Unravelling Writing Advice – How Often To Write!

Introducing my new series Unravelling Writing Advice where I explain how the advice works and adapts for every writer.

Most of the advice I’ve seen talks about weekly goals and daily writing schedules. It helps keep you organised and motivated. Without regular goals, your writing time can get lost in the haze that is the rest if your life. Many writers do it as a second job or as a very serious pastime. Either way, writing is our passion, our drive, our outlet.

I’m lucky in that I don’t work particularly long hours, so I write most days around the same time. That’s because my creativity is at its best during my morning coffee or in the evening after dinner. I live alone, apart from my very adorable cats, and I have little else to do before and after my day job.

Not everyone has this luxury. Whether it’s finding the time or the brain power, you should be realistic about your writing goals. Make them, by all means, but bear in mind that missing goals can feel discouraging. Ask yourself when is the best time to write and how often. There’s no point in planning daily writing sprints or X amount of words if you can’t reach them. 

It didn’t take much trial and error to find the best schedule for me. But there are those difficult times when life gets in the way and the writer’s block hits. It’s okay to pause the goals and let yourself deal with life so you can come back with a fresh mind. It’s also good to take regular breaks from daily writing.

Writing is my passion, one I spend just about every day on. That doesn’t mean I type away in my document for all that time. There are also various things that are part of writing without actually writing. Outlining, brainstorming, research, chatting with other writers. These all add to your writing experience as well as help build a great story.

Make a writing schedule that suits you, adapt when it doesn’t work, but don’t let lapsed goals get you down.

Image by Devanath from Pixabay 

One Thought

Weather, Thunderstorm, Flash, Light, Bolt, Storm, Cloud

Just about every writer gets writer’s block sometimes. This is how my overactive brain overcomes it

One thought, one word, one line.

The letters roll on.

They might as well be nothing.

Blankness.

That damn line is flashing its condescension at me.

It knows.

It sees the chaos in my mind.

I hate the thing, hate what its stillness means, but it rolls on. 

More nothing.

Wild thoughts slap away my reach for solace.

Peace evades my every attack and taunts me.

I’d found peace in so many words, comforting solace that hid reality.

Attacking peace.

I laugh at the notion now.

What was I thinking?

Peace? 

Chaos is what I am, and I will wield it as I see fit.

Spill the chaos onto the page, swirl it around until it becomes my voice, my art. Creation is all I have.

I mould and build anew what I break down. 

It is my world, and I am its goddess.

Contact me on Discord for info about my writing ranting group for struggling writers. @lovefantasy#0367

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

Epilogues Are NOT the Same as a Final Chapter!

I recently did a post on prologues, and a writing friend (check her out here) asked about epilogues. So here are my thoughts…

Epilogues are no different than prologues, just at the end. They need to serve a purpose outside the main story otherwise they might as well be the final chapter. Like my prologues, I don’t write epilogues for the sake of it.

I recently read a super long epilogue that should have been the final chapter. It followed directly on from the previous scene with all the usual characters. So why did the author feel like it needed to be an epilogue? To be fair, there was something new for the MC, but it didn’t mean anything new for the story since the reader already knew of its general existence. 

One of the best reasons for an epilogue is when we see the MC months or years after the main story. They’re settled in a new life, good or bad, and maybe have some thoughts on how they feel about what happened to them. This works best with a few pages, a sneak peek rather than a lengthy chapter.

Flipping to a random POV is also a good one if it’s done well. It gives the reader a new perspective on the MC and what they’ve been through. They might even know a little secret to entertain readers, something the MC couldn’t figure out in the main story. 

I like teaser epilogues in sagas and series. Books in a series still need to be independent stories but leave enough open so the reader wants more. Whatever you tease the reader with, make sure you drop it into early chapters of the next book. 

If the final chapter ends abruptly but isn’t a cliffhanger (I hate cliffhangers), an epilogue might work to show the characters a few days later. This needs to be short and sweet so it doesn’t look more like a final chapter.

