How to Avoid the NaNoWriMo Blues

As we near the end of NaNoWriMo, the writing community seems to be polarizing. That’s not to say the divide is intentional or discriminatory. It isn’t.

But it’s there.

Writers who are on track to meet that lofty 50k goal are growing more and more excited by the day, and understandably so. That’s a lot of words to write in a single month.

Other writers who have fallen behind are starting to get down on themselves, though.

And since I hate to see that, I want to have a little chat with you and offer up five tips for avoiding the NaNo Blues.

If you’ve “only” written 15,000 words on your story so far this month, that’s still 15,000 words. That’s still progress. You’re still writing and doing things and pushing forward.

50,000 words in a month is monstrous for anyone who isn’t a full time author. Hell, it’s a lofty goal, even for full time authors.

And we all know how few and far between full time authors really are.

So cut yourself some slack. Be kind to yourself. Life is fucking chaos, especially lately.

If you’re working full time plus raising kids plus taking care of animals plus you’re sick plus your house needs repairs plus all the absolute nonsense that has been thrown at us this year…

Not hitting 50k in one month is 100% understandable.

I’ll openly admit, there’s no way in hell I would have managed it if I’d decided to try Nano this year. No fucking way.

I made progress. I released a book and I wrote and I edited. But no way in hell did I write 50,000 words this month. There’s too much shit going on in my personal life, and I’m working on too many projects.

And that’s okay.

I’m human. You’re human. Our plans don’t always work out, and our lives throw curveballs.

So please, be kind to yourself. If November ends and you find yourself with 27,561 words in your story, celebrate.

That’s a fuck ton of words.

But I know it’s natural to feel disappointed if a goal isn’t reached. So, if you’ve hit critical mass and you know you can’t catch up to meet the 50k goal, here are some tips to keep the NaNo Blues at bay.

1. Don’t give up. I know this whole thing might be discouraging, but keep writing. Your story is still worthwhile.

2. Do some daydreaming, specifically within the world you’re writing to remind yourself why you love this story. It may even inspire a new subplot.

3. Take a bit of time to relax. Do something non-writing related that you enjoy, even if only for half an hour. It may just be the refresher your overworked mind needs to push forward.

4. Give yourself permission not to hit that goal. It might sound silly, but accepting that you’re human and that sometimes life gets in the way of our goals is a very liberating thing.

Paradoxically, it could actually lead to greater productivity because all the time and mental energy that goes into beating yourself up is suddenly free for making progress.

5. Make a new goal. Use this experience with NaNo to inform your goal setting process.

That nifty little word tracker on the NaNo site can be a very useful tool for analyzing how many words you average per day or per week, thus allowing you to set an informed target word count for your next goal rather than some arbitrary number set forth for you by someone who knows nothing about your life.

Now, I have to add a disclaimer.

To the people who spent hours and hours, day in and day out, scrolling through tumblr or tiktok, or sharing memes on Facebook, or playing games on their phone, or binge-watching three different shows instead of writing and now want pity because you fell behind…

This blog is not for you.

You need someone to light a fire under your ass to get you moving, not someone to make you feel better. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. That’s it.

I have a different blog for you:

How do you have the time?

Just ignore the progress report opening/ending. The books mentioned in that blog have already been released. (Soul Bearer came out 10/22/2019 and The Gem of Meruna cam out 12/31/2019)

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.

How to Use Fashion to Build Your Fantasy World

Hi, guys!

We all know that fantasy worlds tend to have their own unique fashions. But they’re not all about beauty and appearances.

The styles and fashions in books can be used for some major world building.

What your characters value (or don’t value) says a lot about their society.

The trends in any world are likely going to be set by those in power, i. e. those who have the means to do what they want. Those who don’t have the means are just… stuck trying to keep up.

Which is unfortunate.

But usually true.

A society with rulers who don’t have to work the land or fight battles opens up the door for highly impractical fashions such as corsets or massive jeweled head-pieces.

A hunter-gatherer society might value durable clothing more than crowns with pretty rocks fastened to them.

A highly capitalistic society will likely revere brands over craftsmanship.

A warrior society will likely value clothes that keep their armor from pinching them or items that show their physiques to advantage.

So if you show me your character eyeing a gemstone-encrusted doublet, I’m going to assume that wealth is important in their country. Those in power likely sit on their asses making decrees, going to pompous parties that the rest of the realm could never afford, and wearing things just like that doublet.

If you show me your MC getting jealous over someone else’s brand new sash (They got one with 20 pockets?!), without further context, it tells me that your character lives in a gatherer society of some sort. Whether they’re gathering berries for food while on the run or spell ingredients, having the ability to keep things close at hand is clearly important.

