Writing Tips

Writing Tip: Setting Your Environment for Success

Hello writers! Some of you may already know this, but maybe some of you have never heard this before. Before you even start writing, you need to set up your environment for writing success!

“Set up your environment?” What do I mean by that?

Here’s the thing, my ideal environment to write in is up in the mountains of Big Bear, sitting on the deck of a two story cabin, the sky blue and the breeze light with birds chirping in the background with a cup of hot tea in my hands. However, as a full time professor, teacher, writer, and wife, my chances for retreating to the mountains are minimized. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t manipulate my current environment.

What I find helpful is setting up a specific space designated specifically for writing. This space should be somewhere that you often find yourself when you are really ready to write. Maybe it’s your bedroom/dorm room, maybe it’s that coffee shop down the street, maybe it’s outdoors, or maybe it’s on the floor of your kid’s nursery (because you know as soon as you leave, they’ll wake up).

For me, my space is my kitchen table. There is plenty of room for me to spread out my laptop, my notebook, my resources, and hey! easy access to food and tea! I don’t have a home office so this table has quickly become my office space. Be inventive with your writing space! Make it your own, make it familiar, and make it encouraging to your writing process.

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But before I can start writing I find that I need music. For me, that means turning on the Nordic playlist on Youtube which has already been modified by my thumbs up and down. These familiar songs automatically switch my brain into writing mode for my current YA Contemorary Fantasy piece: The Runic Saga.

Music is such a great motivator! Maybe you don’t have a specific playlist that comes to mind. Have you considered playing vido game music (specifically boss level music). If you aren’t sure what this means, in video games there is specific music that comes on when a character faces the ultimate bad-guy; this music has been specifically created to motivate the gamer and keep them engaged. In the same way, if you are having a hard time staying motivated, consider playing music from a popular video game. There are no lyrics to distract you (most likely) and it’s been specifically created to keep the listener activated in their task.

If that’s not your thing, consider playing soothing music in the background or simply your favorite playlist. Whatever you decide, try to keep it consistent. That way, when you hear the familiar music, you will automatically think that it is time to write!

This one might not be applicable to everyone, some of you might prefer to work in complete silence and that is okay! Whatever you do, try to control your environment the best you can. This might not always be possible so the important thing is to keep writing.

Let me know in the comments: How do YOU set your writing environment?

Happy Writing Everyone!

©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: Give Yourself Some Deadlines

Give yourself Deadlines and here’s the important thing… stick to them!

Deadlines are SO important, if you do not set realistic goals for yourself, you will find yourself falling behind. When setting deadlines, you are motivating yourself to accomplish small and attainable goals. There are two major premises to making deadlines work for you.

1. You need to have someone to keep you accountable.
Deadlines are great and all, but only if you have someone to be accountable to; if you are only accountable to yourself you are more likely to miss a deadline. It’s kind of like working out at the gym, you are more likely to meet your goals if you go with someone. So here’s some options: Find a friend or family member (who you trust) who would enjoy reading your stuff. Not only will it help you keep your deadlines but they might also give you some great feedback! If you don’t want to share your work quite yet, join a writing community where you can ask for encouragement in meeting your set deadlines.

2. You need to set REALISTIC goals.
This one is SO key. Do not set unattainable goals. When you set a goal that is practically impossible, it will be no surprise when you do fail and then you are only discouraged. Be kind to yourself and set realistic goals such as a certain amount of words per day, a certain amount of pages per week (even if it’s one page), or in my case, a chapter a month. By setting realistic deadlines you increase your probability of achieving your goals which will results in more self-esteem and motivation.

For instance, I know that I can get far more writing done during the summer than I can when I am burried by my school work. Knowing this, I set myself a huge challenge over the summer to write 80,000 words in 10 weeks and I hit every goal! At the same time, I know that I will most likely not see progress like that again until next summer. It’s all about knowing your limitations and abilities when setting deadlines.

What deadlines do YOU plan to set this week?

