Short Stories

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Hey everyone! Since I'm currently taking a college course about short stories, I figured that I would write a quick post about how to write short stories.  In some aspects, they're much harder to write than novels because you have to write an entire, purposeful, event in under 10,000 words.  And provide enough information to create an enjoyable and understandable story for your reader!

 First of all, instead of having a major plot figured out for your story, you first have to decide the moral or message that you want to convey.  This is the single most important thing to consider when you're writing a short story: it's not going to make much sense if you don't have a reason to write your story.  "A Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe could convey the idea that gluttony or greed is a deadly sin.  "The Tell-Tale Heart" discusses guilty consciences.  My short story for my college's arts journal, "The Runner", conveyed the importance of thinking instead of reacting. 

Additionally, you have to decide how many characters you need to create your short story.  Most short stories only have a couple of major characters (1-4) but if more are necessary, obviously, they can be added in.  And like any other work, you'll have to figure out the point of view that you want to work from. 

You will also have to consider other literary elements, such as the tone, style, characterization, etc. -- just like in a normal piece of writing.  However, the most important part of creating a short story is probably your effectiveness in conveying the message(s) you want to a very limited word count.  It might take you several editing cycles before your story reaches its best form.  You don't need nearly as much descriptions in a short story (depending, of course, on what kind of a story you're presenting).  However, you have to be a lot more concise with your deeper meanings and keep the story moving at a constant pace.  In short stories, you have very little room for anything that does not tie into the story.

If you find yourself struggling to write a short story within the accurate constraints, I recommend taking a very objective look at your story, setting aside any personal motive for writing the story, and seeing exactly what's causing the "hangup", kind of like taking a machine apart to see which component doesn't work.  Ensure that the details, while necessary in any story, don't drown out the important parts of the story, but the ending or the driving points aren't forced.  Finally, the majority of techniques that you can use for short story formation are up to you and the story you want to present.  However, these stories take a lot of fine-tuning in order to complete.

Writing A Novel: Conclusions

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hey everyone!  Long time no see!  As promised in the last post, "Body Building", I have compiled a quick guide to writing a conclusion for your story; this is also the finale of the "Writing A Novel" blog-series.  Stay tuned for more posts, however!  Okay - let's get down to business. 

So you have your story written all out, and you've just hit the tipping point called the "climax" of a story plot line.  How do you write out the "falling action" of your story without, essentially, rushing or ending the story quickly or unresolved?

First of all, this is the point where it wouldn't hurt to go through the majority of your story or your plot information and make sure that you plan to tie up all remaining loose ends - that is, unless you're planning on creating a series.  Therefore, I'm going to make separate sections for standalone books (and novel finales) and for novels in series. 

Standalone / Last Book
For the end of your story, you need to make sure that you tie everything up in a box.  But notice - I didn't say you couldn't make your box 'neat' or 'tidy'.  It depends on your story, and it should be fairly clear to you how it should end by the way you wrote your story and genre.  All stories shouldn't, or at the very least don't have to, have happy endings.  Quite frankly, it would have been out of place if the story wasn't a very happy story, such as a horror/crime/etc. novel.  Therefore, ensure that you have all your loose ends tied up and make sure that you don't forget any of the points you planned to make originally, back at the beginning of this story or series.  However, you have to tie in these final points eloquently and not so obviously that it seems "hokey" or "sappy" to the reader.  Imagine what kind of conclusions you enjoy in the stories you read, and consider these points as well if you need inspiration.  However, getting to the conclusion, you shouldn't rush it.  Just because the main action is over doesn't mean that the life of the story - or the lives of the characters - is over.  Written well, this story will reside in the minds of every reader for a long time, playing and replaying that conclusion that resonated, that hurt, that made them weep.  If it reads right, and doesn't leave out any crucial information, then it should be okay. 

Books In A Series
For books that are part of a series - or perhaps for short stories and other works that are meant to be ambiguous - the conclusions don't have to be quite as articulate.  However, they still have to be good.  You want your reader to continue reading your stories or enjoy the finish, don't you? 
For such endings, the complete falling action is a little trickier, especially for an action series but for any genre.  You want to resolve any outstanding issues in this book that will not remain (or at least, your readers don't think those issues will come back around...) but you shouldn't necessarily resolve everything, especially if the same characters or main problem will be coming back later in the next book or the rest of the series.  Therefore, you should start and end your book with a hook.  Make the reader want to read the beginning of the book, and wait anxiously for the next book in the series once they hit the cliffhanger. 