Your final chapter should tie up your story in a neat little bow. Your epilogue should either tie it tighter in a standalone or loosen it in a series. 

If you want to rant about writing with others, contact me about my writing group on Discord @LoveFantasy#0367.

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay 

Don’t Hate on My Prologue Just Because You Hate Prologues!

I’ve read an array of fiction, mostly fantasy or sci-fi, with prologues. I tend not to be impressed by half of them. They feel like info dumps or pointless backstory that could be weaved into early chapters as the reader needs to know them. And it affects my own prologues while questioning other authors’ motives for their prologues.

Firstly, I believe short and sweet works best for a prologue. That’s not to say I shy away from reading a longer one if it feels worthy. And I’ve read both great and disappointing prologues from three pages to seventeen. I’ve even had critiques on my own prologues start with “I hate prologues and this should be chapter 1.” Okay, that’s not my fault you don’t like prologues. And it’s not chapter one for a reason.

I work hard to make my prologues meaningful. I don’t put it as chapter one because it happens in a time long before the main story starts or is a short scene that doesn’t warrant a whole chapter. Yes, you could skip it and not lose the bigger sense of the story. But I put it there to set the tone, background in an active scene, and something I feel needs to be clear before the main story. It’s short and sweet, so suck it up.

If previous authors have failed to let their prologues appeal to readers, that’s not my fault. If they overdid backstory or world building to the point it was more like a history lesson, again, not my fault.

So to writers and readers, please give prologues a chance just as you give chapter one a chance. Some of us writers put it there for genuine reasons. It’s not our fault other authors failed you.
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Writing Outside your Wheelhouse!

Do it. Seriously, put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see how deeply you can dig. It doesn’t have to be a whole novel. It could be a short story or an occasional POV in a bigger story. 

This is NOT about sensitivity or political correctness. This is about tolerance and understanding beyond what we’ve experienced. One of my own CPs mentioned they were worried about how it would look writing a character of colour and dealing with racism in the book. I get it. It’s a sensitive issue. But it’s all a very real issue that needs representing in fiction just like LGBTQ+, mental illness, disabilities… the list goes on. 

Even in fantasy or sci-fi, there are aliens and magical beings that represent the diversity in life and the prejudices that go along with them. It’s probably easier with fantastical characters because the writer gets to create whatever prejudice they want against that character. But let’s face it, we all know it comes from very real issues.

As a once-aspiring actress, I had to put myself in many characters’ shoes. Their troubles and obstacles boiled down to one thing. How do I overcome them? Each character has their own answer, but if you look hard enough, there is some semblance of reliability.

I do NOT mean to say everyone can fully understand every hardship others go through for whatever reason. 

My point is… why should we be punished for trying? Why is it such a taboo to imagine our skin is another colour, or we have a disability, or our minds are more complex than most? Why are we not allowed to write from a perspective far beyond our own when we’re only trying to bridge the gap?

There is such a thing as a “sensitivity reader” who will offer deeper insight and their reliability to the POV character. These sensitivity readers are there to help writers get their story across while being authentic and mindful that it’s outside our experience.

Write what you know, right? But there’s nothing to say that someone can’t share what they know to help you write what you don’t know. And then you’ll know.  


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

First Chapters Are the Worst!

Quick announcement: I’ve been on blogging hiatus for a couple of weeks due to losing a close family friend. It’s left us all deeply shocked and upset. I’m not sure if I’ll be back to regular posting just yet, but this particular post if more for a writing buddy of mine. I started it a few weeks ago actually, but after critiquing his new chapter one, I questioned my thinking.

It doesn’t take an experienced writer to know that the first pages or first chapter of a novel needs to make an impact. But they can be hard and frustrating to get the right elements across. You have so much to do in order to make your readers want more. But it’s also highly subjective as to what grabs a reader, especially in fantasy.

As a writer with multiple WIPs, I’ve written many chapter ones and I’ve critiqued too many to count. I scrutinise every line and ask myself multiple questions about their necessity, reader interest, and prose etc. My writing buddies do the same for me. We help each other get our chapter ones good enough for readers to want to continue. When I see bestselling books do the very thing my writing buddies and I try to avoid in our openings, it makes me wonder why we bother. 

