Chapter 16: Have The Character But No Plot?

When writing a novel, the idea normally doesn’t come all at once.  Sometimes a scene comes, sometimes a place.  For me, personally, I often get to know my characters first.  They tell me where they’re from, how they reached where they are, their biggest fears, things about them they wish they could change – everything but what they want to do for the book.

So, what do I do?  First, I think about where they are in that moment.  What was their last accomplishment?  Were they proud of it, or has it left them wanting more?  Do they want more of the same, but better?  Or do they want something completely new?

Before I can think of anything else, I like to come up with their network of friends.  What’s their history together?  Do they trust one another, or is there tension?  As developing characters is personally my favorite part, so this is a lot of fun for me.  I like to think how they would interact with my protagonist.  Would they be funny together and provide bits of comedy?  Sexual tension and provide some steam?  An older sibling feel where they can provide necessary guidance?  Or do they absolutely hate each other but necessary to one another in a way that only history can explain?  A story can be made or broken by the minor characters.

Then, I like to think about what my character wants most in the world.  Is it a person?  Respect?  Power?  Or do they want nothing to do with the world anymore?  Now, do I want the story to be revolved around what they want or what the world throws at them?  What’s the worst thing that could happen to them?  What would make them want to do anything?

Or, is it easy for them?  Do they know what they want and are already willing to do whatever is necessary?  They already have the drive and will do it without any prompting?  Well, that’s nice.  But, now what?  How do I make it interesting?  Is there someone standing in their way?  How do I make it personal?  Think back to everything that makes them, them.  What’s the worst thing I can do to them?  As much as I love my characters, that’s always the question to ask.  Whatever’s the worst thing that could happen to them, make it happen.  That’s your story.

 

Stay tuned.. tomorrow I have some VERY exciting news to share with you all! 🙂

Chapter 14: Action Plan

I’ve been querying the Freedom Game to several agents.  Right now I’m sitting at seven submissions and three rejections.  And, as most of you know, a non-response is still a response.  Every time I see the rejection email, I’m hit with that little twist right in my heart.  Several of the agent are very gracious, reminding me that the literary arts are subjective, and that just because they didn’t connect with my piece doesn’t mean that it’s not good.  Well, nice words aside, that’s exactly what it feels like.

Well, guess what.  I don’t care.  I wrote a damn good book, and I know it.  Is it perfect?  No.  Is it better than my last novel?  Hell yes.  Can I honestly picture it on a bookshelf at Books a Million or Barnes & Noble?  Yes.

I can honestly see my target audience (Young Adult) picking up this book on just an average day.  I can picture them reading about my main character Ethlynn and falling in love with her.  I see people arguing over if she belongs with Nash, the main love interest, or her best friend, Wystan.  I can see my readers growing along with Ethlynn and finding their strength.

It’s going to happen.  I’ll continue querying, and will do so until March of next year.  That’s the deadline I gave myself.  If by then I’ve still only heard rejection, then I’ll self-publish.  Then I’ll self-publish.  Plain and simple.

So, what have I been doing in the mean time?  Writing the sequel.  I’ve told you all in the past how major selling platforms have algorithms set up to help you advertise up until 30 days and then another until 90 days.

Right now, I’m not sure how many books this series will be, but I know it’ll at least be a trilogy.  Even though it’s not for certain that I’ll be self-publishing, I want to be prepared.  (Also, I absolutely love these characters and writing their story.)  If I take the Indie author route, I want to be able to publish the novels within 90 days of one another.  I’m still a business woman at heart, and I can’t imagine not taking advantage of the marketing opportunity.

I’m still presented with the problem: me.  I’m a slow writer.  This year I’ve finished the Freedom Game and written over 17,500 words of its sequel.  In 10 months.  Thinking realistically, I want this second book to be completely finished before I publish the first.  Ideally, I’d like to be well into the third, already outlining the fourth.  (My writing style involves me writing the original outline of the following book whilst writing the predecessor.  This means that I can add in foreshadowing and adjust my subplots to make them more relating to one another.)

What’s the point of all this rambling?  Writing itself is the reward.  I don’t write for anyone but me.  With that said, I want to get books published.  I want them to do well.  The better my books sell, the closer I am to being able to do this full-time.  That means I have to come up with a plan.

My final thought: set up an action plan for your writing!  Make it happen.  Success hardly ever falls into our laps.  You have the same 24 hours in your day as any successful author.  Use them.

Chapter 13: Shadows of Motivation

It really is something, writing a novel.  It’s your precious baby that takes months to finish.  One of the hardest parts?  You have no positive affirmation until several drafts in, when you finally feel it’s good enough to show to your beta reader.  Personally, I’m also a part-time author.  This means even the first draft takes me several months to write.  I worked on my last novel for six months before I gave it to the first of my beta readers.

