After working hard for almost a year and writing and publishing four books under two pen names, I’m taking a week off. Even as writers, we need mental breaks. I still love writing and I’m not stopping or giving that up, but I do need the rest.
For the next week I’ll be doing whatever I like, within my normal horse care schedule. With the virus going around, I’m not going anywhere, but that’s okay! I had set aside a few hobbies the last month as I focused on getting Healer’s Strength out, and it’s time to restore my work-life balance.
See, I’ve also been training for a new career, and I had been working too hard at that. Throughout this week, I’m only studying when I want to and only for as long as I want to. I’m also still writing personal stories whenever I feel like, as well as getting more active again.
I’m learning a new Tai Chi form. I’ve already learned the Dao (sabre), though I hadn’t done it in a while, so now I’m learning the double Dao form. Yup, two blades spinning around my body. How could this go wrong? It takes care and precision, just like writing, with the added risk of bodily injury. Not really, as I’m using plastic practice swords. My real Dao is sharp, and that would be silly to practice with right now!
I’m on my third day of vacation, and I’m enjoying the rest. Next week I’ll get back at my writing, refreshed and ready to go. Book four is already a quarter through the first draft, and the martial arts book is over halfway through. The fifth book of the Forest Guardians series is forming, based on events happening in the fourth book, too.
Now, back to my vacation!
That’s right, Forest Guardians Book 3 is in the final preparation stages before publishing. It’s been an exciting and busy time, and not just for the book release. The martial arts book is coming along as well, and I’m enjoying writing it.
One thing I do as an author is regularly take courses and webinars and learn more about writing. This last week I have been busy with webinars on different topics relating to self-publising. Most exciting, this weekend I am attending an online conference, my first ever for writing. Inkers Mini-Con starts this morning.
It’s a little hectic, trying to release a book while studying writing and self-publishing, but the best part about self-publishing is the ability to set my own schedule. If I need a little more time, I take it. If I’m ready sooner, so be it, I adjust.
Since I’ve spent the last couple of weeks busily studying, the editing has taken a little longer than I originally thought. I’m fine with that, as my editor was also a bit busy. Now we’re in the formatting stage. Some of what I’ve been learning will help me with the formatting and physical book preparation. It’s not just writing, when you’re a self-published author, it’s also getting everything else ready, too.
I enjoy it, though, the learning and improving and really getting to know each skill. Everything from being able to evaluate a cover to knowing when your editor is doing a good job, getting the file into the format and ending up with a book, it’s an adventure in itself.
Unfortunately, blogging took a slight backseat to learning, and that’s okay sometimes. Social media also took a vacation while I get things ready. With so much to learn and do, there’s no need to rush. Writing is a life-long pursuit, and I’m still young for a writer. You’re never too old to learn new skills. Just remember, if you want to self-publish, there’s a lot to know, and finding the right people to help can make all the difference for you.
Sometimes, it feels like the story almost writes itself. Sometimes it takes more effort. The third book is almost through the editing stage, and should be published before the end of the month. Book three has taken a little more effort to get the story how I wanted it.
Not book four, though. Book four was outlined in about twenty minutes. I didn’t expect that, as I had only a vague idea what the story was, no details at all. No, I started writing, putting in the various stages of the story, and before I knew it, the book was outlined. I was surprised by a few plot points, actually, but when they just appeared on the “paper,” I knew it was what I wanted.
Seriously, as the story appeared before me, I was delighted and surprised. Now I’ve had a chance to write the story for a few days. It’s again working out almost as if the story exists, and I’m just releasing it to the world.
This is also in direct contrast to the martial arts book I’m writing. That story outlined easily, but my outlines are fairly vague. No, book four is already forming details, but the martial arts book is proving to be a harder write. I’m almost halfway through my first draft on the martial arts book, but I have a better feel for the fourth Forest Guardians book.