Which tells me that people need to be somewhat mobile and very prepared.

These are all important world building details that can be worked into the story through fashion.

And then there are the gender roles that can be conveyed with fashion. If every woman in your book wears a long dress at all times, it implies a certain level of gender inequality.

Dresses, by their very nature, are less practical than pants. Forcing a certain gender to wear them limits some of the things they can reasonably do.

They catch on things. They drag the ground. They wrap around your legs (making it harder to run, thus also implying that the society sees little open conflict on the home front or that the men of the society are using cheap tricks and deeply embedded oppression to keep the women of the society in check).

Requiring long dresses of women also implies that a level of “restraint” is required from the women of that society. After all, long dresses (unless worn with a slit up the side) are notoriously known as modest clothing items in reserved patriarchal societies.

And this “fashion used for world building” thing doesn’t even apply strictly to clothing. Fashionable body types, i.e. what’s seen as desirable in a mate, depends heavily on the society, as well.

If your characters just survived a famine, they might find a well-fed/softer body more attractive than if they live in times of plenty. Because clearly, that person has a good food supply.

By contrast, warrior societies will prize strong, fit bodies.

Maybe certain tattoos mean certain things (I’ve done this in The Regonia Chronicles).

Maybe a certain hairstyle means they’re grieving (I’ve done this in Allmother Rising).

At the end of the day, this is fiction, and you can make up whatever you want. If your warrior society wants to run into battle with diamond encrusted armor because diamonds are super plentiful there and they’re super hard to cut… Go for it.

It’s gonna be heavy.

They would literally have a bunch of rocks hanging on their armor.

But you do you.

I’m just saying that looking into some sociology and using fashion to full advantage might be a good way to convey the world your characters live in without wasting page after page after page on exposition.

As for my own writing efforts last week, I wrote about 4,000 words in The Regonia Chronicles and made some major headway on the new cover for Soul Bearer.

I also edited about 7500 words on Where Darkness Leads. I had hoped to have this round of edits done by the end of August, but it’s turned out to be way more labor intensive than expected. I’m just over a third of the way through and have already cut 4,000 words. I cut about 7,000 words in the last round of edits.

This was a really old manuscript though. I used to be pretty long winded, apparently.

Anyway.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing with Tropes: 4 tips to help you do it well

Hi, guys!

So, there are these things in literature called tropes. Basically, tropes are themes or character types that pop up over and over in a lot of books. The hero’s journey or forbidden love, the jock or the hardass or the air headed pretty girl.

Or the smart pretty girl that doesn’t realize she’s pretty even though literally every one she meets falls in love with her and wants to get into her pants. That one seems to be increasingly popular, of late.

Tropes are everywhere, and they’re pretty hard to avoid.

And tropes aren’t bad, in and of themselves. If you’re not sure where to begin, they can provide a jumping off point.

But relying on them to heavily can prove disastrous for a book.

It breeds boring, two-dimensional characters and insanely predictable books.

If every character is a well-known stereotype and the story itself is a formula story, then there’s no real depth to draw a reader in and make them wonder what might happen.

Because they already know.

Because they’ve read that exact story with those exact characters a million different times.

Or worse, the cheesiness of all the over-the-top tropes could just become too much, ruining what might otherwise be a real edge-of-your-seat page turner.

You might think, “Well, I’ll just be completely original and not use a single trope.”

To which, I say…good luck. There’s bound to be some sort of trope in there somewhere.

There are literal tons of them.

Orphan finds out they’re magical, marriage of convenience, whirlwind billionaire romance, elderly mentor, secret heir, magical object to save the world, love triangle, the list goes on.

Plus, when you’re busy striving for originality, you get stuck thinking of what’s already been done (trying to avoid it) rather than just writing and letting your voice make whatever you write an original.

Which brings me to the first way to avoid over-troping your book.

Find your voice.

Every author has a signature style, a way of writing that is uniquely them.

It’s a mixture of the types of stories they tell, the words they choose, the aesthetic they tend to go for, the level of detail they strive for, the tense and the POV they write in, and many other things.

And if you really develop your voice as an author, you can write the tropiest tropes that ever troped, and still make something original.

Because it’s been spun in your unique voice.

The second way to avoid accidentally trashing your book with tons of blatant tropes is to study psychology.

Getting a better grasp on how people think (and what might have lead them to think that way) will inform your writing and deepen your character development.

You don’t have to get a degree. (I did, but not with the intention of using it for writing. I intended to become a therapist, at the time.)

But do some research into personality development and the effects of trauma or various disorders. Maybe buy a used psychology textbook online or take a class at a community college.