What does that mean?  Any encouragement is most likely only coming to come from you.  Yes, you have a support group (I hope).  Personally I like to text both my sister and best friend different word count updates literally just to hear back that they’re excited about my progress.  I need to be reaffirmed.  Sue me.  But, is that enough?

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.  I’m a full-time student, and if you’re not in my boat I’m assuming most of you have a full-time job.  Either way, whenever I have free time my brain is simply too tired to write.  Instead I always take a nap, watch a show on Netflix (I just finished Parks and Rec in only two weeks), or even read.  Let’s not forget about the social life.  When is the time to write?? Well, it’s there.  For sure.  But I have to create it.

That’s easier said than done.  First, I have to find the motivation to even begin, and sometimes, I simply can’t find it.  I’ve kept track of my word count per day (which I of course plan to share upon this novel’s completion) and let me tell you: there are a lot of ‘0’ days.  I have random spikes where I exceed my word count, and some random days where I don’t even hit 1,000 words.

Now, I’ve always been the forgetful type.  This means that my google calendar is filled with every little thing that I have to do.  My phone reminds me and thank goodness, because otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done.  Then I thought about it.  Why am I not scheduling my writing?  I mean, up until now, I’ve always approached it as “once I finish this assignment, I’ll write.”

Screw that!

I went through my calendar and specifically allotted time to write.  It gives me the reliance that I’ve accounted for the time – instead of thinking “I should be studying” or “There’s still that assignment.”  I know that somewhere in my calendar I’ve allotted the appropriate amount of hours for that shit too!  So when I’m writing, I can be completely present.  It’s been such a simple decision.

But the results?  I’ve doubled my weekly word count.  I’m curious how you get yourself back on track when your motivation hides for a bit?

Chapter 10: Writing Depression and Progress Regression

Oh yes… the subject everyone deals with but nobody likes to talk about.  As I’ve said before, short stories come to my aid when I’m in need of some kind of self-accomplishment.  While that in itself is a beautiful thing (and one that I love doing) it also comes in tow with more rejection.  I have received one rejection every two weeks or less since October.  Still, to say I’ve gone numb to the feeling would be a lie.

I often still find myself falling into the dark pit of depression.  In all fairness, who wouldn’t?  No matter how many times a loved one tells you your work is good, it still doesn’t hold the same value to a stranger saying the same.  I’m not saying my support system is fruitless; in fact, they’re the only reason I haven’t given up.  With that said, someone at least putting me on the waiting list would be a nice pat on the back.  It’s so hard right now to find the motivation to write anything, because what good is a book if it’s not being read?

On happier news, I just finished my YA Fantasy novel, The Freedom Game, and am beginning to send out my query letters to agents.  I know there will be countless bullets to my heart before I hear a happy response, and that’s assuming I hear one at all.  …If you’re an agent into YA Fantasy, feel free to email me 😉

I started this book on January 1, 2017, so you can indeed say I’ve spent a lot of time on its betterment.  I have to admit, though, part of the reason is because, well, I just wouldn’t write.  It’s hard to find the motivation when you’re not reaping any rewards.  It seems like it’s you against the world, and the inner desire to write is beaten down by all the little things.

Still, my book’s become so near and dear to my heart that I’ve decided no matter how many battles lie ahead, I will publish it.  Self-publishing is a beautiful thing, and with my degree in finance I think I could do it decently well.  After all ‘self’ means the only approval I need is my own, and thus no one is poking a stick at my head telling me ‘You’re not good enough.’

Now, I’m no fool.  I know I’m not the only writer who goes through this kind of pain.  So, below I put a list of what I personally do to try to claw my way out of the pit.

  1. Drink tea. Simple, I know; but, also powerful.  The reason I’m putting this first is because I think you should do it while trying out my other ideas.  Drinking tea while sitting there crying won’t have the same effects as drinking tea while reading a book for instance.  But seriously, have you ever tried Yogi Stress Reliever Tea?  If not, you should!  It’s not an instant cure as much as a slow-proving one.  It also has the habit of making me sleepy, proving that it does indeed calm my nerves.
  2. Watch a movie that’s so bad it’s funny. This is a weird one, I know, but it has multiple benefits.  It doesn’t require any brain power, and so you can spend your time laughing your butt off and just letting loose.  It’s amazing how a bad film can actually take you away from the miseries of reality.  Also, it doesn’t hurt to know that there’s art out there that’s much, much worse than your own (Sad to say, but true).  One Netflix show that I would suggest for this exact purpose is ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return.’  It’s hilariously stupid and gets me laughing.
  3. Go on a walk/hike. Personally, I live in Florida.  Aka flat and humid.  That doesn’t stop me from walking in the mornings, though.  I love to find random nooks where a trail is hidden in the middle of city, etc.  If you’re in basically any other state, there’s probably easy walks with glorious sights.  There’s something to be said about leaving your apartment, even if it is to something as simple as walk.  Different location translates to different emotions.
  4. Go to the gym. No, don’t run away.  Even if you are, I got you running ;).  It’s science; working out releases endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy.    I’m not saying you have to go every day; far from it.  The gym is a place of noise.  Weights falling.  People talking.  Music playing.  It jars at your mind in just the right way.  It’s hard to get lost in thought when so much is going on around you, which in this case is good.  Why?  If you were just rejected, you want your thoughts anywhere but on that fact.  If you’re like me, you’ll also enjoy people watching as an added bonus.
  5. Write a letter to a friend. I know, how old fashioned!  Still though, when you’re writing someone a letter, you automatically feel required to write more than just a quick hello.  You should take the opportunity to catch them up on your life.  And, guess what?  Now, you’re forced to think about everything else going on in your life.  Your puppy is now a dog.  You’re up for a promotion at work.  Your family is about to visit.  You live in a nice area.  You just met someone as wacky as you are.  Hell, even tell them what you made for dinner the night before.  It doesn’t matter!

