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#SundayReview: Salt in the Water by J. Ray & S. Cushaway

Sam av

I have about a billion books in progress on my reading list. It’s kind of cool because it means I am reading a lot more than I used to, but it also means I finish pretty slowly. But if I don’t finish, I don’t get to write reviews! BUMMER.

I knew pretty early on that I WANTED to review this one, though, so I’ve been chomping at the bit to finish it. It became my commute book, and I read it on my half hour to and from work (my roommate drives us in). And last night, I finally finished.

A while back, I mentioned I was invited to be a part of a Book Launch Party. It was my first one, and I was tickled to have been included. As part of the event, I was given this free copy of Sarah Cushaway’s debut novel, SALT IN THE WATER (Lesser Dark: Book 1).

How I Found This Little Gem

Sarah is a Traverse City author. Whenever possible, I like to be able to help out my peers. We support each other when we can, through NaNoWriMo and beyond. So when she gave me her book, I was thrilled. I haven’t met a lot of TC authors who write fantasy (which is pretty much all I will read). However, it was a little slanty-like from my usual fare. I warned her of this, as I have found it increasingly difficult to enjoy fantasy lately. It all starts to look the same after a while, and I quickly get bored and put the book down.

Sarah assured me that this would be a little different. SALT IN THE WATER is a “Weird Western,” a subgenre that takes elements from Westerns and combines them with another. This book is basically a fantasy novel set in a fictional border town. I was intrigued enough to give it a shot, but Western isn’t really my thing, either, and I went into the book skeptical. What I love about fantasy is how far removed it is from the modern world. I don’t want to be anywhere near it.

But, for friends and fellow TC writers, I’ll try my damndest. Represent.

The Plot

The blurb for this book is as follows:

There are a thousand ways to die in the desert—desperate outlaws, deadly predators, murderous elements, and betrayal. . .

Kaitar Besh, a veteran scout as legendary for his cynicism as his skills, is ordered to brave the deadly Shy’war-Anquai desert one last time. Escorting Leigh Enderi—a greenhorn Enforcer with a reputation as shady as his own—he soon realizes the ghosts of his past have come to haunt more than his nightmares.

When the mission breaks down in the wake of bitter hatred and mistrust, even Kaitar’s fabled skills may not be enough to bring them home again. Stranded in the red wasteland without contact, food, or water, they uncover a betrayal that could bring all they hold dear crumbling to the dust. . . and tear down the wall of lies surrounding them.

Basically, the plot follows a small group sent to investigate the disappearance of a fellow Enforcer, and while they are tracking him in the desert, conflict happens. Meanwhile, all around them is a multilayered battle over territory, and power and authority is shifting hands. Of course, when you’re isolated out in the desert and cut off from communications, it’s kind of hard to keep your finger on the pulse of politics, so nasty surprises abound.

It reminded me quite a bit of Mad Max. Water is important. Whoever has it is king. There are guns and sand rovers. And somewhere in the desert there are sand pirates who will kill you and take all of your stuff, and maybe eat you. Not to mention the desert is dangerous anyway.

What I Liked

Sarah was right. This is a bit of a departure from typical fantasy fare. Actually, it has a little more science fiction in it than I was expecting.

There are multiple races, and they generally hate each other. There are the usual humans and races of sentient humanoids collectively referred to as Enetics (although to be fair, one of the Enetic races is basically velociraptors called Threk, which I am totally fine with). There’s a universal mistrust of Enetics that’s strikingly relevant to the modern age, although there are some that are able to look past that. The border town of Dogton keeps quite a few Enetics employed, for which the city’s leader is given a lot of shit.

I quite enjoyed the interactions between the races. There’s a deep hatred between Leigh’s people and Kaitar’s people, the Sulari and Shyiine, respectively, which causes a lot of strife as they travel together, despite the fact that neither of them are particularly fond of their own people. Both of them have some deep issues and neither of them ever want to talk about it until they want to fight about it.

I love the Shyiine. The two that appear in the story, Kaitar and Senqua, are both entertainingly pissy. Kaitar is like a harassed school chaperone. He’s out there like, “Don’t touch anything, don’t lick anything, don’t wander off” but no one wants to listen to him. He’s used to being on his own, so having to keep two other people from getting themselves killed is exasperating and amuses me. Senqua is a greenhorn scout paired up with a total drunk. She’s a constantly boiling over fury because she wants to learn and basically has to figure it all out on her own. I get the feeling that at some point her mentor was better to her, but now she’s disgusted. It has created this interesting dynamic where she won’t let him drink himself to death and is oddly protective, even though she is constantly bitching, like she can’t help herself.

