Category Archives: About Writing

10 Things To Watch for When Self Editing

I’ve been reading quite a lot of self-published work lately. Some great, others not so great, and what I’ve realized is most problems that arise in self-published writing comes down to the editing. Misspelled words, incorrect grammar, page layout, and fixing minor style problems are all things that slow your story down and get in the way of what could be a great novel.


Now I’m not an editor by any means, but here are some things I’ve learned in my own work and in reading others that will improve your writing.

  1. Watch out for the same word showing up multiple times in back to back sentences. “She went up the stairs, and woke her sister up. “You’re late, it’s time to get up.”” It’s repetitive.
  2. U.S. writers have different spellings and word usages than other English speaking countries, which is fine, but make sure you’re being consistent. No “towards” in one sentence then “toward” in the following paragraph, or no criticizing one minute and then criticising the next. If you’re going to call “pants” “trousers” and “underwear” “pants”, stick with it through the whole book.
  3. When a new character starts speaking, start a new line. It’s very confusing looking at a wall of text and slows down the reader when they have to figure out who’s saying what.
  4. “And then she went up and walked down stairs. Then she smiled at her mother. Then she….” You get it right? “And then” can ruin a good book. Not only because it’s repetitive. It makes the story bland.
  5. Cut out flabby words in general. Better writers than me have written articles on this, check them out here and here. It might not always apply, but there are a lot of excess words that make a great book fall from readers’ graces.
  6. Say your dialogue out loud to see how realistic it sounds. A modern thirteen year old saying things like “Where do you purpose I venture from here?” sounds strange, if it’s not in the context of the story.
  7. When you make point of view changes, give a heads up by either changing the chapter, or separating it somehow from the rest of the work. Jumping into one character’s head and then another can be jarring for the audience.
  8. Keep your characters consistent. If your character doesn’t know something, they can’t suddenly have all the answers just because they read one paragraph of a news article. Or my favorite character inconsistency, “I’m a virgin who doesn’t even know how sex works”, but two pages later, “OMG that cutie has me thinking up dirtier things than Fifty Shades of Grey mixed with German torture porn.” It cracks me up every time.
  9. Keep the tone and style consistent. A book that starts out like Shakespeare, but ends like Stephenie Meyer after the fifth chapter, then turns into Hemmingway by the tenth gets confusing. All authors have their merits, but if you’re trying to copy a style, make sure you keep it steady. Again, this is only if it doesn’t make sense in the narrative. I’m sure there’s someone who’s pulled off changing styles, when it was in the context of the story.
  10. Conveniences are my least favorite thing in ANY book, self published or otherwise. This is the “The door was locked, but luckily he knew how to pick it using nothing but a spoon. But when he opened the door there was someone with a gun. Lucky for him, he knew how to use kung fu! They pushed him out a window, but luckily, he had super powers and whole time and could fly!” No one, not even a leprechaun holding a horseshoe made of rabbit feet, while also wearing a suit of four leaf clovers is this lucky! If you notice your character somehow getting out of every single situation from unexplained help, it might be time to make some edits.

Agree with my list? How do you go about editing your novel? What advice can you give to people who are new to editing their work?

From The Roots of The Family Tree – A writing exercise

It’s always surprising to me when I talk to writers and they know next to nothing about their character’s family history. Not because it’s a bad thing, but because I can’t get through writing my novel if I don’t come up with a few family dynamics for my main characters.


This sort of thing helps me come up with everything from the character’s name to how they respond in social situations. Here’s a quick checklist I use when creating my character’s family history.

Who were their parental figures?: Not every character has to have a living parent, but everyone, whether they realize it or not, puts someone in that parental role. Who shaped your character’s life as a parent?
Why did their parents name them what they did?: This is by far my favorite way to name characters, because let’s face it, we have no control over what our names are, unless we change them. Which brings me to my next point – Why did they change their birth name if they no longer go by what their parents called them?
What philosophy or religion were they raised under?: While their parents might not have said “We’re raising you to be a stoic!” they very well could’ve kept a “tight upper lip” policy in the house. If you’re uncertain, here’s a huge list of philosophies and religions to research.
What’s their relationship with their siblings?: Or cousins, depending on if they have siblings or not. If they don’t have siblings, why don’t they have siblings, and how do they feel about being an only child?
Is the family a matriachy or a patriarchy?: Who’s more respected and looked up to in the family? A grand/mother or grand/father figure?
Who was the comforter and who was the teacher in the family?: Who did the character go to when they needed support, and who did they go to when they needed to be taught a life lesson?
How important was education, money and politics in the house?: Usually, this will be a basis for how your character acts towards society and the political sciences. While it might have nothing to do with your book, it does help build how they react to the world around them.
Do they still keep in touch with family members today?: Again, if your character doesn’t have any blood relatives, do they keep in touch with people they assigned the “family role”?

