Category Archives: Writing

Ten Tips for Writing (and Finishing) Your Book

shutterstock_235976374Last week, I received a comment interested in getting some writing tips from me. I wrote a few posts like this in the past, but haven’t made one in a while, for whatever reason. I’ve thought about writing a book on writing, but yet there are already so many, and I don’t have many great successes to boast, so I haven’t moved forward with that. I’m completely self-taught (other than any English skills I may have learned) but as far as creative writing, that’s all me. I’ve just developed a feel for it and I’ve looked at what others have done and learned from that.

Since I find myself needing to reconnect with some of this myself, I started thinking about what works for me and how I finish my own books. This is what I came up with.

Ten Tips for Writing (and Finishing) Your Book

1.) Know where your story is going – Even if you are a spontaneous kind of writer in some respects, you should at least know some things about your book. What’s the main thing you want to accomplish by writing your book? What makes you excited about your story? Focus on that. Is the romance the main aspect even though it has a fantasy theme? Stick to the romance and let it carry you through. Is there a major conflict that needs to be resolved? Know what you’re writing toward. For me, I need to know that I’m writing toward something that needs to be resolved: a mystery that I need to reveal, a romance that needs to come to fruition, or a conflict that greatly needs a resolution. Find the point you’re working toward and go for it. I usually find that the rest will fill itself in.

2.) Love your idea. – If you don’t love your idea – and I mean LOVE it – then you probably aren’t going to finish it. Think about it for a few days before you decide to write it. Try to figure out if it’s really something that you’re excited about or that you’re going to finish. If not, save the idea for later. You may be able to use it again for something else! I do this all the time. I have ideas that I think are swell but I don’t know how to make it work as a stand-alone story. What do I do? I write it down , and I might find a way to use it along with another idea I have later. I truly believe that some ideas can bloom, but we’re just not ready to write them yet. Either we don’t have the skill to figure out how to make it work (happens to me often) or the idea is just not solid yet (happens to me alllll the time).

Example, late last year I was excited about writing a weird western, but when I sat down to write it, I wasn’t happy with how it was going. I think it just wasn’t the right time, and I’m okay with that. Eventually, the time will be right.The idea is still there.

If you find yourself in this position, just go back to the drawing board and search for something that gives you a true feeling of love.

3.) Keep inspiration close at hand – This can mean many things. Have a ritual if you need one. Wear a decorative pair of open-finger gloves. Always have a cup of coffee in a mug that says #1 Writer, or whatever. Do what you have to do. For example, when I was writing Nevermor, I had this cheap little plastic ball that was filled with water and glitter, and when I wasn’t busy typing, I would sit there and throw it up in the air, or just shake it up and watch the glitter inside it. It sounds like a waste of time, but you have to do what you have to do! I’ve done things like that in the past, but it usually varies from one book to the next. There are, however, a few things that I always do.

One thing I always do when I’m working on something is find some music that inspires me to think. I listen to it often and just zone out while listening. I’ll clean up, exercise, listen to it while I commute, and use it as the soundtrack for whatever I’m working on. While I’m listening, I’m watching my characters. I may not always hear what they’re saying, but I see what’s going on. I develop a vision and then I put that vision to words, like watching a music video. Sometimes the words of the songs come through to me and that gives me an idea as well. I usually choose my songs based on the sound of the music, and then the words come through. I even choose songs that I don’t really know as long as the sound seems right, and then I connect with something new. (Spotify is really good for building playlists.)

Another good thing to do is search for character/setting inspiration online. Spend some time looking at pictures. Choose an actor to represent your character. This usually works pretty well for me. Assigning a face helps me to visualize everything a bit better, and looking at art gives me some nice ideas for visualization while my characters are moving around in my head.

4.) Take time to think. This is the part that has been getting me down lately. It’s not that I don’t have time to write, it’s that I don’t take the time to think about what I want to write. What I mean by that is that I get so distracted by so many other things. It’s not just work or real world stuff; it’s even what I do for entertainment. If you are constantly letting other people entertain you (with their books, their movies, and their games) how are you supposed to have your own ideas? Not that you can’t do those things too – inspiration can come from anywhere and that’s very important – but take some time to meditate on your own ideas. It’s not about just taking time to write or making a schedule or trying to write everyday. Choosing to sit down at your computer for an hour does not equal writing time. Trust me. Even if I start out with a word document, sometimes I’ll just stop and pull up Facebook, or the game I’m currently playing, or I think I’m going to watch Youtube while I write. No. No, it just doesn’t work. Unplug if you have to – like I’ve begun to do. Find a connection with your project that makes you want to write, not just for an hour a day, but ALL day.

