Writing Tips

Writing Tip: The 3 Top Questions You Need to Ask Your Characters

So you want to write a book, huh?

For some, that’s easy; for others, it’s much harder. A place that all writers must eventually come to is character development. A good book is marked by its strong and authentic characters. I don’t know about you, but I can read just about anything as long as I love the characters. If I cannot stand the characters, I could not care less about an interesting plot. (Some people feel the opposite, but hey, that’s just me).

With Characterization being such an important part of the writing journey, it’s up to the author to really get to know their characters, but that can be easier said than done. Try going to a google search bar and type in “Questions to Ask Characters.”

Here are some results you might see:

  • Top 10 Questions to ask . . .
  • Top 50 Questions to ask . . .
  • Top 99 Questions to ask . . . (why not 100 at that point?)

It’s clear that this can get out of control real quick. Now, granted, some of these lists are more about devloping character profiles (likes and dislikes, personal history, physical appearance, etc.). For today’s tip, I’m going to narrow it down. When you begin your writing and you need to know the most important things about your characters, you need to ask them only three questions.

1. What does your character want?

This question relates to the plot of your entire book. What is your character’s motive for every action that they take? Bilbo Baggins wants to get back to the Shire. Katniss Everdeen wants to survive and save her sister. Luke Skywalker wants to bring back balance to the force. These wants, these motives, drive every action your character takes.

2. What is your character’s greatest strength?

I don’t mean how much can they lift. I mean, what is it about your character that attracts not only readers but the other characters. What makes your character useful to accomplishing the overall plot of the book? Biblo was small and unnoticeable (which doesn’t seem like a strength but it made him dang useful to those around him). Katniss was “charming as a slug,” according to Haymitch, but her love of her sister won over the crowds. Luke never gave up hope in himself, the force, and even the light inside his father.

3. What is your character’s greatest weakness?

Characters must be flawed. How often have we heard that? Phyiscal, emotional, and mental flaws are a must! Want to know why? Because that is reality. What flaw is going to get in the way of your character accomplishing their goals and make your writing interesting? Bilbo prefers the comforts of his home to any moral quest and struggles against adventure (at first at least). Katniss is completely anti-social which is extremely problematic when her survival depends on people liking her. Luke Skywalker can be brave, but also headstrong and make foolish decisions.

When it comes to your characters, you need to know why they act the way they do, what about them will make your readers root for them, and what about them will make your reader grab the book and say, “oh, come on!”

What Character Development Questions would you add to this list? Make sure to let me know in the comments below!

©KaylaAnnAuthor2020

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing Tips

Writing Tip: RE-WRITE instead of Revise

*This is a tip that I first found on Pinterest and used when re-writing Agency in the Hunger Games. I am using this tip again with my current WIP.

Often times, when writers finish the first draft of their WIP, most jump straight into the editing phase. We can’t help it; we’re excited and already thinking about querying and sending out manuscripts, but if you do that, you are missing a HUGE step in the publishing process.

Here’s a piece of advice that changed my writing life entirely. When you finish your first draft, you should not go straight to editing. Instead you should write the first draft all over again from the beginning. Literally, pull up a blank document and rewrite your manuscript sentence by sentence.

IKnow It Sounds Crazy Hear Me Out GIF - IKnowItSoundsCrazy ...

Before you turn away in disgust, hear me out.

Why It Works:

When you have to rewrite (or retype) your manuscript, you will inherently be more open to removing unnecessary parts (because you’re not actually deleting anything) and you are far more likely to add more material and flush out your ideas now that you know how your story ends. You can add in more foreshadowing, more world building, more character depth, etc. Instead of having to go through your draft and figure out where to put those items, they come much more naturally through the rewrite.

My Results

I am currently using this technique to expand my Contemporary Fantasy Young Adult Fiction piece (80,000 Word Count in 10 Weeks Challenge). In my original draft at this point in the story (finished four years ago), I had written about 80 pages and 22,839 words. At the same point in the plot with my new draft, I have written 163 pages and 49,235 words. And that is AFTER completing removing entire scenes and chapters. Not only did I DOUBLE the amount of story, but I can say whole-heartedly that it is a BETTER story. It’s a lot of work to re-write an entire draft when you just want to move into the next phrase, but I can say that the result was worth it!

Not only did I greatly improve the quantity of my writing but, more importantly, I also improved the quality of my work.

Have you ever tried this technique before? Did it work for you?

Happy Writing Everyone!