Mostly, conclusions are extremely dependent on the story that you've written.  Once you get a well-written one - and it may take a few or even several rewrites or alternate scenes - you'll know when you get a conclusion that works well.  After you have your story pieced together, it's a good idea to read your work through at least once as a finished manuscript.  It doesn't hurt to re-read multiple times, however, and leave your story for at least a week between readings so that you can read with a fresh mind and, perhaps, notice some things you never noticed before: pieces that need reworked, a better way to phrase something, etc. 

I hope that this blog series has at least shed a small amount of light or assisted you in your writing processes!  If you have any questions or ideas for future posts, please feel free to drop a few lines and let me know. 

Writing A Novel: Body Building

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Hello everyone!  I'm back with the next installment of "Writing A Novel".  Writers are bodybuilders, you know that?  Yes, I suppose you could be extremely interested in the physical bodybuilding process and be a writer too, but I'm thinking about building the body of your novel.  If you want to catch up with the last post, First Chapters, just click the link!

You're probably really mad at me for making that pun about bodybuilding, right?  But no -- really, think about it. Do you want a book that's "ripped" (metaphorically) and with a lot of strength?  Or, to be blunt, do you want a book that's just kind of oozing in every which way? 

In a more literal sense, do you want a book that is shaped excellently and that drives home strong points or do you want a book that meanders about in mediocre pointlessness before finally calling it quits?
Writing the body of a book covers a lot of terrain.  A lot of elements of story writing come into play here, but I'm not going to cover any of them: it'd take too long.  CLICK HERE for an excellent article from the Roane State Community College. You could also look up articles from Purdue OWL's website -- the entirety of which is amazing. 

Once you have a solid understanding of all the elements of story writing and how each play a crucial part in the story, you're pretty much all set.  However, you can still very easily fall into a rut with your story.  How?

First of all, details.  Either you don't have enough of them or you have too much detail.  It's hard to find a perfect balance, and this is why it's important to find several people to read your work or at least parts of it in order to give you feedback on that.  Too much detail will bore someone (unless you're like me and love detail), and too little detail will cause a reader to become confused and thus detached from the story.  There is no exact equation to finding out how many details you should have in your story, because I think it varies quite a bit on what kind of story you're writing.  However, you should try to include...
  • Appearance: occasionally.  Anytime a new character is introduced, their appearance should be brought up within an appropriate time-frame.  However, appearances shouldn't be brought up excessively.  The mind's eye can figure it out on its own!
  • Clothing: When necessary.  How a person dresses is actually, to some extent, a mark of their personality.  However, again, their clothing choices should not be outlined for every single day.  
  • Setting: Obviously, anywhere significant that a character travels or stays at should be described.  Think about the buildings, if they're modern or dilapidated; the conditions of the roadways, the people that live there, etc.  Get creative!  
  • Personality and emotions: Again, as needed.  Any medical or mental condition that a character might have, you can describe through symptoms and will need to in order to make the book more realistic.  Personality can be described as needed -- but not "She's an INFJ Gemini" for a description.  Actually explain little things, like how she laughs over stupid jokes or how he can't stand people who chew loudly.  Quirks, more like.  Emotions should be explained but not to the extent that the reader isn't forced to feel the same thing or relate to the character. 
  • Any creation of your own imagination: This is where you should give your license to detail a go.  Since readers have likely never seen anything of the sort, you need to inform them on how the creation works, what the uncharted land looks like, how the government operates, etc.  
Another important factor that affects your body is the continuity.  You absolutely cannot do something dramatic just for the sake of a plot twist without prior planning; otherwise it's just a half-baked plot period.  If the idea comes to you later, okay -- go back and make the necessary changes.  You must also keep track of your details in order for nothing to change.  I once read a book series (it was 24 books long and one of my absolute favorites through my childhood, and remains to hold a fond spot in my heart even though I'm technically too old to read them) in which a minor character's name changed halfway through the series.  You don't want to do that in your book or book series.  To combat this, do frequent re-reads of your work (although you'll hate your work by the time you're finished, guaranteed) or create charts of details or other info you may need in order to keep track of everything.  Keep this on paper so that, in the event that your computer crashes or something happens to it or your other documents, you'll at least have that.  Hindsight's 20/20, in my experience.