I love irritable characters. And SALT IN THE WATER has tons of them. I was also quite fond of Zres, but I’ll leave him for you to discover.

It’s often difficult when writing such a large cast of characters to keep them all separate, different, and interesting, but this book absolutely nails that. There are plenty of unique character-character interactions. A book is supposed to make you feel like there was a story before this and there will be a story after it, and maybe there is more story running in the background. It’s supposed to be real, like you’ve landed smack dab in the middle of everyone’s personal dramas. This did not fail to deliver on that.

What I Didn’t Like

Surprisingly little. Usually I’ll have some kind of complaint about writing style and believability of character development, maybe worldbuilding, but nah.

If anything, I’m left wanting to know more about Kaitar’s past. There are little bits and pieces in flashbacks and nightmares but not the full picture. There keep being hints at some kind of dark, horrible secret from his fighting pit days. I get the feeling it’s all in the second book (which has yet to be released), but I was impatient for it now. Same with Leigh’s backstory. There’s a little of it.

And I really, really want to know who Verand was, really. In this book he’s sort of a shadow of his former self but he was apparently a pretty big fucking deal.

Oh, and maybe it was the copy I received or something in formatting translation to my MOBI reader on my phone, but there were quite a few missing periods. I’m smart enough to figure out when a sentence ends. It wasn’t even distracting enough to slow me down, but worth mentioning I suppose.

Conclusion

I’m definitely looking forward to book two. It’s called GHOSTS IN THE GLASS.

I have no idea when it’s released, but I follow Sarah on Twitter and I’ll be looking out for it.

SALT IN THE WATER was a great detour from my usual book fodder. I kept snorting and laughing out loud at some of the arguments the characters had and I couldn’t stop telling my roommate about what was going on. I’m trying to get him to read it now.

This book is free. You should totally pick it up. And then review it, because that’s what you do to support the artists that you like.


S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in printand short fantasy A SHINY FOR TRICK (forever free for your entertainment!).

Check out our #SundayReview category to find out what we are reading, watching, or learning about storytelling in all of its forms!

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New! Dedicated Author Newsletters!

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I think there is no better brew than a hot cup of tea. Sam, on the other hand, thinks a strong coffee is better. I love My Little Ponies, whereas Sam loves video games, especially JRPGs.

I love a good old thrilling adventure story, characters with grit and determination and good old heroes. Sam likes stories with slow destructions and doomed love. So much ANGST!

The thing is, everyone, likes something, and it might not be the same as the next person. So we know that not everyone who follows our blog is interested in both of us or perhaps every article we write. Sam and I write different genres, we have different styles and different interests. It’s only natural that people want to follow one or other, sometimes even both.

Taking this into consideration, we decided it was time to split…emails. We now have dedicated email newsletters, one each, so that you can keep up to date with whoever you want to! We will both be posting a newsletter perhaps once a month or so, therefore we won’t flood your inboxes every day. We hope to use the newsletter to make announcements or release important information about our writing and upcoming books and such. We might even use it for polls or behind the scenes information on our characters and stories.

So if you are interested in hard-hitting, psychological science fiction, with complex characters and exciting plot, follow Frankie’s newsletter!

If you like Grimdark, adult, woman-centric epic fantasy with the occasional toxic romance or medical sci-fi, follow Sam’s newsletter!

And share them around with people you think might be interested!! We might even offer the occasional free peek in the newsletters! 😀  Links also added to the top pf the page 😀

Share it! You know you want to! 😀

#FrankieWIP Editing and New Digital Illustration!

Frankie Av

Editing of Emergence is going well! Took a couple of days off writing to draw, and I’ve included it in this video! Tell me what you think of it! It’s also under the video 😉
It took me a couple of days and I created it on my Cintiq and Artrage 😀

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F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#WriteTip: One Free, One Cheap, One Real

Sam av

Last week, our eBook retailer, Pronoun, surprised us all when they doubled our author royalties, released the long-awaited Author Pages, and opened the door to Free eBooks. I had always wanted to offer something to my readers for free, but previously Pronoun’s lowest price had been $0.99. This, as you can imagine, was big news for Frankie and me.