Third, study sociology and history. Again, no degree necessary, but do some research, watch some documentaries, read some books.

Learning how empires rise and fall, seeing how precarious some societies really are, and how small problems can topple mighty countries might show you something that you could use in a rebellion in your book. Or it might show you what it takes to rebuild afterward.

Tropes for the story line (star-crossed lovers, make-over, villain decay, the chosen one, etc.) are usually okay because there’s so much going on within and around them that it mixes it up. Just try not to draw attention to the fact that it’s there (let the readers analyze/enjoy the story without you saying hey look what I did here), and don’t throw too many of them into one story.

And last but not least, ask yourself these simple questions. (And answer honestly. The success of your book depends on you being honest with yourself about what it contains.)

Is there more to this character than the trope they spawned from? If the answer is no, you need to workshop that character and develop their personality.

Are all of my characters directly linked to a trope? If the answer is yes, you might need to mix it up. There should be at least a few characters that don’t spawn from a trope.

Get a second opinion, if you aren’t sure. Ask them to read it with this in mind. If you’ve developed your characters well enough beyond their trope spawn point, you could pull it off beautifully. But there’s the risk of making your book cheesy if all your characters are tropes.

And no one wants that.

Now, go forth and write deeply developed characters and plot lines.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing Diversity

Hi, guys!

So, I read a book recently that was meant to feature an empowering female lead and be LGBT friendly and such.

But it was pretty mishandled.

The female lead did want equality for women, but she was also…a manipulative, scheming, murderous bitch. Not exactly a role model, by any means.

100% it was written through the perspective of a villain. Which is cool. It was interesting enough for me to finish it.

But in a Q&A, the author said she wanted it to empower women. Seducing a man with the intent to take everything he has…That’s no role model.

That’s a bitch.

And the LGBT aspect consisted of one side character with very few speaking parts, but every time he danced with a guy, it was pointed out as if to say, “Hey, look, I’m inclusive.”

And it kinda breaks the world a bit because it’s set in a society VERY similar to Victorian England.

Two dudes dancing probably wasn’t gonna happen.

Now, I’m all for writing diversity into your books. Characters with the goal of equality are great.

But DON’T shoehorn diversity in for the sake of patting yourself on the back for being inclusive.

That ain’t how it works, my dudes.

If you do that, it will be obvious, and it will not make you look like a hero.

You want to know how to properly write diversity?

Write people.

That’s it.

It’s that goddamn simple.

Look at the world you’ve built. Look at their individual backstories. Look at their cultures. Shape each character as an individual within that culture with those experiences.

Don’t rely on stereotypes. Just write people.

Diversity will come naturally if you do that.

Honor the setting if it’s historical.

If your story takes place in medieval Scotland, don’t drop one Asian guy in there with no reasonable explanation and call yourself inclusive. If it’s set in Victorian England, don’t drop one flamboyant gay guy in there and pat yourself on the back.

If it’s a fantasy setting wherein everyone is seen as equal, then those things that tend to divide us should hold no bearing over their personality, whatsoever. Their experiences would shape them far more than the color of their skin or who they go to bed with.

If it’s set in a place where there is a lot of division, still don’t go to stereotypes. Build a person.

Think about what you’re writing and the way those characters interact with the world you’ve built.

Maybe the division in their land made them more defiant or more repressed, more prideful or more self-conscious. It isn’t going to guarantee they act one specific way.

Just write people.

Period.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Why You Should Let Your Readers Use Their Imagination

Hi, guys!

I was talking with a friend a couple days ago about 2 sentence horror stories. I don’t know if you’ve looked any up, but there are some really good ones out there.

And they are absolutely beautiful in their simplicity.

Because sometimes, it isn’t so much what’s said as what isn’t said. It lets the reader’s mind fill in the gaps with all sorts of horrors, personalizing it to fit their individual fears.

But simplicity shouldn’t be reserved for 2 sentence horror stories.

We don’t live in the Edwardian times, anymore.

You can write like that if you want, of course, supplying the reader with literally every detail of every object within sight. You can use an absolutely overwhelming amount of descriptors to tell your readers the exact curvature of a sphere.

But do you have to?

No.

Should you always do that?

No.

Certain scenes demand a simpler, less detailed account. (Fight scenes, sex scenes, transitional scenes which just show the passage of time, etc.)

Personally, I prefer books that don’t beat me to death with the color of the throw pillows or the shape of each doily (complete with the pattern and the type of stitch most commonly used to attain that pattern).

I like fast-paced books that let me fill in the decorations with my own imagination. It’s certainly active enough to supply the details.

