especially if it’s on a different world. And those unique letters can represent any sound.

Maybe they have a letter that’s a combination of v and k. That combination may not happen much in English, but their language is different. Maybe they have a letter that represents a “tick” sound.

Just keep in mind how you’re going to write these things for people who don’t speak that language to understand. In the book, it’ll likely have to be spelled out in the language you plan to publish in, unless there’s meant to be a language barrier.

When creating mine, I sidestepped the language barrier with technology (that particular story is a distant future sci-fi epic). The tech fits into the plot and world and helped me avoid having my characters make awkward attempts to mime their meanings.

And since the characters understood things with the help of their tech, I could just type everything in English.

But you might need to consider a means of communication if there is a language barrier.

Common sounds

Every language has specific sounds/letters that get a lot of use and others that are rarely used.

In English, A, E, L, M, N, and S are incredibly common. But Q, V, W, X, and Z aren’t.

That’s inevitable and should be considered when making a language.

Though honestly, it’ll probably happen by accident. When creating my language, I learned quickly that there are certain sounds/groupings of sounds that I gravitate toward.

Should it be Phonetic?

Do the letters always make the same sound? Are there ever silent letters?

English and French are particularly bad about both of those things, but Spanish and Japanese seem to be very phonetic.

English is so bad that I think only four letters are 100% true to themselves at all times.

And I hate that.

My language turned out very phonetic, partly because I hate how changeable the English alphabet is, and partly because the race that formed the language is a very logical race. They would never stand for something as varied as English.

But if your characters live somewhere that has blended cultures and languages, there will be inconsistencies.

Word order

Not all languages put the words in the same order. Some put the adjective after the noun (Spanish), some before (English).

And with your language, you can mix your word order even more. So long as it follows a pattern, you can put the verb first and the person doing the action at the very end of the sentence, strange as that would be to do if you tried it in English.

Grammar

You need grammar rules. They don’t have to be the same as ours, but you need to have them.

Do your people use conjunctions? Do they use commas or some similar punctuation? Do they put ‘e’ before ‘i’ instead of the other way around?

Do they have their own special grammar rules that we don’t have?

Verb Conjugations

How do you show past or future tense? In English, we add -ing or -ed (though as with everything in English, there are exceptions), but that doesn’t have to be the case for yours language.

And Spanish verb conjugations get even more complicated than that, conjugating for the noun they relate to as well as the tense.

For mine, keeping with the logical society that formed the language, I kept it straightforward. A prefix for past tense, a suffix for future tense.

Showing Posession

Is this as simple as adding a punctuation? Or does this require an additional word?

(For mine, I decided to cut this completely. The society that formed the language didn’t have personal belongings, being something more of a hive mind society, and the society that adapted the language just goes by context when placing the person with the object.)

Plural

Showing plural can be a complicated thing. Some languages pluralize only the noun, while others pluralize the adjectives too.

You could do either, neither, or make the entire sentence plural.

But you need to decide how to show pluralization. It doesn’t have to be adding an ‘-s’ or ‘-es.’

Specific phrases for culture

The culture will likely be woven throughout the language. Idioms (24/7), curses (bloody hell), and pleas for help (please, god) that are common place in our world likely won’t apply in your language.

They’ll have different religions to influence their speech patterns, as well as different views on time and life, in general. Their language will reflect that.

For my formative culture, they didn’t have turns of phrase, couldn’t be bothered with them. But the culture that adapted the language is more emotional and individual. They value sound and music, so they have many expression relating to that.

Evolution

This kinda goes hand in hand with the above section, but it’s more than just one culture adapting someone else’s language.

Older people will likely speak differently than young people. Words in ancient texts might make no sense to someone reading it a thousand years after it was written due to changes in the meaning, usage, or connotations.

Now, go forth and make up words. Be patient with yourself. It’s a lengthy process.


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Are You Querying Too Early? How to prepare yourself for the trenches.

Though I ultimately chose to self-publish, I did take a run at the query trenches. There are a lot of reasons for agents and publishers to reject a book, even if it’s a good book.

One thing you can do to up your odds of getting your manuscript accepted by an agent or publisher is to make sure you’re actually ready to submit it to them.

How do you know if you’re ready?