You also have to ensure that your plot is working well and not dragging along at a horrendously slow rate, or skipping along at warp-speed.  Both can be a major turn-off for readers, but again, it largely depends on what kind of story you're writing.

Finally, ensure that each part of the body moves forward together to drive home the important points that you want to make, and finally, the ultimate message you're pulling together.  Each piece of your plot, each chapter of your story, should eventually tie in or build up to a part of the story that is crucial.  Anything else is unnecessary and, perhaps, detracts from the content. 

Okay - that's really all the guidance I can give you concerning how one should build the body of a book.  In short, just like the majority of writing: everything in moderation, but don't skimp on things that, to each individual plot, are crucial.   

Thus closes this installment of the "Writing A Novel" blog-series; the next and final installment will be concerning the conclusion of your story. 

Writing A Novel: First Chapters

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hey everyone!  Wow, has it been a long time since I've posted!  Ugh.  Before I jump into the anatomy of a first chapter -- as promised in the last post for Writing A Novel: "Casting Call" -- I'll tell you why I have been absent. 
1) My computer crashed.  The hard drive broke, and it was only one year old.  Because the SD reader hadn't been working (I guess that was a sign that the drive was failing because it works now that the laptop's fixed) I hadn't saved my documents for a couple of months.  I write a lot so I lost a lot.  Yippee.  I got it fixed, though, and now I think I owe the repairman either my firstborn child or a spot in one of my future books...didn't get my files back, though. 
2) Our internet connection hasn't been working at all.  For the entire month of August.  We finally got that fixed...for now.

So with that all said and done, here I am.  Let's get started into the terrifying realm that is the first chapter of your book.

The anatomy of a first chapter, in my opinion, should be structured based on importance of matter. 
1) A great hook.  When you read a book, do you like endless information about the character's hometown, or do you like a fast-paced first few lines that make you say, "Whoa.  Where did that come from, and what happens next?!" 
I'll give you an example:
In my book Welcome Home, I was originally going to begin with a flashback to when Lucy was with her adoptive mother, Veronica Conily.  It simply described the day she left her mother's house (to put it lightly and not spoil the book, in case anyone ever reads it).  But as I began the stages of editing (four of them) I ended up getting pretty bored with the first chapter.  It took a lot for me to just scrape my eyes past the first chapter, so I knew I needed a change. 

In school, you may have read a lot about the importance of 'hooks', introductions to the story or essay that really grab the reader's attention.  What sounds better?  Lucy heaving her backpack onto her shoulders as she argues with her mother, or Lucy shattering a window, falling, bleeding, and landing on thorns as she escapes out of desperation?  I think I know the answer. 

Therefore, what you read in school is actually a hundred percent truthful.  Even if your story isn't action packed, there are still ways to begin the story that makes the reader want to continue.  Look at The Hobbit, for example.  J.R.R. Tolkien chose to simply describe his character and where he lived, but it's interesting to us because we've never heard of hobbits, and why do they live in holes in the ground?  In A Study In Scarlet by Sir Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes isn't introduced right off the bat: it's John Watson, describing the horrors that led him to meet and arrange living quarters with Sherlock Holmes at 221B Baker Street. 

Pick what you think works best and go with it.  You'll probably end up rewriting your first chapter many times before it's acceptable to you, but that goes hand in hand with the evolution of your story.  Make it great, make it suspenseful, make it curious, make it interesting.  

2) Meet the characters that are involved right off the bat.  Your main character, of course, should be described to a certain extent, but not wholly.  Don't give away everything the reader should know right away, otherwise they might have an idea of how the story is going to pan out.  Your character is afraid.  Why?  That's for the next chapter!  Your character hates so-and-so...but you'll wait until the middle of the book to learn why.  Your characters are at a funeral, but they're not unhappy.  Wait 'til you find out why...later.

