Writing

Coming Up with a Terrific Title

Image from Pixabay

Ah, titles, you’ve got to love them—or dislike them. Titles matter a lot for a book to sell, whether it’s commercially or self-published.

In traditional publishing, the publisher comes up with the titles for books. But in self-publishing, the author is responsible for his or her book title. And that can be a big challenge.

If you don’t know, authors who take the commercial route have to give up control (if they even get accepted, which is super-difficult) for their manuscript. The publishing house decides everything. But if a writer chooses to self-publish, he or she gets to retain full control.

That being said, he or she needs to do homework and research on what would work for getting his or her book to sell. While self-publishing is receiving a better reputation that before, unfortunately, it still has a kind-of weak one. Too many indie authors don’t take careful consideration for their products and will decide on ideas that just appeal to them.

That was an issue with me when I first published the beginning installment of my “Magical Missions” series in 2013. I wanted to use alliteration, so I titled the story, “From Frights to Flaws.” Little did I know that it was a weak title and people said that it hadn’t made sense. When I revised and re-published the new version in 2018, I kept the original title, but added 2nd edition to it. Sales improved, but not to my satisfaction. Once again, I was told that my title made no sense.

So, I did a poll somewhere and came up with an alternate title, “The Frights of Fiji”. The new title pleased people more and got the most votes. I then changed the title, as well as made a few minor updates to the cover, blurb, opening chapter, and even got to have the story be perma-free.

Titles can be difficult to brainstorm. So, now I come up with a few ideas and have people vote for which they think is the strongest. This can be a good idea for when you need to title your book(s).

cooking

It Starts Bitter…Then it’s Sweet…Healthy Pudding

It was not until recently that I cleaned up my diet and lost my sweet tooth, which I’ve had forever. And it wasn’t a conscious decision.

Anyway, before that time, a few months ago or so, I experimented with healthier desserts. One was chocolate pudding that had almond milk instead of regular milk. I don’t recall all the ingredients, but I do remember it being a healthier alternative.

Regardless of that, when I first tasted the pudding, it was kind of bitter. I had to keep eating it in order for it to get sweet. Sounds like a treat Willy Wonka could make, huh? Well, the bitter to sweet taste actually happened. I’m not exaggerating.

After some time, though, I think I might have had to throw the pudding away. I may have possibly consumed a little more after, but I don’t remember.

I am pretty sure, however, that the reviews for the pudding recipe were good. My mom taught me to check the overall ratings and reviews before trying the recipes. It makes total sense. Too many times I’ve had to toss my cooked creations without checking the reactions.

I will make pudding and eat sweets on rare occasion. But I will probably not use that specific recipe again.

Writing

It’s All About Revisions

Everyone who writes needs to revise sooner or later. Well, actually—it would be better if he or she waited until the draft was at the end. I even tried finding out ways to rewrite the last draft of my novel as soon as I completed it. I kept getting stuck.

I read pretty much every relevant article and even asked for help on a certain forum online. Everybody who responded to the thread said that I should give myself more time.

And they were right. While I successfully made a list of ideas for my next draft, I couldn’t actually start writing the next draft until recently. So, no writer had exaggerated about that. You do need to give yourself some time away from your WIP. Many writing experts suggest at least a month or two—often times, even more. But I didn’t really have several months.

I was going to submit the WIP to a certain editor, but I had to have that delayed due to just starting a new draft.

All right, maybe that’s enough backstory. I probably revise like most writers, although I often rewrite my stories long before I finish them. I try not to now, but I did before, because I was constantly getting bored with my writing. I started my current project four years ago, but for the first two years, I couldn’t finish a single draft. I would get bored by the tenth or eleventh chapter and give up. It was not until January 2018, that I discovered my actual writing process. That was when I could write an entire draft without quitting before it ended.

Now here’s a fun fact: I sometimes revise individual paragraphs. How? I wait a little, copy and paste that certain paragraph to another word doc, rewrite it there, and then copy and paste it to the main document.

Revision processes differ from person to person. So, you might revise in a way that wouldn’t necessarily work for me.

Writing

Why You Shouldn’t Rush Your Writing

I know—you’re eager to finish your story or whatever else you’re working on ASAP. I get it. Many writers probably dream of having a good story within as little time as possible. It’s been four years since I started working on my current project, and I’m still not done. I wanted to get the story over with as quickly as I could.

