Characters might spend time alone, either before or after significant events. Preparing and processing is important for character motivation and consequential actions. It can also keep throughs out of busy scenes where it might distract from the moment.
Here are a few things I like when reading or writing characters on their own.
Keep it short. Long paragraphs of time alone with their thoughts can be boring.
Tie it into something active, like exploring or going through old trinkets that prompt memories for the character to think about.
Practicing something potentially useful is another way to make it active and have the character pause once in a while to remind themselves why they’re doing it.
Make it lead up to something like a significant event that the MC is preparing for. What are they’re hopes and fears for the outcome
Or have the MC processing something afterwards. How do they feel about it and what are they going to do next?
Maybe have them talk to a pet or inanimate object or someone they lost in an imaginary conversation.
So there you have it. Ways for an MC to be alone without boring readers with nothing but thoughts.
Don’t forget to check out my Reading Ranting for thoughts on reading and book reviews. Feel free to ask about my Writing Ranting Discord group @lovefantasy#0367. Follow me on Instagram and TikTok.
Writing is going really well. I rewrote the intro the Out of Ashes, which is now with a couple of writing friends for fresh eyes. I’m happy with the new opening. It’s a little more dramatic on an emotional perspective, but not too heavy on story points.
We’ll see what my writerly people say, then I’ll revise it based on their suggestions, and try agents again. So far, no luck. One said they would take a look at my full manuscript in January, but they’re not taking on new clients this year. That was encouraging that they showed interest.
I’m not taking it to heart because a writer never knows what a potential agent might be looking for. You miss the mark by a fraction, and they won’t consider you. I’ve read enough people moaning about not getting an agent to know that it’s a long shot and might take a good while.
Unfortunately, I can’t afford to self-publish any time soon unless I edit myself (BIG FAT NO NO ON THAT) and smile very sweetly at a couple of graphic designers I know to do a super cheap cover and help me format the book. I wouldn’t feel right asking for that if I couldn’t pay upfront, even if they did offer me friends and family discount. But if I won the lottery, then I’d love to commission a cover and formatting from them as a fully-paying client.
I’ve gone TikTok mad 🤪. It started off as an extension of my Instagram with writing-related reels. It spiralled from there and became a blue-haired steampunk girl cosplay. This is actually super fun for my writing since I have a blue-haired steampunk character. She started off as a secondary character, but as I wrote more of the book, I saw openings for more characterization.
Here are some recent favourites from my Instagram and TikTok. As you can see, they are quite different, but both are meaningful to me as a writer and avid reader.
But mostly, it’s fun and has prompted me to put myself out there more. After a rough few years with low self-esteem and serious self-doubt, it’s about time I picked myself up. I used to do all kinds of creative things,and I was good at them, but finding the confidence and brain power to do them has been hard in recent years.
I’m also doing fun videos on Instagram in relation to reading and writing, which I freaking love doing. I bought a ring light, some cheap props, and new makeup, but apart from that, I don’t need anything. I use TikTok or Instagram’s built-in video editing software or PowerDirector’s free version for more precise editing. I’ve yet to explore Snapchat’s video capabilities, but it’s on my list of things to learn more about in order to make my videos more interesting. And as of October, I’ll be minimising content on this site and posting links to my Instagram and Facebook.
On the personal front, I’ve painted my spare room and closet, died the lower half of my hair turquoise, and am just having a lovely summer break. I still have two weeks off, plus a mini trip planned, just a couple of nights away, but I’m looking forward to the change of scenery.
Featured image from a recent TikTok and Instagram. Yup, that’s me, and I love this video despite struggling with self image for years.
Writing a series can boggle a writer’s mind before you get things figured out. If you plan to write multiple standalones with overlapping characters and world-building, then you have more freedom with plots. But if you plan for your series to be one massive story with shorter installments in each book, then you need to think carefully about how to start.
Here’s a quick list of things to consider. See below the list for more thoughts.
Plan ahead in plot and world-building.
Don’t reveal too much.
Don’t hide too much.
Multiple POVs can keep things fresh.
Trust me, I’ve drafted a pentalogy, and book 5 was the deciding factor in things that I needed to play on as soon as book 1. I strongly recommend you plan the whole thing, even if book 2 and onwards is more of a rough synopsis or scribbles of world-building that only make sense to you. It helps you see where you want the series to end so you can get the journey right.
Consider carefully what elements you play on in book 1. You don’t want to reveal everything and repeat yourself in the rest of the series. At the same time, you need to hint at things you’ll need for later. Ideas that come out of nowhere can annoy readers depending on how you’ve played the possibilities prior to the reveal. This also helps with keeping things fresh in each book.
