What makes a good writer?

There are a ton of answers to the above question: time, patience, dedication, tried-and-true formulas … however, my favorite response is both simple and appealing.

A good writer must first be a good reader.

Honestly, this approach is how I wrote my first three books – and is probably partially to blame for my difficulties with book four. If you’ve followed along with my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a voracious reader. I used to brag that I’d read anything and everything, but after utilizing Goodreads for a few years, I’ve realized that I have a definite preference when it comes to what I truly like to read. My genre of choice is young adult fantasy, with a slow increase in young adult contemporary romance (a new development over the last year or so).

It’s not surprising that the genre I write in happens to be YA fantasy. After all, it’s a variation on ‘write what you know’. I’m by no means an expert on YA fantasy, even if I have read a lot of books in that category. It’s more that I focus on creating something I would want to read. I know what I like in my stories – action, tension, character growth – but also magic, fictional races, and medieval societies. I also know what I don’t like: the overused and cliche tropes or the story aspects that annoy me (personally, I’m not a fan of love triangles – which is funny, because I started my first book with one …)

In my opinion, if I don’t want to read what I’ve written, why on earth would anyone else want to? Again, this is where I’ve stabbed myself in the foot with book four: I’m not feeling it. I don’t particularly want to read it, let alone write it. I’m not sure why. Maybe I went a wrong direction with the plot somewhere. Maybe my intended destination for the characters and the story isn’t the correct one.

Am I going to give up? Heck no. Instead, I’m going to take a page out of my reading manual. I’m going to do what I usually do when I can’t get into a specific book; when I know I want to read it, but I just can’t seem to get more than a page read at a time.

I’m going to start another book. 😉

Granted, I’m stubborn when I read too, so don’t be surprised when I go back to the original and force my way through another few pages, because gosh darn it, I like the stupid book, I just can’t seem to get anywhere with it.

Obviously, I’ll be reading constantly during the process. I can’t call myself a good reader if I’m not, well, reading. 😀

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This social media thing is hard. =/

Yes, yes. I know. I dropped off the face of the internet.

Again.

I don’t even have a decent excuse this time. Not unless you count my short attention span and tendency to get distracted by the smallest —  oooh, a new library book just downloaded to my kindle! 😉

Okay, I guess extensive reading binges do count as a decent excuse to disappear from social media. Though I’ve been posting ratings and the occasional review on Goodreads, so I guess I haven’t totally dropped off the interwebs. Here’s a brief glimpse of the 74 (yes, seventy four!) books I’ve devoured so far this year:

  • Reread the entire Court of Roses and Thorns series (including the newest installment)
  • Laughed myself silly at:
    • The Upside of Unrequited
    • All The Feels, All’s Fair In Love and Fandom
    • Noteworthy
    • The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You
  • Waited over a month for Geekerella to be available from the library
  • Drooled over the gorgeous writing in Star-Touched Queen
  • Finally read the Grisha trilogy (seriously, why did I wait so long for this?!)

So yeah. I’ve been a bit, uh, preoccupied.

But the one really awesome side effect of all this reading? My creative battery is now fully charged. That means I’m going to dive into Camp Nanowrimo this July!

You heard it here first folks. I plan to have the entire rough draft of my fourth book in the Blessings of Myrillia series completed by the end of July!!!

Stay tuned for updates, progress reports, and maybe even a snippet or two. 😀

P.S. Did you see my epic news in April? UnBlessed is an award-winning novel! Both the paperback and kindle versions now sport a shiny award seal!!!

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If you’re still on the fence on whether you’d like to add this award-winner to your bookshelf, check out the first few pages free here – or read for free on Kindle Unlimited.

Vacation finally comes to an end.

Vacation finally comes to an end.

*cracks knuckles* It’s time for things to get serious around here.

😀

Now that my major vacations and brain drains are complete, I’m going to be focusing on some major writing.

  • Goal one: get book four fleshed out and ready for some hard-core beta reading.
  • Goal two: if stuck, work on some of my other ‘fluff’ ideas to get creativity flowing again.
  • Goal three: in addition to the above, make reasonable attempts to connect on social media.

That last one is going to be my hardest. Why poor little reclusive authors such as myself are expected to have social anything, I’ll never know. Still, I do like connecting with my fans – so if you have any burning questions (other than when will the next book be ready – I’m working on it!) send them my way! Additionally, if there’s something you might like to see (blog posts, tweets, Instagram photos, or Facebook updates) feel free to share your ideas below.

Thanks, and it’s good to be back again! 🙂

Do you like free books?

How about a free autographed book?

Even better, a free autographed book with an exclusive piece of fanart featuring the first line of said book?

Then you might want to follow Behind the Willows.

She often has montly Book-at-the-Door giveaways, with a chance to win a book she’s read and enjoyed. All you have to do is guess which book she’s offering in a comment, and you get entered for a chance to win the book, art print, and any other potential goodies.

Hint for fans of my books: this month’s giveaway features a signed copy from yours truly … but you still have to guess which of the three it might be. 😉

But hurry! The giveaway ends April 25th!

