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. 😀

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! 🙂

Author resources: the importance of a good editor.

“Duh,” some of my readers might be thinking to themselves. “Of course an author should hire an editor, everyone knows that.” Most aspiring authors know this as well: every self-help book and article about publishing stresses the importance of hiring an editor.

So why this post? Because despite the frequency of this advice that borders on common sense, as a reader, I still run into cringe-worthy grammar mistakes or plot holes.

AND because I made my own mistakes when I started my own writing journey. Granted, I did hire an editor, so I didn’t have cringe-worthy errors in my initial manuscript … but I wasn’t an award-winner either.

However … after reediting and redesigning the cover for my first book, UnBlessed, I now am an award-winning author. Coincidence? I think not.

So what makes an editor good? All editors are good – no, really! The tricky part is getting the right editor for the right job. Originally, I hired a standard copy editor, meaning she focused on grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Great, right?

Yes … and no.

What I truly needed was a content, or substantive, editor: someone to look at the actual story, to dissect my plot and dialogue and point out the weak spots and my bad habits. Which is why I thank my lucky stars that I found my current editor, James Roberts.

My experience with James has been both enlightening and uplifting. I’ve learned so much about my own writing, and relearned many things I’d forgotten from my high school English days. I appreciate his willingness to explain the reasons behind his edits (and I think he enjoys having an author who genuinely wants to improve her writing to make his life easier – but I could be wrong. 😀 ) The best part of working with James, in my humble opinion, is the fact that he comments on what works well in my writing, in addition to the areas that need improvement. I’m not a particularly fragile writer (though my ego hasn’t been thoroughly tested), but it’s heartening to hear the good stuff with the bad.

So, all you authors out there: make sure you get the right editor for the job. If you find one that fits with your personality and writing style, even better. And if you want to try and steal my awesome editor away … you can try. 😉

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.

Pulling myself out of the pit.

I have some bad news, and I have some good news. As the type that likes to get the painful stuff out of the way immediately, I’ll start with the bad news.

I’m struggling with writer’s block. 😦

Specifically with Dual Blessed. I’ve gone nearly a month and a half without any idea of how I’m going to get from the beginning to the end. I’ve got a good start, and I know how I want it to end … but that middle is like an empty blank wall.

The good news?

I think I’m finally starting to tear down that wall. I did some heavy adjustments the day before yesterday, and after removing a couple of unnecessary scenes (cute ones, but ultimately unnecessary and probably the source of my stagnant plot) I jotted down a couple of new ideas to explore.

I’m still going to take things slowly – I don’t want to force the story. I want a satisfying resolution, one that meets my high standards and sets the book above the previous installments, and I hope my readers do too. It may mean this last volume is delayed a little bit, but I promise you: I’ll make sure it’s worth the wait.

Back from the Abyss

Well, friends, National Novel Writing Month is drawing to a close …

How did I do?

Not so great. In fact, I almost considered giving up halfway through. But a wonderful friend told me, “Only losers give up, and you are not a loser.” So with her encouragement, I adjusted my goal to simply write every day and build a good habit to carry into next month and the next and so on. And that, I’m glad to say, I managed to successfully accomplish.

But that’s not the only reason I’ve come out of social media hibernation.

After showering you all with several teasing hints, today – finally – marks the release of my holiday short story collection! Behold, I give you …

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Isn’t it glorious? Here’s what it’s about:

Ever wondered how your favorite fantasy characters celebrate the holidays?

In this special two-story collection, you’ll journey to Myrillia to find out!

Set during the events of Fire Blessed, the second volume of the Blessings of Myrillia series, readers will catch an unseen glimpse into the lives of two popular couples.

Marius and Renelle’s complicated relationship makes their everyday lives tricky, but when they’re expected to celebrate their first Solstice together, things turn out a little differently than they expected.

Meanwhile, Kisara is experiencing her first Solstice among the Transeatur and discovers a major difference in how her race and theirs celebrate the holidays. Her resulting preparations are a disaster-filled adventure that ends with a surprising – and heartwarming – gift exchange.

Cute, huh? I bet you want to know how to get your own copy, am I right? Well, you can pick up a copy for just 99 cents at Amazon!

Or, if you subscribe to my newsletter, you can get a copy absolutely free. It’s my way of saying ‘Thank you!’ to all the wonderful people supporting me. Don’t worry, I don’t spam my newsletters – in fact, I sent my last one back in June. You can sign up here or on my Facebook page.