Demystifying Plotting Part 2 of 2

In the last post, I discuss how plotting is not as hard as it sounds so long as you don’t make it as hard. The whole point of it is to just jot down ideas and points of each part of the story. Don’t worry about cohesion, theme, or twists. Just write down each piece and then move on.

In this lengthy post, we’ll run through an example.

I write down my overall plot: A knight journeys across the lands to slay the dragon who has kidnapped the princess.

See? Already, you know how this story starts in the beginning and the end. At the beginning, the dragon comes, lays the smack down on the castle, snatches Princess Peach, and then absconds with her. The king sends the knight to go kill it and get his daughter back. At the ending, we know the knight is fighting the dragon, kills it, and takes Princess Peach back home to live happily ever after. But what’s in the middle? Umm … well, he journeys there, and that’s what we need to figure out. Second, let’s back up a little bit. Is there anything we can do to set the story up before the dragon attacks? For example, does the dragon have to be the be-all, end-all of villains?

Yes, we can!

Let’s have a dragon goddess unleash a terrible dragon upon the mortals. She does this because at one time, the lesser races worshipped her and the dragons. She desires those Ye Olde Tymes to return. Also, it comes at a moment when humanity, along with the other races are ready to war with one another.

Chapter 1. The Dragon Goddess summons the Black Dragon. Commands her most powerful minion to kidnap the princess.

Chapter 2. The King argues with the Elven and Dwarven delegates about a potential treaty. The delegates angrily deride the King. They leave. The reader knows war is coming as already skirmishes have been fought.

Chapter 3. The Outlying Fortress that is guarding the Wastelands is destroyed by a flock of dragons. The Black Dragon flies toward the kingdom.

Chapter 4. The dragon attacks the castle, captures Princess Peach, kills the Queen trying to save her daughter.

Chapter 5. The Aftermath. The king mourns his wife, and summons the most fabled knight of all the lands to kill the dragon.

Chapter 6, 7, 8, 9 …. uhh …. stuff …

Chapter 25. The knight fights the dragon before the Gate to the Dragon Goddess’ realm is opened.

Chapter 26. The mortal races are united, treaties are signed, and the knight and the princess get married.

Okay, now we have an epic fantasy on our hands. Already, we have five chapters at the beginning and he haven’t introduced our hero yet! Some blogs will say that’s not a good idea. Right now, we don’t care. What we care about is just getting all twenty-six chapter ideas out. The fine-tuning comes later. The plot twists come later.

What do we do next? Well, we need to introduce the knight in the next chapter.

Chapter 6. The knight is at a tavern, drunk, mourning his dead wife and youngest child of six years from an orc raid while he was off seeking treasure. He argues with his surviving son, who leaves him to join the war against the elves and dwarves.

Chapter 7. A servant summons the knight to the king’s castle. The knight tells him to eff off. Dragonkin, along with other monsters, attack the village and end up killing his son and most of the village before being driven back by the knight’s awesome fighting skills. The knight resolves to fight.

Now, the knight has entered the arena and our story is shaping up. We know he has to go to the castle, get his quest from the king, then journey to the Dragon’s land for the final battle. We think about it a little more and realize the knight needs resources in order to fight. Let’s pull out all the stops—magic, people, treasure, everything. The knight needs it all and he needs allies in order to do it! Let’s start with an expression, “Sometimes, politics makes strange bedfellows.” So, we’re focusing on the knight building an army to fight the dragon.

Chapter 8. The knight receives his commission at the castle. He travels north into monster-infested lands and meets with the cabal of wizards. They will aid the knight on condition on getting the dragon parts solely for their research. He agrees.

Chapter 9. The Dragon Goddess comes to the elves, promises them they will be favored servants. They agree, but some in the Council do not like the idea. The Goddess goes to the dwarves, they rebuff her.

Chapter 10. The dragons attack en masse on the dwarven holds. They are wiped out, but the dragons are spent.

