Don’t Be Scared to Change Your Story

I decided to re-write the first chapter of Sacrifice because it’s the only section of the book I’ve been unhappy with. I always grimace when I have to provide that section for queries. Every time I submit to an agent I catch myself saying, “Ugh this isn’t the best part.” Well why isn’t it? Why would I keep an opener that isn’t strong enough to be a good selling point? If i’m not fully happy with the first chapter, why would I expect an agent to enjoy it?

Trust your instincts and don’t be stubborn with your drafts.

If something feels wrong or weak, you can always get another opinion or test a different scenario out.

Ask yourself questions. How could this part be more interesting? What is the weakest part? Is it the dialogue? Are the first few lines not catchy enough?

For Sacrifice, I asked myself what I thought was weak about the first chapter. I asked myself what parts worked and what parts weren’t helping the flow of the story. I came to the conclusion that I had all the information I needed to convey, but I needed to change my execution. I brainstormed different ways I could change the first chapter to better introduce my character. I decided to keep important dialogue bits, but i’m completely changing the setting. Instead of a boring phone conversation, my main character will be on the job and battling a supernatural creature. I’m currently testing different creatures and settings for this particular supernatural encounter.

So remember, don’t be scared to go back and make further revisions to your story. If something isn’t working, it’s best to improve the areas before making the plunge into queries. Sometimes I think we mentally tell ourselves the manuscript is done because we want the story to be finished, but not always when it’s actually a polished final draft. I wish I had thought to fix my “final draft” sooner. Lesson learned. (;

Opinions Are Just Opinions

Yesterday I went through an evening of shear panic and proceeded to berate myself for decisions I made as a teen. I read an article by a former MFA teacher and suddenly questioned myself as a writer. Seriously, I sat and questioned everything I was so sure of. I may not be the best writer, but I’ve known for a very long time that writing was my passion. Novels, short stories, comic books and video game reviews. I love to write. I chose this path shortly after high school and took a few wrong turns, but I eventually found my way and improved. I didn’t choose the easy path or the path others would’ve chosen for me.

SIDE NOTE: Despite what others think of the career choice, writing is rarely a life of luxury and vacation. The life of a writer is usually filled with sacrifices and deadlines, but we choose this because we love to write.

So I woke up today, still feeling a little off from the internal battle from last night. I couldn’t shake the thoughts because there were so many other writers who agreed with the article. Surely, I had to be doomed. This article just told me I was unlikely to ever be successful because I didn’t read the classics or take writing seriously in high school. Why didn’t I read those damn books we were assigned in high school? I read a lot of books school, but I almost never read the ones assigned to us.

SIDE NOTE: I was an angry and often rebellious teenager. Like many teenagers before me.

So why did I not bother to read those novels later? Was I even serious about writing in high school? My thoughts? I read what I liked and I wrote what I liked. My reading is much more well-rounded now, but I still believe you should enjoy what you’re reading. You shouldn’t sit and get a headache trying to translate text that doesn’t interest you, simply because it’s a classic and you feel obligated. Try it, don’t like? Then just move on. And I did write crazy stories in high school with my best friends as the characters. Was I writing? Yes. Was it super serious? No.

So still mentally beating myself up, I started my normal wake up routine of checking emails and social media. I was exhausted and my head hurt like a bad hangover.

SIDE NOTE: I didn’t drink last night. Maybe I should have.

Then I read Chuck Wendig’s response to the article, which is fairly vulgar and amazing. I had a great laugh and felt so much better knowing that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only one who completely disagreed with that writer’s opinions. See, I had forgotten that’s all the article was. Opinions. Everyone has them, but doesn’t mean they are always right or that they even apply to you.

It’s ironic because I just recently read Chuck’s book, The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience, and he had me in a great mindset about writing. Honestly, writers need motivation and not negativity. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. And read Chuck’s book about writing because his no bullshit approach to giving tips is hilarious and at least you’ll get a positive experience from his opinions. Most likely.

Stay awesome and keep reading and writing. ❤

Tips for Writing Sequels

I am currently re-writing Drakon, the sequel to The Alliance: Bloodlines, and thought I’d give some tips for new writers.

When I first started writing Bloodlines, I knew that I wanted the story to at least become a trilogy. At that time I was young and excited, but never really thought about what it would require to write a compelling sequel.  So what do you need to consider when writing your series?

You must always remember to be consistent and keep continuity throughout your whole series. If you make a set of rules in your first novel, those rules need to stay consistent in the sequels. Why? Your readers will remember the rules. If you set a rule of magic or law in book one, but then that rule is not kept in book two, your readers will remember and question you. They will lose belief in your story—in the world that you took so long to create. Make sure to always fact check the events and rules in the previous books to keep the continuity accurate.

