Tag Archives: world building

When Your Writing Issue Is…

24 Jul

Writing a book—or anything—comes along with a lot of challenges, and sometimes those challenges can feel overwhelming. So here’s a quick tip guide to help you navigate your writing journey.

I have an idea, but now what?

Well, now you write. (And write and write and write again.) Don’t focus on being perfect. Don’t focus on getting published. In fact, don’t spend months studying how to write on blogs like this one. There’s only so much you’re going to learn from reading about writing. You’re going to have to write yourself to learn about yourself and your craft. So, sure, research, but make sure you’re writing…and reading (a lot). Related article: No, Reading is Not an Option

I don’t have time to write.

Listen, no one has time to write. Some of us definitely have more time (or less), but comparing yourself to anyone is not going to get you anywhere. Write when you can and write what you can. Don’t beat yourself up. Just do your best. Related article: Making More Time to Write & Confessions of a Slow Writer

I can’t begin.

So don’t worry about beginning. Start in the middle. Start at the end. Start anywhere that you want to start. When I’m struggling with a story idea, I just hop around in all types of scenes, jot down some ideas, and hop around again. Eventually, it comes together. Embrace the mess. You can fix it later. Related articles: World BuildingNaming Your Characters.

I can’t finish!

Finish. I know that is the worst thing I can say. (Trust me, I do.) But sometimes you have to write the “wrong” ending to learn what the “right” ending is. Another place to look at is your middle. If you’re feeling awkward about the ending, you might have gone “wrong” earlier. Track back and see where you start feeling unsure. Try something new, then finish that. The last chapter is a lot like the first chapter. You’re probably going to change it a lot. That’s okay! Related articles: Writing Quicksand & The Ideal Writing Pace

Extra tip: Remember an issue is just that – an issue. It will be solved. You will overcome it, and you will move forward. Try to keep that in mind.

I’m overwhelmed/depressed/numb to my writing.

Whoa there. Take a step back. Your mental health and well being is more important than getting another 1,000 words down. Granted, I can admit I’m horrible at taking my own advice here. But it’s true. Taking a step back is okay—and necessary sometimes. Related articles: The Lonely Writer & How to Avoid Writer Burnout

OMG. I’m editing?!

An editing process is a lot like a writing process. It is unique to every writer and often every project. I recently wrote an editing series about my process if you’re interested—My Editing Process Starts in my Writing Process, Editing (Rewriting) the First Draft, and Editing the “Final” Draft—but try not to feel overwhelmed or down. Editing is another part of the writing process. You’ll learn to love it. (Or love to hate it.) Either way, try to concentrate on the “love” part.

Someone had the same book idea as me. 😦

Ideas are everywhere. So is inspiration. And then there’s that classic “Everything’s been done before” line. Trust me, you’re going to come in contact with someone who has a similar idea/book/character as you. Sometimes you might even see that book get published (eek) before yours. Don’t. Panic. Your book and you are perfectly okay, because YOU are the unique part of your book. Only you can tell a book like you can. Emphasize what is unique about your story and keep writing. Related article: Writers, Stop Comparing Yourselves

It’s complete! Now what?

Slow down and consider what you want out of your career for this book. Do you want to go traditional? Do you want an agent? Do you want to self-publish? Take your time and research what is best for you and your novel. Don’t be afraid to ask fellow writers for help, guidance, or opinions. We’re all here to help you! General rule: Money always flows toward the author, not away. Never pay an agent or a publisher to publish you or your book. (Oh, and write another book.) Related article: The Emotions of Finishing a Novel & How To Get A Literary Agent

Offer of Rep/Publication

Like I said above, research, research, research. Never sign a contract without fully understanding what you’re getting into. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to turn an offer down, if it isn’t right for you or your book. There will be another one. One piece of advice I love? A bad agent/publisher is worse than no agent/publisher. Oh! And congratulations! You are awesome.

An agent/publisher offers a R&R (Revise and Resubmit)?

First, congrats! Those are pretty rare, and someone likes your work enough to give you a second shot. But don’t jump the gun. If someone gave you an R&R, chances are they gave you some significant feedback to help you revise. Figure out how you feel about that feedback first. Does it match your vision? Are you okay with it? If so, go for it! If not, it’s okay to thank that person and move on.