Chapter 11. The knight travels to the barbarian lands of the Bear People. They love battle and one bear is worth ten human men. However, they live in squalor in lands fouled by magic. The knight negotiates a deal for the Bear People to migrate south to better arable land. They armor up and march.

Chapter 12. The Dragon Goddess delivers an ultimatum to the King and the rest of humanity. Bow on bended knee or be wiped out starting with the princess. The king refuses. It’s on.

Chapter 13. The knight, Bear People, and wizards encounter their first major battle against the elves. The elves are defeated, but the knight is severely wounded and may not live.

Chapter 14. Some of the elves throw in their lot with the knight in exchange for assistance to usurp the existing Council. The knight agrees.

Chapter 15. The knight and his army is repelled by the dragonkin and some guardian dragons.

Chapter 16. The knight quests to find an ancient sword and shield to bolster the power of his army.

Chapter 17. The knight slays the lich guarding the powerful artifacts, but is betrayed by the wizards. He is rescued some Bear People and elves.

Chapter 18. The Dragon Goddess appears before the knight and offers a deal with him. Serve her and she will make him a king. He refuses.

Chapter 19. Battle at the Dragon Border Part 2. The knight wins.

Chapter 20. The elves begin to fight among themselves. A civil war erupts. Despite this, they start overrunning the human kingdom.

Chapter 21. The remnants of the dwarves come to the humanity’s defense. The elves are finally defeated and driven back.

Chapter 22. The surviving members of the wizards come to the Dragon Goddess’ defense and begin preparations to open the Gate to allow the goddess to come to the realm. If she does, nothing can oppose her as she will be a living god.

Chapter 23. The knight is captured and tortured. His closest friends come and rescue him.

Chapter 24. The knight and his army meets the dragons and dragonkin at the Great Castle. The Great Castle falls, and the knight storms his way to the deep dungeons below to fight the Black Dragon.

Chapter 25. The knight fights the Black Dragon before the Gate to the Dragon Goddess’ realm is opened.

Chapter 26. The mortal races are united, treaties are signed, and the knight and the princess get married.

Epilogue: Several years later. The princess is in labor and gives birth to a dragon. The goddess’ plans are complete.

So, does any of this seem rushed? Of course. It’s a rough outline, but guess what? You now have the middle. Could any of this be more developed? Yes, definitely! Once you start getting into the chronology and pacing of the book, you’re going to find out that you’ll need to bring in more chapters, more subarcs, or maybe make cuts to the outline (like introducing the wizards is too much).

After that, you can think about twists and shoring up any story themes; however, you don’t have to do any of that, because with this outline now, you can actually start writing and let those components reveal themselves.

In conclusion, you now know how to plot without having to go crazy.

Happy writing!

Author Interview with Melinda Kucsera

Dragon Soul Press had the privilege of sitting down to interview Author Melinda Kucsera.


How long have you been writing?

Melinda has been writing fantastic short stories, novels, and books when not being kidnapped by dragons or chased by armies of fictional creatures. (Her characters do, on occasion, rescue her.) She leaves the running of her newsletter to the cast of lovable characters who hog her inbox AND handle all her interviews for her. ❤

Enough about Melinda, it’s us you’re really interested in, her cast of characters! 🙂 Join us every week for a new story by visiting: www.mkucsera.com/welcomecharacters

When Melinda is left alone, she writes mostly about a young man (Sarn) and his adorable son (Ran) who might be one of the characters responding to this interview. They adventure together through a fantastic world full of enchanted people and things and take on all kinds of monsters and mayhem. It’s all in a day’s work when you live steps away from an enchanted forest.

Oh, and, we have a special portal in our cave that connects to your world and gives us exclusive access to our scribe whenever we feel an adventure coming on. You can grab the first four books of the Curse Breaker series here: https://www.books2read.com/b/bP516z

Join us on an adventure now. 

What inspires you?

Well, since I and my fellow cast members are real people living in a real, though, fantastic world, we are Melinda’s inspiration. This is Ran, son of Sarn, the Curse Breaker in the Curse Breaker books.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I was explaining our reality to you. 😊

Since we only exist when you read us, getting more page time is essential. It’s literally a matter of life and death for us. So, we must make sure our Scribe, Melinda, is continuously inspired.