So I did a little experiment a couple of weeks ago. 

I bought four bestsellers recently, all on my TBR list for months. I couldn’t choose which one to read first, so I read the first chapter of all of them. A couple included preludes/prologues, so I read those too. I like preludes and prologues if they’re done right, but that’s for another conversation.

Honestly, I was quite surprised at many of the chapter one elements that didn’t work for me. 

Let’s start with book number one. 

  • First line was untagged dialogue. 
  • No visuals until page 3. I don’t need every detail down to the crown moulding, but gimme something.
  • Bland narration. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t a particularly interesting voice. I don’t mean to suggest authors use all fancy words and weird structures. But there’s room for creativity in a simple narration.

Book number two.

  • No MC connection whatsoever. 
  • Instant hatred for something the MC had zero interaction with in the chapter apart from watching. It felt for too unfounded for me to side with her in that.
  • Telling. Lots of telling. I hate them. They’re powerful. Ok. 
  • Info dumps. Soooooo many. The ridiculous thing was that there were opportunities to drop things in gradually when the reader needed to know.
  • Too much world building on things I didn’t need to know. And when I read on, there were places the author could do this in later chapters when I actually needed to know. I’d forgotten it all by the time I needed it. But then the author described it all again. Wasted page time for sure.
  • Word repetition all over the place.

Book number three.

  • Started with a dream. I half let it off since it’s a dream of something that actually happened. But it felt too disjointed for an opening page.
  • Short lines of thoughts and quick action. Not really helpful to start me off.
  • The story felt like it started in the wrong place. It started after a major event that affected the MC’s life. The author could easily have added a short chapter leading up to a really quick moment that would require a third of a page, it’s that quick.
  • Lots of filtering.

Book number four. This was much better. Only a couple of things.

  • The author described action but left out details to help me visualise the action. It was far too vague at times.
  • Describing the fantastical races was a bit telling. But I’m just picking on that because I expected better from the author. But it could havebeen done much better.

But you know what? I still want to read more of these books. And it makes me wonder if I’ve become too analytical over getting all these elements right in chapter one. Can interesting worlds be enough even if the prose is lacking? Can exciting events make up for constant info dumps?

I think it can. So while I will keep trying to make my chapter ones work in as many senses as possible, I’m more aware that writers don’t need to hit all the targets to win over a reader.


Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

Planner or Pantser?

There’s this age-old argument over planning and pantsing a novel. Honestly, who cares? What’s more important is that writers find a balance that suits them. I keep saying that writing is your creativity in words. Sometimes, you gotta let the words flow until a story takes shape. 

It’s easy for many writers to say “Plan and outline your novel.” But they’re planners, so it’s obvious to them. I’m NOT saying this is good or bad advice for all new writers. I fully understand why the most common advice out there is to outline before you start writing. What I mean is… there’s a small group that actually work better by sitting down and just writing. Yes, the plot might look and mess, and the character goals might be all over the place, but at least they sat down and fleshed it all out. Then they can work on those issues after. It’s like a really detailed outline. 

This is basically what I did with my first project. It had been a long time since I’d done any real writing, and a long time since I’d studied story structures. I was desperate to get the words down, not thinking too much about structure and fluff and a tight plot. Now, before you ask about the state of that project, I should mention it’s a pentalogy pushing 600k words, so it’s still a WIP in need of serious attention. It looks way better than the first draft, and I’m not sorry I wrote it the way I did. I learned as much about writing as I did about my story as I went along. 

However, my second project was a standalone (now part of a trilogy) that got a rough synopsis before I started writing. It helped a lot, and by the end of act one, my story became more real to me, so I wrote my outline before I got too deep into the story. I changed very little in act one based on where I wanted the story to finish, and certain characters and events were much easier to visualise having written a little of the story already.

