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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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.

How to Design a Book Cover: Part One, Typography

We all know that 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.

Now, let me 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.

So, I’ll be doing a two part blog series all about book cover design.

First and foremost, we need to talk about typography.

You might be wondering why I’m not starting with the images behind the text, because after all, it’s just text on the cover. The picture is all that really matters, right?

No. The words on the cover, their placement, the font, the size, the color, all of these things are incredibly important.

You cannot just slap some text on your cover and call it done. Bad typography can ruin a cover, even if you have a beautiful piece of art behind it. When you get it right, it can make a world of difference.

Since typography is so often underestimated, that’s where we’re starting. So, let’s dive in.

1. You don’t need a super fancy font.

I know, if you’re just starting out with graphic design, you might think you need all the curlicues and flourishes, or maybe a drippy font to look like blood if you write horror. But you don’t.

You need a legible font.

If people can’t read it, they probably aren’t going to zoom in and stare at it trying to figure out what it says.

Look at big name books. The fonts are simple so people can read them easily. There might be a little thing added here and there, but not many. The super ornate, cheesy fonts don’t get a lot of air time.

It’s hard to go wrong with a good sans or serif font. There are tons of fonts within either of those types. Just search for either “sans” or “serif” in the fonts of whatever program you’re using.

If you’re stumped (because there are a ton of these fonts), do a Google search to see what’s commonly used in your genre.

Some genres use a secondary font to make one word in the title pop, but for the most part, try to limit your fonts to one or two.

2. There is absolutely nothing wrong with black, white, or gray/silver text.

You don’t have to color match your text to your cover. Your main goal is to have that text be as readable as possible while still looking appropriate for the cover. The colors mentioned above are great for that.

And while we’re on this topic, avoid using one color for this and another color for that and a third color for something else and a fourth and a fifth…

Some genres use a bold color (or a cursive font, as mentioned above) to make one word in the title pop, but for the most part, try to limit your font colors to one, maybe two.

3. Center your text.

There are occasions where off-center text can help balance the composition of the art on the cover (a thing that we’ll get into when we talk about artwork), but the vast majority of the time, it should be centered.

4. Don’t be afraid to take up some real estate with your name and title.

Don’t squash all the words down, hiding them in a corner to show nothing but that art. Yes, the art is important, but that’s not what people are going to type into a search bar to find your book.

They’re not going to go tell their book lover friend, “Hey, you should read that book with the dragon on it.” And if they do, their friend is probably never going to be able to find your book.

The title and author name should be easy to read, and since the thumbnail of your book is the thing they’re most likely to see, that means the words need to be big enough to read even if the cover is shown at a small size.

Especially your author name.

If someone searches for your book title, awesome, they find your book. If they search for your name, they find ALL your books.

And for people who have read your work before, seeing your name might be all it takes to get them to buy another book.

But let me put it simply.

How do you expect to take up space in the market if you don’t even take up space on your own cover?

5. Big text means partially covering your artwork, and that’s okay.

People will still see that beautiful piece of art. The text isn’t likely to be big block letters that cover everything. And if it is, you can always play with transparencies to show the image through the text.

Just don’t do that with a really spindly font.

Now, with these tips in mind, review whatever cover you’ve created for your book. As with every art form, these are, of course, guidelines more so than rules. Every one of these things has its exception.

But they’re good guides to follow.

If you’re ever in doubt, get feedback from other authors, artists, and book lovers. And please, go into the feedback process expecting negative and positive feedback, ready to learn and improve and grow.

Come back next week for some tips about the artwork behind the typography.

Don’t forget to subscribe to stay up to date on all my books, releases, and giveaways. I send my newsletter out every Monday with exclusive content and sneak peeks, and there’s a free short story ready for download on sign-up.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

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.

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.

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.

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.