That’s why there’s a line outside her door full of prospective characters, and each has a story to tell. We must bar the doors, or she’d never get any books done. There are that many stories breaking down her door.

Good thing there’s this handy portal in her apartment. When the queue gets too rambunctious and threatens to break down her door, we spirit her away to our world. Then all Melinda needs to do is write down our adventures as we live them.

Through some alchemical process, books are created from our running amok in fantasy land. You’ll have to ask our Melinda about that process because we have nothing to do with it. Our job is to get that all-important page time, and we’re really good at that.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?

Woah there, hold up a minute. Other people aren’t allowed to influence our Scribe. Melinda’s apartment is a no-influence zone. Seriously. We don’t allow anyone to mess with her process. Somehow, she can see what goes on in our world even when we don’t kidnap her. Chronicling that mayhem doesn’t require any influence except occasionally from us when she does silly things like try to outline our adventures.

No one’s life has ever followed a script exactly, and neither do ours. We do what we’re going to do and trust her to capture it in words. Isn’t that the coolest thing ever?

The cast of her books certainly thinks so, but we might be a tad biased. There’s a book coming out soon that illustrates just how Melinda can see our world, and how characters like me can cross over to your world. It’ll be called Curse Breaker’s Companion: Catch the Scribe (because that’s what we’ll be doing in that book). 

One last thing before I move off this topic. I might have borrowed Melinda’s computer to type up this interview. Don’t tell her about that, okay? She gets upset if we drop in when she’s not home.  

What do you like to read in your free time?

Our Scribe buys the deal of the day on audible most days, so her taste in books ranges wildly from fantasy to science fiction to physics books to lectures on all manner of topics to mysteries, thrillers, true crime and so on. She’ll basically listen to anything that’s not a bodice-ripping romance or a horror story.

I might be a child in a fictional story, but I often borrow her cellphone to keep in touch with readers through Melinda’s social media accounts. So, she doesn’t listen to anything that’s overtly sexual, very scary, or too violent in case I accidentally overhear it. She particularly likes mysteries, hard sci-fi especially when the hard sci-fi is blended with military fiction, and police procedurals. She cannot read enough of those last two.

What projects are you working on at the present?

Melinda’s working on a new series that’s really close to her heart. It’s a mother-daughter fantasy series called Robin of Larkspur. It begins with Hunter’s Night, part of the Rogue Skies: A Limited Edition Science Fiction and Fantasy Boxed Set. Grab it now while it’s on preorder for a buck: https://www.books2read.com/rogueskies then get ready for Rogue Night, the explosive sequel.

Details about Rogue Night can be found here: https://melindakucsera.com/rogue-night/ It will publish around the same time as Hunter’s Night/Rogue Skies, so you won’t have to wait like our editor and our beta readers to find out what happens next. 

Both books feature me as an adorable baby. In Hunter’s Night, I get kidnapped and need a rescue, but Papa needs help to take me back from my supernatural kidnappers. Too bad they also nabbed Robin’s baby because she’s one formidable lady. She and Papa team up in Rogue Night to get me and her daughter back. So do check those books out. 

As of right now, Melinda’s still editing it and dithering about sending it in. It’s darker than what she usually writes, so she’s doing the insecure author thing. Don’t worry. I’ll submit it for her if she procrastinates too long.

I think it’s a great story and she already has the next two episodes planned out, one for each of the next two Dragon Soul Press Anthologies, Lost Love and Reign of Queens

What impact have they had on your writing?

That’s a great question. Hunter’s Night/Rogue Skies and Sealed in Blood had a profound impact actually. Since they had iron-clad word limits, our intrepid Scribe had to learn how to pause our shenanigans.

We did not enjoy being paused. I just have to get that off my chest. It made me all itchy, but it was for a good cause.

Adventures tend to lead to other adventures, which is great for real life but not so great in a book that has an iron-clad word limit. But adventures in real life don’t have limits on length.