Almost immediately, I dropped the price to FREE on my fresh publication, A SHINY FOR TRICK. Then I flung it to the masses and more or less forgot about it.

Today I checked my email. Pronoun has been sending me updates on how my sales have been. Since I dropped the price to free, I’ve sold 29 copies. Granted, I’ve not turned a profit on any of these books, but 29 is about as many digital copies that I’ve sold of THE BLOOD OF NERYS.

I had hoped this would happen. I am so glad that it did.

I turned to my roommate this morning and told him about my discovery. We discussed something he had heard somewhere about marketing. That it’s best to have one free product, one cheap product, and a lot of your real product.

(Note: The prices I’ve listed here refer to eBooks only. Printing incurs the cost of paper and ink, so print copies naturally cost more. I won’t be covering print with this blog post.)

Free Books as a Marketing Tool

Most people will pull the trigger on a free book without so much as a second thought. They might never read it, but they CAN, and that’s all that matters at the moment of purchase. Offering something for free seems counter-intuitive. After all, at this point you’ve spent hundreds of hours on the thing and likely had to pay for editing, cover design, or other services.

The important point to keep in mind though is that almost anyone will pick up a free book if they are even slightly interested in it. With your free book, you are casting a net far and wide, hoping some of the readers you reach stick around.

Your free book should be, in my opinion:

  • Short (mine is 17K, about 58 pages)
  • In your primary genre
  • Readable by everyone you ever hope to reach with any book (kids? Adults? Both?)

This is the appetizer. At this point, anyone who took the time to read your free book should know what to expect from your writing. Plus, they’ll be done with the free book quickly, and hopefully want to read something else.

That’s when you bait them again with the cheap product.

Cheap Books Are Your Chance to Prove Yourself

Now, give them a real novel. In my opinion, your cheap book should be:

  • Between $2-5
  • A standalone novel
  • In your primary genre
  • Directed at your primary audience
  • A good example of what you’ll typically write about

You might want to have 2-3 of these directed at different audiences. If you’re planning on writing books for both adults and young adults, you would probably want one of each. If you have to choose one, choose Young Adult (YA). A lot of adults enjoy these.

But start with one, and then move on to your Real Product.

The cheap book should be a singular example of what you’re about here. Develop a full story, hook and hold a reader, give a satisfying conclusion. They should read this thing and want to read more books.

Alright. Give ’em Everything You’ve Got.

Time for the real thing. Your crowning achievement. That beloved world you’ve been dying to write that you plan to spend a lot of time exploring. This should be where you put your series.

In my opinion, your real story should be:

  • Between $4-10
  • A series in your primary genre
  • Directed at your primary audience
  • About whatever your heart desires

You might have more of these later. This is what you’d mainly be writing from now on. Keep working on major standalones or major series directed at any of your audiences in the genres you will write. Basically, you’d want to write a free book, then a cheap book, then a real product, and then spend the rest of your career rounding out your listings.

How This Looks for Me

  • My Free Book is A SHINY FOR TRICK. It’s directed at all audiences and reads like a grim (not Grimm) fairy tale. It’s mostly lighthearted at the surface, but it does dabble in some darker themes like obsession and starvation. It’s 17K and written for a younger audience, but to adults it might feel like a Pixar short. Rather adorable and entertaining. It’s pure fantasy–magical creatures, other worlds, magical boxes and magical treasures.
  • My Cheap Book is THE BLOOD OF NERYS priced at $3.99. This was actually my first book. It’s definitely for an adult audience. It has a little gore and a lot of swearing. The setting is dystopian with a blurry sense of setting (this is intentional. Whether or not this is our world gone awry or another world is entirely up to your imagination. Either works). It deals with large philosophical concepts like God, magic, and science. It’s medical science fiction with a twist of fantasy, with blood as a main component, and finished in one book.
  • My Real Product is ACHILLEA and the books that will follow. This is not published yet, but will be a trilogy, and then a later trilogy, and then some. I will be spending a lot of time in this world. I have built a familiar sense of place and person. I know these characters as well as I know real people, and I love them dearly. ACHILLEA was the first book I ever finished, and I’ve poured countless hours into refining it to make it perfect. This is an adult epic fantasy, rife with powerful female characters, espionage, and turmoil. ACHILLEA sits at 137K. The second book is in progress and currently at about 38K. (My foolish writer brain thinks writing book 4, the first of the second series in this world, is somehow a great idea, so that’s sitting at about 8K, too).I cannot wait for all of you to meet these characters. They’ve been with me a long time. Heike, Achillea’s surly captain, is my belligerent muse.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you enjoy the work Frankie and I do on this blog, the best way you can support us is to share the posts and share our books. Even if they aren’t your thing, but you believe in what we’re doing here, sharing them with someone who might is a huge help. As with any new author, exposure is always the biggest challenge. (And reviews!)