***If you enjoyed today’s writing tip, be sure to visit my page “Writing Tips” on my main menu and learn more tips and tricks! Have any writing questions? Leave them in the comments below!

©KaylaAnnAuthor2020

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing Tips

Writing Tip: Facing Writer’s Doubt

“Just let yourself be creative.”

These were the words of wisdom I received from my sister a couple of weeks ago.

In the midst of this 80,000 Word Count in 10 Weeks Challenge, some days have definitely been harder than others. Somedays I struggle with writer’s block and other days I face writer’s doubt. Writer’s Doubt, for me, is different than writer’s block. With Writer’s doubt, I can keep writing, I actually have a TON to write, but I doubt every. single. word.

I doubt whether or not it’s good, or if it’s portraying what I am trying to say, or if I personally even like my story at all anymore. I get into that mindset that I’ll never be as good as [insert author name here]. I compare and contrast, and in the weighing, I feel myself coming up short. 

I have been weighed. I have been measured.. And I have absolutely ...
It’s a fantastic movie, I had to include this line.

So what can I do when I find myself blocked by Writer’s Doubt?

Well, luckily for me, I have a sister who I can reach out to (who is also my Beta-Reader for this current book). She gave me some great encouragement that I want to share with anyone else that might be suffering from Writer’s Doubt.

“Look at every author who goes back and talks about their debut novel, years later . . . Give yourself a chance to be that author that can go back years later and discover how much you’ve learned . . . Just let yourself be creative.”

When you are struggling with Writer’s Doubt, stop comparing, stop contrasting, and remember to simply give yourself a chance.

Dont’ rob yourself of the chance to make mistakes, to be creative, and to try something new. Don’t rob yourself of the chance to simply create a first draft that does not have to be perfect; it just has to be.

Don’t rob yourself of the chance to create something amazing and spectacular because your fear or failure gets in your way. You don’t have to be perfect today. You don’t have to be [insert famous author name here] today. You just have to be you.

Give your writing a chance today to become something incredible in the future and keep writing.

Creative

©KaylaAnnAuthor2020

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing Tips

Writing Tip: When To Stop Writing

“What do you mean STOP writing, Kayla Ann? I need advice on how to START writing!” 

Fair enough, I know that many of us authors struggle most with getting started, finding inspiration, and actually getting our words, ideas, plots, characters, etc., down on paper. In the past, I’ve talked on this point of how to get started multiple times by setting a scheduled writing time, or brainstorming, or even setting up your environment.

Today, however, I want to talk about something equally important. You need to know when to STOP writing MID-project. Now, today’s post is not about stopping your writing indefinitely or even for a long period of time. My advice today is specifically geared toward authors who are working on a long project (like a novel or series) every single day.

When working on a large project, you need to stop at a certain point every day to avoid future burnout.

Stop Sign

Burnout is a common issue for all authors, but it is even more common for authors who are attempting a challenge like NaNoWrMo or self-projects that require every day writing. I am currently in the third week of my 80,000 Word Count in 10 Weeks Challenge. Last week, I was pleased to say that I had met my writing goals, but I can admit that I am beginning to feel the burnout creeping up on me.

I have found that the best way to to fight off burnout is to keep the writing intersting for me by cutting myself off midstream. When I do that, I am excited to return to my story and finish my thoughts!

Let me explain: Every day, I have a writing goal of approximately 1,143 words. Once I hit that word count, I try to wrap up my current thoughts and then stop, EVEN IF I know what I want to write next, EVEN IF I am excited for what is coming next. I defintiely outline what I have planned (so that I don’t lose it in writing limbo), but I force myself to stop while I still know what is going to happen next.

That way, the next day, I do not open my computer and sit struggling as I think: NOW WHAT?

Instead, because I already know what I want to happen next (remember, I left those notes and I’ve had a whole day to think about it and expand on it in my mind), I can jump straight in to the story! For me, just starting a story or picking it back up can be the hardest thing. In the past, when I would write until I ran out of thoughts, the next time I sat down to write, my mind would be empty and it would take me awhile to get started. With this new technique in mind, I skip over that stalled beginning and am able to pick up writing right were I left off.

Don’t exhaust all of your words and ideas in one sitting. Make and reach your goals, but then stop and leave notes for your next sitting so that you are able to dive right back into your writing!

Any other writers employ this (or similar) techniques when writing? Let me know in the comments below!

