Staying Motivated to Write

Being a writer is hard work. An experienced writer will have a ton of ideas raging through their head, several works in progress at any one time, social media updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, their website to maintain, their own blogging, etc.

You, on the other hand, are new. You’re just trying to write and finish that one book, but you keep running into motivation problems. How do published authors do it? How do they keep themselves going day-in, day-out? Here are some tips:

1. Avoid Burnout – don’t write every day. You constantly hear this piece of advice, “Write every day.” DON’T. I personally have found the people that scream the most are wannabe authors. Let me ask you: are you supposed to exercise every day? No. Why? Because you risk injury to your muscles from over-exercising. Writing is the same way. In addition to that bad case of carpal tunnel, you wear yourself out by constantly thinking in pushing a story through instead of giving your brain time to absorb and think about what you wrote. You’ll burn yourself out. Give your brain a day off.

2. Set realistic expectations. Successful authors set goals for themselves that are attainable. One of the things I’ve seen new authors flame out is because they possessed unrealistic expectations. They got a really awesome idea for a book. They may even plot out the whole thing, did character sheets, created a small story-bible of how magic, religion, and how the world works, and then after writing a couple of chapters, they are done. Why? They had an image of them writing their novel in 30 days or maybe writing 3,000 words a day, but they didn’t come anywhere near that. Second, the “honeymoon” with the novel’s plot wears off and now begins the tedium of actually writing out the story. Writing is an endurance sport.  If you’re trying to cut your teeth in this field, start small. Practice. Dragon Soul Press offers opportunities for new authors to submit short stories around six times a year.

https://dragonsoulpress.com/anthologies/

3. Read about the learning the craft. On your “days off,” read blogs or watch YouTube videos about writing. There are many talented people out there. If you read or watch them, you’ll find yourself inspired.

4. Good feedback pushes you closer to the goal! What separates an amateur from a professional author is their ability to handle criticism or whether they ask for it. An amateur won’t solicit for criticism on their work or when they do, they expect glowing praise. A professional will always strive to ask for feedback and when they are told their WIP has problems in X, Y, and Z, you know what they do? They dive right in! Good feedback that is used with tact will always motivate you to push yourself to a new height and a new challenge. An example of this was when I was going through a second round of critiques on Fallen From the Stars. One of my readers posed a serious question about a supporting character and couldn’t make a connection. Eureka! He was right! I went back and added three more chapters just to create the build-up, tension, battle, and resolution  for that supporting character. Result? It eliminated a “dry spell” in that part of the book and added a level of tension and drama not expected.

5. Love the tedium (or at least put up with it). Congratulations! You finished that book! You managed to crank out 100k words and to you, it’s done! However, in reality, it’s not done because you now need to get feedback on it, but before you do that, you need to edit it. Edit, yeah, that word. You know, make it readable for the rest of us. Another amateur mistake I’ve seen a lot of indie authors make is they will not edit their own work. They will run it through spellcheck or maybe Grammarly and then boom, they think they are done. They then format the book and hit the publish button on Amazon. Editing is a part of life. You have to do it. If you love it like I do (I have an unhealthy obsession with it), then tasks like these actually help you cope with the melancholy that comes after you finish the first draft. Even if you don’t love it, at least put up with it.

Regarding amateurs, some hate editing with all capital letters. Once the fun part of the craft actually turns into work, that can deflate motivation quickly. Once a writer realizes they’re only producing crap, they give up and blog about being a professional author or something like that.

There are many other tips on how to stay motivated to write, but with a good mindset, understanding how writing is all about endurance, and good encouragement, then receiving a check at the end of the month is just icing on the cake.

Happy writing!

A Good Writing Prompt Method to Help You

There are times when we all need a boost of inspiration. Writing a book is a mentally draining experience. It even takes more energy to continue to present a fresh story every time you produce something new. The last thing you want your die-hard fans to say is that you’re rehashing old stories, characters, and plots into something slightly different.

If you’re really out of ideas, do what I call a picture method.

Look at this picture I pulled from Pinterest:

Now, ask yourself some questions about the picture:

  1. Who is she?
  2. Who is the man with the hands out?
  3. What is the woman doing other than casting some kind of spell or maybe offering a magic item?
  4. Who are the men behind her?

Think about twenty to thirty questions to ask about this picture. Just the questions! Maybe get your close friends to help you.

That’s just to get you started, so now we need to start answering those questions:

  1. The woman is a queen, the men in the background are her vassals, the dukes of the queendom’s parliament.
  2. The man is the protagonist of the story, but she’s casting a spell to execute him. Let’s take this a step further. She’s the man’s sister, but she’s not the villain of the story.
  3. This is taking place in a temple of their gods. Their gods are living, interactive beings who have called for the man’s death.