See?  Instead of saying "Jolene sat down beside her colleague Henry, staring at the casket.  They'd taken the life of that kid, and they still had the guts to sit here amongst the grievers.  It almost didn't feel right, but the whole country's security had been at stake.", you say "Jolene sat down beside her colleague Henry and stared at the casket.  They were surrounded by so many mourners, and they sat emotionless, without even batting an eyelash.  Despite that, they knew why the people wept.", or something like that.  So -- you don't necessarily have to immediately introduce a conflict in your first chapter, but you do have to give the readers something to grab onto, so they want to learn more about the characters you're presenting.  Outside of the main character, you can introduce any other characters within the MC's close circle of friends or family; anyone they are in contact with on this certain day, the day that their story begins.  Don't be too concerned with introducing everyone right at once, or you'll bog your readers down. 

Okay -- let's review so far.  We have to have a good hook that draws readers in, we have to introduce the first batch of characters, letting the others fall in a timely manner, and we have to make sure that we don't give up the plot of the story all at once, keeping enough information at bay that the reader can't put the book down and has to keep on reading. Finally, here's the last thing you have to make sure to do when you're writing a first chapter:

3) End it on an interesting note.  You know you have to hit the ground running with the story, but you also have to keep running through, especially, the first few chapters.  This is how you get the books that make people say, "Oh, I was going to stop reading after this chapter, but I couldn't stop, and now it's three A.M. and I wish the second book in the series was already released!"  Again, you can't give off too much information early on, but give a piece of bait out to your readers.  Hint that the character feels something big approaching.  Their lives will never be the same, after all.  Say that the events you wrote about, or alluded to, in the first chapter happened right now, and the rest of the book is a flashback telling the reader how it all started two weeks ago, when the character was followed to the gas station by a strange person.  In doing this, you ensure that your readers remain engaged past the first couple of pages. 

When you're writing your first chapter, it's really hard.  It is, and it's okay if you struggle with it.  If you can't seem to get past your first chapter, try to write past it and come back to it later.  Chances are, you'll end up changing it to be even better once you have a good idea of how your story is actually going to go.  Don't give up on an idea just because you can't get the first few pages just right.  It took me an entire year to figure out just how I wanted my story's first chapter to go...don't lose hope, just go around it and come back to it later, like you might do on an exam. 

Now comes the fun part: the body of the book.  Hopefully, I should have the next installment, concerning the body of your book, posted sometime within the next week.  Until then, best of luck with your first chapters!  And save your files on tons of external memory sources.  Don't rely on computer hard drives.  Ugh. 

Writing A Novel: Meet the Cast

Monday, July 18, 2016

Hey, all!  This is the next installment after Plotting It Out.  Today, we're going to talk about how to figure out your characters and how many you  need in a book.

So--how many characters do you need?  More than you may think!
Take a look at some of the well-known books: Harry Potter, The Maze Runner, Divergent, The Hunger Games, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Star Wars...all these books have tons of characters, and while not all of them are expanded upon extensively, they add something to the book that you wouldn't have without them: secondary characters.  The Hunger Games doesn't focus solely on Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark; instead, Suzanne Collins tells us about Cato, Clove, Rue, their parents, etc. In my own book "Welcome Home", I included characters like waiters/waitresses, Lucy and Spencer's coworkers, memories that included fellow soldiers, neighbors, and a pesky person who frequents their place of work; all of them offer something to the story in some small way.  We don't have to know the characters intimately for them to provide something special for the storyline as well.  What's this 'something special'?  The ability to have a book that feels real.  When we think about it, we don't know just one or two people in our lives, do we?  We know family. (Or at least know we have blood relatives, yes?)  We know that cashier at the restaurant we frequent, at least a little bit.  We know people we commute with on the bus, we know people we work with, we know people who frequent our places of work, we know our neighbors and those involved in the same regional activities we participate in!  That's a lot of people, if you think about it.  A ton of secondary characters.  If we don't include many -- or any -- secondary characters, the story feels flat, unrealistic, and a little dry.

Before you can start a "supporting cast", however, you need to know your characters.

