Writing

Cutting Notebook Paper for Writing…Not!

I am finding that when I handwrite my prose words first, they come out better on the computer. But recently, I have been handwriting what I’d write on my laptop and then dictating the words using Dragon software. Of course, I only do this at home.

One time, though, I tried ripping and cutting out paper from old, small notebooks to write my story on. While it might have worked before when I stapled the pieces together, the last time I tried, it did not work for me. I don’t know why.

So, now I am not going to do it again. What also has not usually worked for me was using full 8.5 X 11-inch paper for writing my words. But now I am writing on it using pens and then dictating the words onto my computer. Then I print out the partial chapters I have produced on Word and continue writing more of those sections by hand. The process cycles on and on. It will probably be like this till I’m done with the draft, which will hopefully be the final one. Ugh—I’ve been working on this story for almost four years. I just want to call it the end of it. Of course, there will be more books to write after this one.

Anyway, I have a lot of old notebooks, excluding those I’ve used for school or college. Sometimes, you’ve got to let those go, especially if you are attempting a process that just won’t work for you. Pushing yourself through doesn’t always succeed, either. Bottom line: do what you know you’ll keep up with, whether it’s your choice or not.

Writing

Your Story Might Work with Fewer Words

Image from Pixabay

Sometimes, less is more with writing. If you write regularly and have studied the craft for years, you may have heard the term, “kill your darlings”. That means you should eliminate anything in your project that isn’t necessary, whether it’s content, like a subplot, scene, or character, or unnecessary words.

This was a big struggle with my own writing. In my early writing days, I would write too little. However, as my skills improved, so did my ability to produce more words in my work. Little did I know that a good number of those words were not needed.

This was especially an issue with my series’ second installment, “Wizardry Goes Wild”, which is now retitled “The Unruly Curse” and has been given several changes, including…a shorter word count. I’ve discovered, when editing that story, that nearly 20,000 words weren’t necessary. Reviewers had even complained about the writing, and I’d thought they had been crazy, as it’d felt perfect and flawless to me. In fact, I’d thought it’d read like a traditionally published bestseller.

Anyway, due to the unsatisfying reviews (but not enough that the overall rating was poor or even just neutral), I pulled “Wizardry Goes Wild” off the market and edited it. I had eliminated 13,000 words and republished it as “The Uncontrollable Curse”. In spite of the reworking, the reviews were, at most, just as unpleasing, if not, more.

That was when I got a content edit from an editing service. Although this wasn’t their idea, I removed two chapters from the story. They didn’t serve much of a purpose.

When I republished book 2 the third time as “The Unruly Curse”, the readers gave better reviews than the previous times.

So, remember, always read through and edit your work, as well as have someone else do the same. And I suggest it’s NOT somebody you know personally, as he or she may be biased and afraid to hurt your feelings. After all, your story may need fewer words than you might realize.

Writing

Want to Revive Your Childhood Imagination? If so, Be Careful

Image from Pixabay

Many young children love to play make believe and use their imaginations. Some like to be more creative. A handful might like to make up concepts in their minds. I was definitely like that.

As a little kid, I would imagine fan fiction of my favorite movies and TV shows and dream of seeing them—unaware of copyright law then. I also imagined my own ideas of TV shows.

When I was around 7 years old, I read a book called “Morris Goes to School”, which was about an upright moose who went to school with children. It was cute for a small child.

That had inspired me to write my own version, but about an upright polar bear named Spike.

Later I evolved Spike into a child polar bear who also went to school with children. Not long after, I did a spinoff of one character and imagined a series about her living in a house in a jungle with talking animals as her friends.

At about 10, I abandoned the idea of that imaginary series. However, fast forward 6 years and the idea came back into my mind. I was so excited that I wrote it into a novel. Sadly, no one, except those I knew personally, found it appealing. So, once I was 18, I removed it from the market.

No matter how much you love and value something, it isn’t always going to please people, especially if you do little to no research on that idea. Few adults and older kids are interested in reviving their childhood imaginations. Fewer want to hear or know about it.

As you get older, you realize certain ideas make little to no sense or aren’t as good as you thought when you were younger. Hey, that’s growing up.