How do you build your character? Do you start from the family tree and move on, or do you have a different method?

Let me know if this sheet helps, and feel free to share with others.

Writing Female Characters: Physical Strength vs. Actual Strength

Say it with me.

“A physically strong female character doesn’t automatically mean a well written character.”


Too many times, when a writer of any genre or media type wants to create a “strong” character, they make them physically strong.  Unfortunately, this is often done to females. We now live in a world where some writers rebelled so violently against the damsel in distress stereotype, we have many female characters that kick ass but who lack any real story or substance.

And don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we can’t have female characters who can physically hold their own, but if the only thing a female character is good for is coming in, beating up everyone and then leaving, she’s no better than the underdeveloped “sexy lamp”.

So how do you write a strong female character?

1. Get rid of the words “strong”. If that’s the only adverb you can use to describe a character, she’s underdeveloped. What else is there to her besides her ability to kick ass? What is she passionate about? What is she skilled at that makes her more than just an action figure? 

2. And now that I mention it, stop saying your character is skilled, talented or extremely amazing at something and show it. I remember reading a YA book in my most recent brush with a writer’s group where the protagonist was supposed to be a great mountain climber who could hold her own on the roughest terrain. The character talked about it enough, but there was one problem, we never saw it. Even when it was a crucial part of a story, she’d only say she could handle it, and then she was never given a chance to shine.

Sure, a female lead can say all day long she’s fantastic, but tell the reader what she’s good at when you can show them? Let her share her knowledge instead of insisting she has it. Talk is cheap and if your character does nothing but brag, she loses her credibility. 

3. Create characters who can’t physically kick ass and who have real flaws. It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Patricia Brigg’s work, and in her Alpha and Omega series, the protagonist Anna spends less time relying on her ability to beat someone up and more on her gift of creating peace. She starts out as a quiet, scared little thing and grows into an emotional rock for not only her family, but for herself. She’s the only one who can stand up to even the most bad asses of men all because she’s comfortable with who she is as a person. 

We need more characters like this. We need characters that don’t say to the female audience, “You’re only strong if you can punch someone’s teeth in”. If a character is a great mother, we should celebrate that. If a protagonist is an introvert, we shouldn’t try to fix her. She doesn’t have to be physically strong or violent to be well written. Even if you’re writing a thriller, a superhero novel, or something where a female does need to be physically strong, that shouldn’t be the one thing that defines her. 

The world could use less female characters who are only put in place for kicking ass, and more female characters that are developed and hold their own in any situation.

What female characters do you feel like meet this standard? Which one showed you that it doesn’t take physical strength to be a strong person?

Also, if you’ve written a novel with a female character who’s more than just a one trick pony, lay it on me. I’m always looking for a new read to add to my pile.

Why Bad Reviews Are Actually Great

It’s every writer’s worst nightmare. Or really any artist’s. You put weeks of work, maybe even months or years, into a creative project. There are long nights, days you forget to eat, and more coffee than any human being should rationally consume, but when that project is finally done, it’s not just a book, or a song, or a painting. It’s YOU.

And then the wake up call comes. Reviews come in and the world absolutely hates it.


It’s hard hearing a negative review. People telling you something you put all that time and effort into, is bad can hurt. But let me tell you, bad reviews are a good thing.

Before you close the page for thinking I’m crazy, hear me out.

When you get a bad review, or even a hundred bad reviews, there’s only one place you can go from there. Up. Well, you could stop creating art all together, but then the only person you’re hurting is yourself. Instead of looking at negative feedback as an attack, see it as you’re starting at square one, and now all you have to do is create something better than the first piece of art you put out to the world.

Still getting bad reviews after your tenth submission? Maybe it’s time to learn from that feedback. Now, I will say learning from trolls is going to be near impossible, but you can learn from the negative feedback you get from people who are giving constructive criticism. If you keep doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting people to feel differently about your work, the only person you have to blame is yourself. Take a step back, hear what they’re saying, and learn from your mistakes.