Thanks everybody! Have a great weekend!


S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print) and short fantasy A SHINY FOR TRICK (forever free for your entertainment!).

Check out the #WriteTip category for more writing advice and tools from Frankie and Sam!

#FrankieWIP Long Time No See!

Frankie Av

A quick update about Emergence and why I’ve not been around much.

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#SamWIP: Book Buying Binge and OMG SO PRODUCTIVE

Sam av

I have been -SO- busy. Doing what I am supposed to be doing and devoting my soul to the words.

Check it.


Check out the #SamWIP category every Monday to hear about Sam’s current projects!

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).

#SundayReview: The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Sam av

Today, I bought my first audiobook. Soon after, I bought the second. I’ve been working on my set aside love for reading. 2016 was better for that. 2017 is going to be even better. Part of my effort in fixing the deficiency is where I put books. I have books in every nook and cranny now. One by the bed, one in the bathroom, one at work for my breaks. Last year I bought my first smart phone, and I put books on my phone for when I get stuck places.

This year, I’m trying to expand into audiobooks. It lets me ‘read’ when I would be otherwise unable. I travel a lot for work, going 2-4 hours each way for meetings. I go to Iowa once a year and Chicago once a year. Audiobooks presented a logical choice. Add that to my growing distaste for the radio and my utter disgust for the state of politics.

I should have done this sooner, honestly.

I’ve been eyeballing The Slow Regard of Silent Things for quite a long time now. Honestly, the only reason I haven’t bought it already is solely because it’s short. The price tag on books being what it is, I didn’t want to shell out for a book I could finish in an hour. But I spend my book profits on non-practical things, so slightly expensive short books might have been something I would buy. I put Slow Regard in my shopping cart a few times, and then I took it back out.

This morning, the first Audiobook I downloaded for my two hour drive was The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe, another compendium of awesome I haven’t had the chance to read yet. Unfortunately, being 16+ hours long made it a long download, and I wasn’t going to be able to finish downloading it before I hit the road this morning.

It was the perfect moment for rash decisions.

Because I NEEDED a book on this drive, and I was already going to be late for my meeting. Suddenly, a 60 page novella didn’t look half bad. So I threw my hands in the air, said “Fuck it,” and shelled out the $15. It’s a three and a half hour audiobook. Perfect.

I downloaded Slow Regard this morning. I have already listened to it THREE TIMES.

It is breathtaking.

Patrick Rothfuss opens the book by telling you it’s probably a bad idea to buy it. Which is brilliant, because it already has the listener quirking an eyebrow and paying very close attention. Why does he even think this?

Slow Regard breaks every rule. It’s too short. It has no real plot. No real conflict. Very little dialogue. One character. It’s…what most people might consider tedious. Nonsense. Without purpose. It’s part of and yet not part of his popular series, The Kingkiller Chronicle, in that it concerns one of the books’ minor characters. But it doesn’t add anything to that plot. It doesn’t advance the plot. You don’t see the main character at all. And it is for these reasons that he cautions the prospective buyer to really think about their choices here.

This is, as he points out, a strange tale. A bit…different.

It’s about a girl, Auri, who lives beneath the university in a place she calls The Underthing. She is a free spirit. In a lot of ways she reminds me of characters like Luna Lovegood, Radical Edward, or Tersa from the Black Jewels trilogy. Something in her is not quite right. A little broken, but not altogether unhappy.

“To be so lovely and so lost. To be all answerful with all that knowing trapped inside. To be beautiful and broken.”

She lives in a world all her own. She sees things in ways others do not see. Mundane objects are personified. They have feelings. They might suggest or say things. All of them are special in some way.

“There was a door, but it was terribly bashful, so Auri politely pretended not to see it.”