Character development and plot are far more important to me than the number of freckles on a person’s face.

Because that little bit of personalization, that little bit that’s different for every reader is part of the magic.

There’s the magic of sharing an entire world that you’ve created with other people. And there’s the magic of that world meaning something different to each person that enters it.

That makes it more real.

We don’t notice every detail of every object in our lives. Why the fuck would our characters?

Why should the reader?

Let them get tunnel vision when the book draws them in. Let them get so wrapped up in a climactic scene that the background becomes just that… background.

Now, as for my own work, I’ve been reading through what I have of The Regonia Chronicles to reacquaint myself with the characters. And it’s shown me just how much I’ve learned, even just in the last couple of years.

Don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely love the story and the characters.

But I’m gonna have a lot of editing to do. Lol.

I’ve also been prepping some cover reveal stuff for A Heart of Salt & Silver and finalizing the map. I’ll be moving on to formatting, soon.

Which means I’ll be announcing a release date, soon!

Subscribe to my newsletter to make sure you don’t miss any of the big announcements (or the upcoming giveaway).

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Rites and Rituals in Fiction

Hi, guys!

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you likely saw my post about which rites or rituals are in my upcoming dark supernatural high fantasy romance, A Heart of Salt & Silver.

There are quite a few in there, and it was so much fun to write them.

But rites and rituals are more than just fun to write.

They’re major worldbuilding tools, and deserve proper attention from writers. You can’t just write a pretty ceremony or a dark, broody ritual and not pay attention to the context.

These things have bigger implications for the world, the characters, and the plot than just being some party they go to.

Rites and rituals say a lot about the culture they exist within. You can learn a lot about a group of people by studying how they mourn, how they celebrate, what they mourn, and what they celebrate. That shows you what that group of people values.

You should also pay attention to what kind of ceremony is held and how much of a commotion they make about it.

So, let’s say your book includes a wedding (or whatever you call it in your fictional universe). The level of pomp and circumstance put into that ceremony can show the role those domestic partnerships play in their society.

If it’s pivotal to their culture, the entire village might turn out for the big ceremony. If marriage is seen as more of a merger of power and wealth, the decorations and the food and the finery will likely take center stage.

In The Regonia Chronicles, Daen Tribe partnering ceremonies include a lot of singing. They honor their ancestors, the Drennar, with their voices. Singing pervades nearly every aspect of their life. So naturally, it’s part of every rite and ritual.

They wear special headdresses made with antlers and local flowers, showing reverence for nature.

They get new tattoos done in a vibrant shade of blue, the same shade of blue that decorated their ancestors’ skin (you know, before the last of the Drennar died out from a mysterious illness contracted while exploring the deep recesses of space, leaving Daen tribe to its own devices on Regonia).

Their relationships are very important to them, and divorce is not a thing for them. As such, the tattoo for their partnering ceremony is VERY large, so much so that the specific location where the tattoo is placed can only fit one.

So, just showing a partnering ceremony tells A LOT about their culture.

Now, you can get deep into the details during the planning stage (if you plan) or while writing. You can go into the symbolism behind each color and how those colors came to mean those things.

You can fill a summoning ceremony with lore, telling your reader which gods or demons or creatures are more receptive to the pleas of mortals.

You can plan out each and every possible symbolic meaning for each piece of plant or animal matter used in a ritual sacrifice, whether all that detail finds its way into the final draft or not.

But be careful, despite how important these rites and rituals are.

If you tend to procrastinate, this has the potential to swallow you. And at some point, you have to write the story.

And on that note…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

The Importance of Emotion: A Book Rant

Hi, guys!

It’s happened. I’ve fallen into a reading slump. It happens to every reader and writer at some point.

I’ve made it halfway into a book and just…lost interest.

But since I’ve been spending so much time analyzing my own writing lately, I was able to pinpoint exactly what made me lost interest.

Lack of emotion.

The book in particular (which I won’t name here) has tremendous world building, and a lot of it. But I’m not connecting with any of the characters on an emotional level, largely because the emotions aren’t the focus.

The author chose to focus more on showcasing the history of the world they built and the reason everything is the way it is and explanations of their gods and the pathways that characters walk and…all these other things that should take a back seat to the actual story.

It may very well build to something amazing, but if readers lose interest before they ever reach that amazing thing, then all the build up is for naught.

And don’t get me wrong. There were a couple really good, emotional scenes, but how far can just a couple of emotional scenes carry a reader?

For a story to be interesting, you need stakes. You need something on the line and a reason for the character to want it.

The overwhelming majority of the time, that means emotions are involved.