One idea, and hear me out, is to switch protagonist in each book, or at least alternate. My Starlighters saga alternates female protags with their respective love interests as the 2nd MC. I still give the others a POV so readers don’t get disappointed if they fall in love with my 1st protagonist and her love interest, but they take a back seat in book 2 and 4 to give a fresh perspective on the ongoing story.
I also have alternating minor POV for a couple of short scenes to give a fuller perspective throughout the whole series. You’d be surprised how much a POV switch can spice things up.
There are so many things to consider when writing a series, but if I’ve learned anything while outlining and drafting multiple series, is that you have to account for future possibilities. Image by fotografierende from Pixabay
Writers go on about the first page or chapter of a book being a deal-breaker, and it is as far as the words go, but sometimes, the cover is what catches a reader’s attention before they even check the blurb or read a sample.
A dull or low-grade cover will put me right off. I can’t help what I feel over an image just as I can’t help what I feel over the first page. The higher the quality and more creative, the better. Of course, I’m mostly referring to fantasy, but the quality applies to any novel in my opinion.
I don’t mean for big fancy graphics to blind me. Simple can still be eye-catching and creative. I’m talking about smooth images, top quality graphics, and something that relates to the title, which should also relate to the book. The reader should be able to judge the book by its cover and be right.
Below are some top-notch covers on my bookshelf/kindle.
The above covers vary in complexity of imagery, but they express the general ideas in relation to the story based on the blurb and what I read in the book. Also, each one looks professional and well thought-out.
Simple can be the best if your cover looks graphically pleasing.
When I need a break from actual writing, I like to find inspirational images and music, so I have a collection of character images and cover wishlists. I can’t use them for the book because of copyright on Deviantart, where I find most of my inspirational images. But I would beg them to sell me the images as my book covers.
Below are some of my wishlist covers.
With the right graphic designer, I know we would come up with amazing images to each of my novels. Until then, I’ll settle for these inspiring images as my wish covers.
It’s ironic that my last post was about how writing is the same as running a small business, and then I go and do almost nothing writing related this month. Normally, I’d feel bad about that, and the lack of creative outlet would drag my mood down. But it’s done nothing of the sort. I’ve been immersed in my job and loving it.
When your day job gets busy, it’s important to make it a priority. Your writing won’t pay the bills unless you’re an international bestseller with merch and sponsors and the like. Unfortunately, the rest of us need to keep a regular job and find a better balance.
Here are some things I try to do to make my life easier so I might find more time and energy to get some writing or writing related things done.
Don’t eat food that takes long to prepare. That doesn’t mean eat sandwiches or anything from a packet. Check out my Hungry Writer page for quick prep and healthy recipes that can see you through several meals.
Get as many chores done as possible the moment you get a burst of energy. It’s great to keep a list of things to do each day, but if you get ahead of yourself, you could use the time the next day to write.
Pick out your clothes the night before or for the whole week on Sunday night. Sounds a over-excessive, but it takes maybe ten minutes to pull out a few outfits and spares you the hassle in the mornings. I usually pick a bag, and everything matches or compliments that colour.
Try going straight to your computer after you’ve eaten. It’s always good to sit and let a meal go down, so use that time to pull up your document and get to writing, even if it’s only half an hour.
Limit your procrastination or… and we all know it’s a thing… check your phone apps when you’re doing a number 2. Yup, I said it.
If you have a long drive to work, try audiobooks. I know they can be expensive, but Audiblle has a subscription with one book included every month for around the price of a physical book (country depending).
Even if you’re tired and desperate to get home, try going via the supermarket on your way home if it’s close by. It’ll save you going out again later.
Speaking of shopping, make a strict shopping list in order of the supermarket layout, or in departments if you shop at various supermarkets. It’ll make it easier to see what you need and grab it as you go round.
I do most of this whether work is busy or not, and I find myself more relaxed and with a little more free time here and there. This month, I’ve focussed more on my job as an English language teacher for children both at work and at home. The academy I work for runs a summer camp in July in the mornings. We sing and dance in English, learn a little vocabulary based on the daily topic and make something fun and crafty. It’s a lot of planning in June and switching from evenings to mornings, but with 1 week left, it’s been amazingly fun.
But, this meant that I was super tired and couldn’t manage long at my computer. Even now, I’ve spent all day cleaning because I lacked the energy all week, and I just want to flop on the sofa and watch a film. I’m thinking the Troll Hunters movie for funsies. I’m five years old inside, so I love stuff like that. Or the new Masters of the Universe. I’ll think about it while I make my usual Saturday night pizza.
Anyhoo, back to my point.
Balancing work and life and writing is hard, and even if you have the time, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll have the energy or brain power.
Treat for my writing buddy T-Rex who is always supporting me in my writing, so here’s some hopefully helpful thoughts on getting online.