How can some stories just appear before us, while others take effort and time to materialize? Why do we sometimes have a book flow, while other books feel like effort? Part of it is passion and enthusiasm. Part of it might be that some stories touch our hearts in ways other stories do not.
Now, my first few books didn’t flow, though there were times when writing them was done from the flow state. I was too busy learning how to write a book to have the whole book come from a flow state. That’s okay. It takes time to learn to be an author. As I get more experience, I find it easier to tap into that flow state for more steps in the writing process.
The flow state is when ideas pour from us and appear as if they were already there. Athletes can experience the flow state, where their body responds perfectly, and their movements are easy. Anyone can experience the flow state. Concentration comes easily and we’re more productive than normal.
Now that the holidays are over, my life is settling down, and I’m finding my way back into my normal routine. That means I’m working on more fun books to share with readers, and more stories I’m passionate about. I get to write more books I love and improve my skills. Here’s to many more years writing!
I have a fond childhood memory of sitting in my father’s office and playing with the typewriter. I never actually wrote anything important, I just loved pressing the keys and making noise. Seeing the letters appear was like magic to me. Needless to say, I was pretty young at the time. Okay, very young.
Just last month, I asked mom if she still had the typewriter. She didn’t have the one I played with all those decades ago, but she had one my grandfather used. I have it now. It’s much newer than that one I tapped away at as a child. It’s also significantly lighter. I can even still buy cartridges for it, including correction tape.
I played with it, exploring the functions and seeing if it still worked. It did. I also learned a lot in the few minutes I typed, like how spoiled I am as a writer with a modern computer and my word processor. I also learned how slowly I would have to type if I didn’t want to constantly use the correction tape...
It made me reflect on writers in the “olden days.” I can write and edit a novel in a few months with my computer. If I’m having a productive day and really going for it, I can write over 2000 words in an hour. Autocorrect means I don’t have to fix most of my speed typing errors. Most importantly for me, as an author who does not write my book in order, I can jump around and write whatever scene I want at any point.
What was it like for the writers back then, using typewriters, or even writing by hand? We have a copy of a bible that was recently done, written out by scribes on vellum using quills. It took years instead of months. Even the typewriter is an improvement for writers over quill pens, but my speed on a typewriter is only a fraction of what I can do with a computer.
What would it be like having to use a typewriter? How many pages would my draft be, knowing I write by scene instead of chapter or in one continuous narrative? How often would I be making corrections because my fingers move faster than the typewriter can handle. I remember being able to cause jams on the old typewriter.
I appreciate my modern tools as a writer. I won’t forget how much easier things are for me, with spellchecker, grammar checkers, the ability to easily delete typing, and I can jump around as I want in my story. Those writers back before computers were tough and persistent. Would I be a writer without my tools? Yes, I’d probably still write, but not as an author. I’d probably still be writing short stories for myself instead.
Here’s to computers, word processors, formatting programs, and an easier time as an author. And thanks to the typewriter, my reminder of how good I have it as a writer!
Once again, I’m experiencing an interesting phenomenon as I write. As I approach the end of my final draft, I start feeling tired. I felt this before will all my other books. It’s simply part of writing for me, and something I’m learning to work with.
The tricky thing about the fatigue is it’s a little worse this time. With the Christmas season and me having a cold, the fatigue is more noticeable than normal. Since the fatigue is simply something I’ve learned is part of my writing, I’ve learned some ways to deal with it.
I still love getting up every morning and writing. That hasn’t changed. My enthusiasm for the story hasn’t changed, either, though the fatigue has brought some doubts. This is one of the reasons I have a beta reader I trust. He and I discussed my doubts and how to deal with it. We decided I was best to stick to my story as it was and let him read it. If there was a pacing problem, he’d feel it and let me know.
Today I wrote the scene I initially had doubts about. I stuck to my plan and feel good about it again. I’m pretty sure the doubts really were just the tiredness I always seem to experience at this point in my writing. I don’t know any writer who doesn’t occasionally have doubts. What matters is how we deal with them.