Thus: begin a worksheet.  I know, I know...worksheets are synonymous with vulgar words sometimes.  However, they do help sometimes!  Think about, for your lead character(s):, color, animal, book genre, music genre, clothes (and a specific set that can be mentioned frequently, perhaps), occupation,....anything they enjoy.  
--Bad traits: biting their lips, chewing loudly, grinding their teeth, that one thing about their appearance, arrogance,...characters aren't, nor should they be, perfect.  This creates a sense of reality as well as the good traits.  You should also have a vice (such as arrogance, selfishness, etc) to overcome throughout character arcs as well.  It gives the reader a little extra something to root for.
--Good traits: Appearance, virtues such as honesty, faithfulness, etc., intelligence...
--Place of work
--Talents (even if they're weird, like being really good at picking up something with one's foot instead of hands)
--Milestones in their history (aka, major events from their past that will contribute, somehow, to the plot)
--What kind of family they have: members, how supportive or abusive, etc.
--Style tendencies
--Place(s) of work
--Place(s) of education
--Where they live (and research this location if necessary)
....You get the gist, right?  If you need help understanding what you need to understand about your characters, think about yourself.  If you were writing a story about your life, how would you present or describe yourself, truthfully, to your audience?  Apply similar questions to your characters.

Lead characters take a staggering amount of work to set up.  You have to know these guys inside out, upside down, and what they'd do or say for each and every situation you may throw at them.  Only then will the story flow smoothly and take off.  This suggests the ability to get into your characters' "headspace", or thinking about how to think/act like your characters.  Essentially, you're going to become an actor/actress...mentally.  Research things about your characters so you know and understand things such as mental conditions/ occupations/events/war/time eras that you aren't familiar with, so you're well-versed.  Think about why your characters chose to be placed in such events as what may go down in your story, too.  They have to have something in their past that causes their decision, whether it be compulsion issues or the exact opposite, or many other psychological contributions.  Go through your favorite books, movies, and especially music, and think about what your lead(s) would like, and then read/watch/listen.  I especially recommend music, because you can listen to it as you write, thus compelling you to stay in character.

Once you know your lead(s) impeccably, you can think about your secondary/other characters.  Does your lead have family?  Friends?  Coworkers?  Do they take an especial note of people with a specific attribute?  These can all be secondary characters, and they're the outer stitches that hold the inner works of the story together. You don't need to go through such rigorous thought processes for these guys, but that doesn't mean they are any less important or are unneeded to stay in character as well.  It may be that one of your secondary characters ends up being pivotal to the plot, just by telling your lead one small sentence.

In conclusion: knowing your characters well and having a medium-to-large net of smaller characters can save your book, especially if your story is an epic, fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian, or war novel.  All should offer something to the plot, no matter how small of a contribution, and they can create a more realistic situation (which is crucial especially in these specific genres, but as always, in any genre as well).

So you think you're ready to write now?  Okay!  Let's go on to...The first chapter.  Dreaded by all, we'll be covering this net time I post.  See you later, and may writer's block stay away from you all!

Writing a Novel: Plotting It Out

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Hey everyone!  This is the next installment that goes with Writing a Novel: Finding Your Topic.  Please click that title in order to find the previous post.

So you've got your topic figured out and you're very passionate about it.  Awesome - you can't wait until you can start writing it!  But before you write it, you have to have guidelines.  Let's call them guard rails.  Plots are basically literary guard rails that keep you from going overboard or swerving off in directions that your work should not take.  This way, we can write books that are to the point and tell a story effectively, instead of going off on other topics.  I even have to have a plot worked out for this post, otherwise I'd start talking about figuring out your plot and end up on a rant about how people shouldn't break into other peoples' houses or something.  Or it could be less obvious: I could revert back to the topic end of things or writing chapters out instead of plot.

How do we figure out where we want to put literary guard rails up?

Firstly, you need to decide what age range you're writing towards.  For example, if you were writing a book about someone who was abused on a deep or very personal level, you wouldn't want to aim it towards children.  Or if you did want to touch on abuse to teach children that it isn't nice to hit people or anything, you'd set some boundaries for yourself so you didn't go too deep for the age range.  You can get a feel towards what age range you're going to appeal towards by looking at your topic and why you want to write about it.

Once you have your age range figured out, then you can take a look at how you can get from point A to point...Z.  Writing a novel does not typically mean "Okay, so we start out good in point A, but when we get to point B, we saw a squirrel so we had to follow it...and then at point F we tried to get on topic again, but then we ran out of gas for our car and we met this cute person at the gas station, then at point W, we came across someone with a similar problem as what we do, and didn't know how to help because we lost track of our problems...and at point Z everything came together and fell into place".  Writing a novel means that each and every piece of information you place in the chapters means something, contributes something, to the ultimate picture.  We can't get too obsessed over the details and lose track of the ultimate finish -- although details are important as well, just not at this stage.