So it took our scribe, Melinda, some time and trials to learn how to stop us from haring off on another adventure long enough to end one the book and start another. Of course, we’ve been learning from her too. Just because a book has an end doesn’t mean it’s THE END.

We can always sneak in new scenes and get more page time during the editing rounds because Melinda always leaves a few thousand words in reserve. The cast might be sharpening this skill as we speak. Just don’t tell Melinda. She hasn’t caught on yet.  

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? (If you write more than one, how do you balance them?)

Melinda didn’t really choose to write fantasy. We chose her to be our Scribe. 😊 We really do kidnap her, and armies of fantastic creatures really do show up at her home and office to demand a story. Usually, a chase ensues because there are a lot of them and only one Melinda, and sometimes, her job requires her to do work that has nothing to do with writing fantasy books.

But our Scribe also needs her exercise to stay fit, right? We ensure she puts plenty of mileage on her much-abused sneakers every day. 😊

So given all of that, what’s a scribe to do but jot down the stories that fall into her lap and publish them? Then everyone wins especially us, her characters. Remember, we only exist when you read us, so getting that all-important page time is a matter of life and death.

What is the hardest part of writing?

Controlling our Newsletter-Dragon. No, I’m serious. Our newsletter subscribers are her horde, and she’s unbelievably demanding when it comes to newsletter stuff. She eats up so much of our Scribe’s time that could be devoted to chronicling our adventures.

The worst part is that we’re stuck in limbo every time the Newsletter-Dragon misbehaves, and she’s been cozying up to the eBook-Dragons that deliver our eBooks to stores!

I know. I see it too. A confrontation is coming between us, Melinda’s characters, and that damned dragon. It draws nearer with every episode of our newsletter. Watch our newsletter for it because that’s where it will play out, and this time, it’ll be a war between us.

You can sign up here to get our weekly adventures in your inbox: http://www.mkucsera.com/welcomecharacters Our dragon will horde your email address. No one will ever lay their hands on it. Not even us, its stars.

Where can readers learn more about you?

 Our website, of course: https://melindakucsera.com/

Check out all our books here: https://melindakucsera.com/the-curse-breaker-saga/

We also have past episodes of our newsletter adventures arranged chronologically here: https://melindakucsera.com/blog/ but our newsletter goes back to 2016. So, fans of it (and its stars) convinced our Scribe to novelize the earliest episodes, so readers don’t have to try to find them.

Since our website is digital and so is our dragon, she regularly messes with it. Those older episodes are there, but they’re not easy to find. Our Scribe has written about 4-5 novel-length adventures for us that took place exclusively in our newsletter over the years.

So, they’re coming to eBook in 2020. No more searching for them. They’ll publish as part of a companion series under the aptly titled, Curse Breaker’s Companion.  Take that you, dragon! Problem solved. 😊

We’re also on social media, but the best way to follow us is to subscribe to our weekly adventures: http://www.mkucsera.com/welcomecharacters

And that’s a wrap. This is Ran, son of Sarn, writing on behalf of the cast and our Scribe, Melinda, signing off. Have a great day!

Creating Good Female Villains

One thing I don’t like in fiction is female villains. A lot of their motivations tend to be cliche or at worst, misogynistic. It’s irritating that women villains cannot possess the same motivations of their male counterparts.

Here is a short post on helping you craft better female villains. I don’t say good because you still need to have good characterization as a skill, but if you get the motivation right, your villain will at least be better.

Cliche motivations for female villains are anything of the following:

  1. Anything related to “women’s issues.” The glass ceiling, relationships, unequal pay, domestic abuse, falling in love with a male Bad Boy, etc. Don’t use these issues as motivation to make the woman bad.
  2. “Amazon Women from Mars” or something along the lines of Women vs. Men in a misogynistic way.
  3. “Queen Bitch.” The female is a villain simply because she has power/money/magic, etc.

To have a motivation that doesn’t fall into these kind of traps, think of the tropes heroines are motivated to pursue and simply make the consequences of their actions bad. Despite this, they continue their goals.