Dreams really do come true.

Dreams really do come true.

April 2nd is nearly over and despite multiple deliberate pinches (and one accidental stubbed toe), I have yet to wake from this glorious dream. In fact, I’m now confident that I won’t wake from this dream, because I’m living it.

My first book won a book award.

A real book award! One where my target audience read and voted without any input or interference from me – just them and my novel.

Yes, it’s a small book award. True, I only scored the bronze. But you know what? I still won a book award. I made it into the top five out of (at least) twenty-one finalists. Readers loved my book; they chose my story as one of their favorites.

And at the end of the day, I get to call myself an award-winning author.

Heck, I can say it at the beginning of the day too, if I want.

“Hi! I’m Crystin Goodwin, and I’m an award-winning author.”

Those are words I thought I’d never hear outside of my own little daydreams. Guess that means I have to pick a new goal to fantasize about …

… hmm. Maybe best-selling author? 😉

Sparkly UnBlessed

Want to see what all the hype is about? Hop on over to Amazon and pick up a copy of UnBlessed for yourself!

 

UnBlessed is now a book award finalist!

Yes, my friends, you heard that right!

UnBlessed was recently selected as a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards! What I found most exciting is that this particular award is NOT a popularity contest. My book went out to various members of my target audience (aka, a few high schools, since I’m in the Teen Category) and the readers voted and ranked.

This is an incredible opportunity. To be selected as a finalist, I had to score over 30/40 points in editing, style, cover, and theme. The winners will be announced in April, but even just making finalist is a huge deal! I get a gorgeous award seal (see below) to plaster all over my blog and book and Facebook page (because, why not?) AND I’ll be featured on the Wishing Shelf Independent Book Award website for two years. Plus, there’s a ton of other cool things in store … potential Goodreads promotion, inclusion in a press release sent to major literary magazines, even the opportunity to be discovered by a publisher!

Needless to say, I’ll keep all you wonderful people updated as soon as I know anything (you guys are getting this post literally two hours after I read the email) so stay tuned! Meanwhile, I want to thank my editor and cover designer for helping me get to this point: James and Winter, I seriously couldn’t have done it without you guys. I mean, EDITING and COVER – you guys helped me score two out of three categories! Thank you thank you thank you!

And for all my fans – thanks for sticking with me. Great things are bound to be in store for Myrillia, and it means the world to me that you’ve all been along since the start!

Now, behold my new shiny award seal!

Travel: caffeine for your creativity

Travel: caffeine for your creativity

Ah, vacation. That wonderful time away from the daily grind, when you don’t have to wake up early for work or stress over mundane issues like whether you have enough time to hit the grocery store before rush hour starts.

But did you know that vacations, especially those that involve travel, can spark your creativity?

While we, as humans, crave the familiar and easily fall into routines, it’s also possible for those same routines to push our creativity into a rut. Think about the most common advice for authors suffering from writer’s block: go for a walk in nature, read a book, work on something else that requires creativity … in other words, step outside of your normal routine. And travelling gives you a chance to do all of the above.

Walk in nature – This is something you could do in your own backyard, but why not drive to a nearby city and immerse yourself in something less familiar? If you can afford to visit another country, that’s even more ideal: because then you get the added benefit of experiencing another culture or a completely unfamiliar climate. Case in point: picture the difference between arid Arizona and the ever-wet-and-cold England.

Read a book – Again, you can do this anywhere. In fact, reading books allows you to travel anywhere you want, no airfare needed. For a real jolt to your creative system, try reading a book set in a different culture/timeperiod, translated from another language, or a genre outside of your normal reading habits.

Work on something else creative – What creative outlet could one indulge in while travelling? The most obvious (and most useful, personally) is photography. I’m by no means perfect, but there are times when something I see just speaks to my imagination … Like this:

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Powis Castle – Powys, Wales

Or this:

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St Michael’s Church – Bath, England

And this:

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Moreton Corbet ruins – Shropshire, England

And the subject isn’t always what inspires me: the colors, the way the light hits, the overall atmosphere … all can be photographed and filed away to be used in future projects.

And don’t forget the experiences travel can give you, if you give it the chance. Take this example, written about a typical bar in England:

The murmur from dozens of voices meld together, creating a low buzz that doesn’t quite mask the sound of creaking floorboards. I unbutton my coat, the extra layer unbearable in the sudden heat of the packed pub. The scent of beer and a salty tang from freshly baked chips fills the air, along with a hint of old dust from the aged building. To the left, a conversation held in varying accents creates an exquisite music, one I desperately want to wrap myself in, to the point I subconsciously mimic their phrases and inflections in my responses.

I don’t know about you, but I can take that one experience – a real experience – and tweak it to fit a tavern scene in just about any fantasy story. And there are dozens of little moments like this that you can use to fuel your creativity. It’s not limited to writing, either! Capture your memories in photos or paintings, with music, or even by knitting a shawl with the coat-of-arms of a legendary knight you fell in love with … the sky, and your imagination, is the limit.