5.) Read something that inspires you – Do you remember the last book that you read and loved? Or do you have a favorite author whose words are phenomenal? You think: “I wish I could write like that or create something like that.” Read a paragraph from their book. Read the first page and REALLY read it. Look at how the words carry you away and then look at what words and sentences are actually being used. Think about what the author did in a technical way. Sometimes, when I can’t find inspiration, I’ll grab one of those books off my shelf – one that I know I loved and enjoyed – and I’ll open it up (sometimes to the first page and sometimes to a random spot in the middle) and I’ll read a few paragraphs. I’ll then think about what I just read and compare it to what I’m writing. If you’ll do this, you’ll probably find the same thing that I usually do – you’re doing fine and they’re just words after all. There is nothing magical about them, and they are probably just like yours. If you find that they’re not, think about why. What is different? Think about those things and learn from them.

6.) Edit as you need to, but remember that you can fix it later – Some tipsters might tell you to ‘save the editing for later’ and to ‘just get the words on the page’, but my advice is a little different. Here’s the thing: I read the beginning of my book more often than anything. If my first few paragraphs are crap, I get really annoyed. So, I’ll often spend a lot of time polishing the first bit of my book, just so that when I read it again later, it inspires me all over again. This assures me that the whole project is not garbage. If you need to do that for every chapter that you finish to make yourself feel good about going forward, do it. Do what feels right to you. Sometimes, I still like the manuscript to have a bit of polish before I go forward. It helps me to really get in touch with the words and to remember what I was doing and what still needs to be done.

Don’t drive yourself crazy though. As you’re working on this, don’t forget that you can fix it. And you will. If you’re like me, you’ll never ever stop fixing it, and it will never be perfect even after you publish it. I have to make myself stop. If I don’t, it would go on forever because nothing is ever good enough unless I’m working on something else. Once the work is complete, you’ll be able to look at it as a whole and see it for what it is. Then you can alter it so it all goes together.

So in that respect, yes, just get the words on the page.

That said, if when you’re reading over your book and you run across a section that absolutely bores you to tears, you can’t be bothered to read it let alone edit it, then it might be a good idea to think about cutting it – or rewriting it. If you’re bored reading it, someone else might be too.

7.) Don’t be afraid to skip ahead – When I first started writing, like so many others, I would write in a straight line from one chapter to the next, mostly because I was posting online and I couldn’t go on to the next part until I had finished the one before it. I don’t write like that anymore. If I’m having trouble writing a section but I know what happens directly after it, then I’ll jump ahead to write the next section. Then I’ll take some time to think about it and come back later to work on the part that I was having trouble with. I usually just fill those spaces in later. If I still can’t fill in that spot, then I need to go back to number 4 and take some time to think and visualize.

One reason this might not work is if you don’t know how to begin a story. That bothers me, personally. Like I mentioned above, when the beginning isn’t solid, it bugs me. It may not bother you that way. So, if you can deal with skipping the beginning, by all means, skip it and come back to it later.

8.) Change how/where you’re writing – In the past, I’ve had some of my best writing success by printing out what I had and sitting down with the printout and a notebook to add sections where needed and to edit. I would read over it and make it better as I went. Though that may be a waste of paper and computers are just so much faster for getting words on the page, sometimes it’s not as good, I feel. I think there’s a real difference when you put a lot of time and focus into something. So! If you sit down at the computer and you feel blank, grab a notebook. Type something up on your phone. Or maybe you need a change of scenery. Change the room you are writing in. Go outside. Go to a coffee shop (if that’s your thing). Figure out what works for you. Sometimes it really is as simple as that.

9.) Write a layout – Even if the layout is vague; even if you don’t have a full layout yet, make one. It will help you gather your ideas and remind you of what you know and what you don’t know yet. When you write one chapter, then you can look over and have a reminder of what you need to happen next in the story. It can change at any time, and when it does, alter the layout. This will help you keep it all together, and if there comes a time when you see the whole thing set out before you, Eureka!

Though I always have an idea of where my story is going, I like my story and characters to grow a bit as I progress. I don’t like the idea that everything has to be set in stone, because things change, and I enjoy it when that happens. Remember, your characters are not just words on paper – they are alive inside your mind. Get in touch with them.

Sometimes, your layout for a chapter might be one sentence. ‘Character A and Character B have a fight’. Oh…that isn’t very much detail. Well, if you can write yourself up to that chapter, chances are you’re going to have a better understanding of your characters and what is going on in the story in order to progress and get things done. By that, I mean set things up and reveal the information that your reader needs to know. ‘Character A finds out the big secret’. By this point, I hope you know what it is!