For example: A super heroine pounds the living tar out of some bad guys who are trying to fire a laser at a nuclear plant thus making the Chernobyl disaster a walk in the park. Heroine saves the day. End of story. The villainess does the same thing. The bad guys die along with the support personnel who had no idea they were working on a laser to destroy a nuclear plant. This turns into a legal nightmare for the government who have a duty to enforce the law.

If this was a super heroine, she would probably hang up her cape and call it a day or mend her ways. The villainess won’t. The ends justify the means—after all, innocent lives were at stake. She does it again, this time to low-life bank robbers, then muggers, then to some teenagers vandalizing a beautiful park because she can’t control her strength (and doesn’t really care to). Sooner or later, the government has enough and puts resources to have her arrested.

The villainess now fights the government, the police, the National Guard, etc. She rationalizes they are nothing more than a system of control and the best way to deal with it is to destroy it.

One of the things that makes for a great villain is the ability to rationalize their actions in small steps, but it scales up. Real life crook Bernie Madoff didn’t wake up one morning and decided, “I’m going to create the biggest fraud in history today!” No, he altered a trade sheet here and there. He obtained and spent a $250k meant for investments here and there. He continued until he racked up billions in fraud. If he was caught in his very first year of defrauding investors, he would probably be out of prison by now. Change the gender and now you have a female villain whose primary motivation is greed, starts small, and then it builds up.

Happy Writing!

Introducing Author P.D. Dennison

Dragon Soul Press proudly announces Author P.D. Dennison and his upcoming dark fantasy series, Legends from the Land of Shaarn.


If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I would tell myself to be more diligent, to write more often and not to let outside interferences get in the way of my dream of getting published. I was always told I’d probably never get published and wouldn’t make any money as a writer so I kept it as a “once in a while,” hobby throughout my life instead of really focusing on it. My writing was only ever for my eyes. It wasn’t until I was forty-three that I learned this idea where you ask yourself what you would do without all the fears and anxiety standing in your way and the answer is of course that I would write stories until my fingers bled and become a published author, so I will tell myself to never give up!PD Dennison Facebook Profile

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Elric of Milnibone. This book was given to me by my much older brother back in the 80s. I absolutely loved it. I’d like to see Elric movies made. I think they’d blow people away.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I had a very detailed outline for a series of novels that I worked on for years but completely scrapped. Deleted all the files, threw out my notes. It was too close to the Prophesy movie series. I have a novella that I wrote in a weekend for a contest that never got judged because the hosting magazine went out of business. I’m very proud of it. It’s set in the future of my fantasy world the Land of Shaarn and is entitled Technomancer. (No it doesn’t have anything to do with the Technomancer novels.) I have a series of six short stories about a super hero I created called Skorpion X set in the 1980s that I’d love to develop into a TV series or a graphic novel some day. It crosses over with my fantasy world the Land of Shaarn as well in that the villain Graxxen makes an appearance. I have a ton of ideas for future novels in the Legends from the Land of Shaarn series after the first five books are written. I plan to take the history of the land through its “wild west,” days and then through industrialization, on into a modern era, an age of information and a future age. I’d really like to develop the history of the Land of Shaarn and I have a notebook full of ideas for it.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

I would definitely say I view writing as a spiritual practice. I’m revealing the most personal part of myself in my writing. I learn a lot about myself and my soul just as someone would during meditation. It’s a meditative practice for me and is very calming and relaxing. The rest of the world just fades into the background and it’s just me and the world I’m creating. My office which I call my den, is my temple and its filled with all sorts of geeky crap that I cherish. I have a collection of Batman stuff as I’m a huge Batman fan. I have a collection of Star Wars stuff, a small collection of Star Trek Stuff. Some LOTR collectables and best of all three book cases filled with all my favorite books board games and role playing games. So the place I write is even spiritual to me. It’s a very personal space filled with all sorts of things I’ve been interested in since I was a child and now I create things based off all those childhood interests that others will hopefully enjoy and cherish.