So what’s at stake? Why is the Queen executing her brother?

  1. Because he is a threat to her claim to the throne. Their mother recently passed away and it is the culture of this nation that siblings are required to eliminate all other claimants. He doesn’t want to fight and kill his sister, so he surrenders.
  2. Why are they battling again? Because the Queen Mother died. Many people think the Queen Mother died of old age, but she was assassinated. The power behind the assassination was one of the dukes who sees one of the siblings as a puppet to manipulate for his own ends.
  3. The duke himself has an alliance with another nation who have long since suffered under the Queen Mother’s yoke. They are trying to break free from her influence and maybe renegotiate with a weaker ruler.

Now you have the basics of a plot — a foreign power along with a duke assassinates the Queen Mother, sparking the political maneuvering culminating into a final battle between the prince and princess for the throne.

Happy writing!

 

Tighten Up Your Story: Dealing With Filler

One of the problems with amateur writers is that they tend to overwrite their narratives. Some of the bigger and more obvious examples are involving new characters who are undeveloped and don’t serve much of a purpose, a side arc that is introduced, but never resolved, unnecessary scenes, and purple prose used for mundane scenes. Those are the big problems. The small ones are using words that carry little to no meaning to the overall prose or narration of the story. Certain words can be filler too. In today’s post, we will discuss filler words. Note: this is in regards to the narrative, not dialogue. If your characters speak using the standard sentence structure of 21st Century English, it’s perfectly okay for your character to say, “Next thing I knew, this guy suddenly slaps me in the face!” But I show you how this is boring in the narrative.

Why get rid of filler words when it’s just a word here and there?

Simple. Imagine your reader enjoying one of your action scenes of a pivotal battle between a knight and the renegade king’s guards. You write this:

Suddenly, the knight let out a scream as the guard’s blade struck out, driving deeply. He gritted his teeth as he saw three more men unsheathed steel, joining in the battle. The knight countered and the guard let out a dying scream as the magical sword punched through the man’s armor.

Abruptly, the knight heard the sound of boots thundering down the hall toward him, the battle far from over.

Bad Adverbs of Instant Action

Suddenly, immediately, abruptly, slowly, and quickly are adverbs of instant action. And they are useless. Pathetically, unequivocally useless. In the above example, There is a battle being waged. Of course, everything will move as fast as possible. So the words “suddenly” and “abruptly” are pointless. Get rid of them.

Verb + out = filler

Cry out, let out, screamed out, shouted out, are examples frequently used by amateur writers and even some experienced ones.

“…the knight let out a scream…” Why use this? Why not, “The knight screamed as the guard’s blade struck”

“…the guard let out a dying scream…” Let’s replace with “…the guard howled his death throes as…”

I saw, I heard, I knew, I kicked butt

The words “saw” (and all its variants and synonyms), “heard,” and “knew” are useless words in about 99% of all cases.

“….the knight gritted his teeth as he saw three more men…” Replace with, “…three more men…”

“…the knight heard the sound of boots…” Let’s rewrite it to “The sound of boots thundered down the hall…”

Here are some more examples:

“Jack saw the man draw his gun.” Go with, “The man drew his gun.”

“Margaret heard a moan in the closet.” Go with, “Someone within the closet moaned.”

Let’s clean up our original example, shall we?

The knight screamed as the guard’s blade struck, driving deeply. He gritted his teeth as three more men unsheathed steel, joining in the battle. He countered, the guard howling his death throes as the magical sword punched through the man’s armor.

The sound of boots thundered down the hall toward him, the battle far from over.  

Happy Writing!

How to Kill Passive Voice

One of the biggest mistakes amateur writers make when submitting proposals to Dragon Soul Press (DSP) is Voice. It’s passive. As such, Passive Voice does two things that hurts your story.

First, it tends to have more telling and not enough showing. You may have heard this expression, “Show, do not tell.” If you have Passive Voice, you’re likely telling. Here’s an example.

Wyntiir was angry, her face a virtual snarl.

The first part of this sentence is, “Wyntiir was angry.” You told us she became angry—just like that. Let’s do it again.

A fire erupted within Wyntiir’s chest, her face a virtual snarl.

Now the whole sentence reads of her anger and it’s up to us just how angry she feels, but at this point, we get a stronger picture that Wyntiir is frothing mad. If we added more description, that picture gets stronger, but we don’t want to overdo unless her anger is pivotal in a scene or chapter.