If all you know is the basic description of your story, write that down. Write character descriptions if you need to. Write about the world. Essentially, you’re writing about what you’re going to write, and that will help.

10.) Just write. Anyone who has ever written anything successfully is going to tell you this. But how?? How do you write when you can’t write?? I know, I know. I didn’t know how to take this one either until it actually happened to me, and then I finally understood. Here’s what you do. Don’t think about writing. Don’t think about what you’re going to build. Don’t think about who your characters are or what they’re doing. Just open up a fresh word doc, sit down and write the first sentence that comes to you. Look outside and write what you see, poetically or otherwise – whatever your style is. Write about what your cat is doing. Look up a writing prompt and try a short story. Write a piece of fanfiction if you need to. Just do something with it until you feel good about writing again. Then, when you’re ready, stop doing that and work on the real project that you have your heart set on. Sometimes these fake projects turn into real ones, or you can use pieces of it for something else. Find something that inspires you – anything! – and write about it.


Writing is just like any other skill. The more time you spend doing it and thinking about it, the better you will become. It grows with time, like how to know your sentences are good, that the flow is right, and that the characters have done what they needed to do. Get to know your own writing.

For example, I can now think of my current work and have an estimate on my word count and also when I will finish it. I know how many words it will take to get me through a plot point, and how many words I need per chapter – therefore, I know how many chapters the book will have. I’m pretty sure that I couldn’t do that for a long time, but I know what I’m capable of and I can know what a story needs to get it to the end.

The main things, I believe, are 1.) your mind needs to be clear and 2.) the STORY is LIFE. That means that when it’s right, it’s right, and you’re thinking about it 24-7 until it’s done. That’s the good kind of writing.


I hope you all liked this post! It felt pretty good to write it, so I hope it was helpful. Sitting down to think about these things helped me too! I’ve been doing a bit more writing lately and that has been really nice. Again, I’m not sure where I’m headed right now, but I’m enjoying this simplicity as far as not worrying about getting work out there just to make money. I definitely need to reconnect with writing for the love of it, and I think I may be on the right track.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, I do have a few older posts that give some writing advice, so here are the links to those.

Editing 101

Dialogue for Dummies

Character Building with Lani

Let me know if this post gave you some new ideas! Is there anything else you would like me to write about in the future? I’ll give it a shot!

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A Writer’s Struggle

I often read articles about writing as a business: how to get sales, how to market, is it worth it? Some of these articles say the same thing, and though I would hope against the truth, much of what I find is the same.

No. Published or otherwise, a writer may not be able to support herself just by writing books. If you’re making money as a writer, it’s not because you’re writing fiction. You’re writing non-fiction How To books and freelance articles for blogs, dealing with subjects that don’t matter to you at all.

I’ll be honest: Lately, I’ve been thinking about giving up. In fact, I’ve been at that place many times in my life. It’s always just a phase, but the truth remains: I’m not able to support myself as a writer, and I may never be.

Writing has been a struggle for a while now. I’d say it has been for the past 2 years since I started my current job. It’s not always a question of what I should write – I do have a few ideas put back – but it’s finding the time and focus when there is so much else going on. At some point you realize that you’re an adult with an adult life, and no matter how you slice it, a part of having an adult life is always going to be bills.

The honest truth is that what you do with your life all comes down to money – the stress of needing money from somewhere and not making enough to pay those dreaded bills. And this applies to doing anything you love. Sometimes you just can’t manage to get paid for it.

In the midst of these thoughts, I was out one night after work, thinking that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I wondered if all my effort was worth it, and if I gave up writing, could I move forward? What else was out there? I looked at my phone and saw that someone had tagged me on Twitter. I checked it out and there was a link that led me to Instagram. There, I saw a picture of the books in my Nevermor trilogy. A book blogger was doing a post challenge, and when asked which author she would like to meet, she chose me.

I actually started tearing up. It just meant so much to me to see my books like that, in print and in someone’s possession. To have someone say that they love my work certainly makes me feel that I don’t regret what I’ve done and am doing.

It really does seem that every time I start feeling down, something like this comes along to lift me back up. What I am doing is not at all for naught, though it has been difficult to find time for it.

Things are harder now. My day job requires so much attention that I can’t even think about anything else, develop plots or ideas. I have approximately one serious writer friend, and now we have both become so wrapped up in having day jobs that we barely talk, let alone write together. Lately and for a while, the only thing my brain can think about is making money. How can I make money with my books, and do people really do that? From what I’ve read, even most published writers struggle.