How many hours a day do you write?

It varies. I am off work at the moment for illness and have been trying to be at my desk by 7am. I write for 2 hours, take a break to give myself and the dogs some exercise, I write for 2 more hours, have lunch, write for 2 more hours and then I’m usually tapped out so about 6 hours. Some days more, some days less. I try to take off weekends to recharge my batteries. I’d like to get up to 8 hours per day and hope the Legends from the Land of Shaarn series gives me the financial freedom to make writing my full time job.

How do you select the names of your characters?

In different ways depending on what I’m writing.

For the Legends from the Land of Shaarn series, the mythology of Shaarn is closely based on Norse mythology with the names changed to protect the gods privacy of course. I’m one sixth Swedish so I try to pick Swedish names that would fit in with Norse mythology and then I might add a double consonant to give the name some Shaarnite flair.

For any modern short story fiction I’ve written I always try to choose names that would fit in with the region in which the story takes place.

In my Skorpion X series of short fiction I used the names of my close friends with fictional sir names and the characters are loosely based on us in our youth.

What was your hardest scene to write?

The hardest scene I’ve had to write to date was when I killed my favorite character, a dwarf named Postgaar Fireaxe. I rewrote it so many times. I kept rewriting it with him being raised from the dead by magic and then I didn’t like how it turned out so I’d rewrite it again. Finally I decided that it made for a better read if one of the main characters got the axe after that battle. It was a major battle and it didn’t make sense for all of the heroes to come out alive so Postgaar got crushed by flying debris from an earth wave spell, poor little bugger.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

My soul I guess? LOL Jimmy Page is rumored to have made a deal with the devil for his gifted guitar playing and I’m not above that. I want to write, I want to live off the proceeds of my royalties. I’d love it if movies and graphic novels were made based on my books, I’d like to see Funko Pop dolls of my characters, maybe even produce a line of toys or collectables. With a dream that big you’ve got to be willing to trade your soul I think. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Probably the first half hour each day when I sit down to write. I type so slowly the ideas feel like they’re mired in the muck of my brains and I have to shovel them out. Once I’m roughly thirty minutes into the process the ideas start to flow more freely and I really get rolling.

Aside from that, the toughest part of writing a novel for me is outlining it and sticking to the outline. I have so many ideas that when I start writing they just spill out onto the page and I often stray from my outline and have to make major changes to the story that I hadn’t intended. It’s usually better writing than what I’d outlined so I don’t mind making changes. But the other day I killed my favorite dragon in the Land of Shaarn, Arken and I’m a little pissed at myself for that. But I had no choice it was either kill Arken or kill the main villain in the novel in chapter four. It would have made for a very short book!

Where can readers learn more about you?

Readers can find me on my website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and at Dragon Soul Press.

 

Introducing Author Aditya Deshmukh

Dragon Soul Press presents creator of dark tales Author Aditya Deshmukh! Ranging from poetry, short stories, and novels, all contain elements of spine-tingling horror. Continue reading to see our interview with the author.


Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Pseudonyms are useful when an author writes in a variety of genres. Yes, I’m a multi-genre author, but because the tone of almost all my stories fall under the same, wide umbrella of dark fiction, I never felt a need of a pseudonym. Psuedonyms are also used for hiding. I want to own everything I write. Putting pieces of my own soul under a fake name just doesn’t seem right to me. So unless I start writing something completely different than I’m used to (like children fiction or romance) and I don’t want that (delicate) audience going on a hunt to find my other (traumatic) stories, or unless I write something against powerful and corrupt entities which will put me on their radar, I have no plans to mask my identity.Aditya Deshmukh Website Logo

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly? 

I’m not a psychologist or a brain-scientist but I don’t think one needs to be an expert to understand that brain is a complex thing. And every person behaves differently when exposed to a certain situation. It’s a part of who we are, and every person is unique and so is their behaviour.