Blogging and staying active on social media to promote your brand is time-consuming and overwhelming when you have a million and one other things to do, but if you want to make it in this world, you have to market yourself. I’m going to breakdown some tips for organising and connecting your apps to make things that bit easier.
Let’s start with a blog and website.
I strongly recommend a full-package hosting platform for your website. They make design and management so much more easy. Platforms like WordPress are designed for blogs as well as full websites, but there are others out there.
I can’t rave enough about WordPress, so here are some of the many things I love about WordPress.
Easy and versatile editing for your posts and pages. You can choose preset layouts or add your own widgets like an image gallery, quotes, files… the list goes on.
You can use your own images (copyright depending) or use the built-in Pexels.com search with automatic attribution. It’s important to attribute artists especially when they’re offering great images for free.
Connectivity to various apps. If you’re reading this post in its full form as opposed to WordPress Reader, you’ll see my Instagram and Goodreads to the right or below. Plus, you can automatically publish new posts to Twitter and Facebook (if you create a page). There’s also Mailchimp connection. You can even link to your Google photos for easy image upload.
See your stats and traffic and where they’re coming from to help with marketing.
Lots of themes to choose from on the free version, and even more on the paid versions.
You can personalise your site address even with the free version if you don’t mind the wordpress.com at the end. Or you can upgrade and have your own domain. Plans start at around $50 per year, but I recommend Premium around $100 per year.
Add hashtags and categories to help people find your latest posts and pages on WordPress and Facebook.
Built-in scheduling to time your posts just right for your readers.
Readers and bloggers can use the WordPress app for easy viewing and quick posting or editing on the go.
Whether you like social media or not, it’s essential to get your name out there in this busy modern age. I’m still very much growing a following, but the moment I became active on social media, my blog traffic tripled. Here are my favourite aspects of the platforms I use.
You can’t share links on Instagram, but you can use something like linktree which I’ll talk about in a moment.
The filters make basic quality photos from your mobile look more professional and creative.
It’s quick and easy to scroll through and all about the images. Long text is generally not used, and if it is, it’s very hidden behind a “see more” option.
Most people I follow publish daily, but not more than two or three posts like many on Twitter.
I can follow people and hashtags and find new writers or bookworms to follow for a great community.
There’s also a group chat option.
You can go live and get great conversations going.
Unlike Instagram, you can post links (like from your blog) with an automatic snippet from the page.
Groups are more versatile than Instagram and work a bit like a private page for people to post to and respond to similar to a forum.
It feels like it has more information, which I don’t always have the brain capacity for, but when I do, I find it entertaining to keep up with my favourite writers and musicians.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Twitter. I tried but didn’t get on with it. But it’s good for quick posts and limited word count. Plus, you can share links on there.
I recommend keeping multiple blog posts in the same document/s based on time spans or themes. I keep my writing ranting posts separate from my reading ranting posts. Each one has two months’ of posts.
Using Google Docs or OneNotes is great because you can work on your computer or your phone. Then you can copy into your desired app when it’s ready.
Scheduling posts is another great way to keep your social media more organised and balance your life and social media. Set aside time each week to write and prepare your posts, then sit back and watch the magical world of digital media do its thing. As I mentioned, WordPress has this option for blog posts. Facebook has a business management app for free with scheduling. Or, you can use Planoly to publish on Instagram. There’s a setting on Instagram to automatically post to Facebook so you don’t have to post twice.
Keep lists of hashtags in a handy document such as your blog document or a OneNotes page for quick copying to whatever your posting.
Keep all your links in one place. I use Link Tree for a one-stop-shop for social media and any new links I want to share, which I can use on Instagram since they don’t allow links in the posts. Just add the link in your link tree and tell readers to go to your bio link.
It all sounds like a lot, but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually much easier than you think. With blog posts sending to Facebook, and Planoly sending to both Instagram and Facebook, you really only need to focus on these for scheduled posting.
I’m sure I’ve missed something, but that’s the gist of it all.
I’ve had mixed experiences with giving and receiving critiques. I try to be honest and encouraging and have many great writing buddies do the same for me. But one thing that bothers me is when people I don’t know critique my work with zero encouragement or when others talk about wanting “harsh” crits or “tear my chapter apart”.
Merriam Webster defines it as… unpleasant and difficult to accept or experience
Then there’s “tear it apart” or “rip it to shreds”. I mean, who asks for something like that?
What these people should be saying is “Be honest. Feel free to nit pick. Point out any and every issue you find that leaves my manuscript lacking.” This is what a “real” critique is all about.
Critters can’t control if a writer is going to be sensitive to negative comments or not, but you don’t have to sugarcoat it either to be constructive. You don’t have to lie or give false praise in order to be encouraging. Honesty and a little tact on any issues go an incredibly long way. There’s also a sever lack of encouragement for new writers. We’re all learning and growing and want to be part of a community that inspires us to be better rather than discouraging us. There should be balance in a good critique.