And lastly, negative feedback keeps you humble and teaches you how you handle rejection from your audience. When you talk to authors who are on their third or fourth book, they’ll all tell you the same thing. You can’t please everyone 100% of the time. You can, however, learn how to overcome the insecurities that piggyback on artists from every field. When you see that negative review, acknowledge that it hurts, but instead of giving up, move on. Know that person isn’t in the demographic you’re writing for and find a different audience.

I know it’s easier to say this than to do it, but trust me. The minute you learn how to handle rejection from the audience, the more you’ll be able to tap into a creative part of yourself that isn’t afraid of what others will think.


How do you handle rejection when it comes to your artform? What keeps you going when you get a negative review?

If I Were a Character… – A writing exercise

There are little things about characters that make them more real to both the author and the audience. Birthmarks, scars, and little quirks are all things that contribute to who that character is and how they act in a story.


Victoria Griffin created a list back on April 10th, 2016 to pinpoint the things about herself that made HER a character. Check out what would make her stand out on a page here, but in the meantime, I figured I’d jump on board and play along with my own personal version of the game.

What makes me a character….

  • I have a scar on the left side of my head from not wearing a helmet on a bike ride to work. I had to get twelve staples and it still aches sometimes.
  • I have a bad habit of biting my cuticles till they bleed when I’m very nervous.
  • Half my head is shaved, the other half is almost to the middle of my back, but when I’m working, it’s always thrown up in a bun.
  • My clothes always have at least five strands of dog hair on them.
  • I rely on my stage acting knowledge to come off as more confident than I really feel.
  • I whistle way more than is probably socially acceptable.
  • There’s usually something odd in my pocket (worry stone, tiny Ganesha, a nail or screw from a project, a shell I thought was cool, etc.)
  • I’m almost always wearing jeans and flip flops, if the weather permits.


How about you? What makes you a character, and how can you pick out little things to make your MC unique? Not a writer? What little things do some of your favorite characters do, have or say that makes them unique?

My Reading Pet Peeves – How not to annoy your audience

Much like Aziz Ansari’s character, Tom, in Parks and Recreation, I have some “Oh No No’s”. But unlike Tom Haverford, my Oh No No’s don’t extend to my husband. They do, however, decide my relationship status with a book.


Now these are just my personal opinions. If you do any of the following it just means I’m not your target audience. 

This is just why I stop reading books.

1. The names of characters

When picking the name of your characters, a lot of things should be taken into account. Setting, family history, genre, and who your character’s parents were are all viable ways to name a character. Fantasy settings tend to have more out there names, and that’s acceptable. The romance genre can get a little corny, but we’ve all come to expect that by now. So what’s the annoying part of names? The cheesy names for no reason, the naming a character who sacrifices themselves after Jesus, or the blatant “character stereotype” names. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read someone’s work where they have a girl named “Raven”, who’s a dark, brooding girl, with a dark past, and a dark future, and she’s just dark. Or how many Astras, Stellas, or Stars are quirky, “spacey” girls. When naming is done correctly, an author can shape a character and make a name fit into the narrative, but when names are just slapped on without any rhyme or reason, I say “Oh No No”, and close the book.

And it’s not just me who’s noticed this. Check out Cracked’s video “4 Bizarre Rules for Naming Fictional Characters

2. Instant character changes

I love character development. As a writer who focuses more on character driven stories than plot driven, when I find another author who has the same drive to create a well developed protagonist/antagonist, I will cherish that book for the rest of my life (as I have with Good Omens. Go find it and read it). When that development is rushed, however, I feel cheated. The mousy girl who magically becomes a sword wielding, viking warrior, the asshole guy who all the sudden has a heart of gold, the cruel villian who suddenly becomes kind, I’ve seen it too many times to count, and I can’t stand it. Now if the character grows into that role, I can accept it, but short of mind control or hypnotism, a character shouldn’t spontaneously turn into a new person in one page.

3. Short cuts/Deus ex Machina endings

This one infuriates me more than any other number on this list, because most of the time it doesn’t happen until I’m already invested in the novel. I agree with the fact that some stories do have to have a little bit of coincident to progress. If a character doesn’t happen to be walking down that one road, they never would find themselves in a story, after all. But when all hope is lost, and there is nothing that can save a character from a fate worse than death, there needs to be a believable way to get out of their problem. Again, usually it’s too late for me to throw out an “Oh No No” card by the time this happens, but it will make me question reading that author again in the future. You see this in Lord of the Rings, with the eagles, but that’s about one of the few exceptions I’ll accept.

4. Killing for the sake of killing

Have you noticed yet that I really love characters? While I enjoy plot, setting and story progression, I get attached to the people who live in between the pages. When a character dies, I’m completely okay with it, so long as it plays a part in the story. When characters die for no reason other than to shock the reader, however, I draw the line. I don’t need my protagonists to have happy endings, and in fact, I love it when they don’t because that makes it more real, but to just die for no other reason than the author wanting to “create chaos” I won’t pick up another book by them again.

5. The “Can Do No Wrong” characters, or their equally useless counter parts, the “So Extremely Dark and Edgy”

These are the perfect characters. The flawless, often times “inexplicably alluring” men and women who for some reason, are amazing. They look amazing, they sound amazing, they can sing, and dance and juggle chainsaws if they ever put their mind to it. And then there’s the anti perfect characters.  These are the ones who are so badass that if anyone even looks at them wrong, they’ll kick them into the ground, and everyone will be okay with this. Everyone in the novel loves these characters. Every man and woman wants to sleep with them and or be them, and chances are the antagonist only hates them because they’re jealous.

But that’s all there is to them. They never develop past how perfect, or imperfect they are, and the story sounds bland because of it. Most of the time, these beautiful bastards are abused in some way, either by bullies, their families, or by the antagonist themselves, but it won’t have any point to the story other than just being something to make that character all the more edgier.

When this character type marches onto the first few pages, I say Oh No and keep walking.

What are your Oh No No’s? Have anything that makes you toss a book into the library donation box? Let me hear it!

My Love/Hate Relationship with Editing

I hate editing. I really do. When you’ve got other ideas chomping at the bit to get on the page the last thing you want to do is spend ANOTHER round of rewrites on your current project.

That being said, it has to be done. Putting out unedited work for me means that I’m not taking pride in my writing. But when do you call it quits? When is enough enough?

Here’s my method.

After finishing a first draft, either by hand or on the computer and no matter the length, I let myself do 3 rounds of edits. The first one, I look for character inconsistencies, the second, story hiccups, and lastly, I do grammar and spelling. Then I pass it on to my beta readers. Depending on the size of the work, I’ll give it to one to three people for a read over, and after that, I allow myself one more round of edits before I call it a day.

Why do I do it this way?

I’m a nit picker with bad grammar. If I don’t limit myself to four edits, I spend more time worrying about if a project sounds good or not, than I allow myself to enjoy the writing.

Not only that, but writers have a habit of working a novel or story into the ground, and I’m no exception to this. No matter how many times I rewrite a piece, there’s always another way it can be said, another flaw I can fix, another word I can cut. After awhile, it becomes redundant.

So how do you edit your work? What’s your method to make your novel ready for the public? Comment below and let me know.

Tips and Tricks to Naming Characters

Carelessly named characters are the first thing that pull me out of a novel’s narrative. I’ve put down several books in my lifetime because the name of the protagonist doesn’t make sense in the context of the story.
In fact, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Google “Does what I name my character matter” and you’ll find reasons to double check your character’s name meaningwhy names matter, and questions on Quora from authors who are looking for answers.


How do you name characters so people don’t put down your book? Give your character’s name a purpose, and make them make sense in your novel’s setting. Sounds easier said than done, so here are some ways to name your characters to keep you on the right track.


1. Who are your characters’ parents?
At birth, you had nothing to do with what you were named, your parents decided that for you. Using this same rule when coming up with characters not only gives them a realistic name, but also builds a believable backstory. Religious parents are more likely to name their children something relating to their spirituality. Parents who are invested in their family’s heritage could name their child after a matriarch/patriarch. The options are endless, and even if your readers never find out your reasoning behind the name, your insight into your characters will make them more real to you.


2. Where are your characters from?
Different names have different meanings and spellings across the globe. Alexie could be a twenty something female from Detroit or Aleksei, a boy from Moscow. The same base name changes depending on where the character’s from, and suddenly you have a completely different person all together. Look into what names were popular when your character was born in their home city and you’ll have a hundred names to pick from.


3. How does the name sound?

Sherlock Holmes. Scarlett O’Hara. Tony Stark. Hermione Granger. Most people know these characters not only because of who they are but because their names are iconic. Even if you’ve never seen or read Gone With the Wind, the name Scarlett O’Hara sounds exactly the way the character acts. Strong willed, bold, and stubborn, there is only one Scarlett O’Hara, and there will never be another again. You want to make a name that sticks in everyone’s mind and lives up to your writing.

4. If all else fails, try a random name generator.
This is a sure fire way to get a list of names to pick from and can cover everything from fantasy realms to girls/boys next doors. My favorite is from Behind the Name. You can pick everything from how rare the name is, if it’s from a fantasy universe, a particular region and style.


How did you pick your character’s name? Have a link to a useful name generator? Leave a link below!

A Tough Love Talk About Finding Inspiration

Finding inspiration isn’t impossible. Yes, it can be hard and some authors did some crazy things just to tap into that creativity well. While you don’t have to write with a cat on your shoulders like Poe, or keep a desk full of rotting apples like Friedrich Schiller, you should find a way to get inspiration when you can, however you can.

Here’s my first bit of advice, and it’s something that I have to tell myself on a regular basis. Stop thinking your inspiration is dried up, that you have writer’s block, and sit down to work. If you’re wallowing in a lack of creativity rut and not looking for inspiration, you’ll never find the novel worthy idea that’s out there waiting for you. Writing, as much feeling goes into it, is all in your head. You come up with what you write, and you hold yourself back, as well. Take a good look at your lack of inspiration and ask yourself, is it really because you can’t think of anything to write? Or is it because you’re not trying hard enough?

Now that I’ve gotten the toughest of the tough love talk out of the way (a talk I have to give myself from time to time, I’m not guiltless), here are some paths to inspiration that could work for you.

1. Get out of your routine. Maybe you take a new route to work, eat something you’ve never tried before, or even listen to a song you might never listen to. Do anything that you wouldn’t normally do. Now write about it. Have a hard time writing about yourself? Pretend it’s someone else hearing that music for the first time. You’re not a writer listening to a song you’ve never heard before, you’re the boyfriend of a woman who’s getting to hear her sing for the first time. You’re the mother hearing the appalling music her children are into. You’re from another planet experiencing human sounds for the first time. If it’s new to you, it’s new to someone else. Tell their story, and run with it.

2. If that doesn’t work, become a collector. Collect newspaper clippings, smooth stones from riverbeds, magazine covers where you only get the headlines, or even bumper stickers. Now give your collection to your character. Your protagonist’s obsession with new bumper stickers could be what drives him through to your setting.

3. And if all else fails, look at ideas from a new angle. Flipping tropes and tossing traditional plots around are two of my favorite ways to find inspiration. You can surprise yourself, and your future readers, if you try and break parts of the mold to recreate ideas in fantastic new ways.

Need even more ways to find inspiration?

– Keep a dream journal.

– Carry around a “dialogue notebook” and write down conversations you overhear.

– Carry around a notepad in general, and write down any random idea that pops into your head. I’m not kidding, I wrote down “dragon people” one time. I have no idea how I’ll ever use that, but hey, it was a random thought and I think about way more often than I probably should.

– Watch a bad movie, and rewrite it so it’s better.

– Read, read, read, and read. Everything you can get your hands on, even if it’s not something you normally pick up. READ.

– Interview people from different walks of life. Look at their different political, religious and social views with unbiased eyes and not only can you get inspiration, you can learn something, too. You’ll find most people open up if you just ask for them to help you understand their way of life. As a personal side note, I spent three days interviewing people at a Hindu temple in Texas to learn more about their culture, and I wound up finding out more things about myself than I did for my writing. It pays off.

– Tell your version of the news articles. Hell, even if you only read Cosmo, list your “top ten ways to drive him crazy with your tongue”.

– Clean out your attic/crawlspace/closets and put aside items that need to have a story told about them.

– Shut your phone off and spend the day away from your house and technology.

– Speak as little as possible for an entire day, and try to listen more to what’s going on around you.

– Start a blog challenge.

Have anything you want to add to the list? Comment below, and I’ll feature your suggestion in my next post!
Need some books to build your inspiration? Here are three of my favorite. 

– Writer’s Guide to Character Traits

– Writer’s Idea Thesaurus

–  Writer’s Book of Days
Or try checking out You can find all sorts of tropes listed there to get inspiration from.