I’m published! Yay! (But I secretly feel like an imposter)

Feeling like you got “lucky” or don’t deserve to be where you are at is called Imposter Syndrome…and everyone feels it eventually. It sucks, I know, but it normally fades. Hanging out or talking with fellow writers will probably help you feel better here. If not, try any kind of self-care. Read your favorite book. Watch a TV show. Step away. You deserve it!

If you have any issues, feel free to share them below.

I’ll try to give a quick tip to help.

~SAT

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World Building: Where to Start, What to Consider, & How to End

17 Jul

I mainly write science fiction and fantasy, and both of those genres tend to come with heavy world building. A few of you have asked me where I begin. How do I start? How do I know when to write? When does world building end? Well, if you read my editing tips series, then you probably know my answer to most of this.

I don’t think it’s that important to have your world building down in your first draft or while you’re outlining. Why? Because you don’t know everything your world needs yet in order to tell your story. All that matters is having your world building down by the end of your drafts. That being said, I tend to spend more time on initial world building than I do with character profiles or plot outlines. Why? Because my world will affect my characters directly—and that tends to be when I start writing.

That’s right. I begin most of my stories with a scene or an idea, and then I world build…and I keep building until the world affects my characters directly. Then I start to write.

So how do I build my worlds?

Extra tip: World build together. Try to explain your world to a friend. If they ask questions you can’t answer, find an answer.

Well, let’s start with the foundation.

Think of the basics. Where are we? What is the climate? Is it temperate, freezing, humid, etc.? What are the seasons like and which season/s is your story taking place in? How does this location relate to the locations around it?

My favorite place to start is clothes. Why? Because clothes tell us about societal structures—like income class, careers, etc.—and also about the land/weather patterns. Are they wearing cotton? If so, where does the cotton come from? Who collects the cotton and uses that cotton to create clothes? How much does it cost, and who would wear it? Example: Throughout history, the upper-class generally wore clothes from far away to emphasize how rich they were; those clothes were expensive because of how far the materials had to travel (and how expensive the upkeep was.)

The next element I consider the most is water. Why? Because water is essential for life, including animal life, which means you’re looking at how people eat, clean up, make medicine, etc. Not to mention that water, like rivers and lakes, have been used as natural borders for a long, long time (along with mountains). So where does the water come from? How were borders decided? Start thinking about other natural materials on your land. What materials are used to make buildings, for instance?

Now time: What year is it, and how does that year in particular define your character/s? I tell new writers to at least understand their main characters and their family structure for three generations back. This information doesn’t have to go into your book, of course, but knowing where your protagonist came from, including how their parents raised them and why, will help you shape their family unit and beliefs. This brings me to my last two topics: Religion and language.

  • With religion, personally, I think the most important part of a person’s religion can be summed up in their burial practices. Start there. Most of the time, burial practices relate to how that person sees life, death, and how both their life and their death is connected to the land. This includes if your characters don’t have a religion at all.
  • When I am building a language, I focus on two elements first: How do people curse and how do people say I love you. Why? Because humans are built on emotion, and hate/love are the two strongest emotions and the biggest umbrellas of emotion out there. By finding out how they express those emotions, both as a culture and as an individual, you can start to shape everything in between.

Please keep in mind that this information—like where materials come from—doesn’t have to be explicitly stated in your book. In fact, I can’t recall a time where I talked about where water came from in most of my books. But it can help to know the simple, basic elements of your world. They are your foundation, after all. And the stronger your foundation, the stronger the rest of your world building will be. In fact, I only covered where I begin. I didn’t even get into magic systems, for instance. (Another favorite topic of mine.)

Build and keep building. Don’t be afraid if you feel intimidated, and don’t get frustrated when your world contradicts itself or doesn’t make sense at all. You have all the time in the world to…well, build your world. Take your time. Take notes. And enjoy the journey of discovering a brand-new place that your characters—and you—will call home.