So, while other writers tell you to write down any idea you have for a story (which I totally agree with), unless you’re writing it just for yourself or maybe friends and family, be careful with trying to market that idea. You may have to do a lot of research. You’ll also have to study the writing craft if you haven’t started already. And the progress can take several years. I’m not exaggerating—it took me 7 years to develop my writing voice and be able to write great books. Not just good. Believe me, it’s not nearly as satisfying as it sounds. After a while, I took the less-than-great books off the market.

Writing

Publishing When You Think You’re Ready, But Really Aren’t

I’ve had such a bad habit of publishing when I thought I was ready, but really wasn’t. Now I have a bunch of books on Amazon that are unavailable, but sadly, still listed because hardcopies stay on retail sites forever. Now I have given myself a rule to not publish paperbacks unless my reviews are great, not just good or decent. But that’s another post.

Before publishing my books, I have pre-tested them to see if they received satisfying reactions. They have. But after I published them, while many reviews were good, the overall ratings were not amazing.

That’s what you want when you publish fantastic, wonderful reactions. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve experienced receiving just good enough reviews. And believe me, they aren’t as satisfying as they sound.

So, now I have a second version of one book published and a third version of that story’s sequel on pre-order. It took me seven years to find my writing voice and for it to mature. I’ve had a habit of wanting to share my stuff with the world, even if it was no good. Now I’ve learned to hone and make my works the best they can be before letting anyone see them, unless it’s for editing or critique.

So, before you get excited about letting the world see what you’ve made, pre-test it with others, and see if the feedback is excellent. I mean that. If it’s only okay, you’ll regret your decision later. So, take your time with your ideas.

Writing

Why I Differentiate My Characters from Myself

Image from Pixabay

Many authors base their characters off of people they know. A high percent of people also base their stories off of real-life experiences. However, I am different. I rarely or never do any of those things.

One: I find my life experiences too ordinary and straightforward. Two: I find it more exciting to make them very different from me.

For example, the MC of my novels is Irish Catholic, blonde, and has had a tragic life. I am Indian and Hindu, dark-haired, and has lived a typical life with hardly any tragedies. I lost my paternal grandpa when I was 2, so I don’t remember him. My maternal grandpa died when I was 22 but I didn’t cry. I only experienced shocking pain for a few hours. That’s really it for the sad moments in my life.

I could explain my MC’s tragic life. But that is within the novels. You can find them through reviews, excerpts, or if you choose to purchase the books.

Anyway, I find varying and differentiating things far more fun than making them like me. After all, the world would be a boring place if we all thought the same things, even if that meant little to no conflicts. I could be wrong, though.

Differentiating characters from myself also opens more room for growing knowledge, even if that means extra research. If I wrote about Hindu characters, I probably would not have to do as much research. But I would also get bored. And if it’s boring to write, it’s usually boring to read.

While I rarely make characters similar to myself, I never base them off people I know. But that will be for another post. That being said, I do give some similarities occasionally, such as food tastes. Overall, though, I differ from other writers.

movie

Satisfying vs. Unsatisfying Movie Endings

Warning: contains spoilers for the following films***

Avengers: Infinity War

Into the Woods

The Little Mermaid (both original tale and Disney movie)

Tarzan (both original tale and 1999 Disney movie)

When people watch a movie, they not only expect a good story, but also a lot of conflict. Because every fictional work, visual or written, needs problems and obstacles, many audiences expect satisfying endings, where the protagonists achieve their goals. If they don’t, then it’s either because they realized those goals weren’t what they wanted all along or they weren’t the right kinds.

Rarely these days are film endings unsatisfying. One example includes “Avengers: Infinity War”, where the characters dissolve into dust. But there is a part two now. I don’t know how it ends and I won’t look it up now. Anyway, the other example of a movie with an unsatisfactory ending is “Into the Woods”. The baker’s wife dies and so does the witch after her curse was undone. I understand that the point is that there is no such thing as “happily ever after”. But it was still unsatisfying, especially coming from Disney. Disney is known to sugarcoat their film endings.

Like in “The Little Mermaid”, where Ariel marries Prince Eric as a human. In the original tale by Hans Christian Andersen, she dies at the end and the prince gets another bride. I read that the creators of the Disney version found that sad. They felt that in order to make their adaptation more kid/family-friendly, the ending needed to be happier.

Another example, although probably not as sad (I could be wrong, though), is Disney’s “Tarzan”. While Jane and Professor Porter join Tarzan in the jungle, in the original novel, Tarzan is brought back to civilization.