She travels around the Underthing, usually running and barefoot, to set things in their proper place and search for proper gifts for ‘him.’ It is obsessive and yet sweet. Objects might be fickle and change their minds about things. They might become angry and want to be moved. They might be restless and need to be used. Some become ‘free to go,’ and can be taken. But Auri would never take something that is not ready to leave, even if she wants it very badly for herself.

 

What I find intriguing about Auri the most–because I have read the books–is how the true power of Auri is hinted at, only just, throughout. She used to be, I gather, an incredibly talented student at the university until something happened that dramatically changed her life. She mentions the Masters often, remembering lessons from chemistry. Sometimes, she throws in a bit of knowledge about chemicals and their uses. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, the words hitting like a sledgehammer when they happen. She’s traversing tunnels, obeying the fickle whims of buttons and kissing snails, and then she thinks about iridium, or identifies the materials that are used to make a thing.

What makes this audiobook so particularly charming, in my opinion, is that Pat has taken it upon himself to be the narrator. Yes, he is reading his own book to you. Personally, I love that. It means he is telling the story exactly the way it is intended to be told, with the right pauses and emphases and everything.

I listened, more intent on this story than any story I have read in years. I sighed and swooned at the words. They are the loveliest of words. I appreciate the made-up words like ‘answerfull’ and how many adjectives inanimate objects can feel. Like ‘thuggish and terse,’ or ‘garrulous and bawdy.’ It might sound strange…but I could understand how she feels. Childlike. Oh, what a restless key, so in want of a lock! Yeah. That actually makes perfect sense. Keys should want locks. Or how she hesitates as she considers things (Maybe…but no. No, she knew better than that.)

When the book ended, I kept listening. I wasn’t ready for it to be over. I could have listened to this for many more hours than three and some.

Much to my beleaguered sadness, Pat used the end of the book to, in a way, apologize again. He tells the story of how he broke down to a friend (Vi) about how he thought his own story was a mess and how he couldn’t publish it. But his friend loved it, for the same reason I love it and so many others seem to as well. This is a story for us. For the artists who appreciate playful tales that just needed to come out. For a chance to sit in quiet awe and praise a brave work that breaks all of the rules and doesn’t apologize for it.

For being itself.

“It was wise enough to know itself, and brave enough to be itself, and wild enough to change itself while somehow staying altogether true.”

I keep talking about Pat because he is a wonderful human, and it bums me out that he ever feels like his words are simply not good enough to be shared. In his end note, he talks about his friend’s words and how they struck him as one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to him. About how someone else is already writing those books for other people who like books that have all of the things. THIS book is for people like ME. Actually, what she said was:

“Fuck those people. Those people have stories written for them all the time. What about me? Where’s the story for people like me?”

When he said this in his endnote, it hit me. Hard. Because that’s how I feel, all the time. I like to experience the unfiltered things that come straight from the heart of an artist. The raw, unrefined love that pours out onto a page when no one is watching. The art an artist makes for themselves, just to look upon and think, “Yeah. This is what I wanted to do all along.” But they don’t because they’re so focused on thinking about what everyone else wants that they set their own desires aside for a ‘later’ that never comes.

THIS is why Pat wrote it. And then when he did it, he knew that people would hate it. And some of them did. He was right about that.

But some of them didn’t. Some of them loved it.

“…one comment people have made over and over again and again, phrased many different ways, is this:
‘I don’t know what other people will think. They probably won’t like it. But I really enjoyed it.’
It’s strange to me how many people have said some version of that.”

This soared straight to the top of everything, guys. This just became my number one. It’s so perfectly lovely, so shy, so okay with itself. It’s a tiny piece of beauty that was created just so it could be. Something that existed just because it needed to. 

This is what I scream about every time I come here. Do the things. Do the things you want like no one is hovering over you. There’s a time and a place for rules. This isn’t one.

He ends the book with something I usually find sickly-sweet and fake, but because it is Pat, I know he absolutely means it.

This story is for all the slightly broken people out there.
I am one of you. You are not alone. You are all beautiful to me.
Pat Rothfuss

I cried. After all those lovely, gentle words and the passionate account of how drunken Pat confessed that he thought people would just be purely pissed, and then this…yes, I cried. And I smiled because I was crying.

And then I did something I have never, ever done, not even once.

I restarted it from the beginning. Immediately.


S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).