~SAT

Editing the “Final” Draft

10 Jul

This month, I’m covering my editing process. If you haven’t read the first two steps—My Editing Process Starts in My Writing Process and Editing (Rewriting) the First Draft—then check those out now. Today is the last post about editing, but, as always, feel free to ask questions! We are discussing the “final” draft.

The “Final” Draft

So you have a solid manuscript. This means you have written, rewritten, and revised everything a couple of times. You’ve checked your weak spots and tightened your prose and wrote the best damn thing you could write. Awesome! But the editing process is not over. This part of my editing process focuses more on grammar than anything else, but as usual, I almost always continue to edit my prose. I might find weak sentences or (gasp) a contradiction in my story. That’s okay. It’s important to not get deterred, but there’s a few things you can do to help yourself out in this stage.

Here’s some photos from my editing process! (Cats are necessary.)

Print it Out

There’s only so much you can accomplish on the computer. You might think you can see all of your errors on your laptop, but trust me, reading your work through a different medium will show you new mistakes. On a side note, you can also try to read your book in a different font or color before you print it out. I tend to print it out when I know I still have a lot of editing to do, including rewrites. Why? Because I love to physically cut up my manuscript and shift things around. (This might be a result of passive-aggressive behavior, also known as rage writing, but it helps.) I’m also obsessed with different colored pens. I’ll use one for grammar, another for story issues, and another one that has authority over my other pens. (Like if I change my mind about a particular edit.) Other office supplies that come in handy include binder clips, paperclips, and Sticky Notes. But—basically—get physical with your “final” copy. Feeling it in your hands might help you feel better, too. The weight of all those pages can be a little overwhelming, but think of all you’ve accomplished! You. Are. Awesome.

Read Out Loud

I cannot stress how important this is…Though, I also want to admit that I used to NEVER do this. I thought it was one of those writing tips that could be skipped over. I mean, reading it out loud seems like it would take a long time. And it does. I won’t lie to you. Reading my manuscript out loud is probably the most time-consuming task in my editing process, but I also learn more than ever when I read out loud. I stumble over awkward sentences. I hear unrealistic dialogue. And I reread the same sentences over and over again, just to check the flow of the overall section or piece. Reading out loud, or listening to your book out loud, will help you discover more than you realize.

Check Back In With Those Notes

Remember all those notes that you took in the first two steps? Read through them again. Get to know every inch of your manuscript and make sure each thread is carried out consistently and accurately. In regards to grammar, keep a list of issues you know you struggle with. If you’re constantly switching then and than around, check every single one of them, and then check again. I am super bad about soldier, for instance, though I think my computer is the one autocorrecting my typing to solider. Knowing yourself—and your technology—will help you find mistakes faster…which means you get to that final draft quicker, too. Though, don’t forget, editing is NOT a race. Do not rush it. Take your time. Breathe. Ask for help. And keep going until you have that final draft you love.

Finally, Why Final is “Final”

No matter how many times you edit your own work, you will have to edit it again. Take publishing as an example. When you complete a manuscript and submit it to an agent, they might request a Revise & Resubmit. Even if they offer representation, chances are they are going to go through some edits with you before they submit to editors…and when you’re chosen by an editor, chances are they will have additional editing notes for you to work with…and then, it’ll be out in the world and there will still (inevitably) be mistakes. So new editions will have corrections. And editions after that will have even more corrections. (They were finding mistakes in the fifth edition of Harry Potter, for instance.)

Your work will never be perfect, and while you should always strive to create the best product possible, you should strive to embrace the editing process more…because you’re going to be editing often. 

I try to think of editing as another writing process. That way, it feels more fun and less overwhelming. Taking breaks between edits has helped me immensely and so has falling in love with new office supplies.

Create rituals, take care of yourself, and keep writing.

Editing is just another part of your publishing journey.

Embrace it.

~SAT

My Editing Process Starts in My Writing Process

26 Jun

The other day I asked you all what topic you would most like me to cover, and editing rose to the top, so…I decided to post a month-long series on this topic—mainly because my editing process is as complicated as my writing process, and I want to get as in-depth as possible. So you can expect two more posts after this one.