Audience and genres also contribute to how the films should end. Horror films often end a certain way. The ones I saw didn’t have very satisfying endings. But there likely is a purpose for that. Horror movies are not intended for families or children. Kid-friendly films have different standards from mature movies, besides cleanliness. Also, many young people yearn for happy endings. So do older crowds.

Writing

Unintentional Symbolism and Messages I’ve Made in My Writing

Image from Pixabay

Have any of you wrote something and didn’t realize anything significant about your work until long after? I have. They are symbols and messages I didn’t discover until a lengthy time after writing the projects.

For instance, in my first book, “The Frights of Fiji” (formerly, “From Frights to Flaws”), there are mermaid-like women, but with dolphin tails, who sing certain songs as a way of informing others of their presences. Those songs ended up relating to the situations they were encountering or leaving.

In my second book, “The Uncontrollable Curse” (formerly “Wizardry Goes Wild”), my MC wants her dog to attack the antagonist, who is a skeleton. At the time I wrote the story, I tied that dog vs. skeleton situation with historical context—not because of the “dog-eating-bones” stereotype.

Another unintentional message I ended up making in that installment was about history repeating itself. I’m not going to spoil anything, of course (“The Uncontrollable Curse” hasn’t even come out yet), but the book does tie a lot of Puritan and Salem Witch Trials content. My MC is cursed with involuntary magic. When she does it, others misunderstand and become afraid of her. This ties to how people during Pilgrim and witch hunt times were miscomprehended and feared when they were just different. While people who were found guilty of witchcraft were hanged and/or burned, the “witch” (my MC) is penalized for her sorcery by getting detention at school, suspended, excluded from activities, and more (I won’t give away anything else).

I have yet to discover any accidental messages or symbols in my third book. But hey—it might happen.

Writing

Characters: When All of Their Flaws Are Too Hard to Apply

Image from Pixabay

Ah, characters: you’ve got to love or hate them—or have some opinion on them. They also shouldn’t be perfect. The hero should do wrong things and get disliked at times and the villain should get liked at times.

However, this is super-difficult—at least for me it is. I have a tendency to protect my main character in my novels. I like her a lot. I feel sorry for her. And because of those, I tend to make her hardly flawed. At most, she may do a few wrong things and at milder levels. The worst she has done in my book series was unauthorized filming and lying about not doing it. That’s actually a serious offense.

Anyway, I’m probably not the only writer who has trouble making certain characters flawed. Of course, there are characters who are unfriendly, but not evil. And obviously, there is conflict in my stories. But I think I know why I have difficulty getting my protagonist to misbehave.

One: it wasn’t until the plot of my first book’s first edition was nearly complete when I found out that protagonists should behave badly or do wrong things. When rewriting my first book after removing it from the market, I couldn’t make my main character more flawed as the major elements had already been established. Two: I have recently become very uncomfortable around conflict. Not just in real life, but also in fiction. Yes, I have stopped certain books and movies because I loathed how the characters were being treated. Now while writing my third book, I have no plans to make my MC do really bad things. Yes, she won’t be perfect. In fact, she will have trouble controlling her emotions. But I will stop there on that.

Writers fall in love with their heroes. They become attached to them. So they may have trouble making them behave badly. However, someone told me that the best books have characters who misbehave a lot.

Now if you’re creating children’s stories, there are limits to how badly the characters can act. Of course, it would be acceptable (and would probably engage readers) if the protagonists started food fights at school, got sent to the principals’ offices, and were punished by their parents. However, you could not have them do something that would be inappropriate. Not just drugs or drinking, but also activities that could lead to death or serious injuries. Otherwise, parents won’t want their kids reading your books.

Do you notice that lack of perfectly behaved characters in fiction? Most likely. And that’s because people want flawed characters. In fact, sometimes that’s essential to the storylines.

I’ll give a few examples from Disney movies. In The Lion King, when Simba talks to Scar about that shadowed area that his father forbade him to go, Scar says that only the bravest lions would enter. “Brave” is the big, main keyword. That was what encouraged Simba to check it out, and, of course, that led to conflict crucial for the plot. If Scar had said that only the dumbest lions would go there, Simba might not have gone because he wouldn’t have said, “Well, I’m dumb.” He was in too good of a mood to say such a thing. And then, there would have been a lot less conflict. And without enough conflict, the story would’ve been dull, and the film would’ve drastically failed—or maybe not have even been green-lit.