Critiques should be helpful, productive and exciting to see the potential in your work even if you have a long way to go. For me, that’s part of the fun, taking a draft and polishing it into something I can be proud of and grateful for my writing buddies for getting me there.
However, I get to the point with my writing buddies where we can be blunt without offending one another. I’ve had a couple who apologise for bluntness if they picked on something a lot in a particular chapter, and I was fine with it. That’s a little different because I know them and trust that they’re not saying it to be harsh. They’re saying it because they’re familiar enough with my work to know what I’m capable of.
So stop asking for harsh critiques and start asking for honest ones.
Yes, I recommend reading terrible books. Why, you ask? Because it helps you learn what not to do as a writer. And that’s even better than learning what to do. It’s highly subjective what to do a how to write. I doubt any two writers will agree on everything even if they agree in general.
But there are many no-nos that just about every writer would agree with. If not, then I worry for them. And I worry for the author of the series that prompted this post. I don’t even want to say who it is because the writing and story are that bad. I’m not the only one, and some of the Goodreads reviews made my point. I’m currently on book 3, but I have it as an audiobook in my car so I don’t waste my precious reading time. Thank you, audiobooks.
And onto the no-nos based on this particular series. They shouldn’t be a surprise, but they’re a strong reminder how you can ruin an entire series.
Don’t bore your readers with backstory or history lessons, especially long conversations that don’t lead anywhere or just keep going round in circles. If the character is learning new things, that’s okay, but bear in mind that your readers might not want to know every single detail that goes beyond answering the essential questions in that moment.
Don’t overdo descriptions to the point they become info-dumps rather than visual exposition unless it’s particularly important to the character on an emotional level. Find a nice balance between descriptions for your readers and the reactions of your characters.
Make sure your book stays relatively consistent when it comes to age category. Things like love scenes and swearing, for example, need to be toned down for YA but freer for adult. That’s not to say you should throw sex scenes in every other chapter (unless it’s a romance or erotica, which is a whole different tone) or have overly foul-mouthed characters all the time. And please have character be realistic when it comes to sex. It’s one thing to get a little embarrassed when over-sharing or if another character spills intimate secrets, but getting overly squirmy and making a big deal of someone’s limited experience is more YA than adult. Adults can be immature at times, but keep their immaturity realistic and limited.
Don’t overdo character traits to the point they’re in every scene or made a big deal of every time. Traits are important, and it’s okay to have another character point them out occasionally… within reason.
Don’t be vague on things that your characters (especially POV characters) should know inside and out unless it’s really not necessary in that scene.
On the other hand, don’t save things or hints of things until the final chapter or later book in a series that your characters should know. It’s okay to drop a brief mention of things that don’t mean much at the start, but you need something to set the foundation for when you do need them so it doesn’t feel like cheating or a deus ex machina.
Don’t avoid the learning curves. I mostly mean this in relation to magical abilities, but it applies to general skills too. Your characters need to learn to use said skills and even struggle at first, maybe even have a fail or two to make it more effective when their skills finally click. That clicking moment is a big deal for your characters.
Don’t forget the plot. I’m a huge fan of character-driven story, but the book needs some semblance of a plot that coincides with the character’s goals. Establish their personal journey from the start, and the main plot should slot in.
Oddly enough, this particular series has a tone of very specific elements that my series has. I was super miffed to read the place names, nicknames, even many character traits and arcs that are identical to mine. I’m not worried though. My story is way better since I don’t do all the stupid things I’ve mentioned above, and there’s an actual plot.
So reading terrible books actually helps you as a writer avoid those major let-downs for readers.
As it’s mental health month, I thought that now is as good a time as any to talk about how writing can be therapeutic. Living with a mental illness sucks, and I get overwhelmed with emotions easily. Sometimes I don’t know how I feel and why, so I get to writing.
I write short pieces as you’ll find in my Embracing Darkness collection and Duet for One based on the darker emotions or completely confusing situations. Then there are my novels, which include moments or reactions from my past that I’ve adapted for my novel. It’s like a creative diary.
One novel in particular started with a dream prompted by some horrible events during an extremely hard time. After realising I had more to write on that, I turned it into a full-length novel. It was very therapeutic for me and helped me deal with a horrific and confusing situation.
You don’t have to write everything exactly how it happens. That’s the joy of creative writing. Turning it into something abstract or fantastical can be just as helpful if it gets your emotions out. I’m a fantasist, and the only way I know how to deal with my emotions is to make it something fantastical.
My writing helps me put my emotions into something that I can make sense of and process in a creative way. Next time you’re going through a rough time, try writing about it. You never know where it could lead to.