I want to start off by saying that my editing process varies per project, just like my writing does, but I will try to cover various types to hopefully give you all some ideas. But editing is a lot like writing. We all have different paths, and you have to find what works for you.

Today, I’m concentrating on how my editing process starts during my writing process.

That’s right.

I’m already editing—or at least prepping my editing—while writing the first draft.

Why? Because writing and editing go hand in hand, and if you keep them in mind as you go, it will save you time and energy and pain in the long run.

1. Try to Finish First, Edit Later

You might have an outline, you might not. That’s okay! Either way, try to finish as much of your first draft as possible before you begin editing. Why? Because you will learn unexpected aspects about your story as you write, and those little surprises—as awesome as they are—can change a lot about your novel as a whole. It’s better to know as much as possible before you start changing things. That way, you won’t get lost in various drafts or ideas or shifts in plans. Just jot down a note and move on. That being said, I used to be one of those writers who would immediately go back and edit previous chapters if a huge twist surprised me (and changed the first few chapters). Honestly, I still do this to some extent, but I’ve tried to hold myself back from doing it too much. Why? Because that issue might change again and again and again. Why waste time rewriting sections when you might have to rewrite them again after that? Recently, for instance, one of my characters began as a five-year-old but then morphed to an eight-year-old later on in the story. Instead of going back and rewriting everything now, I jotted down a note, because, let’s be real, his age could change again. This brings me to my notes…

If you really want to get fancy, create checklists. Checklists might include scenes, world building, character facts, etc. Check them off when they’re mentioned. Take a note of where, too.

2. Take Notes – and I mean a lot of notes

Before you ever start your novel, even if you’re a panster, take notes on what you know, and continue to take notes as you learn more. This is one of the reasons I love Scrivener. I can update individual chapter notes, settings, and character profiles while I write. Here is a basic list of editing notes I keep while writing the first draft:

  • Overall Editing Notes: This can be large-scale edits or simple facts, like my character’s age changing. This is also where I include notes that I feel like I will forget. In my latest manuscript, for instance, my top editing note is “Make sure Meri doesn’t call herself a princess.” Why? Because her language doesn’t have a word for it, but English obviously does, so I keep slipping on that description. These are notes that tend to affect the story as a whole.
  • World Building Notes: Right now, I’m working on my first historical novel, but I find historical novels need just as much note taking as my science fiction and fantasy. Your world building doesn’t necessarily need to make sense in your first draft, but jot down what you figure out as you go. That way, you can adjust these rules and details after you finish your first draft, and you have a clear list to work off of. This will help you make sure that it makes sense.
  • Chapter Notes: As I write, I might realize that Chapter Two needs to be Chapter Ten, so I will go to that chapter and write down notes regarding that decision. This will help me restructure my outline later on. Chapter Notes might also includes notes for that particular chapter. For example, on Chapter Three in my WIP I put a note at the top to mention the goddess of war and disease, because I realized later on that Chapter Three was the perfect opportunity to explain this aspect of the world building, but I didn’t know that at the time of writing Chapter Three and I currently don’t have time to find the exact placement right now. I will find it later on or decide to move it again as I continue to write. Having that note, either way, will remind me that it is both missing from the story and could be placed there.
  • Character Notes: As I learn about my characters, I write down facts, especially ones that surprise me. This can be anything, including what clothes they’re wearing or how they’ve grown emotionally over their lifespan. I write down almost everything, including obvious notes (like hair and eye color) and specific notes (like they broke their arm when they were three).

I know this might seem like a lot of notes, but you never know how long it will take you to write a book…and you might be close to it now, but you will forget things. Having a reference guide to your story will help you transition into editing faster and more efficiently. You can also use it for sequels! You will love having that reference guide, and it will save you a lot of searching time later.

3. Once You Complete Your First Draft

Organize all of your notes. This means writing down the current outline you have and what outline you’re planning for your second draft. I tend to start with my Overall Editing Notes and then go through my Chapter Notes, then my Character Notes, and make a plan. At this point, I probably have a solid idea of where I want to go and what I need to change, but put some distance between your first draft and the editing stage. You’d be amazed at how much clearer your issues will become when you let the project go for a week or two (or a month or two). Go draft up a different project while you wait, but don’t jump into editing immediately. Breathe. Celebrate that first draft. You deserve it.