The truth is, I don’t need too much to live right now. That may mean a downgrade from the life I’m currently living, but I believe I could do it. I think I could be perfectly happy without a job, but how to get there? What is enough for happiness?

I have 10 books for sale right now – 10 beautiful books – and a few more that I wrote in my twenties and haven’t released yet. I honestly want nothing more than to be able to support myself with writing.

The night after the Instagram pic, I dreamed an entire plot, and I was so excited about it! It felt so good to know that there was still something there, almost like a sign, that my own mind was telling me ‘we’ve still got it’.

I’ve started thinking: maybe writing can still be accomplished if I try to make time in my life for everything. A schedule. Everything has a time and place. Because of how inspiration strikes, this may not be completely possible, but there must be some way to organize this instead of me wasting so much time moping because I’m unhappy and worrying that the spark is gone. That happens when you overthink everything.

I’m happy to say that I’m writing again, and it feels good. Does it erase all the stresses that life in modern society brings? No. But maybe with more effort and learning, I can finally get to a place where everything balances out. I’m looking forward to finding that.

Editing 101

I think I’m pretty much there! I added 2 new sections yesterday, and while I think there might be a few little holes left, I’m going back to the beginning again to get deeper into the editing. I think all my events are in order, the characters have done what they need to do, and all is in place. (My Dragon software works awesomely, by the way. I used it to record what I’d scribbled down by hand, and it was so quick!)

I’m pretty much done at 138K. I might get to 140, but I doubt I’ll break that. So, now comes the part where I dig in and work on the text, but there is more to it than just making sure grammar and spelling are correct. I have to look at everything and make sure it’s juuuust right.

Very few of my posted stories have gotten a serious edit session. I’ve read them over and if I noticed something, I worked on it, but in my super editing mode (which I think has only happened for a couple of my stories such as Needle’s Eye – possibly Rickety House. maybe Mark of Thorn) I don’t just read it; I look at every sentence to make sure it’s perfect. Then I zoom out and look at the paragraph, and then the section, and then the chapter. It takes quite a bit of work, and since I have so many words with this one, it will probably take a bit of time.  Still, I’m pushing myself for a January/February release, so I’m going to do what I can with the time that I have.

Here are a few tips for you based on what I’m going to be doing:

Make sure all of your sentences don’t begin the same way. If you have every sentence in a paragraph beginning with ‘she’, then you should probably change some of that up. Likewise, if all of your paragraphs begin with ‘she’, you should probably tweak that too.

Look for words and phrases that you’ve repeated often. You may find that you have used the same words over and over again. Readers will notice this too, especially if it’s an unusual word. I’m not talking about common words like ‘the’. For instance, I’ve noticed that several of my characters have been ‘bewildered’. In this case, I’ll want to go in and see how many times I’ve used that word, and then change a few of them to something else – either another word or phrase that means the same thing, just to add some variety.

Look for words you may have used too closely together. This goes with the one above. Just try not to use the same words over and over again. If you notice a spot like that, replace the word with something else. If you can’t, reword the whole sentence. Sometimes all this is tedious, but it will be worth it in the end.

Look at each chapter individually. Is there enough material in your chapter? Does the chapter flow well on its own? If you’re like me and usually write to post a chapter at a time, you already know the importance of this. The reader should get something out of every chapter.

Do you know that I just spent nearly 2 hours (interrupted) adjusting the prologue?  The PROLOGUE!  It’s 600 words!!!  I’m doomed…  But I’m in Chapter One now, and looking at it, I’m pleased with myself, so Yay. :p

Time to get back to it! Maybe once I get the first few chapters finalized, I’ll give you a sample on Wattpad. :O  We’re getting close everyone!

Dialogue for Dummies

I wrote a piece like this a while ago – a few years ago – but I lost it in between computers somehow. So, this is a rewrite of what I did before. It’s Dialogue for Dummies, where I’m going to show some of the finer points of writing dialogue.  This is not meant to imply that you’re dummies if you are uncertain about writing dialogue; I just call it that cause it has a nice ring to it. :p

I’m going to use a section I wrote for Nevermor to illustrate what I’m doing, so you can also consider this a very brief excerpt.

One of my biggest pet peeves in reading has always been dialogue. Maybe I’m not as anal about it as I used to be, but it really used to irk me when I would see dialogue that looked like this:

“I just wondered if you knew where Sly was.”

“What do you want Sly for?”

“I just wanted to ask him a question.”

“Well, I haven’t seen him.”

He then proceeded to ignore her.