To answer this question, I’ll use myself as an example. I joke about being soulless (we dark fiction authors find it cool) but in truth I’m a sensitive person. I may not have a strong memory but I remember things. One never forgets the bad moments of one’s life. I believe crying helps. It’s kind of magical. The haunting memories surfaces, the pain erupts, you cry and you forget. That’s what I used to do. But my complex brain developed another layer of complexity. Now the bad things don’t quite affect me as strongly as they used to. It’s like there are walls around my heart filtering all the bad things. I willfully ignore them and it’s working pretty great.

I was a writer back then and I still am a writer.

It doesn’t matter how strongly you feel emotions. As long as you feel something (and you do because you’re a human), and you’re able to focus on that emotion, you can write that scene. In fact, even writers who feel emotions strongly sometimes struggle in writing that perfect scene. Writing is difficult. It’s a long process and there are no short-cuts. There are so many dimensions to it that frankly I think writing should be the most paying profession. It’s too much work and we’re expected to be good at everything. Don’t worry about any of your shortcomings. You can work on it and master it (and it’s going to be sooner than you think).

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Oh God, so many things! Because I just took my tea, I’m high on energy, so I’ll take the time to list them and elaborate on each point.

1) Just write it

This is perhaps the most popular writing advice ever. When I read it for the first time, I pictured a writer with black circles under their eyes staring at the blank screen, a pile books on writing on either side of the laptop and screaming, “Come on, just fucking write it!” There’s just so much advice available that it’s very easy to get distracted. We read so much about writing that we forget our topmost priority: writing. The worse thing is we actually feel satisfied after spending our hard-earned time (from work or college or family) on the articles and books and podcasts and YouTube channels and Twitter and Facebook and whatever. We feel happy about ourselves because we think we learned something new.

It’s just an illusion. Congratulations! You learned the same thing you read yesterday, or the earlier week, or the past month. I think if you read every day religiously for a month, most of the stuff you come across is a repetition. You still might learn something new. But is it worth your writing-time you spent on it?

That said, you should have some basic knowledge. Remember those 100,000 words of crap you wrote with zero writing wisdom which is so bad you cannot salvage anything? Yes, no one wants to read that shit. Spend a month in reading basic things. That will get you started.

 2) Discipline

Writing might have been your hobby. But now it’s a profession. Treat it like one. Set a routine and discipline yourself. Set small goals. Make them bigger as you progress. You must have a daily word count goal (it doesn’t have to be big. Mine is just 500 words). But you must strive to maintain the streak. Don’t think you can make it up on weekend. If you miss your daily goal, it will definitely kill your confidence.

3) Read

Once you’ve finished your word count goal, read books on writing. No, don’t roll your eyes. I’m not contradicting my earlier point. Read those books only if you’re sure it’s about something you don’t already know (and trust me there are many things you haven’t even heard. Don’t forget being a writer no longer means you just need to write. Today a writer is also a businessman. Learn about social media, marketing strategies, book distribution networks, how giants like Amazon work). Why not just skip “Just write it” and learn all this stuff first? That’s one way to do things, but then expect to spend at least a decade. As I said, these things take a lot of time. And the most effective way to learn is to learn in steps. It’s fortunately also the most fun way.

Articles are good, but I encourage getting a book (don’t just randomly pick any book. Go through lists of recommendations, compare them, see if they provide exactly what you need and only then start reading. This will save not only your money but also time.) You can then treat it like a subject and study every single element with dedication. Good articles are hard to find, and most of the stuff is repeated. When you finish a book, you’ll have more solid knowledge on that subject.

4) Have fun #1

Don’t expect your writing to get better just by reading about writing. Yes, it will certainly develop. You will not hesitate from calling yourself a good writer. But good is not enough. You want to be the best. You want to become a champion. And for that you need to read other champions’ books.

Read a lot and read widely. I cannot stress enough how exponentially your knowledge boosts up when you make this a regular habit. You get exposed to new writing styles, better dialogue, action, plots, fighting scenes, descriptions, pace, character development, you understand every little thing there is to writing just by conscious reading. Ask questions like why the writer didn’t write it this way? Why is it that the writer decided this ending when other endings are possible? Why did the writer trade good dialogue for what could have been an epic fight scene? Why these characters feel like real people? Why do I love this story so much? Yeah, analyze everything about your favourites. Go crazy!