How do I deal with it? Step one is stick to my plan. I liked my first draft(s) and felt the story was ready for final form, so if I have doubts, I stick to my plan. Step two is to take more or longer breaks. Since writing is my primary occupation, I set aside my entire mornings to write in. That’s a privilege I have, so I take advantage of it. Some days I can do 5000 words in just over two hours, and other mornings I may only write 3500 words and it’ll take all morning, including breaks.
Another important thing I watch for is making sure I eat and sleep well. If I make sure I look after myself, any fatigue I do experience is less than it might otherwise be. Writing can be mentally tiring. Fuelling my body and brain properly keeps me at my best.
As you write, you’ll find your own methods and rhythms. New book excitement might help you speed through the early parts, when ideas are new and fresh. Maybe the middle part will be slower to write, and maybe it won’t. You might feel a fresh surge of energy as the book nears completion. Or you may find your personal patterns are something else entirely.
Keep an eye on how your writing goes and what each stage is like. I found my writing was consistent. Maybe yours will be, and maybe it won’t. If you know what becomes normal for you, it’ll help you when doubts kick in or you just feel off. There are days where I only manage 1000 words or so, though those days are rare now that I know what’s normal for me. By knowing my normal, I’m becoming even more productive as a writer.
How about you? Have you noticed things that are consistent with your writing process? What helps, and what doesn’t? How do you deal with the doubties?
Now that I realize I haven’t blogged in a while, it made me reflect on the natural rhythm of writing I go through. This shows in how often I blog, now that I look back. My writing and my blogging are connected. I’ll explain...
When I’m starting a new book project, I have a lot more time and energy to blog. I have more focus to spread on all my projects, blogging included. Right now, though, I’m nearing the end of book 3, finishing the final draft and about to enter editing. My focus is almost completely on finishing the book. That’s how I can go a week and realize I forgot to come and blog, sharing my progress and process.
Now that I’ve written a few books, I’m noticing general trends on where my focus is. I do love doing the monthly newsletter and enjoy writing the bonus stories. This time around, I prepared it in a shorter time period. My energy and inspiration just worked that way.
I am loving writing the short bonus scenes for the newsletter. It’s a chance to share scenes and short stories from other characters’ perspectives. I love them because I can sit and write one in under an hour, or take longer if I want. It’s a chance to explore the world and Aili’s life outside the books. What was little Aili like? What happened during the fire?
Hang in there, aspiring authors. I’ll be blogging more regularly again soon. Book 3 is nearly done. My short story and newsletter are done and ready to go out in a couple of days. Christmas is here and the season will soon be over. Wow, has December been crazy this year. Sometimes I blog more, other times I am busier and my focus is elsewhere. That’s okay. Writing is a joy, not a chore. If I’m not actively blogging as much, it’s because I have other fun writing I’m working on. Soon I’ll be back.
I love being a self-published author, and I’m not alone. I’ve heard now from a few established authors who started traditionally published that switched, and they prefer self-publishing, too. Now, it’s not without its challenges, and traditionally publishing has a lot going for it as well. Still, self publishing allows us to share stories we feel it’s in our hearts to tell.
How do we keep the quality of our books up? We have to pay attention, but we can put out books just as high quality as you’d get from a major traditional publisher. I’m not only an author, but also a reader. I love finding hidden gems from other self published authors. I’ve also started many books and ended up stopping early. I’ll share the main reasons I’ll stop reading, so you can look at your own writing and see if it’s something you need to be aware of.
1. Long and convoluted sentences can break the flow of a story. There’s nothing wrong with using commas. I use them, too. If you’re going to use them, use them well. If you have more than one or two commas in a sentence, you might want to break the sentence up, or even find a way to reword your ideas. I stopped reading a book because sentences were too complex and I couldn’t get into the story. Actually, this might be the top reason I’ve given up on books. Five commas are a sign you need to re-examine your sentence. Seriously, I’ve seen it often.