However, I ended up rushing the draft of this novel. And I realized how flawed it was. While I could easily distinguish my characters, an editor said that they pretty much sounded all the same, except for the protagonist. I had aimed for at least 40,000 words, but ended up with around 32,000.

I’ve always been inspired easily. When I researched how to write a book faster, I tried the techniques, but they resulted in little to no success. I’ve even envied authors who could write several thousands of words a day as well as those who could work on different writing projects at once, which I am teaching myself to do as I don’t want my book series to take forever. I just turned 26 and my goal is to have all 7 installments published by my 30th birthday (the first two are already out).

Regardless, I realized that it was a mistake to rush my story draft within a few weeks. I am now going to go slower and take my time.

Another reason you shouldn’t hurry your writing is that you get errors and may not notice them until it’s too late, no matter how many times you read your writing. I have spotted typos in things I wrote, whether they were stories or blog posts, a year after I published them. No kidding.

I want to type more slowly. But sadly, the Internet has little to offer about that. So, I’m pretty much on my own with that.

Unless you have a tight deadline that isn’t flexible, it’s best to take your time with your writing, regardless of the length or topic.

Writing

Why I Can’t Write Without Planning

Image from Pixabay

Ten years ago, I returned to writing fiction after a while of not being interested. However, unlike now, I hadn’t studied the writing craft. I had only studied marketing and how to get published.

Anyway, I wrote my first original novel without planning ahead and before creating it. I also dreamed of having it published, even though many people said it was not good enough. Little did I know that they were right all along. I published it, but received no positive feedback. Once I turned 18, I removed that story from the market and actually studied the writing craft. That was when I could no longer write without having a plan.

It is not just with writing where I need to plan far ahead. I need to plan ahead with pretty much anything, including parties, trips, and much more. Sometimes, especially when I was younger, I would over-plan a lot. Many times, last minute changes would occur and I didn’t want to give up my plans.  I was often described as being inflexible.

However, those times have passed. Yet, the part where I have to plan ideas in advance still remains with me. Regardless of that, I have learned to be more flexible than when I was a child. That even goes for my writing.

While I praise my writing and ideas, I am more willing to listen to feedback than in the past. Sometimes, when an editor suggests I remove something, I find a way to make that unnecessary element more important. One example was a certain character, who was a dog that just barked when the doorbell rang. Instead of removing the dog, I managed to find a way to make him crucial to the story.

Anyhow, I have also tried writing without a plan in recent years, but I’ve failed. So, I am meant to plan before I write.

fiction

The Difficult Decision: A Flash Fiction Piece

My energy arose as I thought about my friend, Kylie’s, birthday party happening in two days. Kylie and I had been friends since first grade. I had just completed my freshman year of college, so I looked forward to seeing Kylie after a year.

            But I received a text message from my college friend, Astrid. I read it.

            Lila, my mom just lost her battle with breast cancer. Her funeral is this Saturday.

            Pain shocked my body and my jaw lowered. I responded.

            Oh, no, I’m so sorry to hear.

            The door to the house opened. My mom entered, dragging her feet and lacking energy.

            “Mom, are you all right?” I asked.

            “Lila, did you hear what happened to Mrs. Jackson?”

            I paused for a few seconds. “Astrid’s mom?”

            “Yes.” My mother sat. “Her mom and my mom used to be roommates in college, too.”

            I hesitated and then said, “Why didn’t you ever tell me this?”

            “I…I lost touch with her until you met Astrid.”

            My phone sounded another text alert. I checked it. It came from…Kylie.

            So excited for Saturday. Can’t wait to see you.

            I stared at the communication, but did not respond. Kylie’s birthday party and Mrs. Jackson’s funeral fell on the same day.

            I had attended my grandpa’s funeral two years ago, and I’d had a tough time. I missed him, but I hadn’t cried over his death once…not even after hearing about his passing from my mother.

            While other people had wept at his funeral, I had just stood, bored for hours until the speeches had begun.

            I had hoped not to attend any more funerals since. I recall how the time at the funeral home had dragged and I’d been there for hours with my family.