The second thing Passive Voice does is creates a bland story or bland action. A lot of great action scenes could be written if the author simply takes the time to clean up their passive verbs. Here’s an example of a bland scene using Passive Voice:

Wyntiir was angry, her face a virtual snarl.

Becoming bored, Samdel yawned. Wyntiir was like this to him all the time.

“Wolf-biter!” she screamed but turned away. She saw the body again. The man before them was clearly dead, rotting away.

All of this is not good and if you have a ton of scenes written like this, it could throw your reader off or worse, bore them to tears.

How to fix it

Fixing Passive Voice is not that hard and actually can be quite enjoyable in the editing phases of your draft.

  1. Get rid of as many passive verbs as possible. Google passive verbs or helping verbs but here is a short list—was, is, are, were, had, to be, being, has been, been, had been. Rewrite your sentences using strong active verbs. In the above example, we replaced the verb “was” with “erupted” and rewrote the sentence.
  2. Don’t use emotive words at all in your story. Look for all the words that is clearly an emotion— happy, angry, sad, depressed, stoic, etc. Describe those emotions through actions, dialogue, and/or body language.
  3. Get rid of filler words tagged with verbs. Cry out, let out, screamed out are common examples. Instead of, “He cried out a sob,” use, “He sobbed.”
  4. Get rid of filler verbs such as saw, heard, knew, notice, recognize. 99% of the time these verbs are unnecessary. Instead of, “The next thing I knew, I saw a man approach me with a gun,” use, “A man approached me with a gun.”

How to Write a Proposal

On an earlier post by Dragonqueen, she writes a general guide on how to submit to a publisher. Here, I’ll give you a live example using my ninth novel, The Ties That Bind to walk you through each part.

Before we start, you’ll see a lot of services geared toward writing that “perfect proposal.” Most of those services are crap and just another way of getting you to part with your money. There are only two rules to follow when writing a proposal.

The first is to follow directions exactly to the letter from the publisher. If the publisher says they want five comparative works to yours, you provide five. You do not provide three, four, or six. It’s five. If they tell you they want your proposal on a Word doc in Times New Roman font 12 with 1″ margins, do it. Publishers have these rules in place to make it easy for them to read, format or do their work. They have to sift through piles of garbage to get to that one gem in their slush pile. Don’t create garbage simply by failing to follow directions. Dragon Soul Press is no exception and they specifically tell you that following directions is paramount.

The second is to be yourself. Don’t kill yourself trying to optimize your perfect word count or coming up with that super-awesome hook to grab the editor’s attention. Yes, spend some time on it, but write it, proofread it, get a couple of your buddies to critique it, and move on. Odds are more in your favor if you wrote something easy to read to get those eyes from your proposal to the actual sample of your writing. Trying to be cute or clever endears you to no one and is tantamount to people who believe in sending in typed resumes on pink stationery sprayed with perfume.

See? I just saved you a couple hundred bucks. Okay, let’s get to each component with examples.

One sentence summary – this is fairly explanatory (actually I wrote a post on it). Write the point of your book in roughly twenty-five words or less.

A man from our world is caught in a race war between werewolf shifters and demons, confronting an ancient power seeking release upon the rise of the Harvest Moon.

Now, we get into the pitch of your story. Dragon Soul Press states to spend only a whole paragraph. There are many parts of a pitch, but since the story is urban fantasy, let’s challenge some assumptions the editor might have made upon reading your blurb.

What if earth is just one of many dimensions of a great realm of different possibilities? A realm where elves, fae, shifters, demons, angels, and other creatures were real? Enter this story, The Ties That Bind, where our hero crosses through a Rift and discovers he is only part of many different realities that is beginning to fracture like a house made of glass.

Let’s run through a final example that publishers and literary agents love to ask for and that is comparative works. While Dragon Soul Press doesn’t ask for this, they do want to know the genre, so bear this in mind. Are you writing fantasy? If yes, what kind? Urban fantasy, steampunk, grimdark, hopepunk, epic, or quest fantasy are just a few of the subgenres.

The Ties That Bind is clearly urban fantasy (our modern world surrounded by many elements common to fantasy-other races, magic, gods, etc.). It’s also portal fiction (the main character from our world, but winds up in a different world and reality). Now that we know this, let’s find our five examples:

1. The Magicians Trilogy
2. The Seventh Sword series
3. Guilty Pleasures (Laurell K. Hamilton)
4. Moon Called (Patricia Briggs)
5. Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman)


Having trouble choosing a specific genre? There’s an article for that as well.

Don’t fall for services that try to sell you that perfect way to sell your proposal. Save that money for marketing and promotion. Follow directions, be yourself, put some effort into your proposal, and you’ll do fine if you truly have a top-notch story to pitch.

Happy Writing!