She should have left it alone, but instead, she moved closer to him.

“Do you mind?  I’m trying to concentrate.”

“I’m sorry that you don’t like me.”

“It really doesn’t have anything to do with you.  It’s all about Rifter, and unfortunately, that’s exactly how he likes it.”

“He is pretty arrogant, isn’t he?”

“Girls must like that.”

Okay, so most writers have a better grasp on what they’re doing than to write it like this, but this is the bare bones of the conversation before I make my additions to it.  It is acceptable to write this way sometimes, if two characters are arguing rapidly, perhaps, but all dialogue should not look this way.  So, what I’m going to do is show you how to turn this into something better, easier to follow with plenty of life. I’m going to take you through a few steps, and what we come up with at the end should be much better than what we’ve begun with.

Let’s get started.

 Step 1: Make sure people know who is speaking.

When dealing with only two characters, it’s not important to mention who is speaking each time. If you make it clear which one of them begins, then it should be easier to follow the back and forth.  If you are dealing with a male and female talking, the simple he said/she said will suffice. When dealing with two males perhaps, it is best to indicate names, or you might have the problem of readers going “Which ‘he’ are we talking about??” Multiple characters are more difficult.  In that case, it might be important to mention names each time – but even that gets repetitive.

In this instance, we are dealing with two characters – a male and female.  Above, we have no idea who is speaking, but with the proper additions, at least the voices become clear.

“I just wondered if you knew where Sly was,” Wren said.

“What do you want Sly for?” Nix wanted to know.

“I just wanted to ask him a question.”

“Well, I haven’t seen him.”

He then proceeded to ignore her.

She should have left it alone, but instead, she moved closer to him.

“Do you mind?” he asked.  “I’m trying to concentrate.”

“I’m sorry that you don’t like me,” she said.

“It really doesn’t have anything to do with you,” he told her.  “It’s all about Rifter, and unfortunately, that’s exactly how he likes it.”

“He is pretty arrogant, isn’t he?”

“Girls must like that.”

Ahhh getting better already. Now we know who is talking!  Okay, that was pretty basic, but some of you might be surprised to hear that readers have trouble following conversations. Sometimes writers overlook things that they already know and don’t explain it well enough to the reader.

Step 2: Add some tone

How characters say things is very important to the delivery of the conversation.  When you don’t mention how things are being said, it may not let readers fully understand how a character is feeling about what they are saying.  Are they annoyed?  Angry?  Sarcastic?  Excited?  Readers don’t know unless we tell it.  The same goes for how the other character may be receiving the conversation.  So let’s do that.

“I just wondered if you knew where Sly was,” Wren said.  Nix seemed amused that she’d even responded.

“What do you want Sly for?” he wanted to know.

“I just wanted to ask him a question,” she said smartly, as if it was any of his business.

“Well, I haven’t seen him.”

He then proceeded to ignore her.

She should have left it alone, but instead, she moved closer to him.

“Do you mind?” he asked.  “I’m trying to concentrate.”

“I’m sorry that you don’t like me,” she said.

“It really doesn’t have anything to do with you,” he told her, a sneer in his voice.  “It’s all about Rifter, and unfortunately, that’s exactly how he likes it.”

“He is pretty arrogant, isn’t he?”

“Girls must like that,” he scoffed.

Step 3: Add some action

People, like characters, are animated.  They move in all sorts of ways when they speak. They talk with their hands and shift their eyes around.  They slouch, they roll their eyes, they clench their fists.  They walk around, they do other things at the same time!  So tell us what they’re doing while they’re talking.

“I just wondered if you knew where Sly was,” Wren said.  Nix seemed amused that she’d even responded.

“What do you want Sly for?” he wanted to know.

“I just wanted to ask him a question,” she said smartly, as if it was any of his business.

“Well, I haven’t seen him.”

He then proceeded to ignore her, busying himself by setting another arrow against the bow string. 

She should have left it alone, but instead, she moved closer to him.  Nix tried to focus on his target while watching her from the corner of his eye, but her lingering presence proved too much for him.

“Do you mind?” he asked over his shoulder.  “I’m trying to concentrate.”

“I’m sorry that you don’t like me,” she said.  Nix sighed in irritation and lowered the arrow.

“It really doesn’t have anything to do with you,” he told her, a sneer in his voice.  “It’s all about Rifter, and unfortunately, that’s exactly how he likes it.”

“He is pretty arrogant, isn’t he?”

“Girls must like that.”  He scoffed and went back to his arrow.

Step 4: Question things and summarize.