Therefore, we have to start thinking about our characters: their traits and flaws, what kind of redemption or character arcs you want them to go through in the story...and what shouldn't happen.  You can write a 100% turnaround for your characters, but it's rather unrealistic, so that's why we set up guard rails.  We can go to a certain point, but not too far so as to make it absolutely fake.  This is another reason why our guard rails are important: to keep the story within realistic boundaries, or to keep fantasy stories from getting too realistic.

Once you have an idea of what character arcs you want your characters to have, you'll want to  brainstorm a bunch of ideas: how can I get this character to this point, but that character to the other point, etc..  Simple outings, major events, etc--anything that can lead them to where you want them to go.  Even a simple everyday object that starts an epiphany for them is worthy of writing down!  As you decide how quickly or how slowly you want to take things, your plot may very well just fall into place on its own.  You can even play around with arcs and see how the story functions with certain characters speeding up or slowing down: this is best done when you've got your first draft completed, however.

However, this leads me to another point: again, don't force it.  If your plot seems to work unnaturally or you find that the more you write, the further the characters seem like they just take the plot and do what they want with it...don't be afraid to see what happens.  If you try to force it, the story will seem stiff and less able to be related to.  Again, as J.R.R. Tolkien once said, he oftentimes let the story go in its own direction and was surprised at the routes it took.  If the characters bust out of a guard rail, see what "rules" they broke and, if it's worthy of reconsidering your age range...maybe you could!  This is the only time that breaking such guards: if it would be beneficial to the plot.

It's easy to write out your plot on paper and try your hardest to follow it, but sometimes as you write, you realize that such-and-such should happen then instead of now.  This is pretty typical: it means you're getting a better 'feel' for your they act, how they would react, etc. and know that your original plot will not work.  This is why you have to, on occasion, rip apart an entire book in order to weave in other parts that will make it better.  If this happens, don't be discouraged: you're making your story better in doing so.  Just keep this in mind!

Alright; so in summary: plots are kind of tricky.  Long story short, you should have a solid idea of what needs to happen, but at the same time, not be so stuck on certain ideas that you are unwilling to sacrifice an idea for the betterment of the plot.  Does anyone else have other ideas for plots? Again, these tips are only my opinion, so if anyone else has ideas, feel free to comment them as well!

The next post will likely be about getting to know your characters and figuring out how many characters you need in a book.  For now -- may the plots be ever in your favor.  I'm out to work on a plot for a new book myself!

Introducing My First Book!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

On top of everything else that was going on this weekend (I won't go into detail because that would take all day), I managed to get my first book published for the universe to see (or, at least those within the range).

Introducing: "Welcome Home", book one of the Faith, Hope, and Love collection.  If you haven't guessed yet, it's based off of 1 Corinthians 13 (hence the collection name), so it is a Christian romance.  It is available now from or $7.99 print and $3.99 digital.  (Honestly, this is the day it was released and I'm so tired of saying that price blurb already...oops!)
Here is the description I provided to Amazon: "Lucy is an eternal optimist who keeps her heart safe in its bone prison. Spencer's had a hard life that didn't get any better after he came home a soldier. What could God do with such broken souls, and what broke them in the first place? Will they be safe, even after monsters from the past come and rip apart their newly placed roots in small-town, New York? Find out in "Welcome Home", the first book in the Faith, Hope, and Love collection." 

There you have it.  If you want to check it out, the book for the print form is right HERE and the Kindle format is HERE.

I expect to have part two of the "Writing a Novel" blog-series up (or at least a draft begun) in the next day or two.  I'm excited to get it started, so I'll talk to you soon!  If anyone decides they're crazy enough to buy my first book, it would be immensely appreciated if you could review it on Amazon (reviews boost its popularity listing, from what I understand) or even just tell someone about it.  Self-publishing is a lonely place, especially for marketing.  I may or may not even look into doing a giveaway for it on here, just let me know if you'd be interested in something like that.

Happy 4th of July!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Hello, all!
I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Independence Day!  I'll be posting another how-to for writing again soon, I hope.  I also plan on putting up an update (or, rather, the first post about it, I guess) the book I'm on a fast-track-train-wreck-course headed for self-publishing:  the first book in the Faith, Hope, and Love collection: Welcome Home.  I'm so excited to tell you guys about it!
For now, though, get outside and enjoy the day!