Chapter 8: Questions on Questions

Hello again, my dear readers!  I am so terribly sorry about my lack of posting these past few weeks.  My internship has exhausted me far past what I originally expected.  But, the hiatus is officially ended!   I sat here thinking how best to kick back off my writer’s blog, and then realized: I have a sister who just so happens to be a published authors.  As to not overwhelm her, I kept this interview short; but, I thought you’d enjoy hearing some responses from the beloved Kristen Brand.

Question #1: What were the biggest factors in your decision to become an indie author rather than traditionally publish?

I’d been thinking about self-publishing for a while, as Hero Status had gotten rejection after rejection from traditional publishers and agents. I thought Hero Status was great, but part of me still worried I was biased and the book wasn’t as good as I thought. But then it happened! A small but respectable publisher was starting a digital-first imprint and acquired my book. Success at last!

Three months later, I got an email from the press saying that they’d acquired too many books and unfortunately had to drop some authors—including me. Now, they were a class act about the whole thing and returned my rights (You hear horror stories from authors where less reputable presses did no such thing), but it was still disappointing. And yet. And yet, these publishing professionals had deemed my nerdy little book good enough to acquire. That was the outside validation I needed, and I decide to go ahead and publish Hero Status myself.

Question #2: How did you decide on your editor?  Cover artist?

There are loads of freelance editors and cover artists out there whom indie authors can hire, some good, and some not so much. The key is research. There are online resources out there with lists of recommended editors, but instead of taking the word of some random person on the internet, I think it’s better to look at some of your favorite indie authors and see who they hired. Authors will usually thank their editors at the end of the book, so this isn’t as hard as it sounds. I approached my editor because she worked on one of my favorite fantasy series, and I didn’t remember seeing so much as a single comma out of place when I read those books.

As for cover art, I went with an artist recommended by a friend and fellow author. That’s another great strategy: hang out on forums with other indie authors and see who they had good experiences working with. And of course, look at other covers the artist has done in your genre.

Question #3: What has been your biggest challenge as an indie author?

Definitely marketing. I think I’m like most authors in that I like to write, not sell things. Figuring out how to get more people to buy my books has been a challenge—but a fun one. The indie author community is great about sharing strategies and helping each other out, and I’ve learned so much since I got started. I read plenty of blog posts and listen to podcasts on the subject (The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast is a favorite), and while I’m better at it than I used to be, I still have a long way to go.

Question #4: You’ve a two-book superhero series with one set to be published later this year.  What’s it been like to try to take over a genre that’s considered to be an “unmarketable” genre?

It’s funny that superhero fiction doesn’t have a bigger place on the shelves of bookstores. With superhero movies being so popular and profitable, you’d think there’d be a ton of superhero books out there, but I haven’t found that to be the case. Still, there are definitely readers who love the genre. It may not be as popular as something like paranormal romance, but plenty of indie authors have found success by serving a smaller niche.

Question #5: Do you have any advice for people considering self-publishing that you wish you knew?

I’d probably advise people that if you’re writing a series, wait until you have two or three books finished before you publish the first—at least if you’re a slow writer like I am. Putting books out three or so months apart can help give your series momentum and keep it selling well. Being able to publish so fast is one of the major advantages indies have over traditionally published authors, since it keeps your books fresh in your readers’ minds.

Compare that to me, who publishes one book every year or so, and…yeah. It’s an area where I have definite room for improvement.

Question #6: Where can these readers find you and stay updated on your writing whereabouts?

You can find me at my author website, KristenBrand.com. It has information about my books plus free superhero fiction you can read online. I’m also on Twitter at @BrandedKristen, where I talk about writing updates, comic books, and other randomness.