Now you’re ready to continue!

Next Monday, I’ll cover what editing my first draft is like, along with some tips to help you during your writing journey.

~SAT

#WW How to Manage a Book Launch

20 Jul

Launching a book is chaotic, exciting, and fun, but it can also be daunting. What ads do I take out? How do I get reviews? When should I get reviews? Should I create teasers? WHAT DO I DO?

Simply put, there’s a different answer for everyone, especially when you consider your audience and genre, but I have a few tips to keep in mind when organizing your book’s launch.

1. Start Three Months Ahead

Books might only launch on one day, but launching the book starts three months ahead of the official launch date. Why three months? Because that’s when most retailers allow you to list a book for preorder (and I highly suggest all authors do this). That being said, this means your plan starts now, so you need to have your marketing plan ahead of time. This means you have your teasers, blog posts, blog tours, etc. figured out, so that when it comes to crunch time, you’re not rushing to get things together.

How to Manage a Book Launch

How to Manage a Book Launch

2. Think Visual, Think Virtual

Consider an array of ways to market. You don’t want to only write articles or create book teasers. Different types of marketing will reach different types of readers. Personally, I suggest starting off by creating at least ten book teasers (and releasing five leading up and five after) and writing a few blog posts about your book (why you wrote it, your writing journey, etc.). If you want to know how to create book teasers, read How to Create Book Teasers on a Small Budget. Between these two things—visual and readable—signing up to other marketing opportunities will be easier. If you have a budget, consider hiring a book tour company. They generally share your book for a week before release day across various blogging platforms. Sometimes, you’ll need guest articles and excerpts, so those above materials will come in handy. Other ideas to consider: Release short stories related to your books on Wattpad, send out newsletters on release day, and schedule a time to e-mail book bloggers who read your genre. How did I organize all of this? I released one book teaser a week on #TeaserTuesday, I posted a short story on Wattpad every other Friday, I released two book-related articles every month, sent out one newsletter every month, and I made a point to e-mail 10 book bloggers every week. This way, I knew what I needed to do and I got it done without getting too wrapped up in marketing. All of this material was prepped months in advance.

3. Paid Promos and Giveaways

If you have a budget, there are more opportunities you can take advantage of. Like I stated before, research a few book tour companies to find book bloggers that will feature your work. List a Goodreads Giveaway beforehand. These giveaways often result in readers adding your book to their TBR shelf, so they should get an e-mail on release day saying your book is now available. Take out an Instagram ad or Facebook ad if you want. Anywhere, really (depending on your budget, of course). Host your own giveaway on Rafflecopter or other social media websites. Create a Thunderclap and offer swag to supporters. Whatever type of giveaway you’re doing, be sure there’s a way for your followers to share it. This will attract new readers, and hopefully, spark everyone’s curiosity about your book release.

On the day of the launch, work hard, but also let yourself celebrate! You deserve to enjoy this moment, no matter how much marketing you were able to do. You wrote a book, finished it, and got published! Congrats! If you can schedule a physical tour, fantastic! Call up a couple of local bookstores and ask if you can host a writer’s panel and book signing. If you can’t, create a Facebook event to have a virtual launch. But be sure to party the day away.

You deserve it.

~SAT

Bad Bloods is now available!

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RELEASE99cBad Bloods: November Rain released, and it’s .99¢ for release week only!

What are the latest readers saying?

“November Rain is very relatable and at the same time very inspiring, breathtaking, and beautiful. It should be read by everyone because I believe everyone will learn at least one valuable lesson from it. I also thought of The Hunger Games and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children while reading it, so if you loved those books, you should definitely check Bad Bloods out!” – Macy Loves Stories

Bad Bloods: November Snow releases next Monday, and readers are raving!

“I bawled like a baby at the end of this book. I highly recommend this story to all to read and enjoy!!” – Black Words, White Pages

“This book was an emotional roller-coaster! So much happened in this book, I couldn’t entirely believe my eyes. Recommend it? Yes!” – Daydreaming Books

I also did a character interview about Serena on Brittany M. Willows! Curious about Serena? She’s the protagonist of Bad Bloods, and we discussed her life, dreams, and what moves her. Here’s a sneak peek:

Where does she live? What’s it like there?