Happy Writing Everyone!

©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: Responding to Criticism

Have you ever experienced that soul-crushing moment when you pour your heart out into prose and someone, usually an ambiguous someone, turns around and criticizes everything you’ve done? Often with more insult than advice?

Well then, congratulations, you’re a writer!

And if you hope to continue along in your journey as a writer, you are bound to have this experience again and again.

And again.

I know, that is not exactly reassuring, but don’t worry, there is good news coming! We have to first ask, why is criticism so common? Are we really that bad at writing? (Well, a writing group might not hurt . . .) But really, the reason behind most criticism is the fact that writing is subjective. 

Yes, there are general rules that all writers must observe. And yes, writers should present their best version of themselves in their writing. However, on a whole, writing is subjective. That is the only way to explain why some people absolutely HATE Harry Potter while the rest of the world loves it. It also helps explain why one of my readers loved my book while the other did not care for it at all.

Writing is Subjective.

Everyone has different tastes. For instance, I will never like horror novels, never, they are not my thing. So while I might hate that type of book, it does not make it a bad book for everyone else.

Before you decide to submit your work, you need to prepare yourself for feedback both positive and negative. THERE WILL BE BOTH.

Here are a few ways that you can and should respond to criticism:

  • First, you need to anticipate a mixed review. Maybe the book is perfect in your eyes, but your readers will be seeing it differently, so allow yourself to acknowledge mixed reviews.
  • Next, you need to read through a shield. What does that mean? If someone is being overly-critical, read through their comments, ignore the rude insults, and cherry-pick out whatever can actually be constructive. Usually there is at least one suggestion that you can work with.
  • Finally, after picking out what you can work on, forget the rest! Don’t spend days wallowing over the negative feedback and don’t allow it to corrode your writing!

Have you faced rejection or negative feedback?

How did you respond to it?

Happy Writing Everyone!

©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: The Dramatic Arc

If you are a writer, you most likely have already hear of “The Story Arc” or “The Dramatic Arc.”  However, it is always good to remember these five crucial elements to any story: Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.

Step One: Exposition

Every story begins with exposition of some sort. Think of it as your background, or the introduction to your story. Who are your major players in this game? What is their world like and how is everything about to change? Consider “The Hunger Games,” in the exposition we learn about Panem and the districts. We learn about the reaping and the relationship between Katniss and Prim, but nothing of huge significance has happened yet.
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Step Two: Rising Action

The Rising Action can begin immediately, it can coexist with the exposition, or it can wait until a few chapters in to occur. These are the events that occur that really get the story going. While we were already introduced to Katniss and her family, the Rising Action truly begins once Prim’s name is called at the reaping. After this moment, Katniss is thrown head first into the crazy, fashion-obsessed Capitol and then forced to survive the Games.
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The Rising Action can continue on for quite a long time and makes up a large chunk of any story. All of these events snowball onto one another and lead to the climax. For example:
Katniss does well in the events before the Games, gaining the title “Girl on Fire”
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Next, her popularity leads to sponsorship that aids her in the Games
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Because of the sponsorship, Katniss survives long enough to find Peeta
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Because she finds Peeta, Katniss and Peeta can gain even more sponsors through pretending to be star-crossed lovers which enacts the rule that more than one tribute can survive
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Peeta and Katniss are able to survive together which leaves them as the last pair to face off with Cato.
Every step, every action that happens within the rising action leads to the climax of the story.