Check out our #SundayReview category to find out what we are reading, watching, or learning about storytelling in all of its forms!

#FrankieWIP Catching Up!

Frankie Av

Hi everyone! I do apologize for being absent a while. I was ill for three weeks and only just beginning to feel like myself again. I’m still a bit rough, so no video today!

I’ve been editing Emergence with every free moment I get when I have the motivation. It’s going good so far, though there have been days I’ve stared at a chapter for hours before actually doing something! XD But that is a hold-back particular to my fibromyalgia, and-because I know this-I forgive myself if I’m unable to complete more than one chapter a day.

A few days ago when I was unable to concentrate at all on writing, I read the next few chapters of Emergence. I read up to chapter twenty-six, and the more I read, the more I was convinced that someone else wrote the pages then stuck them in my drive. They just seemed too good and creepy to be something I had written in a hurry during NaNoWriMo. It was quite surprising to find that one or two chapters will only require a little editing, unless I change parts of the story. Which I did when rewriting the last chapter I worked on. Not a huge change, but one which will have future ramifications for the characters.

Through reading, I discovered that I have pretty much solved how the third book to the trilogy will play out, so I’m very pleased! I knew how the third would end, but only an inkling on why it would end that way. Now, looking at everything with fresh eyes, I see the threads I wove into the story which will accumulate to complete the third book. It’s all very exciting. In fact, I got so excited about it that I jumped onto the Dead Pete society conversation and just squee’d for a few minutes! XD

So, that’s about it for me, save to say I’m still collecting My Little Ponies and geeking out over new additions to my collection. I’m also planning to make a display for them this weekend! I’m a very busy Dragon!

Hope you are all well, and I’ll catch you all next week 😉

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

 

#WriteTIP: All of the Writing Advice I Have, the Mega Post

Sam av

I am on lunch break and I’m in an interesting mood. History tells me that now is a good time to put some words down because it means they are going to come out weird, and weird is good.

For me.

There are so many thousands of writers out there, and post after post about the right and wrong things to do, what to do when you’re stuck, etc. You might ask yourself why you would care to read mine, then? Our aim with this blog is to inspire you. We want to make it impossible for you NOT to write. Remove the fears. Heap on the encouragement. Lead by example.

This is going to be a long post. I’m going to throw down everything I’ve got. Are you ready? Let’s go!

Where Do You Even Begin?

  • Throw out anything you’ve ever been told that is holding you back. If someone mentioned a ‘rule’ of writing that made you feel inept, forget it. If someone told you that you weren’t cut out, forget that, too.
  • Say stupid things. Don’t tell yourself your idea is bad. In your own mind and by yourself, be as weird and as out there as you want. Nothing in your own mind is too weird, too cliche, too overdone, too tropey, too dirty, too controversial, too scary, too fucked up, too anything. You are not TOO. You are you.
  • Imagine every possibility. Re-envision your idea as many ways as you want.
  • Start anywhere. With the character, with the plot, the villain, the setting, a single line of dialogue, a color. Wherever feels right.
  • Go anywhere. Skip around. Write the ending and then the middle and then a smut scene and then a death.
  • It’s okay to work on multiple things. If an idea only holds you for five fleeting minutes, that’s just fine, too.

Do not set limitations on your imagination. Your imagination is far more powerful than you can ever know. Tear away those chains and find out.

Things to Keep in Mind When Writing

  • Writing is hard.
  • Some days are easier than other days.
  • There may be long, pronounced periods of no productivity.
  • You will think you suck at writing.
  • You will want to throw it away.
  • Most writers do not write constantly
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect right now. The written word can be adjusted infinite times.
  • There is no right or wrong way to approach your task.
  • Every story is different, and some need to be written in different ways. They are as tricky and unique as people and require a significant amount of effort to ‘get to know’ them.
  • Set attainable goals. Maybe you can’t write 2000 words every day. Can you write a few hundred? Or can you write three days a week?
  • You will only get better if you keep writing. It’s okay to take breaks, even long breaks, but you won’t improve until you put words down.

Writing is a discipline, but not all of us are rigid enough to keep to it. It’s okay to fall off the wagon once in a while as long as you’re committed to getting back on it. No one can tell your story except for you. You are uniquely qualified to tell it.

