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Book Writing #5: Genre Basics #1

Genre is one of the most important basic fundamentals to writing and finding that perfect genre to describe your book is one of the best marketing tools at an author’s fingertips. Here are some of the bigger genres to help with a basic understanding!

Middle Grade – Written for children generally in middle school in a bildungsroman style (coming of age) (i.e. Percy Jackson and the Olympians)

Young Adult – Written for a high school audience that usually have the main character overcoming a flaw or event that was pivotal in their life (i.e. Six of Crows)

New Adult – Fills the void between adult and young adult. Generally for older high school age children and college age people and contain more explicit content than young adult.

Adult – For adults and written in a more aggressive style. Leaves less to the imagination and it’s afraid to put explicit content and gore.

Sci-Fi – Commonly set in the future of Earth or some other planet with advanced technology or modern day Earth also with advanced technology or any new technology that seems possible but far from what we are currently capable of. Many sci-fi books include space in some form or another. Often paired with fantasy (i.e. Ender’s Game and Dark Matter)

Fantasy – Set in a completely fictional world made up by the author and is likely to include fictional intelligent species sometimes with their own language. These worlds often use medieval style living and technology (sword, bow and arrows). Often paired with sci-fi (i.e. Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones)

Mystery – Commonly set in a detective format where the main character is trying to solve some kind of problem that has alluded them for a time

Paranormal – Put simply, vampires and werewolves, but can include most creatures that are considered “paranormal”. Angels and sirens can fall into this category. Usually, there is a looming, dark, magic presence that is after the main character. Often paired with romance

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Book Writing #4 – Character Names and Personality

For some people, the names of characters can be the hardest part of the writing process. After all, names for main characters are going to stick with them through the whole novel. For some readers, the main character’s name can be a make or break point. Personally, if I run into a book with a name that I can’t even begin to start pronouncing, I usually don’t pick the book up. Names can make up a pretty solid portion of word count, so think of your readers when you type those names up, sci-fi/fantasy writers!

For me, I have a system with how to pick my character names. Just a fair warning, I generally write fantasy, so my process might be different for you!

  1. Go to some kind of name generator. If applicable, click the descriptors that fit what your character represents (ex. Irish, Elvish, Biblical) and just keep hitting that generate button like crazy
  2. Slowly compile a list of names that stick out to you as you go.
  3. Usually if I find two names I particularly like, I cut the best parts of them and mash them together to make the perfect name. But sometimes I end up finding the perfect name!
  4. Repeat for any additional names (middle, last) and other characters of importance.

I also come up with names by just picking bits of names or letters that I like and throwing them around until I find a name. Not gonna lie, some of my character names even start off as a joke and then they end up sticking!

Personalities can sometimes be easier, so I won’t bother going into as much detail about these. However, I recently got some advice that I had been doing anyway, so apparently not everyone does it this way!

Take personality tests in the mindset of your character.

Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram, the Sorting Hat, anything. It’ll help you when you come at a crossroads and wonder “would this character really do XYZ?”

Building the perfect character can be hard, but with enough work you can make the best character for your next novel and feel happy about the outcome!

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WriterFest Nashville 2019 Reflection

This past weekend, I got to spend the weekend at WriterFest Nashville. WriterFest is an event made for writers of all kinds (book, movie, and song). There are 3 main keynote speakers and then several other panels were made to further develop writing, relationships, and marketing.

I could talk about the social media and marketing aspects of the event, but none of that really stuck with me. Of course, it was necessary information and useful. The part of my time at WriterFest, however, was the keynote speaker Kel Kade. Over the summer, I received an ARC of her first traditionally published book, Fate of the Fallen. So, when I heard she was going to be at WriterFest, I would intrigued by her name.

I’ll admit, I did a little fangirling and got a picture with her and asked her to sign my copy of her book.

Her conversation was different from other events I had been to with author talks. She talked about her life before publishing her first novel, barely able to pay rent. On a whim, she published an unedited book on Amazon with a cover she made herself and thought nothing of it, convinced that only a handful of people would read it. However, after the first month, her book had made over $32,000 and it continued to increase month after month. This spiraled to eventually get her a deal with Tor, a high fantasy publisher, and a deal for audio books. One of the questions asked by the audience was if she would be interested in a movie to which she responded in a very unexpected way. She said that if she was to get a movie done, it would have to be done the right way. And I think that’s the way everyone should be thinking in regards to screen adaptations.

Overall, WriterFest was a good experience and I’m thrilled I got to enjoy it along with so many amazing writers! I truly hope I get the opportunity to go again next year.

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Book Writing #3 – Starting Over

Perhaps the worst part of writing is starting over. It is when you wake up one day and realize that what you’re writing is not what you originally set out to write and it no longer has the same hold and direction that you wanted it to take. This can be heartbreaking and recently is something that has nagged at me, personally.

My Personal Experience

For the past year or so, I have been working with my co-author to create a fantasy series. We worked hard and created dozens of documents detailing every character, their backstories, their interactions, and the place they have in the world. We created an entire world with five main characters and we had a rough outline that would span 5 books – not just one. There was a beginning, a middle, and an end. We had characters we loved and characters we hated and a plotline that was solidly there, following our characters through their weaving stories. We even, in fact, finished the first book and had gone through editing it once and we started drafting the second book. 