These days, I plan as much as I possible before writing. Then I let my growing world help me plan the rest. If I have to rewrite a few chapters, that’s okay. That’s exactly what first drafts are for. My latest WIP had a pretty decent start and is now close to my final draft before I send it out to agents.

While I do recommend writing a synopsis of your story before starting, I don’t think every writer needs a full outline before they get to typing. Set your creative side free, then come back and start structuring it.

Don’t forget about my “Writing Ranting with Others” Discord group for confused writers. Message me at Lovefantasy#0367

Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

When Darkness Falls

Enjoy another piece from my Embracing Darkness collection.

There is so much light that it blinds me, burning my skin like the midday sun. It comforts me and wraps me in safety like a blanket of warmth. I grew in this light like evergreens feeding off the sun. Always there to pick me up when I fell, always there to tell stories when I was uninspired. 

A life of such war and peace that I feel my life is worthless. A life I cannot compare to. A life of a family I may never know yet I can feel through her words. A story of love I have not experienced.

Yet the light is a fickle thing and I reject it now my light has been snuffed out. Rapture may reach for me yet it is the darkness I crave. Darkness is real and true. Darkness blackens a soul. 

So unrecognisable that I do not believe the soul is familiar. It is nothing but an empty vessel that I do not want to acknowledge. Life is gone. Darkness has taken it.

Image by Enrique Meseguer at Pixabay 

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait!

In writing, waiting can be good or bad depending on what point you’re at.

If you’re waiting for that perfect idea to strike or for the “right” time to start writing that novel you keep talking about, then ask yourself if writing is really your thing. Sure, story ideas don’t magically come to everyone, but as someone who has literally given away ideas because I have too many, I can’t imagine a writer without at least half a dozen story ideas ready to outline and start writing the moment they’re finished with their current WIP. Or even ideas they could come up with given the time.

Let me show you how my imagination works with some quick and rough novel ideas.

  • A career-driven woman in her mid-thirties is on her way to the top of the company when it suddenly closes down. In an unpredictable job market, she’s forced to take an entry level office position where her boss is ten years younger than her. Proving herself is hard when she knows she’s better than the role she’s now stuck in. But once she gets over herself, she finds her junior colleagues help open up a side of her she never got the chance to unleash at their age.
  • A sea captain hunts for a treasure only an entitled few know of. When he reaches the treasure, she is not what he expected. An ancient curse traps an immortal siren in a cavern that’s drying up and constantly suffocating her. Having discovered a much greater treasure than he imagined, the sea captain fights across oceans for the siren’s freedom and the love they both share for one another.
  • A future where wormholes are the norm, and travel to distant worlds is but a blink away. A traveller seeks to learn just how far she can reach and steals a wormhole device to find out. At the edge of the known universe, she discovers the price of the wormhole technology. A desiccated planet holds truths that would curdle most stomachs. But the traveller does not stop until she proves to everyone how they are so blissfully able to bend space and leap from one world to another.
  • Death is only a mild inconvenience when a ghost hunter is sent into limbo. While he uses every trick he knows to keep in contact with his girlfriend, she finds a spell and makes a demonic deal to bring him back to life. But he’s not the only one she brings back. Now, the ghost hunters must battle an ancient demonic power while doing everything they can to send it back to limbo.
  • On her way home from a wild night out, she witnesses a gruesome murder. She stays quiet, thinking nobody will believe her considering her intoxicated state. But when she comes home from work to find her apartment ransacked, her only option is to go to the police. As she thought, they think it’s a coincidence until one of the detectives checks in on her and witnesses an attempted attack on her. Still unable to prove the connection, the detective offers her protection in exchange for her full story, no matter how drunk she was the night of the murder. She soon discovers his motives go beyond finding a killer and ends up in a decade-old feud between the detective and the person he thinks is responsible for his sister’s murder. Is she safer with the detective, or should she run and pretend nothing happened?

That took me ten minutes. Yes, they might be done already, or full of cliches, but… ten minutes. Imagine what I could do in an hour or longer to come up with a novel synopsis that I could later turn into a detailed outline. 

