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.

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 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.

The Agency Games

Writing Tip: “I Could Stop If I Wanted To…”

Recently, I blogged about the importance of recognizing when you need to STOP writing. Today, I’m going to talk about this same topic, but from a different perspective.

On Friday of this past week, I worked on final edits for They Agency Games from 9am to 4pm (and still didn’t finish. I put in another four hours yesterday and I plan to do another four hours today after publishing this blog post). Toward the end of Friday, my back and eyes straining from sitting at a computer for so long, all I thought was “Why am I doing this to myself?

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Then it occurred to me. Out of the blue, I had the sudden thought: I could stop. I didn’t have to keep going. If I wanted to, I could stop that minute and never go back to it. I could leave the book unfinished. The thought struck me so deeply that I had to pause my editing process to briefly write down these first two paragraphs so that I wouldn’t forget to blog about this later. Now let me explain why this was so important and actually a positive thought and not a negative thought.

Yes, I could have stopped, the fate of the world was not dependent on my writing. However, as much as my back hurt and my eyes burned, I did not want to stop. As soon as I thought that I could stop, my mind rejected it, because I was proud of what I had accomplished and what I was so close to accomplishing.

Sometimes, we need to stop writing and other times, we need to push through. Sometimes, this is what it means to be an author, a poet, a blogger. Sometimes, being creative and chasing after your dreams requires for your back to ache, your eyes to burn, and your brain to throb. Now, obviously, I’m not saying it should always be like that and yes, breaks are SO important. Eventually, even I reach my wall where I know I need to stop because I am no longer being productive.

Still, this moment, this thought that I could stop, was so important for my writing process because it reminded me how much I enjoy what I do, regardless of the stress that I sometimes feel. The fact that I thought I could stop, but didn’t want to stop, only strengthened my resolve to not only finish my current book, but to then jump into other projects as soon as I am able.

I apologize if today’s post was a bit more rambling than usual (I’ve definitely got editor’s brain today), but I hope that it was at least encouraging to some of you.

When you hit your wall, when you think, I could stop, just remember why you are writing, blogging, creating, etc. Remember how far you have come and how much further you are still able to go.

Happy Writing Everyone!

Wish me luck as I hope to finally finish The Agency Games today and have it sent to the editors by midnight! I plan to be more active on WordPress as soon as I can.

©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.

blogging tips

Blogging Tip: Don’t Feel Like Writing? Visit Your Reader

Do you ever open WordPress, look at that blank screen and think, “This is it. This is the moment when I run out of topics to blog about.”

And in that moment, you begin to panic. Will you ever blog again? Will you be reduced to merely someone who used to blog instead of someone who blogs? What will your followers think? Will they even notice? Should you just shut down your blog?

Image result for woah calm down gif

Seriously, calm down and stop freaking out.

Yes, you have run out of topics to write about and things to blog about (for now). Just because you are currently stumped does not mean that you will continue to be. However, you cannot stare at a blank screen and force yourself to write (most likely nothing will happen and if you do produce anything, it probably won’t be any good.) So calm down, and allow yourself to accept that you won’t be writing today.

However, do NOT sign off!

Do you want to grow a successful blog? Writing blog posts is only a part of blogging. Another large part of blogging is building your community and engaging with fellow bloggers. Go visit those other blog sites (that you should be following) and maybe even find new blog sites to follow. Click on your “Reader” and type in something that you are interested in. When you can’t write or blog, you should be reading! Reading other blogs:

  • Encourages community.
  • Helps you get to know other bloggers
  • Helps other bloggers get to know you
  • Creates a society of reciprocation

So, get out there and start reading!

Happy Blogging Everyone!

©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

Writing Tip: Accepting Failure

Let me be honest. Failure is going to be a part of your writing career. It just is. And let me honest again. Failure is going to be a part of life.

We are humans, we cannot succeed at everything, all the time.

So, before you begin your career as an author, an artist, a composer, a teacher, whatever you choose, accept that at some point you will fail.

Failure today does not mean that you cannot succeed tomorrow. – KaylaAnn

Failure is only a moment in time, a response to a singular incident. Failure does not define you or your career. The best option, and really the only option you have to success, is to accept failure and then move on from it.