It was at that point that I realized I no longer was in love with the story I was writing. While we were writing our fantasy series, I had gotten an epiphany. I had the idea for an entirely new story and I was excited about it and, better yet, it was a standalone. Suddenly, I began to notice the cracks and the faults in my 5-piece fantasy series. 

Solutions

Unfortunately, only you know what you want to do when you come to this realization, but here are some general pathways I’ve noticed that people tend to take.

1. Keep pushing – accept the fact that your writing didn’t go where you wanted it to go and go back through it. Take out parts you didn’t want and add parts that you feel are needed to make it the story you love again.

2. Start over – take your story and completely rework what you have. Since you know what you didn’t like the first time around, you know what to look for. With this, you don’t even necessarily have to start from complete scratch, just edit the crap out of it and cut it to bits. The story you originally wanted to write is in there somewhere.

3. Find a new story – put aside your manuscript and, literally, start over. New characters, new world, new genre, new feel. This can come naturally, like it did for me, or you can discover one. If your old story doesn’t speak to you creatively, maybe a new one will.

Of course, this is entirely subjective and I have no room to tell people that these are their only options. You make your own story and no one can tell you what to do about it, but I’ve noticed that this is generally the roads the people take when they wake up and realize they don’t love their story. I’ve heard many published authors say they feel this way about books they eventually got published. They pushed through the bad thoughts and found a way to love their writing again, but that can’t be the case for everyone. Don’t give up on your creativity and know that there is always a solution.

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Book Writing #2 – Character Names

Characters are a big component of your story. People can relate to your characters, because of their experiences, morals, and even name and appearance. When it comes to names, a few things need to be kept in mind.

Reminder: Names can be whatever you want. Don’t let anyone tell you your names aren’t good enough.

1: Gender can make a difference

There are plenty of names that can be considered unisex and, in some cases, the character in question might not have a specific gender (agender, gender fluid, etc.). Keeping this in mind, naming your main female character “Robert” is extremely unconventional and, while it isn’t necessarily wrong, some readers might find it odd. Likewise, there aren’t many male Kaitlyns floating around. 
Not to say that your male hero/villain/side character can’t be named “Ashley”, it’s just unconventional.
2: Ethnicity and Heritage
This is mainly in play for nonfiction or realistic fiction books, but it can also come into play with fantasy as well. If you want to keep specific regional names, you might want to research a bit to get names as close as possible to the portrayed culture. 
3: Tips and Tricks

To people that I’ve discussed names with, I almost always get the question “How do you come up with your names?” Let me tell you, it is a layered process. More often than not, I have the specific character already built in my mind. Name is the last thing I come up with. This means I have their purpose, ranking (in a fantasy setting), appearance, age, and everything plotted out. 

Being completely honest, I open a lot of baby naming websites. Sometimes I specify a region and sometimes I know what I want the name to start with and I just go from there. If I find a name I really like, I might try to spice it up a little or keep it as is depending how “ordinary” it is. 

Other times I open a name generator and hit refresh over and over. 

I might take the name Katherine and turn it into Katera or the name Francis and turn it into Farius. (I really don’t know, guys, I write fantasy. What can I say? Weird names come with the territory.)

The times I get really stuck I just hit random spots on the keyboard and it can actually work.

Names can be whatever you want them to be, but using baby naming websites/generators can be a huge help.

Happy naming! 
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Book Writing #1 – Building Your Plot

The plot is one of the most important things to consider when you’re writing your book. It is the driving force for all of your characters and gives the reader something to follow along with. For many authors, the plot is the first thing they come up with when they are considering a new story.

Step 1: The first idea

The first idea can be something super small. For some, the first idea can be that they want the story to be centered around a single character or multiple. The first idea can be as simple as “I want this person to save the world” or “I want character 1 to be against character 2 from the start and they are forced into a situation that makes them work together”.

The first idea can also be a case where the author wants to write a book similar to one they love/loved as a child, but make it their own.

Step 2: Picking your genre/audience

This seems a little obvious, but the genre is very important. With genre, there are certain aspects of the plot that would work in one genre but would be completely out of place in another. Usually, advanced technology would not be in a High Fantasy book and elves and magic don’t go in a Sci-Fi book. Of course, there isn’t a rule against making your story different or even changing your ideas away from the norm, so don’t let this discourage you!

As for the audience, you wouldn’t be writing a book with adult characters with large amounts of cursing and sexual tones as a Young Adult novel and you wouldn’t be writing a whimsical fairy tale for college students. Finding a balance is important!

Step 3: Solidifying your beginning, middle, and end

Making sure your characters have a point A to leave and a point B to get to is super important, but the middle is what makes or breaks a book. The hobbits didn’t just leave the Shire and end up in Mordor! They had to go through Rivendell, Gondor, and endless forests and adventures in order to finish their quest.

Step 4: Side plots/quests

Meeting a new character, facing a monster, having a computer glitch, joining the rebellion are all great side plots for your characters. It’s how they overcome obstacles and interact with others that really makes a great book. The main plot is what the story is about, but no plot is complete without some bumps in the road.

Additional Notes:

Don’t be afraid to change your plot! In fact, it most likely will change. The plot you start with probably won’t be the plot you end up with. As you get to know your world and your characters, things are going to evolve and change. The person you intended as the villain might not be the villain at the end!

Writing out, mapping, and all forms of diagrams could be EXTREMELY beneficial as you go! It keeps your ideas organized and everything running smoothly.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional, this is just based on my experiences.