The same is true of the actions of your protagonist. Events that happen in book one should have consequences, and in turn those consequences should carry over to the sequels. Example: In Bloodlines there is a character death at the end of the book, but I knew that death couldn’t be forgotten in book two. The death had an impact on the characters so that needed to be expressed in the sequel.

Now while you keep the storyline consistent in each installment of the series, also remember to mix up the plot and formula. If you write each book in the series with the same plot formula, you run the risk of boring your audience with a predictable story. The protagonist should grow with each story, and the challenge should become greater with each book.

For Drakon I know that my characters and story must have continuity, but I will add a fresh element to keep my readers intrigued. I’ve sent them to a new place and put them in a situation of greater peril, but they still have their same voice. The events and their actions in Bloodlines will carry over and effect how they handle the greater challenges that they face in Drakon.

Remember if a character suddenly has a different voice in the sequels, you better have a good explanation for it. Show how the character developed, but never just change the characters personality for no specific reason.

I’ve found it very helpful to make a Word document that lists certain notes that I may need while writing the sequels. While writing scenes that I know will have an impact on possible sequels, I will make a note of it and move on. This keeps me from having to scroll through a complete manuscript a million times trying to remember a specific detail later on.

That’s all for now, but I hope these tips become of some use to someone that is currently or planning to write a sequel. As always keep writing and never give up.

Let Music Spawn Creativity

Brain_Waves

Whenever I sit down to write, I pick a playlist or album that fits the mood of what I plan to write. I always have music going in the background to motivate and inspire me.

Some people believe that classical music provides great creativity for the brain, but I tend to lean towards rock music. I personally think rock music makes great inspirational tunes for action and/or fight scenes. I turn to slow powerful ballads for the dramatic moments. I even have a whole playlist of mixed genres set up for those times when I need something more on the mushy side.

Not every song is right for every story so you may want to give it some thought first. There are some songs you might want to avoid while trying to convey a certain mood in your story. If you are writing an intense shootout or car chase, then you probably don’t want to hear a slow song that reminds you of your ex and breathes life back into those old memories.

My recommendation would be to set up several playlists filled with songs you enjoy and let each one have a specific mood. A friend recently convinced me to try Spotify and I can’t imagine how I ever lived without it. It is so easy to set up playlists and after you listen to enough music, the site will start suggesting music based off what you’ve selected so far.

Hopefully you have found this information helpful and I’d love to hear what music you enjoy listening to while you write.  Now grab a pen, turn on some music, and start writing!

Tips for Fighting the Frustration of Starting a New Novel

I’ve been working on The Alliance novels for over a decade and wow I can’t believe how long it has been since I first started writing the series. The first book is titled The Alliance:Bloodlines and will hopefully be self-published for Kindle in the very near future.  I have since started the sequel, but that novel is in the early draft stages. I had to give my eyes a break from the second draft and there was also the problem of having so many other ideas swirling around in my head.

I felt the time was right to take a step back from the characters I had grown so attached to and start a new series. For the last few years I have ignored the other ideas and characters that were banging around in my brain, so I picked the one I felt most passionate about and built an outline. I knew what I wanted the story to be about and had a pretty good outline to guide me, but somehow still became lost. Why? Because sometimes starting over can be completely scary and overwhelming.  The Alliance characters were already developed and I knew them better than I know most of the real people in my life. So when I adapted them for a comic book and started a sequel, they were already familiar ground for me.  Now I had to take new characters and really work to develop them. I had to bring these characters to life on paper in a brand new story.  Everything here was now uncharted ground.

So what happened? I got over-whelmed and stopped writing after I got about a measly 12,000 words into the story. I let myself become side-tracked with other writing projects and ended up with a few new stories with no real progression on any of them.  I have since learned from my mistake and I am on my way to finishing the first draft of the first novel.

So how do you do it? Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed and frustrated. You have to keep reminding yourself that you are on uncharted ground and make it an adventure and not something dreadful. A positive mindset really does go a long way. You also want to surround yourself with people who will motivate and inspire you.  You can even pitch your idea or show the outline to friends and get their feedback.  I can’t tell you how many times I was greatly inspired about a story just by tossing around a few ideas with friend.

A fellow writer also suggested for me to set small goals for writing a little each day. I can honestly say that it was a great idea and I have been crazy motivated to write every single day. My goal was to write a minimum of 300 words every night before bed and that should give me a full first draft within a year.  I anticipate that it will actually take me less time because I usually write way more than the 300 word minimum.  I feel like the small daily goals have kept me so motivated and immersed in this new story that it is flowing much better now.  My anticipated date for completing this first draft is going to be sometime around November and I’ll make updates on the novel in future blog posts.

So are you a writer who is procrastinating or just struggling for your story? Try to set a small goal and positive mindset for yourself. Feel free to comment below and let me know if the information was helpful or let me know what topics you’d like to read about in future posts!