I think it’s good to pause sometimes and take stock of the situation; maybe even summarize it based on what the character has already learned.

Here, Wren is considering what they are talking about and recalling what she had previously learned. These are good things for keeping the reader on track. It can also be done by adding a specific question in the paragraph as the character considers it for herself.

“I just wondered if you knew where Sly was,” Wren said.  Nix seemed amused that she’d even responded.

“What do you want Sly for?” he wanted to know.

“I just wanted to ask him a question,” she said smartly, as if it was any of his business.

“Well, I haven’t seen him.”

He then proceeded to ignore her, busying himself by setting another arrow against the bow string.  Wren knew that was her cue to wander off, yet she couldn’t stand the fact that he was so cold to her.

She should have left it alone, but instead, she moved closer to him.  Nix tried to focus on his target while watching her from the corner of his eye, but her lingering presence proved too much for him.

“Do you mind?” he asked over his shoulder.  “I’m trying to concentrate.”

“I’m sorry that you don’t like me,” she said, but they both knew it wasn’t a real apology.  Nix sighed in irritation and lowered the arrow.

“It really doesn’t have anything to do with you,” he told her, a sneer in his voice.  “It’s all about Rifter, and unfortunately, that’s exactly how he likes it.”

Wren did agree that this seemed to be the way of things.  Rifter was in charge, he did what he wanted and he didn’t care what anyone else thought about it.

“He is pretty arrogant, isn’t he?”

“Girls must like that.”  He scoffed and went back to his arrow.  Just like that, they were back where they’d started. 

Step 5: Add some private thought

In real life, people think things that they don’t say. I often like to plug in thoughts to show what the character is thinking privately during the conversation.  I consider this to be very important as far as helping to build a character, and also for pacing.  It gives us a glimpse of what they really are inside.  In fact, they might even be thinking the opposite of what they’re saying!  You can do this no matter what perspective you’re writing from, but of course don’t get carried away with multiple characters thinking things through the course of the conversation.  Like in this section, I have it set from Wren’s POV, so I wouldn’t plug in a thought that Nix was having.

“I just wondered if you knew where Sly was,” Wren said.  Nix seemed amused that she’d even responded.

“What do you want Sly for?” he wanted to know.

“I just wanted to ask him a question,” she said smartly, as if it was any of his business.

“Well, I haven’t seen him.”

He then proceeded to ignore her, busying himself by setting another arrow against the bow string.  Wren knew that was her cue to wander off, yet she couldn’t stand the fact that he was so cold to her.

Does he not realize how ridiculous it is for him to hate me?

She should have left it alone, but instead, she moved closer to him.  Nix tried to focus on his target while watching her from the corner of his eye, but her lingering presence proved too much for him.

“Do you mind?” he asked over his shoulder.  “I’m trying to concentrate.”

“I’m sorry that you don’t like me,” she said, but they both knew it wasn’t a real apology.  Nix sighed in irritation and lowered the arrow.

“It really doesn’t have anything to do with you,” he told her, a sneer in his voice.  “It’s all about Rifter, and unfortunately, that’s exactly how he likes it.”

Wren did agree that this seemed to be the way of things.  Rifter was in charge, he did what he wanted and he didn’t care what anyone else thought about it.

“He is pretty arrogant, isn’t he?”

“Girls must like that.”  He scoffed and went back to his arrow.  Just like that, they were back where they’d started.

Looks pretty good now doesn’t it?  There is a lot more going on there with just the addition of a few things.

 

Lastly: Format it properly

This is a small step, but an important one. I’m going to show a few common grammatical mistakes I have seen.

When using a he said/she said, the sentence does not end until the last word. The sentence of dialogue does not end with a period. It ends with a comma inside the quotation marks, and the period doesn’t come until the end of everything else you wanted to say.

“I just wondered if you knew where Sly was,” Wren said

Don’t write what two characters are saying in the same paragraph, but it is okay to do this if the same character is speaking. Such as in this line:

“It really doesn’t have anything to do with you,” he told her, a sneer in his voice.  “It’s all about Rifter, and unfortunately, that’s exactly how he likes it.”

Yay! You have now learned some pointers for writing dialogue. I hope this helped or at least gave you a good checklist.

*****

As far as my writing progress, I think I’m just about finished!  The thing is, I’m not sure I did everything that I wanted to do, or that I have it exactly right. So this is where the rewrites and edits come in. I’ll probably do a lot of this by hand, so now I’ll be printing it and arranging it in my binder so that I can go over it. Today, I’m reading over the last chapter and then I’m going to get going with the edits!