Step Three: Climax

Next, we have our Climax. The Climax is the culmination of everything that you have been leading up to in your writing. It is the big event, usually toward the end of your story (however, it is NOT the end). Using “The Hunger Games,” the climax can be seen at the end of the Games when Peeta and Katniss must battle with the brutal, bloody Cato.
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Step Four: Falling Action

However, the climax, as I briefly mentioned, is not the end! Indeed, in the moments after Cato’s death, we have our Falling Action (these are events that often come after and CAUSED BY the climax). In this case, the Falling Action consists of the Gamemakers attempting to force Katniss and Peeta into killing one another. However, when they refuse, Seneca Crane is forced to allow them to live, which leads to our resolution.
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Step Five: Resolution

The Resolution does not have to be happy, it does not have to answer every question and it can leave readers on a cliffhanger. For instance, although Katniss and Peeta are allowed to live and the Games have concluded, Katniss is aware of the danger that still surrounds her. When they head home, Katniss and Peeta’s relationship is hanging on tethers. She survived the Games, but Katniss is still not safe.
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So there you have it, the five essential elements of a story! When you write, do you make sure that these elements exist or do they come naturally?

Happy Writing Everyone!

©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: Allow Your Writing to Evolve

When writing multiple drafts of your book just know that your story WILL change.

Perhaps not a ton, perhaps only a little, or perhaps it will be a completely different book than the one you intended on writing in the first place, but one way or another, your book will evolve over time.

For example, I wrote the first draft of my current book series, The Runic Saga, over six years ago. This last summer, I rewrote the entire thing from start to finish. The characters are the same, the general plot line is there, but everything else is completely different and I mean, ENTIRELY DIFFERENT. Some characters were nixed, some were added, the whole world changed, but I know that it is a more compelling story because of those changes.

Change isn’t a bad thing. As you write, your ideas will grow and form. You might realize that what sounded like a great idea before doesn’t really work well in application. You may be hit with a sudden inspiration to go a different direction.

My advice?

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But in all seriousness, go for it! If you feel your book changing, you need to allow it. If you stick too tightly to your original plan, your writing will come out forced and it will sound that way to your readers. Take the new path and see where the new ideas lead you. If you hate them you can always go back and try again.

In other words, planning and outlining your book is important. But it is also just as important to allow your book to change and evolve as you write.

Happy Writing Everyone!

©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: Manage Your Expectations

As some of you may know, I am wife. We just celebrated our one year anniversary this summer! Being married is the best thing in the world, but it requires work. I’ll never forget that while preparing for our marriage and taking pre-marriage classes, I learned that there is ONE thing that kills marriages faster than anything else. It’s not finances or politics. Nope, it’s unmet expectations!

Now, my blog is not about marriage, however, I could not help thinking how this applies directly to our writing. How often to we come up with grandiose ideas for our novels that will sell a billion copies and make us millions of dollars? Ever catch yourself day dreaming about which actors and actresses would star in your film once that adapt your book into movie formatting? (No one, just me? Anyhoo . . .)

The point is, in our writing too we must manage our expectations. 

Writing is hard and making a break through in the industry is even harder, some might say that it is nearly impossible. So I am encouraging you to “make resolutions” (without the need for a New Year) and to set goals for your writing, but in doing so, make them realistic!

  • Set yourself real goals that you truly can accomplish! Here are some examples:
    • Write Every Day (even if it’s just for 5 minutes)
      • Try to hit a word count every day (even if it’s 20 words).
      • Try to finish as much as that book as possible (even if it’s not the whole thing.)
      • Send out queries to multiple publication houses (but don’t stop writing, waiting to hear back)
  • Don’t give yourself unrealistic expectations. Here are some examples:
      • Starting and Finishing that new idea for a book and having it picked up within the year (yes it can happen, but it doesn’t often)
      • Becoming a millionaire with your first book (Suzanne Collins wrote amazing books for YEARS and was not known until her latest series).

Be kind to yourself and be honest with your writing. Expect that some days will be more productive than others and set realistic expectations so that you do not cause unnecessary hardship.

What are some of your realistic and unrealistic expectations? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Writing Everyone!

©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: The Three-Draft Minimum

Today, I’m going to offer you some advice about how many drafts you should have before you consider sending out your full manuscript to a publishing company.

I consider the minimum number to be 3: Three full-length drafts and let me tell you why.

Draft One: Getting it Down

Your very first draft should be focused on just getting your writing out of your head and down on paper. In this draft, I encourage you to just write. Do not focus on getting it perfect, or saying everything you need to say. Major plot lines only people!