It doesn’t have to be some grand scale thing, some major adventure to be interesting. You don’t have to traverse multiple worlds to tell an interesting story. Hell, it can be the most basic premise in the world.

The thing that most often compels people to keep reading is emotion.

Okay, I’ll stop talking in circles and give you an example.

If I just say “Mary walked up the stairs in her Victorian home, old bones creaking as loudly as the wood she trod upon,” it might pique your interest.

But there’s nothing at stake. There’s no emotion to pull you in, just a potentially interesting setting.

She’s just some old biddy walking up the stairs.

But if i describe her desperation, describe the tears flooding the wrinkles on her face as she pushes herself up the stairs with all her might, if I show the pictures of her late husband on the wall, the husband she bought and remodeled that home with, if I tell you about the threat of the nursing home looming on the horizon, waiting for the day she can’t make it up those stairs to her bedroom…

If I show you the picture of her wedding day waiting for her on a little table on the landing to greet her, if she reaches out a hand and touches that picture and says, “I can stay with you one more day, love…”

That emotion MAKES the story.

It’s still just a story of one woman climbing the stairs.

But it has stakes. It hits you right in the feels.

And that is what keeps people reading.

At least, in my case.

That’s why my books are so emotional, because that’s what I look for in a book.

Yeah, they have adventure and usually magic and world building (I tend to write epic high fantasy romance, after all). But the emotion is what makes the story.

It’s that little thing that makes the characters, and thus the story, real.

Never underestimate the power of emotion in books. It can be the difference between a mediocre book and one that absolutely blows people away.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing self-sabotaging characters

Hi, guys!

Last week, I talked about writing believable romance and compelling chemistry, exploring the things that might draw two people together.

But if one of the people involved tends toward self-sabotage, the normal conventions no longer apply and relationships tend toward… dysfunctional.

If you’re writing a self-sabotaging character, it isn’t enough to just put them in a bad relationship. You need to understand why they’re there, so you can write them, and the ensuing relationship, accurately.

There are several types of people who do this. People who fear change and sabotage opportunities to prevent change. People who want to make others feel better about themselves.

And the most common, which is the one we’ll be talking about today, people with catastrophically low self-esteem.

People who genuinely hate themselves or feel intrinsically broken, perhaps due to trauma or a broken home or depression/anxiety, aren’t likely to look for someone who would be good for them. There’s a reason so many people end up in shitty, abusive relationships.

They don’t value themselves worth the effort of improvement or worth taking a good person off the market. They probably don’t even realize what they’re doing to themselves, but they’re seeking the shitty treatment they think they deserve.

At such a low point, something small might be enough to draw them in. Attention of any kind from someone who has even one quality they like, even something small like an outgoing nature, a cool tattoo, or good fashion sense, might be enough to draw them in.

Why?

Because they’re surprised they got attention or compassion from anyone.

And since they’re getting attention from someone, which is more than they think they deserve to begin with, they overlook glaring faults (drug abuse, cheating, domestic abuse, etc.) with ease. There’s a good chance they’ll internalize all of that, blaming themselves for their partner’s philandering or the abuse.

They’re likely to push good people away and seek out shitheads. Meeting someone good isn’t going to magically fix them or show them that they deserve happiness.

Until they learn to value themselves (which takes a hell of a lot of time and work), they won’t seek a functional relationship.

And that may very well be their downfall.

These characters can be absolutely heartbreaking to write, partly because it’s all too real. Far too many people destroy their own chances at happiness simply because they don’t believe themselves worthy of it.

So, if you decide to write one of these characters, keep these things in mind. It will be one hell of a journey, with a lot of time spent in darkness.

Now, on to the progress report. I’ve come to realize that Second to None may end up being a novella. I tend to write far shorter than the average length, regardless of genre. I write very punchy stories, sparing very little time for fluff.

I use my characters to build my world and vice versa, something I explained in a previous blog, which I’ll link below. (Ignore the progress report at the end of that one, because so much has happened since then that it’s irrelevant.)

Now, fantasy tends toward an average of 110,000 words (roughly), but mine lean toward an average of 70,000 or 80,000. Thrillers tend to be about 70,000 words.

So, with my writing style, I expect Second to None to total around 40,000 words. I’m currently sitting at about 7,500 words.

I’ve also made some strides toward releasing A Heart of Salt & Silver, and I’ve been reveling in the recent release of World for the Broken. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, it’s available wherever books are sold. (Amazon link: mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken )

For now, I’m going to keep working away on editing Allmother Rising and writing Second to None.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

P.S.- Here’s the link for the blog explaining the concept of using your world to build your characters and using characters to build the world.