Serena lives in Southern Vendona, which is the countryside of a walled-in coastal town wrecked by a war that happened fifty years ago between bad bloods and the government. She’s living in the aftermath, and as a bad blood up for execution, she’s fighting to live every day. But she loves her flock—a group of 12 bad bloods who hide in a house together—and she strives to help her leader keep everything under control as an election for bad bloods’ rights approaches. Her best friend is Catelyn, and together, they share a nameless cat.

Read the full interview here.

#SATurdate: Lore, New Office, Paint Swatches, & Snow White

26 Mar

12718001_1008531982527316_2805994555122682398_nI moved this week to a brand-new office! I’m super excited about it. I have a ridiculous amount of room to spread out, and I’m hoping I can get a bigger desk one of these days. My current one was great for my previous, much smaller office, but now I can spin! I need to be able to roll back and forth for no reason other than dramatics. On a side note, my Sticky Notes did not survive the move. I’m challenging my Maggie Stiefvater and remembering that ideas do not make the author, the author makes the ideas. (Check out her article The Disposability of Ideas.) Plus…I sort of cheated and took pictures of them before they were ruined. I’m not quite at Stiefvater’s level. (But, really, who is? She’s a goddess. [Okay. I’ll stop being an obsessive fangirl now.])

What I’m Writing:

993078_1006450089402172_901225323950707552_nSo Take Me Yesterday was put aside this week. I worked solely on the mysterious manuscript known as “D.” I actually wrote D when I was 19, but numerous elements were missing until recently. Now I’m 18,000 words into the rewrite, which is awesome. I have 62,000 additional words already typed from the original manuscript, so it’s really a matter of cutting and pasting and editing and screaming at my 19-year-old self for not figuring out the missing elements…you know…until I was 24. (*Repeats to myself* It’s not a race, it’s not a race, it’s not a race.) I also shared a bit of “research” I was conducting, via my paint pallets. D is an extremely colorful novel. It’s difficult to explain without giving away the plot, but it’s been a lot of fun flipping through the colors while editing old scenes and adding new ones. On a side note, I also took some time to world-build a brand-new novel I shall call S for now. S is—more or less—something I’m currently writing for fun. Like a reset novel. A novel with no pressure to finish or to pursue publication with. Sometimes working on something brand-new with no deadlines or expectations helps me reset my writer buttons. But the more I work on it, the more I love it. </3 Gah! Decisions…

What I’m Publishing:

This week, I shared the content disclosure for November Snow, so I thought you’d like to know our rankings. If you need a handy guide about what these rankings mean, click here to check out November’s Snow disclosure system:

11987_1007269949320186_6557017595173577508_nFirst off, November Snow was rated YA(m) – Young Adult Mature – which means it’s written for a mature young adult audience.

Romance: 2: The romance picks up in book 2, compared to book 1.

Violence: 5: Also, no surprise here. Bad Bloods is a fairly violent duology, revolving around a political debate eradicating an entire group of people, which mainly consists of homeless children…but I promise you, the violence is not as graphic as the original book? Okay. That’s not saying much. But there is meaning behind it. The violence isn’t gratuitous.

Language: 3: Still cursing a little bit…but I mean, you’re talking about kids trying to NOT be killed all the time, so let’s give them break, yeah?

Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking: 0: No drug or alcohol use in the second part of the duology.

The #1lineWed preview was lines from page 23 or 123. This line is from page 23.

He confessed it like secrets were simply to share.

Add Bad Bloods to Goodreads: November Rain and November Snow

Visit the Facebook, Pinterest, and the Extras page.

Coming soon!

Coming soon!

What I’m Reading:

I’m reading The Young Elites by Marie Lu! I’m almost finished, and I must say, I definitely love Marie Lu. I was also envious of her trip to Tokyo this past week with Amie Kaufman, author of These Broken Stars (which I also loved). I mean, they went to an owl café. An OWL CAFÉ. This is one of my ultimate dreams. I’m dying of owl envy.