Sometimes our failures will be small. For example, I failed a lot of my daily word count goals between the months of November – January. However, I did not let that stop me. I did not throw my hands in the air and say, “Well, I failed, it’s over!” Nope, I moved forward and planned to begin writing in earnest again.

Sometimes our failures will be big. For example, I’ve just recently received my review from my third reader and let’s just say, it wasn’t great. Now, I’m stuck where I have two decisions and either decision will require drastic change to my manuscript. However, that does not mean that I give up, I pick myself back up (after I cried my eyes out) and I get ready to face the problem head on.

So accept failure, but do not let it define you. Do not let it stop you. Do not let it hinder your progress. Acknowledge it, learn from it, be strengthened by it.

I’ll keep you updated on my book, The Agency Games, once I have some more information. Please wish me luck and keep me in your prayers as I work toward this goal and attempt to decide what is best for my manuscript.

Accept Failure but Never Stop Moving Forward.

Writing Tips

Writing Tip: Managing Your Expectations

As some of you may know, I am engaged and in the process of planning a wedding! In that process, my fiance and I are also underwent pre-marriage counseling (which was been a lot of fun as well as insightful and I recommend it for anyone thinking about getting married). Did you know that recently it has been announced that what kills marriages faster than anything else is 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.

Happy Writing Everyone!

***If you enjoyed today’s tip, be sure to check out more under the “Writing Tip” tab on my main menu. Have any questions about writing? Feel free to ask in the comment section!

Derek Harvey has a great article expectations in marriage if any of you are interested in reading the article.

©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

Writing Tip: The 3-Draft Rule

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 magic number to be 3: Three full-length drafts and let me tell you why.

Draft One: Getting it Down

Your very first draft should really 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. 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.

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. 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 three-draft rule!

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

***Extra Tip: It is okay to have some time take place between Draft One and Draft Two, distance can be a good thing for your own writing! It can give you perspective.

 

Happy Writing Everyone!

***If you enjoyed today’s tip be sure to check out my Writing Tips section under the main menu for more great tips and tricks on how to improve your writing!

 

©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

Writing Tip: Allow Your Book To Evolve

When writing your book just know that your book 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.

This isn’t a bad thing though. 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.

As you all know, I recently received my feedback from the publishers and they encouraged me to change and improve some chapters in my book. Through their suggestions, I have come up with new solutions and actually changed the entire chapter order of my book! And to be honest, it’s better for it!

Happy Writing Everyone!

***Enjoyed today’s tip? Check out my main page for more under the tab “Writing Tips”! Have any questions about today’s tip or writing in general? Leave your comments below!

 

©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

Writing Tip: Waiting Out the Waiting Period

Any author or poet who has attempted to go the route of traditional publishing is familiar with that dreaded “waiting period.” You know which one I’m talking about. You spend all your time and effort into creating an amazing story, editing and revising until your eyes are bloodshot and your fingertips are raw.

Then you hit send.

And you wait.

And you wait.

And you wait.

If you are very lucky or very talented (and often a combination of both), you will hear back from the publishers 6-12 months later as they express interest in you or your book. You think, Huzzah! The waiting is over and my book will be published immediately!

Sorry to burst your bubble, but that is not how it works. After that initial waiting period and the good news, you’re in for more waiting periods. Your book will most likely go through several editing phrases and after that you have visual decisions such as cover and formatting. Your book will most likely not be published until a year or two after you hear back.

That is a LOT of waiting.

As someone intimately engulfed within this dreaded waiting period, let me give you some tips on how to survive it:

  1. Take a deep breath and stop opening up your email every single hour of every single day (Seriously, Kayla Ann, stop doing this.) It only makes you more antsy when you fixate on their response.
  2. Get outside and do something. I don’t care if it’s the gym (which is my favorite as it’s a great way to release pent up energy) or a walk with your pup, or minigolf, or going to the beach, or biking, or going to the mall. In some way, get out and do something physical.
  3. Get back inside and do something. (But you just said go outside! Yes, I did, keep reading.) After you have gotten rid of some of that nervous energy and you can actually focus, start working on a different project. Write your next book or create some blogging posts and schedule them for the future.
  4. Take another breath and repeat the steps above. Trust me, you’re going to be waiting for awhile. (I’ve also found that small, but frequent, amounts of chocolate can do wonders for your mood.)

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Anyone else ever been stuck in that waiting period?

How do you pass the time and maintain your flimsy grasp on reality?

©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.