Writing a Novel: Finding Your Topic

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hello all!

Today I'm going to write about the first step you'll take when you begin writing a novel.  Actually, this doesn't apply merely to novels -- you could be writing a short story, a poem, anything.  One of the most important things you'll do?  Finding the topic you want to write about.

If you have to think and scrounge around for an idea, it won't work.  It's as simple as that.  Like anything in the natural world, if something is forced, it likely will not work out: it'll break, it'll be unnatural, or it will simply just be dropped due to a lack of interest.  In my opinion, the topics you want to grab hold of are the ones that are passing thoughts.
What if...this happened?
What if the weird noise I just heard at work is really....?
(This is my personal favorite; I'm convinced that the odd thumping from behind a wall at my place of work is really a prisoner that someone stuffed in a wall alive, and they're living off of the grease and crumbs that seep through buckling seams in the wall or something).
Why does THIS happen in the universe? What if something different was so?  
What if things had worked out between my ex and I?
Who/what kind of person is the individual I bumped carts with at the supermarket? 

Those kinds of thoughts!  Whenever you come across something that you see has potential to become the subject of a book, go for it.  It's a good idea to take a pocket notebook with you everywhere so you can jot down ideas.  That way, you won't forget your moment of genius.

Now, these passing thoughts don't always work out.  They still peter out and end up being something you didn't plan on them being.  This last option is a double edged sword: the great J.R.R. Tolkien once said that he was oftentimes surprised at the direction his own writing took.  Obviously, sometimes your work turning out differently can be a good thing, and sometimes it can be a bad thing.  It all depends on the topic and why you think it's a good idea to write about it.

I recently read in one of my college textbooks about Simon Sinek's Start With Why.  Mr. Sinek has some excellent ideas that can pertain to any aspect of life, but his explanation of why we should have a "WHY" (instead of a "WHAT" or a "HOW") for every project or ambition is very compelling.  To paraphrase, why we do or write what we do attracts individuals who will support us / our work more so than what we do or how we do it.  This connects back to how the limbic system in the brain works -- WHY we do something appeals to human emotions (the limbic system is what causes those 'gut feelings' people are likely to follow), whereas WHAT or HOW appeal to the more logical neocortex.  According to Sinek, decisions made by the limbic system are far better because we don't think ourselves into oblivion about it.  Anyway, long story cut abruptly short: make sure you know why you're writing about this topic because it will essentially add the 'heart' into the story.  Even shorter explanation still: Punch people in the 'feels' and they'll love your work. Proven strategy.

Why do we need a WHY for our stories?  Without it, we're just explaining a story with no morale, essentially.  There are no lessons to be learned, it's just a bunch of words explaining how something happened.  Sounds boring, right?  No character arcs, epiphanies, etc.

For example: a book I'm currently writing is about two gifted individuals' character arcs from hating one another to falling in love.  However, WHY am I writing about them?  First of all, I want to spread information and interest in gifted/high IQ individuals, since it's a topic that is rather untouched, at least with accuracy.  I also want to display humbleness, faithfulness, and that pride always trips people up.  It's really hard for me to explain why I want to write about these kiddos.  Why is it hard?  The limbic system can't process words like the neocortex can.  Like how you can't say why you love your true love --you struggle to find generic terms that never really fit!  Therefore, if you have a deep conviction about the topic but struggle to explain why you want to write about it to someone else, don't be surprised.

Therefore:  why do you want to explore what would happen if...?  Why are you curious about something?  Why do you want to write about a specific topic, person, etc.?  Why is the most important question you want to ask yourself in writing, but don't get tripped up if you have an inability to summarize it to someone else...that's why you're writing the book.

Okay.  You have your topic and why you want to write about it.  Now what?

Next time you see me, I'll likely be writing about mapping out a plot (yuck, I know).  Are you having flashbacks to those elementary school essay outlines yet?


Monday, June 27, 2016

Hello, all!  I'm just dropping by to leave a quick note explaining what I intend this blog to be about.  We'll be going over English/grammar/sentence structure, as well as tips for writing books.  On top of this, I will be, hopefully, documenting my journey through writing and self-publishing my first novel through CreateSpace, which is Amazon's publishing platform.  My ultimate goal is to spread interest in English and help other aspiring artists!  Talk to you all soon.