2. Watch your point of view. Learn about the different points of view you can use and how each one works. Whatever you choose, be consistent. It’s possible to mix points of view and do it well, but this takes real skill. The hardest one I think to do well is third person omniscient, which means you hear from every character and know their thoughts. If your narrative is head hopping randomly, it can be more distracting than effective. Ways to handle multiple points of view include separating views by chapter, or section, or even by book in a series.
3. Spelling and grammar issues can be distracting. Spell checkers are great, but they won’t necessarily tell you when you used the wrong word, and grammar checkers might not catch it, either. Having someone else read your work can help, as we don’t always catch our own mistakes. Even professional proofreaders miss the occasional error, so it’s usually not a dealbreaker for all but the fussiest readers, but most readers won’t fuss over a single error or two.
4. Know your audience. At least, pay attention to your audience’s age and reading level. I expect different things if I’m picking up a young adult book, a middle grade book, or something aimed at adults. Young people can be all over the place in their reading levels, with a voracious 12 year old maybe out-reading a late teen reader. However, sometimes you have a young reader who is more sheltered mentally or emotionally. Keep this in mind when choosing your story and how to tell it, if age might be a factor. It doesn’t mean you have to change your story, but maybe it’ll help you decide how much detail to use on certain scenes, or what words to use.
Put out the best book you can. You’ll get better the more you write. My second book is more polished and has better writing than my first book. That’s normal. Many books from now, I might look back and see how much better a writer I am than when I started. Write every chance you get and study writing. Not all writing rules matter to all writers, but you’ll find a style that works for you. Just keep in mind who your audience is, so you can write a book they’ll love. Firstly, though, make sure you love your story, too. Get writing!
One thing I’ve noticed is the more I write books, the more I love the stories and the process of writing. As much as my first ever book, Runaway Magic, has a place in my heart, each additional book is more fun to write.
I love the second book, Facing the Fire, because I introduced new characters, and you see Aili interacting with other mages more. She’s still saving the forest, but as always, she has help. She also has fun. My favourite thing about writing is the characters. I love to see them in various situations and see how they react to life.
The third book, tentatively titled Healer’s Strength, is bringing new joys for my writing. I started the final draft only this last week, and already I’m speeding along. Is it perfect? No writing is. Every book has scenes we’re not as excited about or maybe wish we worded differently, but writing should be fun, even as we do our best. I get to bring back some familiar characters and send Aili somewhere new.
The more books I write, the more I can relax and enjoy the process of writing. I still give each book the care and attention it deserves. My goal is to put out the best books I can. I also want to enjoy it. I’m having so much fun with book three that I’m averaging 4000 words a day. I have the advantage that the story is written, I just have to put it in final form, and I do that by re-writing into a new file. That’s how I have a word count to go by.
As I get writing, I have so much fun with a scene that it just flies by. I may pass through transition scenes, too, but even those I like. Still, there are more and more scenes I love. Sometimes I don’t want to stop writing, even though my body wants me out of the chair for a while. I can take breaks and come back, writing more scenes I love.
When watching a webinar by an author, she had something interesting to say that I loved. She has both self-published and traditionally published, and she loves self-publishing best. She reminds us that we can write whatever excites us, whatever story we love, because we are ultimately responsible for the books we put out when we self-publish.
I take Saturdays off writing, but write every other day. I’m having so much fun that I debated whether or not to keep writing, even on my day off. No, days off are good for us, so I chose to take it, but tomorrow I’m excited about getting up and going at the writing.
Write what you love. Write what makes you feel. Write when you can. Most importantly, love writing!
That time has come once again. I’m ready to take my rough draft and put it into final format. My story is about to gain the richness of descriptors and sensory information, and not just be a rough draft. Sure, the rough draft does contain all kinds of descriptors and more, but not in final form.
The best advice I ever got was to work with two files, my rough draft as it is, and a brand new file. I look at what’s in my rough draft, and completely rewrite it into my new draft. I keep the ideas the same, and often the dialog doesn’t change at all, it stays word for word. However, while it means extra work for me, rewriting has one distinct advantage for me.