            Aside from that, I had not seen Kylie since graduation from high school. Her party would start at three P.M. So, maybe I could attend the funeral and then leave for the birthday event. But wait—would that offend Astrid? I had a feeling that it might.

            “Lila, we should go to the funeral this Saturday,” my mom said.

            “How long will it last?”

            My mother gave me a sharp look.

            “Well, I’ve got Kylie’s birthday party at three.”

            “Lila, I think you should skip the party and stay at the funeral.”

            My mouth opened.

            “I get it—we’d all rather go to birthday parties than funerals. But frankly, you’re more friendly with Astrid than Kylie now. Plus, going to the funeral shows that you care and you’re willing to give your condolences. I think it would be more polite if you go to the funeral instead.”

            I sighed and texted Kylie.

            Hey, I can’t go to your party. I’ve got to go to a funeral.

            I sent it. A few seconds later, Kylie responded.

            Oh, ok. I understand. Sorry to hear.

            At least she comprehended me. But maybe my mother had a point. Summer break had just started. So, I’d probably hang out with Kylie another time.

Writing

Focusing on Foreshadowing

If you’re a writer, or even a student, you should know what foreshadowing is. It is when clues are given in a story, visual or written, that something might happen later. While twists and surprises are important, too, foreshadowing is essential. After all, everything that happens in a story must be crucial to the plot—eventually.

That being said, I have witnessed some stories using too much foreshadowing, such as the Disney-animated movie, “Aladdin”. Don’t worry. “Aladdin” is a great movie and I enjoyed it very much. However, I still think it overdid it on the foreshadowing, and therefore, it was a bit too predictable for me.

That is another thing to watch out for—too much foreshadowing can displease the reader or audience. Notice how in most forms of storytelling, there is a balance of foreshadowing and unexpected plot twists? That is what people want. It makes a story more enjoyable. A little bit of both is what makes a book, movie, TV show, play, or anything else more pleasurable.

I, myself, have used some foreshadowing in my own books. For example, in one of them, the antagonist hears my main character’s dog bark, and then leaves. I won’t spoil anything beyond that. However, I will assure you that the specific moment foreshadows something that is bound to occur later and remains important.

In another novel of mine, there are characters that are introduced through the phone, but don’t appear in person until later. Once again, I won’t spoil anything. In fact, spoiling is another risk you run when you foreshadow too much.

Of course, it is not easy to use foreshadowing properly. But as you learn over time, it can be doable for you.

art

Graphic Design and Invitation Creations

I was a graphic design major for one semester of college, but didn’t enjoy it that much. So, I switched over to fine arts (big mistake). Anyway, what I learned included typography, the study of type, sizes, spacing, colors, arrangements, and fonts. I had to learn how a font could communicate the message that was intended. And that was anything but easy. Nevertheless, I got a B+ for the class.

Despite not being super-passionate about graphic design, I did take home the skills I learned when designing birthday invitations. I took into consideration everything about design I’ve listed in the above paragraph.

While the invitations weren’t intended to be judged, since they were for my friends, I still executed as many design elements as necessary.

Take a look at my 25th birthday party invitation below:

Not only did I use colors that screamed “Hollywood” as well as add a filmstrip, but I also made the heading font pop so that it would be the first thing people saw. The message about my birthday needed to stand out, too, but not as much. And, of course, the gray lines are meant to hide and protect my personal information.

The following year, this one, soon to end, I designed another invitation in Photoshop for my 26th birthday that has just passed.

I didn’t want to copy the previous year’s design. However, I still did research and took colors and type into mind. Notice how “Double-Feature” and “Movie Night” look kind of 3D? That was what I wanted people to pay attention to the most.

The other information in the white font felt natural to be on the sides, including the white lines hiding my personal information again. Instead of a filmstrip, I added a camera with a yellow spotlight.

While the invitation for my 25th birthday looks more exciting and will more likely remind everyone of Hollywood and movies, the 26th birthday one seems more relaxed due to the deep shade of red.

I might not have loved graphic design, but it sure did teach me valuable tips and tricks.

movie

It’s a Critique for “The Santa Clause” (1994)

Warning: contains spoilers***

Tim Allen plays a guy named Scott Calvin who has a son named Charlie. Charlie firmly believes in Santa Claus, but his dad is a bit rebellious against it. After an incident occurs, Scott Calvin has to become the next Santa Claus.