Tips for the Writer Mind

  • Removing something from your mind frees it up for more processing. If you have an idea, write it down so you can think of the next one. The more you do this, the more you will think up.
  • Staring at a screen for hours decreases the quality of your work. If it’s not working today, find something else to do.
  • When you can’t write, read.
  • When you can’t read, play a video game or watch a movie.
  • Working on your story does not always mean writing. It might mean drawing pictures, searching pinterest for inspiration, sketching out timelines, scribbling maps, writing scenes for the story you don’t intend to publish, talking to someone about your story, thinking about a problem, or taking care of yourself.
  • Your mind is a delicate, amazing machine and requires a rich environment to thrive. Feed it well. Rest it well. Provide variety to hit all of its good buttons.
  • Reward yourself for good work.

Keep your word machine sharp with practice and discipline. Surround yourself with stories and bask in the magnificence of it all. Stories are everywhere. Soak it up.

Your Environment

  • Protect your writing time.
  • Learn to say “No” sometimes.
  • Remove distractions. This includes kids, pets, spouses, friends, family, the television, obnoxious background noise, and sometimes even disruptive music. Struggling to write through this is not an option. It will burn out your brain as it tries to focus on too many things.
  • Turn off social media. It’s a drug. It floods your mind with numbness and shuts the whole machine down.
  • Your writing space should be easily accessible, comfortable, conducive to writing, and have everything you need in it. Mine has notebooks, folders, binders, pens, pencils, blank paper if I want to draw, a flat, uncluttered surface, speakers for my music, a basket of snacks, and space enough for my laptop. There are books on either side of me if I need to pull one for reference.
  • A lot of people like to write with music. It’s hit or miss for me. I can’t write to music with words I can understand or I start singing and divide my focus. And sometimes, I need the music off completely. I know people who need utter silence, and I know people who can’t write without music.

Your writing space should have everything you need and be the place you go to write and work on writing. Make that the habit, and writing will come more naturally.

Take Care of Yourself

  • Don’t be too self-deprecating. It’s okay to be critical of ways you can improve, but tearing yourself and your ability down is self-defeating.
  • Know yourself. Your limitations, your weaknesses, your strengths. Find your method and stick to it.
  • Try new things. It gets your brain thinking about new stuff.
  • Get out of the house sometimes
  • Change up your routine once in a while. Sometimes that’s all you need to shake something loose.
  • Ask for help. Writers are noncompetitive. Friends can help by offering feedback or bouncing ideas off of. It can be hard to open up, but it’s absolutely critical.
  • Rest.
  • Pamper yourself. Get the good coffee and drink it. Have a bubble bath once in a while. Sit in the dark with music on and shut your eyes. Buy a small gift for yourself you don’t need. Get good pens and notebooks. It’s okay to geek about them, too.

After You are Done Writing

  • Celebrate!
  • DO NOT PUBLISH! Your work of art needs some aftercare.
  • Rest it. Let the words sit for a while and work on something else
  • Go back and edit! Polish up those words and make them shine! Now is the time to make sure you’ve used the right word choice. Editing is how you make sure your story is at its absolute best before sharing it with the world.
  • Beta! You need people to read your story and make sure it’s working. Betas will help you identify strengths and weaknesses and highlight plot holes for you to fix.
  • Keep going! Write more things!
  • At some point, you have to accept where the book is and let it go. Could you keep making it better? Sure! But if you hold onto it forever no one else will ever get to read it. Write ANOTHER book. A BETTER book. Keep moving!

The feel of finishing a manuscript is amazing! Make sure you enjoy it, but don’t get so excited that you release your novel before it is ready.

Publishing

Ask yourself what you want out of publication, and decide whether traditional or self-publishing is right for you. Don’t let anyone else influence your decision. This is your work. Each pathway has its own share of ups and downs, so choose what you like better. Do your research for both sides. This isn’t a decision you should take lightly.

The publishing world is changing. Get what you want out of the work that you’ve done. Make the right choice, and then never regret it.

There are books that are terrible and books that are amazing. Most likely, you’re somewhere in between. That means yes, you CAN write publication-worthy stories.

Remember…no one can write your story except for you.

You just need to do it! And you absolutely CAN!


S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).

Check out the #WriteTip category for more writing advice and tools from Frankie and Sam!

 

#FrankieWIP Christmas Cold and Editing!

Frankie Av

A short update owing to my cold and the fact I’m losing my voice! XD

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE