Tag Archives: writing tips

7 Ways to Write an Introverted Protagonist

Thanks to a poll on Twitter, this week’s Writing Wednesday is going to be all about writing the introverted protagonist (MC).

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I’m not a psychologist, and I know the science behind this post isn’t exact. These are just my observations when it comes to writing an introverted main character. It’s not the “right” or only way, but it’s worked for me.

It’s important to first point out being introverted doesn’t always mean being shy or antisocial. While yes, some introverts have both these traits, this isn’t a be all end all way to describe them. Instead, the way I like to say they get energy from being alone vs. being around others.

Better yet, here’s what vocabulary.com had to say about introverts.

Introvert comes from Latin intro-, “inward,” and vertere, “turning.” It describes a person who tends to turn inward mentally. Introverts sometimes avoid large groups of people, feeling more energized by time alone.”

So how do you apply this to a character without making them come off as cold, distant, or friendless?

1. Master the art of internal conversation.
Because introverts are more likely to rely on personal experiences to make decisions, writers creating an introvert should learn how to write believable internal monologues. This shows the MC doesn’t voice their need for the opinions of others, but works through what they know to solve a problem. It’s easier said than done. You have to find a balance between the MC working out ideas, and talking to themselves way too much. If you need a place to start, however, look at times in your manuscript when your MC relies too heavily on the input of others, and instead let them look inward on how they’ve solved problems in the past.

2. Have other characters be understanding when your MC excuses themselves from the group.
One of my least favorite friend character trope in movies or books is the “Why don’t you get out more?” friend. This is the side character who’s only purpose is to encourage your MC to declare their feelings to the love interest, or punch their boss in the face, or something equally as outlandish to an introvert. They’re constantly trying to fix their friend, but in real life, when an introvert is friends with this type of person, it often times has a toxic effect. They’re not friends, the introvert is a project for the extrovert, instead of an equal.

Instead, have some of your side characters not see the MC as a pet, but as a human being who has different interests. This not only provides a healthy relationship between the two, but it shows the readers that your introvert is comfortable being alone and also having friends who understand them.

3. Avoid “longing looks” into crowds.
Most introverts will tell you they don’t want to be extroverts. I’ve never met an introverted person who went home and cried about how upset they were because they didn’t enjoy an overly populated outing. I’m sure they’re out there, I just haven’t found them yet. It would be better to have your MC celebrate their introversion. Show them relaxed and grateful when they get away from a situation they find draining. Maybe even have them be a little prideful about the fact that they like being alone. Hell, I know that’s how I get sometimes.

4. Write an introvert who takes charge.
Introverts can in fact be in charge, and some people even claim they’re better suited for the role than extroverts. That being said, leadership isn’t just being the boss, it’s guiding your team to success. Just because they prefer a small get together verses a huge party doesn’t mean they can’t also step up and take their coworkers, friends, and/or love interests on a wild ride to solve your novel’s crisis. Let your introvert lead, instead of being too timid to do so.

5. Learn more about the Myers Briggs introverts.
This shows the varying degrees of introverts. Some, like the INTJ are distant and often times come off as too calculating to befriend, while others like the INFP are eager to let their strong moral compass guide them in making decisions. You don’t have to base every character you have off this system, but it’s a good place to start to see the differences between introverts.

6. Show don’t tell. 
I know people have mixed opinions on this, but hear me out. If you only say “my character is an introvert”, or “they don’t like social situations”, but your character never actually acts on these things, it doesn’t make your character an introvert. Instead of saying, “She didn’t like people, but was forced to be around them everyday for work.” you could just show your audience how much she hates being surrounded by customers, or how she finds sanctuary in her home after a long busy day. That way, it’s not just talk, there’s some action there, too.

7. Show the downsides to being an introvert.
I know I started this by saying, “Don’t just make them shy or antisocial”, but the reason why this is often times the only way people write introverts is because people perceive them this way. Being uncomfortable in a crowded place, getting worn out with too much interaction, and getting stressed when they don’t get some alone time are all some downsides for your character to experience.

Here are some other negative sides to introverted characters
– They can get so caught up in their thoughts that they overthink situations and cause more problems than they originally had.
– Because it takes time for them to make friends, when they make one, they could put that friend on a pedestal, giving the side character a place to fall from.
– They’re misunderstood by others because they turn down people’s offers to hangout, which can lead to comical misunderstandings.
– Being shy, or “afraid of social judgement” as Susan Cain puts it at TED2012, but only because they never learned how to navigate in social situations, as opposed to just being afraid of people.
– Some introverts aren’t risk takers, because they judge experiences based off of past events. If they took a risk in the past, and it turned out poorly, they might be more hesitant in the future.

 

I’ll do another blog post later about my favorite introverted protagonists as part of my “Favorite Trope” series. I go over some that fall into common character archetypes and how you can use those types in your own writing. 

For now I hope this helps! If you have any tips please feel free to share them below.

 

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Beginner Tips for Building Your Writer Platform

Ah, the writer platform. Something I didn’t think I needed until someone said to me, “I don’t know who you are, so why should I pick up your work?”. Since then, I’ve been on a mission. Take precious time away from my novel and put it toward making a name for myself.

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Since I’m in the “building your online presence” part in my writer platform journey, most of these tips have to do with social media. There are many other sides to being a writer, so if you’re looking for a more detailed read, I recommend checking out Create Your Writer Platform, by Chuck Sambuchino.

  1. At first you are going to fail.
    • I don’t mean this in a bad way, in fact failure is great! It gives you only one direction to go, up. You’re going to make grammar mistakes, embarrass yourself in online circles, and delete a few posts that you should’ve put more time into. But then eventually the tiny failures will come fewer and farther in between. You’ll start to get little victories, and over time, forget how you failed when you first started.
  2. Know that success doesn’t happen overnight.
    • I hate this. I’m the type of person who likes instant results, damn it! I expect to have some interaction with people online regardless of how long I’ve been here! Sadly, this isn’t the case. No, you don’t get famous overnight, or even put on the radar for that matter. You have to be patient, interactive, and above all, entertaining to your target audience. Just having a social media account doesn’t mean people will line up to follow you.
  3. Key word in “social media” is social.
    • I tried to interact in small doses at first. It didn’t work. Instead, I found actually talking to people helped build my platform in the writing community. Comment on other people’s works, share what you’re reading or working on, or just talk to people in general. You don’t have to jump up and down for attention, but actually being social helps boost your popularity as a writer.
  4. Be real.
    • Don’t follow someone just to get a follow back. When you comment on stuff, try to post more than an emoji. Show people who you are, not just a shadow of yourself. And above all things, do not, do NOT send automatic DMs (direct messages). This is so impersonal, and many people will just unfollow you.
  5. Diversify your platform, while still staying with your target audience.
    • I have an Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Deviant Art account. Why? Because that’s where my readers are. I draw my characters, and I have some fans of my sketches, so I post on DA as a way to reach out to other artists. Find out what makes your platform unique and add that to your foundation.
  6. Don’t take all the advice given to you.
    • Hannah Heath wrote a great article about this, and I highly recommend you read it. In a nutshell, don’t take all the advice you get from other writers, especially not when it comes to creating your platform. What works for one writer might not work for you. Try to go at your own pace, and don’t feel like you need to take all the advice out there.
  7. Play games.
    • This is a big one. I didn’t know how to jump in when I first started out online, but hashtag games were a great place to start. I was able to see what other people were working on, and could interact with them on a creative level. There are hashtag games on Twitter that I would definitely check out if you’ve never done them before.
  8. And finally schedule your posts out.
    • I know I already said don’t auto DM, but definitely do get an app that can schedule posts. You’re going to burn yourself out if you try to stay up to date on all your social media. It’s best to save some of it for later, and post things up a little at a time, instead of all at once. Facebook and WordPress has it’s own scheduling system, but I use Hootsuite for things like Twitter and Instagram.

There are other people who have great tips about this, and who are extremely knowledgeable on the subject. This is just what I learned as a novice in the writer platform potion of my writing journey. I’m still a beginner, but I hope what I learned over the past year helps you!

What part of your building process are you in? What tips can you give to the people who are just a step under you? Share below and let me know! 

Writing Wednesday – Modern Fantasy World Building Prompts

1This week’s “Writing Wednesday” was inspired by my recent rewatch of “The 10th Kingdom”. It got me thinking of a few fun modern fantasy ideas, and since I’m in a sharing mood, I decided to pass them along to you!

If you see one you like and would like to use, please feel free to. If you come up with some, add them in the comments below, and I’ll put them on the list.

  • City witches who use their mirrored phones, or just blank phone screens, as a scurrying mirrors.
  • Witches under 21 carving new paths of magic, and laughing when their elders are confused at how they made new spells with technology. Alternatively, witches over 50 watching the new generations and shaking their heads, but also are secretly proud of their new students ingenuity.
  • Vampires or orcs who post make up tutorials on YouTube to make themselves look more human.
  • Witches who sell glamore spells at Ulta.
  • Apartments that include “Brownie Clauses”, where tenants have to agree to leave offerings out because they’re the ones who fix anything needing repairs.
  • Necromancers who own law firms that specialize in wills needing to be clarified by the recently deceased.
  • Magic users who can’t have a garden going to Whole Foods for fresh herbs and chatting with others to find what spell works best.
  • Mermaids who live in city lakes and curse anyone who pollutes it. City gets known for having the cleanest park in town because everyone’s too scared to throw trash in it.
  • Benevolent Jinns helping children soldiers and kidnapped women escape their captors.
  • Werewolves who have to play in dog parks because it’s the only place in the city where dogs are allowed off leash.
  • Changelings finding out they’re fairies and staying with their human family and use their new magic to help make their lives easier.
  • Dryad funerals held by city fae when a plot of land is turned into a parking lot.
  • Leprechauns who change with the times and instead of collecting gold, collect bit coins, own credit card companies, and who know how to manipulate the stock market.
  • Fire Salamanders that live in furnaces of major metal manufacturing companies, helping keep core temperatures stable.
  • Yakshas that hold support groups for people struggling with bipolar disorders.
  • Pixies that break or change road signs to get people lost.
  • Ogres who own their own bodyguard business. They protect anyone who’s willing to pay them, so long as they get to eat anyone who attacks their employer.
  • Huldrefolk trolls that make underground houses, only problem is if you’re an annoying client your house will have problems throughout your stay there.
  • Goblins that sit in underground bars, smoking and drinking all while making bets with humans and swindling them out of their money.
  • Gargoyles that have learned the hymns of their churches and sing them at night to the homeless who come seeking shelter.

 

I could go on, but this is getting to be a long list. Let me know if you’d like to see something like this again in the future. I’m sure I could come up with more.

Writer on the Road – Day 4

We’re back in civilization tonight and had Whataburger for dinner for the first time in almost 6 months. For those of you who know what that is, you know how fantastic I found my meal after being away from it for so long.

We left Utah today and made it into New Mexico. With only two days of driving left, I spent a lot of time today thinking about writing and what I want for my life. 

When I first started writing, I had no intention of ever being published. I liked to write because it helped me escape from reality but it wasn’t what I wanted to be when I grew up. I shared with my friends, and while they enjoyed it, I never thought I’d one day try to sell my work. 

I kept up the work, even when I didn’t think I’d make it a career, until about three years ago I realized it’s what I want to do with my life. That being said, I’ve never been published. I’m not writing to pay the bills yet, I’m writing still out of passion, so I don’t have to worry yet about the career side of the writing world. 

As I realized this, I had to ask myself, do I really want a career as a writer? Do I want the work as well as the play? Why not just be a hobbiest, why do I want to be recognized as an author?

Being a hobbiest and being a professional are two totally different animals. There’s nothing wrong with either of these, but it’s important to be honest with yourself. 
Everyone has to answer that question to themselves. For me, I decided on day four of my drive that I wanted to be a writer, not because of the romance, but because I like the work. I like the hours bent over a manuscript. I love the feeling of starting a new idea. And as much as I complain, I even enjoy the editing. 

Work isn’t some four letter word to me as so many creative types make it out to be. It’s something I find myself embracing. Writing is as much of a career choice as it is a way to share my love of stories with others, and that’s why I’m perusing a job as a writer.

It was a nice realization and it’s fueling my fire as I keep on writing this November. I love the work that gets put into books, and I can’t wait to jump into the career side.

I don’t know why you write, but please let me be clear. Everyone’s reason is a valid one. If you want a career as a professional writer, you go after it with all the fire you’ve got. Everyone has their drive, tell me yours below and let’s share the love of the job! 

Finding Time to Write

As I hammer through some suggested edits, I’ve been talking more with others about writing and the most common thing I hear is “I could write a book, if only I had the time!”

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Truth be told, I didn’t and still don’t have enough time. When I finished my manuscript for Flightless, I was in the middle of a military move, driving an hour and a half every for work every day, and trying to cram in as much family time before I left Texas. It’s a year later, and I’m trying to get through ANOTHER military move (this time mostly by myself because of my husband’s work schedule), finish my last month at my job, and still sight see around the Pacific Northwest. I was supposed to be here for another two years, and instead, I have a month left.

All that being said, I still believe in making time to write. So where do I make time, and how can you?

Lunch breaks –
I get a thirty minute lunch break, and 20 of those minutes are spent working on my book. It might not be my longest writing time, but it’s 20 minutes I can spend getting work done.

Wake up early –
I don’t do this one often, just because I’m a night owl, but sometimes if I’m feeling up to it, working on editing is the first thing I do.

While cooking dinner –
Most of my dinners are made one of two ways. Out of a box or time consuming with lots of prep. Either way I have to wait while it’s in the oven, so instead of doing chores, I write. Sure my house doesn’t stay ridiculously clean, but it gets the job done.

When someone else is driving – 
My husband usually is the one who drives when we’re traveling around together, so I take that time it takes to get from point A to point B to hammer out a few hundred words. Even if it’s just a trip to the store, and I’m jotting down ideas and changes on my phone, it still helps.

At night –
This is my favorite time to write. Everyone’s asleep, no one’s asking anything from me, and I can get a lot hammered out.

How do you make time?

Start to notice when you’re wasting it. Did you binge watch an entire season of whatever newest thing came out recently? Do you really think some of those episodes couldn’t have waited while you worked on one chapter?

If you’re really not sure how to make time, start writing an hour by hour list of things you did in a day and find out where there’s some wiggle room. This is what helps me every once in a while when I start to fall off the tracks. Not only does it show where your writing time is, but it also shows how much you spend on things that might not be as important as that book you want to write.

One last thing. Don’t write in a room with a TV, and shut off the internet.

For those of you who know how to work a tv/internet connection without getting distracted, bravo! For the rest of us? TURN IT OFF. Find ten minutes at a minimum and try to write as much as you can with everything shut down. Music is fine, but try to play it without needing the internet.

 

Tough Love Talk About “The Writing Fantasy”

This isn’t a tough love talk about writing fantasy. No, I’m talking about The Writing Fantasy. The fantasy all new writers and creators have about the world of writing.

This is coming from someone who’s never been published outside of vanity sites, so take it as you will. That being said the more I interact with writers, the more I get sick of hearing about this mythical world we’re supposed to live in.

So here we go! Top five fantasies I’m going to completely crush into the ground!

 

1. Every bad review or person who doesn’t like my work is personally attacking me!
 

Well okay there, self absorbed Sandra, let’s tone it down a notch. When someone doesn’t like your work, it has nothing to do with you as a person. I know it hurts when you put months or years into a project only to get rejected by agents, your audience, or even past fans, but you can’t make everyone happy. Is it okay to get your feelings hurt? Yes, but if every bad review makes you fall apart and threaten to quit creating art, maybe it’s time to take a step back.

Now there is an exception to this rule. If you’re getting the same negative feedback every single time you put something out there, but you’re not fixing your mistakes, yes, some of the reviews might start to get personal. This is because you’re not fixing things that your audience doesn’t like. If your counter to this is “Well, I’m writing it for me, not to make everyone else happy! I’m not a sell out!” then why bother caring about reviews in the first place? Heck, why even put it up for anyone else to read if it’s just for your personal enjoyment and you don’t care what other people think?

2. I don’t have to read other people’s work anymore because I’m a writer now.
 
This isn’t “I don’t have time”, this is the “Nick Miller” defense.

Most, if not all professionals in any job, keep themselves sharp through practice, study and staying informed. Reading is part of the studying/staying informed portion of that for writers. You learn how other authors break writing rules, what works in their market (or in some cases what doesn’t work), and how to better your writing by studying the works of others.

And for those who think “I can’t read anyone else anymore because I’m just so fantastic as a writer, it’s insulting to read their drivel.”

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Welcome back, self absorbed Sandra. Get over yourself. There’s ALWAYS someone better than you out there.

 

3. Writing is romantic so I should try and copy some of my favorite classic literature.

Copying an author’s style as a warm up is eye opening, or doing it so that it makes sense in the story can be acceptable when done well. It’s when you’re forcing it on every aspect of your writing does it get old. Here’s a little secret. Readers are smart. They’re going to know you’re trying to be someone you’re not. It comes off as insincere and boring. It’s one thing to try and find your voice, it’s another to be so pretentious to think you’re the next Hemingway or Poe so you have to copy their style down to the last period.

4. I’ll just get an agent and they’ll do everything for me!

No. Wrong. Don’t expect this. Agents are very busy and the last thing they want is an author who can’t pull their own weight. Many new authors have to do a LOT of work in order to get their work noticed. You need to self promote, keep up your writer’s platform, network with other authors, talk to your agents about possible marketing opportunities, travel on book tours, start your next book, look for contests or magazines to submit short stories to, and those are just things off the top of my head! There could very well be a million other chores to do in order to get your book off the ground. Don’t expect your agent to be your fairy godmother, as magical and amazing as many of them are.

5. Editing is for writers who don’t know how to write.

Editing is CRUCIAL to writing your book. I can’t tell you how many self published authors I’ve spoken to who’ve excitedly told me about how they “wrote a book in three weeks” and then instantly put it out to the public without even doing a second read through. I’m not going to point out that there could be HUGE grammatical errors (because trust me, there will be), but you could have completely forgotten to finish a paragraph, or you might’ve accidentally cut out something without realizing it that one night when you were up till 2am working. There could be glaring inconsistencies that might’ve been fixed if you just took the time to edit your work.

I’m not saying you have to spend years on edits, or completely rewrite your novel, but not even looking at your work once you’re done could turn off readers if you have annoyingly obvious problems with your work. I’m even going to go back through and do a round of edits on this blog posts just to make sure things look good! Editing is important!

If you don’t like editing, save up and hire an editor. There are a lot of affordable options out there, and if you’re serious about getting published, it’s easy to put aside the money here or there to get your work in the hands of a professional. (I’m putting aside my coffee funds every month to get one and yeah, it takes time to save up, but it’s a worthwhile sacrifice)

And that’s it! Those are the writing fantasies I’m crushing for today. I’ll probably do another Tough Love Talk about this later, but I figure this’ll be good for now.

What are some writing fantasies you’d like to crush for other people? Comment below and let me know!

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.

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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.

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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.

Things to Do While Waiting for Agent Responses

I started submitting my first novel, Flightless, to agents this month, and one thing’s been made clear to me. I am NOT a patient person. The people who really know me will be shaking their heads right now, because they know this already, but to everyone who’s learning about me through my blog will quickly find out waiting is not my strong suit.

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To fill the time, I’ve come up with little ways to keep my mind off of the waiting game that is, “Will this agent like my work or not?”. Hopefully this will help anyone else who’s waiting, or at the very least make you feel less alone.
Start my next novel.
With Flightless over with, and three more books planned in the series, I’ve decided to take a little brake from my world of winged people and step into something a little bit darker. Wake the Dead is my next big project, and damn I am doing a lot of research. I’m creating my own magical system that revolves around life and death, and I’m learning all about alchemy, European magical societies, and high magical practices. It’s a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to get the project under way.

Play video games.
I don’t claim to be a “gamer girl” by any means, and really, I could only tell you about a few games I enjoy playing. I pass the time with things like Portal, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Fable, or when I’m feeling nostalgic, Super Mario World. Diving into someone else’s story, in a different medium other than writing, helps me take my mind off work and lets me focus on the important things in life, like killing darkspawn and smashing koopas.

Read a new book, outside my genre.
I’m a fantasy/sci-fi girl at heart, but what do I really love to read? Crime and suspense! Give me a murder scene over a ride through a magical kingdom, or a daring detective over a knight in shining armor any day. Right now, I’m reading Crimson Lake, by Candice Fox and let me tell you, this author doesn’t disappoint. I’ve already breezed through Hades, ordered Eden, and pre-ordered Fall, when she offered to send me Crimson Lake after a book review. Now, all things are on hold while I finish this intense crime novel and her work helps me keep my mind off the “will they, won’t they” of my agent/author relationship.

Get off social media.
I’ll admit it. I’ve followed every agent I’ve queried, or want to query, just to keep up with them. I look into what conferences they’re going to, what online chats they might be participating in, or just generally what they’re looking for in an author. While I’ve been told this is a good strategy, this also means I’m not exactly taking my mind off all those queries floating around. So I started spending time away from social media to keep my mind off things. This has been the most useful technique thus far.

Watch a movie/tv show you know is bad.
My best friend “Alaska” will tell you, I have the worse taste in movies and TV shows. I don’t know what it is about cheesy, over the top action flicks or predictable television, but I find it hilarious and enjoyable. That’s not to say I don’t like “critically acclaimed” works out there, I’m just more likely to watch “Chronicles of Riddick” over “Annie Hall” when I want to be distracted. These sort of things are brain cotton candy for me, and it’s a great way to stop thinking about something serious and just have a good time.

And lastly, clean the house.
This is when I get really desperate, and we’re not just talking about doing dishes, or other piddily chores. No, I’m talking a top to bottom, dust the corners of the ceiling, take things out of closets, and run all the junk to Goodwill that I’ve been meaning to get rid of for months. Cleaning was always my mother’s way of keeping her world organized, and I think I picked this up from her. It gives you that little bit of control when you feel like you don’t have any. It helps, even if it does leave me exhausted by the end of the day.

Looking for other things to do to get your mind off waiting for an agent yes or no?

  • Visit a place you’ve been meaning to go but have been putting off.
  • Join a writing group to hear how other writers wait for the yes or no.
  • Take up another artistic outlet, or learn a craft you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Invite some friends over for a game night.
  • Work out.
  • Play a mindless phone game.
  • Write a letter to a teacher or adult who inspired you to write. Even if you don’t send it, it’ll help remind you of people who encouraged you in your life.
  • Take yourself out on a date. Go to the movies, see a play, eat at a nice place just to try it.

What helps you keep your mind off the waiting game? Are any of these suggestions one you’ve tried or are wanting to try?

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.”

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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.