I haven’t seen this movie for years until recently. So, I picked up some new details. Here are the elements that pleased me and those I felt could’ve been better.

1: The plot

The storyline is similar to that of “Evan Almighty”, which was released several years later in 2007. The way Charlie and his dad got along progressed well. At first, Scott would be a bit tough on Charlie and then their relationship improved over time. The scene where Charlie is sad when his dad has to leave him as he has become Santa Claus was very emotional. Another element that felt believable to me was when Charlie’s mother and her boyfriend, Neil, were suspicious of Scott Calvin when Charlie was telling stories about him being at the North Pole. Scott Calvin was suspended from being with Charlie.

2: The humor

The movie was very funny. It had great dialogue and the characters’ decisions often cracked me up. I laughed throughout much of the film.

Now onto the parts that could have been portrayed better.

1: The characters’ reactions at times

When Santa fell off the roof, he died and somehow vanished. Charlie and his dad didn’t react strongly enough nor believably. In fact, they accepted it too much like it was no big deal. Um…Santa lost his life. And no one seemed stressed out about it.

Other examples of weak reactions include when a kid in Charlie’s class at school called a girl stupid for asking Scott Calvin if he made the toys. And the teacher was way to relaxed and gentle about it. She even smiled. A truly responsible and believable teacher would’ve gotten angry and said something like, “Excuse me, we don’t call others stupid. That’s not nice. Apologize to (whatever the person’s name is).”

And when Calvin gained weight as he was turning into Santa Claus, one of his co-workers commented on it and Scott seemed to casually accept that. Hey, other guy, that’s not your business that Scott was gaining weight. He should’ve known better.

2: Why do the elves look like human children?

Not only do the characters in the movie mistake the elves as kids, but so did I when I first saw it many years ago. The elves are apparently more than a thousand years old. So, why do they look like human children? Bernard, the elf who was involved with Charlie and his father, resembles a teenager.

I am pretty sure elves aren’t supposed to look like human kids. I think the portrayal of them in the movie, “Elf”, that came out years after in 2003, is far more accurate.

3: The bizarre special effects

Okay, okay—I get it. This was released in the 90’s, when special effects were still in their infancy. But seeing the shape changes for plot convenience, such as when Scott’s form alters so that he can fit inside a pipe, looked weird to me. It reminded me of something that would have occurred in a kiddie show, such as “Barney and Friends”. But whatever.

Regardless of the flaws, I enjoyed “The Santa Clause” very much. I would rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

movie

Review for “A Christmas Story” (1983)

A man named Ralphie narrates a time from his childhood many years ago, when he was 9 years old. He is preparing for Christmas and wants a BB-gun, but is constantly told, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Yet, Ralphie remains determined.

This film was a pretty difficult watch. Not only is it because it’s about a kid who wants a weapon, which wouldn’t be acceptable today, but also that the characters are too unlikable and stereotypical. It wasn’t until after I watched it that the unbelievable characters were done on purpose. It turns out that Ralphie’s memories were exaggerated. However, that doesn’t make it more enjoyable for me.

For instance, Ralphie says a four-letter word when he makes a mistake as he and his dad are getting a Christmas tree. He gets in an extreme amount of trouble for that. On the other hand, when the pure-evil bullies taunted him, he beat one of them to the point that the other boy bled. And he seemed to be praised for that.

Another moment that bugged me was when the mall was closing, the elf people and Santa scared the kids who came up to him. Yet the line didn’t shorten, no one complained, or tried to report the people in elf and Santa costumes to authorities. I don’t know if that would have happened in the 1940’s, when the film is set. But the children should’ve left, horrified—at the very least.

Regardless of the flaws, there are some good moments in this movie. As Ralphie and his family were leaving the mall, four people in “Wizard of Oz” outfits did their “We’re off to see the wizard” dance behind them. There was also a parade with Snow White and Mickey Mouse. And despite the other characters lacking appeal to me, Ralphie was developed well and was, perhaps, the most believable and relatable person.

I would rate “A Christmas Story” 3 out of 5 stars. If a movie is supposed to exaggerate their characters and not make them 100 percent accurate to a person’s memory, they should state that before the opening scene. No one should have to rely on outside material to watch or read anything.