Don’t forget to reblog if you think your readers would like to see this content too! 🙂

©KaylaAnnAuthor2020

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

blogging tips, Writing Tips

Writing Tip: Set a Scheduled Time

Read any “How to Write” books, watch any author talk about how they did it, and they’ll tell you: They protected their writing time. 

This is the advice I have heard a thousand times and it’s the advice I’ve given out multiple times (even when I sometimes fail to follow it). Want to know why?

It works.

Today’s tip works for writing fiction, short stories, non-fiction, poetry, and especially blogging! If you are a writer of any kind, you must be intentional with your writing time. If you are waiting for your schedule to open up or for inspiration to hit, you’ll end up like me and a thousand other writers who find that months fly before you sit down to write again.

Of course, it’s super easy for me to tell you, “Just be intentional with your time.” (I think I can hear some of you rolling your eyes at me. I might have even rolled my eyes a bit.)

No matter how great and how TRUE this advice is, it’s just not that simple! Between jobs and life, family and friends, scheduling writing time is nearly impossible for the average writer who must support themselves and their families with a full time job.

Part of learning how to schedule your time is learning how to take advantage of the time we are given. Currently, all around the world, literally in almost every country, people are facing an extended period of free time. Writers are being forced away from their livelihoods in what has become both a blessing and a curse. While I cannot and do not want to minimize what people are going through, I want to encourage writers everywhere to spend their new “free time” pursuing their craft instead of losing another eight hours on the couch binge-watching the latest Hulu original.

Starting today, we must make a choice on how we intend to spend our “free time.” Take a hard and honest look at your daily life. Is there an hour (or more) that you spend watching tv that could be dedicated to writing? Even if you do not feel inspired, you should sit down at your computer and write. Dedicate that hour to writing something, it doesn’t even have to be good!

And yet, even with this new free time, there are numerous people who are just as busy as ever. With that in mind, let me ask you this: Can you add an extra 30 minutes to your busy day? Depending on whether you are a morning bird or a night owl, can you extend your day by 30 minutes by getting up early or going to bed late? Even if you do not feel inspired, you should sit down at your computer and write. Dedicate those 30 minutes to writing something, even if its only a few words.

Whether its 30 minutes, an hour, or longer, by holding to this schedule, you are setting a routine for yourself so that when inspiration does strike, you will be ready!

As for me, I plan on setting aside at least an hour every morning to write on a new book (more to come about this in a coming post).

When do you plan to schedule your writing time? Let me know in the comments!

©KaylaAnnAuthor2020

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing Tips

Highlighting Rejection Day 5: YOU

Can we all just be honest and authentic for a couple of minutes?

I am encouraging ALL of you to be willing to be vulnerable in the comment section.

Anyone who is serious about writing has most likely received some sort of rejection in their lives. Maybe it was not an official rejection letter, maybe it was some peer review (from family or friends) that did not go as you expected.

Writing is hard, and rejection/criticism makes it harder. But I think the thing that is so detrimental about rejection is when we think that we are alone in our rejection. We think, “This is a personal reflection on ME.”

I am hoping to combat this idea and the isolation that can be a result of rejection by encouraging you to comment below your own experiences with rejection. As a writing community, let us come together to share our own struggles.

So, if you are up for it, in the comment section please answer:

Have you ever experienced rejection for your writing? If so, was the rejection kind or harsh? And more importantly, how did you respond/handle the rejection? What advice would you give to someone who just received their 1st, 2nd, 3rd rejection letter?

©KaylaAnnAuthor

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing Tips

Highlighting Rejection Day 4: Louisa May Alcott

Perhaps the name Lousia May Alcott rings a bell in your ears? Alcott was the author of Little Women. The novel follows the lives of four sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. These women are loosely based on the women in Alcott’s own life. According to VanityFair, “More than a century after it was first published, the March sisters still galvanize readers, writers, and Hollywood producers.”

However, Alcott received one of the harshest rejection letters of her time when Publisher James T. Fields rejected her work and advised her, “Stick to your teaching, Miss Alcott. You can’t write” (Boston Women’s Heritage Trail). If you saw the recent movie, Little Women, you saw first hand the treatment that Jo received for her writing.

Image result for harsh gif

What might have happened in Alcott had allowed these insults to change her mind of writing? She never would have published the first and second parts of Little Women.

After her success, Louisa herself wrote, “Twenty years ago, I resolved to make the family independent if I could. At forty that is done. Debts all paid, even the outlawed ones, and we have enough to be comfortable. It has cost me my health, perhaps; but as I still live, there is more for me to do, I suppose” (Boston Women’s Heritage Trail).