Here’s a little checklist.

Finish your book first.

Partial books and outlines are not ready for submission. (Not unless you’re already famous for something else.)

Almost every writer I know has unfinished books lurking on their computer that may or may not ever get finished. It happens. A lot.

Sometimes the author loses steam with the project. Sometimes a new story idea distracts them. Sometimes the aspiring author just decides they don’t want to write at all anymore.

And agents and publishers know this happens.

They will not accept submissions for incomplete manuscripts because they don’t want to even risk wasting their time.

Do a couple of rounds of self-edits.

Submitting a completely unedited manuscript only hurts your chances. You need to look through it, make sure your characters are consistent in their behavior and appearance through the book, check for plot holes, that sort of thing.

Anything you can fix before submissions will only up your odds.

Have beta readers go through it.

You need other people to look at your book. After spending tons of time in that world/with those characters, you know exactly what’s supposed to be on the page. Your brain will fill in the gaps.

A beta reader can find those gaps, those places where you didn’t explain a concept that you understand (because you created it). They’ll find plot holes. They’ll find things that your characters do (or don’t do) that just don’t feel consistent with their personality.

And it’s so much better for them to find these things (so you can fix them) than for an agent to find them (and reject your book for something that could have been addressed).

Research Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing.

Traditional publishing is not for everyone. It works for many authors, but not all.

Querying is a grueling process. Going through it only to realize months (or years) later that self-publishing is the better route for you personally… is a waste of time and effort.

Do some research before submitting to any agents or publishers to make sure this is the right path for you. Weigh the pros and cons of both.

For me, self-publishing makes more sense, but that may not be the case for you.

I’m willing to take on the extra work of formatting and metadata and copyrights and lining up editing and cover art in exchange for the creative control allowed by self-publishing.

But if the idea of that extra work makes you cringe and you just want someone else to handle it (even if it means they get the final say over what they book looks and reads like), then traditional might be better for you.

Look into it for yourself.

All of the above steps are necessary early steps whether you go with self-publishing or traditional publishing, but from here on, it’s specific to the query trenches.

Research publishers and agents.

There are so many out there, but they don’t all want your book. Each publisher and agent has a network in place for books of a specific genre, a specific age group, specific tropes, etc.

Furthermore, they don’t always accept submissions.

Many have specific dates/times of the year where they open for submissions. Agents can only work with so many authors at a time (varies from agent to agent), and publishers only publish a certain number of books a year (varies from publisher to publisher depending on the size of the company).

Some publishers only accept submissions from agents, not directly from authors.

So do your research here. Compile a list of places to submit that accept your genre, age range, level of gore, level of sexiness, tropes, etc.

Submit to the ones you can. Set reminders in your phone to submit to places that open later in the year.

Prepare your submission materials.

Every single agent or publisher has a whole slew of things they want submitted alongside the manuscript (or a portion of the manuscript). Take the time to get these right.

If you don’t include a cover letter when they specifically requested one, they might not even bother to read your first page.

If you don’t format your manuscript how they want it formatted, they might not read the first page.

If you give them a three page synopsis instead of a one page synopsis (Because you already had a three page one and surely that’s good right? That’s giving them extra.) they probably won’t read the three page synopsis. Or your manuscript.

These submission materials are basically like a job interview. They’re seeing how well you pay attention to basic guidelines, how much you’re going to fight and try to slide by with stuff they don’t let fly. After all, anyone they offer a contract is going to have deadlines and things they have to do (to the agent/publishers standards) within that time.

But these materials are also meant to show them if your book is a good fit for them and make it as easy to digest as possible. They look at thousands of manuscripts, and they have to be able to pick out the ones they want relatively quickly.

Making their lives difficult probably won’t get you a book deal.

Personalize the submission materials.

Show them that you actually looked at their website, their catalog of books, the authors they work with. (Which you should do to see if your book is actually a good fit for them.) Show them that you did some research, that way they can take your submission seriously.

Check out Query Shark.

This website has a lot of help for getting a solid query letter. Don’t just submit yours to them for critique though.

Read through the ones that have already been critiqued/revised and apply the advice to your own query letter.

You can find those here.


Subscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story).

Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

Want to help fund this blog and my writing efforts? You can support me directly here.