Create the bones of your manuscript.

Or, in other words, consider it the road map for the rest of your drafts. This first draft is all about getting your words on paper and it will be messy, it will be disorganized, it will not be perfect. And guess what, it shouldn’t be. However, this is very important: this is NOT an outline. This first draft should be a whole and complete draft with plot lines and developed characters. When I say this is the bones of your manuscript, you should still include the entire skeleton.

Draft Two: Buffing it Out

After “completing” your first draft (meaning that the bones of your manuscript are present and arranged), it is time to start adding the “meat” (the muscles, sinews, and veins, etc.). Draft Two can be accomplished on your own or with a friend or writing colleague. I personally believe that it is beneficial to have outside opinion for this draft. What I do, is I send my Draft One to friends and receive BETA reader comments. What needs flushing out? What drags? What doesn’t make sense, etc.? Once I have their comments, I comb back through my first draft and begin addressing both their comments and add in my own.

As I am going through, thinking about their comments and my own, I REWRITE (yes you heard me), REWRITE the entire manuscript. I open up a new blank screen next to my first draft and I RETYPE everything. I add in minor plot lines, flush our foreshadowing, and make the oh-so-necessary connections. After this, you should have a completed, flushed out draft, but you’re not done yet.

Draft Three: Cleaning it Up

Once you have completed crafting your narrative (it has bones, and muscle, and skin), it’s time to make it pretty! If hardcore editing is not your thing, ask for outside help whether that means the family member who is an English major or paying for grammar edits. Trust me, nothing lowers the quality of a good book faster than bad grammar. This is your one chance to impress a publishing company, so spend some time (and maybe *some* money) improving your manuscript until it shines.

Well, there you have it: my minimum three-draft rule!

What do you think? Is three drafts too many or too little? Be sure to comment below!

Happy Writing Everyone!

©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: STOP Writing; Keep Writing

Ah, don’t you just love contradictions?

Many of you have probably read my blog post: Writing Tip: STOP Writing. I have posted this tip in the past and normally, it is well-received once people get past the initial shock. One of my favorite things about blogging is the comment section because in the comments, I really get to have conversations with other like-minded, brilliant authors and bloggers. For instance, in the past, I have discussed these writing tips with various bloggers such as Michelle at Fantasyland on the power of stopping a project while continuing to work. That conversation sparked today’s blog post (so thank you Michelle!)

Michelle mentioned that when she needs to, she will sometimes stop the current project she is working on (giving herself that needed distance) and then pull up another project and work on that instead.

Now, I am not the type of writer who can work simultaneously on multiple large projects, it’s just too much for me. I prefer to work on one large project (like Agency in the Hunger Games and then The Runic Saga after) and maybe some smaller projects such as my blogging posts. I cannot start another book until I have finished the old.

However, the idea to stop working on your major project but to keep writing is a fantastic idea! In doing so, you are giving your mind the break and distance it requires, but you are still writing and keeping your creativity flowing. If you are like me and you cannot work on several large projects at once, here are some practical ways where you can stop working, but keep writing:

  1. Blog Posts: If you are reading this post, odds are, you’re a blogger, author, or both. If you are a blogger, what better time to work on scheduling some blog posts than when you need distance from your book? (That is what I am doing right now!)
  2. Poetry: The wonderful thing about poetry is that it is the perfect outlet for spewing out writing. Now, I would suggest cleaning it up before you post it, but often times when we are frustrated by writer’s block or in need of distance, getting our emotions out through poetry can be a powerful thing.
  3. Free Writing/Journaling: Maybe you are so stuck/overwhelmed that both blog posts and poetry seem daunting, but you still want to write. That’s when I would suggest free writing or journaling. Write about literally anything, your day, your hopes, the color of the wall, your dream vacation, whatever, just keep those writing juices flowing.

What about you?

What do you do when you need distance from a larger project?