Sometimes, I get an idea and spend five minutes jotting down my initial thoughts. The next time I have a spare five minutes, I jot down more, and more, and more, until it resembles a story. Some stay that way for future projects, but some get more attention as I work on a rough outline, character sheets, world-building. And soon enough, I have enough to start my first chapter. This may change completely once I’m done with the outline, but at least I got some of the story down.

I had a wild dream the other week, and started plotting a novel based on it. Within a few days, I’d built a decent synopsis, started outlining the story, created several character sheets with images, character goals, backgrounds and story input. I’d also come up with the backstory for the main group of characters, which involved various physical characteristics and ability based on their heritage.

Stories start with your imagination. The planning is just putting your imaginative thoughts in order.

But it is okay to wait sometimes. 

You’ve drafted act one. Good job. But you’re still not sold on your own ideas. This is a perfectly good time to wait and let the ideas settle. Don’t wait too long in case you risk losing the story from your head. This length of time is subjective, though. If you write daily, like I mostly do, letting your ideas settle for a few days might be enough. But taking a week or so might suit you better.

You have an outline and part of a draft. Don’t force it beyond that unless your fingers just keep spilling those lovely words. In which case, what are you waiting for?

Another good time to wait is during or just after your WIP is with beta readers. Depending on the format you’re sharing your beta version, you might not get anything back until each reader has read the entire thing. This is a forced break, which you should take advantage of. Let it go for a while. Make notes in a separate document by all means. Never ignore ideas. But don’t touch the story itself until all the feedback is in.

I had the luxury of sharing my beta version in bulks of chapters, so I got feedback on three or four chapters every week/two weeks. This was really helpful since I could read through the feedback for act one together, then two and three together. It all made sense as I took it in, but apart from a new chapter one, I didn’t change anything beyond minor wording to spare the next reader commenting on silly errors. 

I waited, and eventually, I got some amazing results. Yes, I can improve on them, and I will. But my patience paid off. Now I’m in one last revision with the help of some new and speedy crit partners, and I hope to query next month.

If you have even a semblance of a novel idea, don’t wait for anything to get something down and flesh out a chapter or two at least. Otherwise, you’re just a dreamer with no outlet.

Writing Ranting with Others!

Join my Discord group and rant about writing with others. @LoveFantasy#0367

Writing is scary. Sharing your writing is scary and confusing and chaotic sometimes. I have a small writing group on Discord called Writing Ranting with Others. It’s not the usual kind of writing group. The main aim of the group is to support and help writers find their way as they embark on their writing journey or if they question the path they’re on. I’m no expert in writing, but I am an expert in losing my way, including in my writing.

Writing is a tough game. We need thick skin if we want to put our work out there and get published. But we don’t all start that way, and sometimes we might slip back if we’re having a tough time.

Below are just some of the topics I’d like to help writers with.

  • How to deal with advice – I posted about Great Writing Advice last week with some of my favourite sources. It took me a good while to work how where to find advice without overloading my brain, but also how to pick out the right advice for me. 
  • Overcoming stagefright – Sharing is scary, so why not share with the very purpose or having that first critique from people who know the feeling? Honesty doesn’t have to be hard to hear.
  • Taking feedback – Critiques are meant to help writers, but they can also be hard to handle at first. Then there are the conflicting opinions on top. It’s a lot to process when you’re finding your voice.
  • Writer’s block – It’s not always easy to find inspiration when life gets stressful. Sometimes brainstorming for someone else can help wake up your creative side.
  • Using your emotions – Write from the heart and use what you’ve experienced in life to put pen to paper.
  • Indecisiveness – Sometimes you don’t even need advice., You need a second opinion because you’re stuck on a decision. Think aloud with us and get some thoughts back, or maybe you’ll come to your own conclusion by sounding out your options.

I want to help writers deal with the scary and confusing aspects of writing as well as creating a safe place to talk about all kinds of writerly things. Call it group therapy if you like. 

Join my Discord group and rant about writing with others. @LoveFantasy#0367