Image result for louisa may alcott writing quote

Don’t let someone else’s opinion decide your fate. Set sail on your own journey.

©KaylaAnnAuthor2020

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2020 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing Tips

Highlighting Rejection Day 3: Robert Galbraith

Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym used by J.K. Rowling who wished to separate her thriller novels from her famous children’s series, Harry Potter. Many people are already aware of both J.K. Rowling’s struggles as an author and of her success. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was turned down twelve times and the thirteenth editor only published it because his daughter wanted to know what happened next. He encouraged J.K. Rowling to “not quite her day job.”

In theaters alone, J.K. Rowling’s movie adaptations of her novels earned her 3.2 billion dollars (Movie Mojo). Quite obviously, Rowling could easily quit her day job and focus solely on her writing.

When Rowling finally wrapped up Harry Potter and decided to move on to other books, she used the name Robert Galbraith and was rejected AGAIN by one of the same publishing companies who TURNED HER DOWN BEFORE.

j.k. rowling tweet

 Sometimes, our work needs improvement and sometimes, the publishers are just dead wrong. The hard part is, we rarely get to know the reasons behind the rejection so the best thing we can do is work to perfect our writing and be persistent in getting it out there!

©KaylaAnnAuthor2020

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing Tips

Highlighting Rejection Day 2: Dr. Seuss

Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, is one of the most successful children’s author in the world. His well-know works include Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat and the Hat, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Many of his books have been remained into cartoons which were later remained into live-action movies. And now, even his movies are being reanimated closer to their original form.

Related image

Needless to say, his success is obvious everywhere!

However, it wasn’t always that way. Did you know the Dr. Seuss’s first children’s book,  And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was rejected twenty-seven different times! In fact, he had almost given up on getting his book published at all!

It was only due to a chance encounter with a friend, who had recently become an editor, that Theodor Geisel ever became Dr. Seuss. Can you imagine though, what would have happened, if Theodor had been too broken down by his recent rejections to even mention his book to his friend? What would Christmas look like without his classic tale?

If Dr. Seuss, the genius behind children’s stories, can take twenty-seven different rejections and keep moving forward, so can I and so can you! Try and try again, it’s all that we can do!

Dr. Seuss

©KaylaAnnAuthor2020

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing Tips

Highlighting “Rejection” Day 1: KaylaAnn

Hello there friends!

What an amazing weekend! As many of you are aware, I recently published my first book, Agency in the Hunger Games and celebrated that publication last weekend with the Launch Party. However, I personally, am not always inspired or encouraged when every one else around me succeeds. For the hope of encouraging the struggling authors out there who see someone else’s success and thinks, “why can’t that be me?” Let me remind you that we all start at the same place: REJECTION.

Here is the rejection letter that I received back in October from another publishing company that I had submitted my children’s series to a couple months before. They responded,

We have read and reviewed it with care, but we’re sorry to say that it doesn’t seem quite right for our list. We appreciate the opportunity to read your work, however, and wish you good luck in finding the right home for this project.

Overall, it was not actually a horrible rejection letter. It was kind and considerate, and while I may wish they had told me why the book was not the right fit, I appreciated their encouragement to try again elsewhere.

Now, you may be wondering, why am I highlighting my failures online for everyone to see? Especially right after my recent success. The answer is simple really:

I believe in presenting my authentic self, every time.

And honestly, I refuse to see a rejection letter as a “failure.” Lately, I have been blessed enough to be able to focus and celebrate my accomplishments, but I am a writer, and our lives are definitely not only made up of achievements. The life of a writer is overflowing with feedback and most of it is not going to be positive (not if you’re allowing yourself to be vulnerable). There is going to be negative feedback, hurtful criticism, and yes, enough rejection letters to plaster your office walls.

So what? That does not mean that we stop writing. It means that we sit our butts back down in our writing chair, we open our computers, and we go to work.

This week, in honor of my latest rejection letter, I am going to post up a new famous author every day who went through multiple rejections on their way to becoming successful.

Are you a writer? Have you received that rejection letter? You are not alone!

Stop by my blog each day this week to read about how all the “great” authors have stood exactly where you stand now with rejection letters in hand.

My hope is this, that as a writing community we will not equate “rejection” with “failure.”

Image result for writing rejection

©KaylaAnnAuthor2020

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.