Happy Writing!

 

©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: Just STOP

“Stop writing?!”

“But Kayla,” you may ask me, “how can you tell me to stop writing? Shouldn’t we keep writing? After all, we are writers! How can we be writers if we are not writing? How does stopping our writing actually help our writing? Isn’t that contradictory?”

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Now before you turn away from me and shake your head in disgust, hear me out.

I’m not saying that we should stop all writing. I am saying that you should stop working on the project you’re currently working on once you have finished it. For writers there is this huge urge that once we finally finish a project we automatically want to go back through, edit, and send it to a publisher. It’s just not realistic guys. In order for a work to be good you need to utilize the power of distance.

Now some of you may be wondering what the power of distances and others of you might have already heard of it. For those of you who are unfamiliar or need the refresher: The power of distance is, as it sounds, distancing yourself from your work after you have finished it.

Once you have finished a project you set it aside. If it’s on your computer, exit out of the file for a while (I know it’s scary but don’t worry it’ll still be there when you get back to it). If you’re writing in a notebook (hey kudos to you not a lot of people do that anymore),  close the notebook, put in a drawer and leave it alone. Give your work at least a couple of days if not weeks to rest and work on other projects in the meantime. Heck, go outside and see the sun once in a while (you know us writers are vitamin D deficient).

After a few days or a few weeks, whatever you can manage, take your work back out. The distance that you have given yourself and your writing will now do several things for you:

  • You will no longer be wrapped in the euphoria of finishing your project. As such, you will be able to remove your rose-colored glasses and look at your work for what it is: beautiful, but in serious need of some editing.
  • Due to the above, you will also be more willing to do what needs to be done, even if this means cutting out whole sections or chapters of your work.
  • You will gain a new and fresh perspective. I’m sure many of you college students out there know the feeling of turning in a paper, believing it to be 100% free of errors only to have it returned to you with red marks and think to yourself, “How did I miss that?” Do you know that when we read the same thing over and over, our brain will automatically fill in the gaps because it knows where we are going? That is why students often miss entire words in their essays, because their brain automatically assumes the words are there. By placing distance between your work and yourself, you give your brain a chance to restart and give your eyes a fresh chance to look at your material (making it easier to spot mistakes).

Try for yourself guys and let me know how it goes! Once you do finish a project and utilize the power of distance I encourage you to NOT EDIT, but rather, to Rewrite Instead.

Happy Writing Everyone!

©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.

Book Reviews

Book Review Lottery – Drop Your Books HERE

This Book Lottery is Now Closed; thank you!

What’s the hardest part about being an author? Is it the planning, the outlining, the drafting, the editing? Is it the revising, the publishing, the promoting? Being an author is HARD, but sometimes the hardest part in simply getting people to choose your book out of the millions of books released every year! Even harder than that is getting someone who has read your book to REVIEW your book!

I see this every day; authors working so hard and yet it seems impossible for them to garner more reviews. This is where I have decided to help support my writing community as much as possible.

#SupportanAuthor #WriteaReview

Whenever I have the time/money, I will post what I call the “Book Review Lottery.” During the next 24 hours, the comment section will be opened to authors who want to submit their books for review.

Let me explain how it all works:

  • Authors will submit their book titles, genre, links, AND a compelling blurb advertising their book!
    • If you are missing any of these components, your book will most likely not be chosen.
    • Please no horror, gore, or erotica (Thank you!)

  • I will choose one of the books to read and review. I will let you know personally if I have chosen your book.
  • Time allowing, I will read and post a review to your book within a month.
  • The reviews will be posted on Amazon, WordPress, Twitter, Instagram (story), Facebook, and Goodreads.
    • I will only post a review if I feel comfortable giving it 3 stars or more. If I feel that the book deserves less than 3 stars, I will send my review directly to the author and ask if they still want me to post it on Amazon (only).

 

That’s it! So Drop those Titles, Genres, Links, and Book Blurbs in the Comments!