What I’m Listening To:

MxdXdQrTLore is my latest podcast obsession. It’s a bit like Myths & Legends, but shorter and creepier. Lore also focuses on overall myths, like vampires/werewolves, while Myths & Legends discusses tales like King Arthur. I highly recommend both of them.

What I’m Watching:

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime—a.k.a. Snow White with the Red Hair—which happens to be one of my favorite mangas. I had no idea it’d been made into an anime, so I binge-watched season one, and I’m enjoying season two now that it’s releasing. Love them! And Louie. I watched that, too.

การ์ตูน-Fairy-Tail-Zero-ภาคพิเศษต้นกำเนิดเรื่องราวกิลด์จอมเวทย์แฟรี่เทล-280x1722

What I’m Baking, Making, and Drinking:

I learned how to make homemade spaghetti sauce, which was awesome…and very messy when I accidentally dropped some of the tomato puree on the kitchen floor.

What I’m Wearing:

10399523_1009113812469133_5506393239089674635_nShorts one day and coats the next. Seriously. This winter-to-spring weather is a strange mix of sunshine and misery.

What I’m Wanting:

A new desk! Preferably a larger one. One that will allow me to write on notebook paper and type on my computer at the same time…Oh! And hold coffee. I would REALLY like a nice bookshelf, too, since well—and don’t hate me—my books are sitting on the floor. I have yet to move my bookshelves from my second-to-last move. What can I say? I move a lot.

What I’m Dreaming Of:

I bought a new cat, and I named it Happy…after my broomstick, also named Happy, because sweeping made me happy? (I don’t know.) But then my friend showed up and also bought a cat, and upon hearing my name for my new cat, she named her new cat Happy…and none of this made me happy at all.

What Else Is Going On:

Death Before Daylight is on sale for $3.99 right now! That’s pretty neat. That means you can read the entire Timely Death Trilogy for only $8.00…which costs less than one of those novelty horse masks. You know. Those ones.

~SAT

To celebrate, the sale of Death Before Daylight, here’s an excerpt!

DBDcoverShe moved again, barely, but she moved. “I can handle myself in a fight.”

“You’re okay in a fight,” I teased, watching the aggravation flicker over her gaze.

She squirmed again, trying to kick my leg with her boot. “Okay?” she repeated. “Just okay? I do better than okay.” She wasn’t lying. “You would be nothing without my help.”

“Oh, low blows,” I sang, forcing her shadows to solidify again. “You are mad.”

“I’m determined,” she corrected.

“I never argued with you,” I pointed out. “You make me who I am. I wouldn’t be anything without you.”

“Aw,” she cooed, smiling at my words, but right when I thought she was enjoying our time together, she swung her leg over and knocked my torso off her. This time, she was the one on top. “I win.”

I winced, stretching my neck to breathe. “You know, most girlfriends would have thought that was romantic.”

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#WritingTips Choosing a Setting

1 Feb

Every Monday, I recover previous posts that were popular, but I tackle them in a whole new way. Today, I’m covering how to choose a setting for your novel or poem or short story or whatever you’re writing. The original post, Setting: Picking a Location, can be read by clicking the link, and it covers other aspects to keep in mind, but today, I only want to tackle two ideas: real-world settings and imaginary ones.