But I don’t think it’s ready to be looked at by my beta readers, so I’m going to hold it for a bit longer to see if I can get everything right. I’ll also be reading over Forsaken Dreamscape again and possibly making some notes and mild edits to it, and make sure everything can at least be edited to line up.

The “finished” project is currently at 124K, though I still have a bit more to add, and it may grow or shrink depending on what I add or cut.

Character Building with Lani

I was asked a pretty good question recently.  How do I build characters? Well, unfortunately it is not an easy question to answer.  I wish I could give you information about this in a straight line, but it’s not as simple as telling you step by step how a character is formed. It’s like everything else about my story building: I couldn’t possibly stop to write down everything I decide as it happens, because sometimes the decisions come so fast into my head that I can’t put to words how it happened. One idea breeds another, I ask rapid questions to myself to narrow down choices and paths a character might take, and then there it is.  This is going to be an attempt at letting you know a few of those things.

I have a friend who often asks me to help her when she thinks up a story idea. She says to me “I have this idea” and then she gives me a very brief description of the plot, tells me she doesn’t have a beginning or an end, and then says “Well, my character is a girl and that’s all I know. Help me.” …she doesn’t get much from me.  I can’t work magic. If that’s all that you have, this post may not help you much. You have to have some kind of starting point.

Pointer 1: Starting

Well, if you have decided to write a story, then you were probably inspired by something, and if you have a story idea, then you probably have an idea of what your character is, even if your current story description is “a girl does (blank)”. So, it’s a girl. You might already know what she looks like. Maybe you have no clue. Both of these are alright. You have to start somewhere, but there is no rule about where the starting place is. Maybe you’ve been inspired by a character that already exists.That’s fine too.

Example: Let’s say I want to write a story that’s kind of like Peter Pan, and I choose for my main character to be like Wendy. I have a base in this case, but she can still be whatever I want, and I have to find her out. I like to think that characters are discovered instead of created.

Pointer 2: Ask yourself A LOT of questions

And I mean, a lot! That’s how I’m so thorough with everything.  If you know absolutely nothing about your character, start with basic questions. Write them down if you want. How old is your character? What sort of world do they live in? What class of society are they?  What might the character’s role in the plot be? Even if you only have a general idea of what the answers are, it will help you narrow down what you want.

Example: My character is Wren (which is a big leap to say that she has a name. I do not always name them first): Since I have been building backward, I already know who my characters are, mostly, but Wren is not Wendy, so I still have to do some building. Let’s make a decision about her.  Because of the plot, I know she is going to Nevermor eventually, but I don’t know what her life is like before that. My question is: what is her life like pre-Nevermor? Well, what best serves my purpose? I review my world rules for Nevermor, which state that going to Nevermor is born from a desire to escape one’s life. So, Wren can’t be happy with her life. So do I want to make her a spoiled, petted girl who is upset because she thinks she’s getting older when she looks at herself in the mirror and soon she won’t be able to find a husband because of her aging? No, let’s give her some real worries. She has no parents. Her life is bad – bad enough that she really wants out – and not just because some annoying suitor is trying to propose. What’s the time period? How might her life be if she is an orphan struggling to keep her family together in London in the 1800s? She lives in an orphanage. She works in a factory where child labor is the norm. She worries about her brothers growing up in this life. What effect will this sort of life have on her personality? She’s not quite so haughty now, is she? It goes on and on. Build build build!

Pointer Three: Become the Character

I believe that some degree of natural talent is important for writing. Not everyone can do it well.  I feel like I have a natural talent for this kind of thing. I have this ability (whether or not it’s healthy) to have these characters living in my head. I can feel what they feel.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is something like actors have when they get into a role. I become my characters, and I think that’s very important for what I do.

I know that some people base their characters on people that they know. They take traits and life experiences from others. I don’t do that. It’s possible that I pick up a tidbit from someone that know, but mostly I draw from myself – but my characters are not me.  I’ve also talked to people who always write about themselves, like every main character they have is them.  I don’t do that either. I’m so boring that I want my characters to be as far from me as possible, but they still have to be close enough that I can understand their motives and feelings. It is okay, however, if you do those things I mentioned. Ever writer is different…but if your main character is always you, won’t all your main characters be the same?

Pointer 4: Do let the events in your story have an effect on your characters.

Let’s say that down the line in your plot, you want to have the character’s house burn down, and they are really upset at that point, but actually in the chapter before, you had the father yell at the daughter about not letting her go away to college, and somehow the house burning is more significant.  She’s free because of it. Maybe she’s happy now! Go with it! So, you changed the character and the story. That’s not a bad thing.  It is good to let characters change. The plot had an impact on them and they became different.