5) Have fun #2!

There’s another way to have fun and sharpen your writing skills simultaneously: watching movies and TV shows. Yeah, don’t blink, don’t reread that sentence. I mean it. I don’t understand why it isn’t a very commonly heard advice. It has worked like magic for me. I’m a terribly slow reader. If I cannot finish a book in reasonable time, how can I learn from it? And on the contrary, I’m a binge watcher. I can devour an entire season in a night. Most of my understanding of fiction came from the shows I studied. All those questions I listed in the above paragraph can be applied here also. Remember that literature, films, all these are just different mediums of the same thing we want to tell: stories. As long as you actively observe and study, you can derive knowledge applicable to your writing from any source.

6) Build a platform

Internet is crazy. Make use of it. I’m an introvert and if you ask me to give a speech I’ll melt before your eyes. And yet here I’m, still talking something that (hopefully) makes sense. If you can socialize in real life, that’s great! But internet helps you reach audience who perhaps haven’t even heard about your town. Isn’t that great? Just imagine how wider your reach is now. What’s that smell? Something is burning. Must be our jealous writer-ancestors. 

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Research is a very important step in the writing process. It plays a big role in making stuff sound realistic. I do most of the research during outlining. I add comments to the document explaining the research elements and include links to the websites from where I got the information for future reference. I note down things which are yet to be researched.

I understand the importance of research, but I do not give it priority in case I’m writing a short story on a short deadline and lots of stuff is remaining. But I do make it a point to ensure that my guesses are reasonable. If you’re short on time, you can still create a realistic environment provided you haven’t included stuff that your audience know is 100% false. If you have time, don’t be lazy. Research matters. Now information is available easily and it’s everywhere. Books are still the best resource, but there are tons of blogs and vlogs and YouTube channels you can explore. Don’t forget to compare facts. If you can compare with standard sources, that’s good. Otherwise simply go with the widely accepted idea (facts many sources state in similar manner opposed to something only one source claims is the truth)

For my longer works, I spend months on research. My dystopian novella “Black Veins” is coming out this September, and for it I had to read about philosophies on society and recent development in robotics. Yeah, it’s going to be fun!

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

 I don’t suppose I can name one thing. Either they all are equally easy or equally difficult.

But yeah, diffidence is definitely something that bothers me. And I’m sure many writers face this problem. I stress a lot on quality. To the eyes of others the stuff I write is good, but I think it could be better. I know nothing can ever be perfect. But this knowledge is not enough. It’s kind of like a staircase with no end. You can climb it, every stair making your story more beautiful. But you have to stop somewhere and it’s hard to decide when. Fortunately my mind is not always bleak. The confidence returns. I just say fuck it and type ‘END.’

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Depends on the book. Few months back I finished a book in just two months. My very first attempt at novel-writing is four years old and nowhere near completion. As I said I focus on quality, not speed. If I write faster, I can see my quality deteriorating. So the wait doesn’t bother me much.

What’s the best way to market your books?

 I may not be the best person to answer this question. But I know that there is no universal best way. What works for someone may not work for you. The best thing to do is to attempt everything (social media, ads, mailing list, book tours), analyze the data, and then create your own strategy.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Oh no I can’t answer that question. Oops, by saying that I’ve already answered, haven’t I?

Yeah, each book stands on its own unless its a part of a well-defined series, but there’s definitely a common element regardless of the genres. It’s very subtle. And it’s going to be super fun when it becomes obvious. So let’s not ruin it now.

Where can readers learn more about you?

My Facebook page is pretty active. Do subscribe to my Newsletter and join my Facebook group. It’s a fun place. And yes, you’ll get free stories! DSP has added an author page to their website. Also check out my website. You’ll find free stories and poems from not just me, but also other talented writers I invite every week for a chat. Feel free to message me. I’m always finding new ways to procrastinate and will chat on almost anything.