1. Real-World Settings: Write What You Know or Research

When you’re writing about a place in the real world, you honestly have two options: write what you know or write after you research extensively. This is especially true if you’re writing a historical piece, but that’s a completely different topic to cover, so I’m basically talking about the here and now. If you’re making a decision, don’t pick what is easiest. Instead, pick what is right for your story. In fact, you might have to write your story’s first draft to realize what type of setting you need, and that’s perfectly okay. As long as you figure out what you need and where you need to go, do it the way that feels right to you as a writer. But once you know what you need, you can start researching. I always suggest considering places you already know, but I am probably biased because I moved all around the country as a kid, so I have a plethora of places to consider. That being said, you can always travel too, but please don’t think you MUST travel in order to write about a place. While Ally Carter does travel a lot—and bases many of her books on those places—she also says, “I try and try and try to get people to believe me when I say that my job is basically looking at a whiteboard covered with sticky notes and/or a computer and/or big stacks of paper all day long.” This is how picking a setting (or any part of your novel) is going to go. Research and think and research again. Even better? Research is SO easy nowadays. You can even talk to someone from that exact location if you want to. All you have to do is join a forum. One thing I’ve always loved is pretending I’m moving there. (If I play “your life is about to change dramatically,” it forces me to take it very, very seriously.) Look at the setting via Google Maps, read a travel guide, research schools, check out the town’s official website, talk to people who live there or have in the least been there. You can do it. Look at it this way, if you can spend months writing about it, you can take a week or three reading about it. One of my favorite tools—even just for fun reading—is Earth Album. You just click, and voila! Pictures of the location and the name, so you can start Googling. If you click on the picture too, it will generally send you to the source of the image so you can research it in-depth. It’s a good place to start.

A screenshot of Earth Album

A screenshot of Earth Album

Fun fact: Although not a real town, Haysworth, Kansas in The Timely Death Trilogy was a combination of two towns in Kansas: Hays and Ellsworth—both of which I’ve been to. I also lived in Kansas for seven years, so I was very familiar with the landscape, laws, people, beliefs, etc., and I wanted to have a paranormal story take place in the Midwest, especially since the Midwest is underrepresented in paranormal YA (actually in YA in general)…despite the fact that we have a gate to hell in Stull. (Google it. It’s a big deal to us Kansans…even though I’m a Missourian now.)

2. Imaginary Settings: World-Building and Map-Making

I could write an entire month’s worth of blog posts about world building, so this is going to be ridiculously brief, but I hope it’s a place to start. Just like the above option, I think it’s most important to figure out what your story needs first, but once you have that, you can start building. Again, that doesn’t mean I think you have to know all of this before you write. You can write the entire story to figure it out, and then, change everything in editing. Personally, I like building from the little details to the bigger ones, which I know is the opposite of many writers, but that’s okay, because I figured out what worked for me. (Most of my writing tips, you might notice, revolve around the idea of figuring out who you are as a writer.) I start with the story details, and I work my way up to a giant map. This way, I have my “rules” in place. I have the political systems, the social expectations, the movements, the beliefs, the types of people, the places, etc. Now, if you want to start with a map first, I’d suggest studying maps. See how they are drawn and draw yours. If you want something random, watch this YouTube video. It’s freakin’ awesome, and it’s an easy way to get all different types of terrain on various landscapes.

Personally, I am in the process of writing an epic fantasy, and I did it the old-school way: a piece of paper and a pen and a bunch of sticky notes. My living room was covered. (Because that’s what works for me.) Overall, it’s important to create a world just as rich and diverse as our world is today. Even if it’s a walled-in city, different types of people and beliefs will exist. Don’t sell your world short. Explore it, take notes on it, explore it some more. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to include every little detail of your imaginary world in your book (especially not in the first chapter), but knowing as much as possible can help fine-tune your voice and your characters. If you’re going to take inspiration from history, be honest but be respectful. That means being diligent. Be everything you’d want a future writer to be in regards to if they took inspiration from your lifetime or your country. Create a world we’ve never seen before.

Fun fact: Take Me Tomorrow and November Rain both take place in the near-future U.S., but were built very differently. The Tomo Trilogy takes place throughout the entire country, while Bad Bloods takes place in one walled-in city. While Take Me Tomorrow was largely built around rail transportation in the U.S., November Rain was built on a real city I never actually name in the story (but I do give hints as to what it is). The epic fantasy I mentioned above doesn’t take place in this world at all. That took a lot more time and consideration to create, but it was well worth it in the end.

Create, and create well. And, of course, have fun.

~SAT

Come get your books signed on February 13, from 1-3 PM during the Barnes & Noble Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas at Bradley Fair. Come meet Tamara GranthamCandice GilmerTheresa Romain, Jan Schliesman, and Angi Morgan! If you haven’t started The Timely Death Trilogy, don’t worry. Minutes Before Sunset, book 1, is free!

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