Pointer 5: Forge a connection to the plot

One thing I always try to do is give all of my important characters (especially my main character) a personal connection with the storyline, even if they don’t know it. So, the sky is falling, and this one character takes it on herself to warn everyone (as if they can’t tell that the sky is falling, sheesh) But why is this character important? Why should we care that this is the MAIN character? Maybe there is more to her than we see. Maybe we don’t even know that it was something she did that caused the sky to fall! Or maybe you just need a character with her sort of personality to view the story through. Maybe she’s seriously naive.

Example: One of the most useless characters I have read about recently has been Bella Swan (sorry fans). Nothing annoys me worse than a character that is only there to discover the real story. That’s probably why I hated my Wendy the first time, but even Bella is connected to the plot(eh). She has that thing where she can’t have her thoughts read and junk. She does have a connection to the overall story, at the end of the day – though maybe not the end of the first book…

Pointer 6: Know how the character feels about the other characters

This is part of building too. Past issues and baggage have a large bearing on what the character is. Ever tried to write something and you know that two characters are SUPPOSED to get together but you just can’t get them together? That’s because the relationship doesn’t seem believable to you. Or maybe these two characters hate each other but you can’t make them fight? (That stuff comes down to what I said about natural talent. You can’t force two characters to be in love if they aren’t, and a person like me can feel this. I’m not sure that everyone is able to do it this way.

Example: Wren’s feelings about her brothers have a large bearing on her actions in the story, though it could be possible that one of them might annoy her so many times that she might give up on him…or maybe she would never do that. I have to go with what I feel because I KNOW her now.

Pointer 7: Know what the character looks like.

At least pick general stuff, like eye and hair color, skin color, body type… If your character has purple hair, then they have purple hair! Who knows, maybe later you can think up a very cool reason for why they do! I’ve said this before, but I find that it really works for me to pick an actor or celebrity to represent my character. Even if you really didn’t mean for them to be that person, it will give you a starting point. It helps you know what they look like and see the small details of their appearance. Just pick someone. You don’t have to know who they are or be a fan. If the first one you pick isn’t working for you, try another. I’ve changed up during stories before. Sometimes a character won’t be going well for me and then I put another face with them and suddenly they come alive! I think picking a character model really helps keep mine rooted so that the character isn’t floating all over the place. If you pick an actor, watch a movie they are in and see their facial expressions, their mannerisms. This helps describe them in the story as you talk about them.

Pointer 8: Name your character (obviously) but don’t fight with names for too long.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t find the perfect name with the absolutely perfect meaning from babynames.com or wherever you hunt. I rarely look there myself. Sometimes I do if I get stumped, but most of my character names come easily, because I just let them stick. Sometimes even a name like Billy Bob can work, even if it’s not the most beautiful, poetic name there ever was. If that is what your gut is telling you, don’t fight it. Maybe it’s an old family name. Maybe the character hates it and that’s part of the story. …in addition to this, I also want to add that spelling names strangely or giving your character a name that can’t be pronounced is just, well, kinda silly. I can’t say I haven’t done it, but if you don’t want to constantly be correcting your fans, stick with something they can read. There is a difference between unique and obnoxious.

Pointer 9: Give your character some quirks.

Sometimes this happens without you having to try. Maybe a character has a habit of pushing up on his glasses, or crossing his arms, or rolling his eyes. See them doing this and sometimes they’ll keep doing it as you think about them more.

Hmmm…I guess those are just a few things that I can think of… If you have any other specific questions, feel free to ask.

Along with some of the serious things I do, there are a few quirky things that help.

DO read your dialogue out loud! Pretend you’re reading to a kid at bedtime and DO use voices! Even if you don’t sound like the character, it’ll help you hear the tone of voice that the character is using and that can help you map out the conversation.

Take a break and listen to music! I have come up with some seriously good ideas for scenes by listening to music. Also, lyrics inspire me. There might be a small snippet of a song that doesn’t even mean how I interpret it, but it will send me off in an entirely new direction.

Here is a big writing secret that I’m sure others have said before, but it’s very true: Make rules for yourself, and then break them. You can’t approach writing like it has an instruction manual. The creative process is all over the place! It happens fast and then it’s there and you don’t know how it got there but then you add and build and then it’s bigger! …so don’t stress and don’t forget that it’s whatever you want it to be, and that you’re doing it because it’s FUN!

I hope you can forgive how jumbled this post was. If you think it’s all over the place, I can only hope you think I’m a super genius who just can’t put all their awesome thoughts in order. 😛