When I’m not editing something already there, I can word my final draft in the most effective way I want, freely with no boundaries. When I’m editing something already down, I’m less likely to change my sentences. When I’m rewriting, I spend more time making the sentences the best I can make them.
It also means I don’t get writers block. See, I know I just need ideas and conversations and basic details in my rough draft. It doesn’t matter how bad the writing is, because it’s not in its final form. I can get stuff down, change it as I need or want to make the story flow, and even leave notes to myself to flesh out things before my final draft. I can write whatever scenes I want and make them better later.
Also, by the time I get to my final draft, the ideas are already down, so all I have to do is make them pretty, give my words life, and make my world and characters feel real. Since I don’t have to come up with the ideas, there’s nothing to block. I can rewrite a sentence as many times as I want, though it seldom takes more than a single rewriting.
It does slow down how long it takes to write each book, as I write it twice, but I feel it gives me a much better book to share with the world. It also means I don’t sit there with writers block for days or weeks. Every writer will find a method that works for them, and sometimes trying a new method is a good thing. However, once you find what works, hone the technique and make the most of it. Routine can also help writers, as it stimulates the brain in certain ways. For me, the routine of a new file for my final draft helps me clearly separate my idea writing from my polished book.
What routines work for you?
To quote and paraphrase T. S. Elliot, "the naming of characters is a difficult matter..."
How do we pick names for our characters? Do we go with whatever comes to mind? Do we look for meaning? Do we want something unique, or common and relatable? Obviously this will be different depending on what kind of book we're writing. When I wrote the romance, I went with a somewhat common man's name, and named the woman after one of my horses.
When it comes to fantasy, though, do we make whole new names up? Do we borrow names from Earth? If the names are too foreign, can our readers pronounce them? If the names are too familiar, does it break the illusion of a new world?
I struggled a little with this when I wrote my first book, Runaway Magic. I knew I wanted to call my main character Aili, a name which means light, and comes from both German and Irish origins. I personally prefer names with meanings more often than not, though that's not universal. Kyson is of British origin and literally means "son of Kyle."
Do most of my character's names have meaning? Absolutely. Actually, it's a bit of a lazy way to name them, but by knowing I want a name that means something, I can go to a webpage I use: www.meaning-of-names.com. Common meanings are listed with links, making it easy. Need a name for a Fire Mage? Click on fire as a meaning and there I go - Hana is born as a character.
It's great because it also tells me where a name is from. I tend to use names from all over the world and many different cultures. Andvari is Norwegian and means "mythical treasure guardian." As Aili is an unusual treasure to the forests, it seemed to fit well. Leya is a Spanish name that means loyal, and that pony sure is.
This doesn't mean every name is chosen that way. Ilia and Kyson were chosen because they sounded right for the character. A few names of passing characters are simply made up completely. Some characters are so minor to the story that they're never named, though they have complete lives in the world outside the books.
The website was even more helpful for a book I'm writing that is dystopian and on Earth, as it's about a community that gathered together from all over the world to survive. I was able to choose diverse names for each culture represented in the community. Names can be searched by region as well as meaning.
Every author has their own way of naming characters. What matters is finding a method that works for you. Do you honour a friend or loved one and use their name? I have. Other people don't, because characters may not be similar, and you don't want to offend someone. Do you go with something made up and unique? I have, when it's right for the character, or I don't need the character again. Do you search for the name by meaning or region? There's lots of webpages and books to help with that, if you choose.
It's interesting to me, but the character usually forms in my head before I name them. That's how naming by meaning is so easy for me. I can pick an aspect of their personality and name them after that. Other authors start with a name and build the character from there. Either way, find what works for you. Maybe try different methods, until and unless you have a favourite. What inspires you? Do that!
I’ve been writing stories for myself for years. Now, I’m a published author. No genre is off limits, though I have some favorites.