In Beauty and the Beast, after the beast releases Belle from the dungeon tower, he leads her up to her new room and says that she can go anywhere, except the forbidden west wing. Later Belle is curious about the west wing and enters it, discovering the enchanted rose and the portrait of the beast when he was a person. The beast catches her and forces her out.

Spoiler:

At the end, when the beast transforms back into a human, Belle recognizes him from the painting. Then they live happily ever after.

If Belle had listened to the beast, or the beast had not prohibited her from going to the west wing, then the ending might’ve resulted in the prince re-explaining how he’d become a beast. Or—he might not have changed into a better character. Therefore, Belle wouldn’t loved him, and he would’ve failed to break the spell he and the servants had gone under.

So there you have it. Notice the pattern in both examples? Let that help you.

Writing

The Dialogue… It’s so Incredibly Difficult!

Image from Pixabay

Why is it so hard? Because it needs to be relevant to the storyline, not offensive, and sound natural to the person speaking it, taking their age, time, where they live, and other demographics in mind. You need to listen to how people speak.

Yet, many people, especially those the ages of middle grade characters, have said little to nothing in my presence. Yup—people watching is tougher than you think, excluding the risk of those folks thinking that you’re stalking them. You could watch movies too, but that doesn’t really help, either. Another option is to read books and see how other authors write their characters’ dialogue.

But the hardest challenge with dialogue, overall, is having characters react believably to extreme situations, especially in fantasy. I write fantasy and I cannot stress enough how difficult it is to make characters react naturally to high levels of danger. No matter how hard I try, readers have said that the characters’ reactions were muted, unnatural, and too accepting. It’s so frustrating!

However, I found a solution, besides receiving help from editors. I print out the story and read the dialogue out loud. I was surprised to discover how unnatural some lines were—just by reading them out loud. So I changed the words.

Observing others is fine up to a certain extent. Also, a lot of people are quiet in public. Many even put on faces in public and might behave differently in their homes. Reading other books could work, as well. But I find reading the dialogue out loud helps the most.

Writing

How I Wish I Could Write Several Novels at Once

Image from Pixabay

I’m an author and authors constantly write. However, I am weak at multi-tasking, even with writing. For years, I could only work on one novel at a time. But that meant only one publication every few years. And that is not very fair to fans or readers.

I’ve been doing research on writing more than one story at a time. Many writers can do it. Some do it because they have too many ideas floating in their heads. Others do it because they want to meet deadlines sooner, especially if they have agents.

I’ve tried many times but have failed… until now. I am working on two works at this time. Well, technically three as I am having one project edited. But this is a huge milestone for me. It’s not easy. I am glad that I started with a small step of only adding one extra project. There is a technique I read about somewhere called drafting. That is when you work on one story draft at a time with different projects. For example, you write a draft of story a. After you finish that draft, you do a draft for story b. Basically, you work on one story at a time, but go to another one after finishing a certain draft rather than spending a long time on just one story.

I am not really doing that, though. I have been working on my third novel for over three years, although the first two years were spent trying to figure out the story. I am now working on the third book and the first draft of my fourth book at the same time. Sometimes I am designating certain days for one story. Other times I am working on whichever I feel like.

If you want to work on more than one story at a time, I would definitely recommend you go for it. In fact, many big authors work on more than one book at a time. If you’re serious about publishing, then I would emphasize on this even more. If it’s traditional publishing, depending on the contract you have with an agent or publisher, it may work. However, traditional publishing takes longer, and you have no control over the process or time. If you’re self-publishing, you have total control over your projects, when you publish them, and the time it takes to publish. If you do Amazon KDP, you can choose a release date up to three months (I think) ahead if you choose the pre-order option.

The reason I want to work on more than one novel at a time and write faster is because I don’t want to keep people waiting. Plus, I don’t want my final installment to be ready when I’m, like, 40. Not that I have anything against publishing at that age (many authors are, at least, that age). Plus, my writing will likely be more mature by then. I just don’t know where I will be in life then. I’m only 25 after all.

My goal is to have my entire series published by my 30th birthday. No, I am not looking to become the youngest author with a full series. I just want to keep readers up to date more often. Plus, I have a better idea of where I’ll be in five years versus fifteen. I know I can make this work.