Writing

3 Perks of Being a Writer (aka stuff I discovered my last semester of undergrad)

Hello all!

As some of you know, I have graduated with my BA in English *cue roaring applause.* Thank you, thank you. Anyway, being a recent-undergrad grad, I find myself lost in a sea of post-grad depression. I’m discovering it’s very hard to be determined and focused without the familiar structure of school plus work-life. Without one half of that combo, all I do is work and come home, which leaves me a lot more time to just… think, and I have done a lot of that recently.

I call it thinking, but really I’m just drowning in a sea of nostalgia. I think it may be that it just recently happened, but I have been ruminating on my final creative writing class. It was so different, and the professor was just as different. This professor just boggled my brain. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot throughout my entire undergraduate career, but something about that final class during that final semester just really resonated with me. I talk a lot about writing, the crafting of it, the mechanics of it, etc. However, I didn’t realize there were also a set of perks that came along with the title of writer. That is what my final creative writing class taught me, and I wanted to share some of those today.

Well, enough of that. Let’s get going.

  1. Calling yourself what you are — a writer — can open some doors.
    Of course it’s always nice to have the proof to back it up, but just by claiming you are from the get-go, it can provide a huge amount of opportunities. For example, I’ve been working on a piece centered around the history of a bronze sculpture. It probably goes without saying that I know jack squat about bronze and how it reacts to certain elements and time in general. So, I did some googling and found a person that works with bronze metals and restores older pieces from various stages of wear tear. I sent him an email, making sure I mentioned that I was just a writer hoping to expand my knowledge on the subject. He was beyond helpful. He sent pictures, asked me questions about my fictional bronze sculpture, and even helped shaped my story. Just by letting him know I was writer and wanted to learn, I gained so much knowledge and ended up having a great experience I might not have otherwise.
  2. You are always building a portfolio.
    If you are a writer, you are also a creator. You are constantly creating something, and as such you are always building a portfolio. My professor always told us to attack everything we wrote as if someoneanyone might read it. That is something I never really thought of when writing, but it has become truer and truer the farther I travel from my undergraduate career into my professional one. You don’t really realize how many of the pieces you work on you can eventually use in a professional setting. I recently (and by recently I mean 3 weeks ago) I was hired by my dream company *cue second roaring applause.* Thank you, thank you, but surprisingly (or perhaps, unsurprisingly) my job doesn’t directly deal with writing in any way. Even so, I had so much to put on my resume and into my portfolio that proved I was capable of working in a professional setting. They proved to my now-employer that I could meet deadlines, that I could communicate effectively, and that I was able to complete projects effectively. I provided them with multiple versions of one piece to prove I had an eye-for-detail, that I am dedicated, and that I am not discouraged by failure. By constantly creating, you are constantly creating proof of your skills and character. We spend so much time learning to show and not tell, and by doing so, we are creating ways to show our skills, rather than just tell people we have them.
  3. You can always be a writer.
    No matter what path my life takes, I will always be a writer. If I stay on my current career path, if I decide to do something else, if 40 years pass, if pen and paper become obsolete, if we all have to move to another planet, if the world implodes… doesn’t matter. I can and will always be a writer. As long as you writer, you are a writer. A writer is someone who writes journals, who writes for a newspaper, who writes just for their mom, who blogs, who writes grocery lists, who writes poems, who writes stories, who tells stories, who records stories on a laptop, phone, tape recorder… if you believe you are a writer, all you need to do to prove it is to write. Simple as that. To prove you are a doctor, you need a license. To prove you are a NASA employee, you need references, or name badges, or check stubs… but a doctor doesn’t need a license to prove he is a writer, too. He is a writer because he writes.

Are these perks super cool? Probably not to everyone, and maybe not even that cool to many of my fellow writers. Regardless, I hope you got something out of this. Be proud, writers. Read, write, repeat.

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

Writing

Where is “The End”

Hello all!

I’ve made it a point to go back and look through old posts, edit them, refine them, and cringe at them. This was the first post I ever made on this blog/website/thing. How ironic that the beginning was about the end. What is more ironic? I preached, repeatedly in that old post that there is an end. You shouldn’t feel obligated to change things, to keep going, etc. Yet, here I am, going back to posts I thought were at one time finished, and keeping them going.

The reason I chose this post? I changed my mind. Simple as that.

There is an end, but it can always be changed. Now prepare for my anecdote as to why I’ve had this change of heart:

This fall (Fall 2016) was the last semester of my undergraduate degree. I took classes just for the sake of credits, so I had a chance to take classes I wanted, rather than classes I needed. I took an advanced creative writing class where the theme was “Ghosts.” Super cool, right? Anyway, we had to have one-on-one sessions with the professor. We were to bring a piece we wanted him to look over, and we’d spend the time talking about it. It was super generative and very helpful.

I brought an older piece that I’ve been working on on-and-off for the past year or two. He read it over, silent, for a good fifteen to twenty minutes. He stopped and said “It was fun.” I was pleased. I thought it was done. I was ready to start writing cover letters and sending it off to publications. Then, he asked me, “Why did you bring it?” I sat there for a while, mulling that question over. Why? Why not? I wanted someone with experience to look it over? I wanted someone to say “yay” or “nay,” to it? I wanted a lot of things, but I didn’t know how to respond. He clarified, “There’s a reason you’re still looking this over. If it was done, you wouldn’t bring it.”

That was so true. I wouldn’t keep looking at it if I didn’t feel there was something more. If I didn’t feel there was something I was missing, why wait to send it off? I didn’t have a good answer. Then, I remembered this old post I wrote. This post where I said there comes a time that you just need to stop. There is an end, and sometimes you have to force yourself to put it away. While I do think there comes a point where you start over-editing, over-writing, etc. I also think you shouldn’t settle. If you feel like something isn’t right, don’t stop writing. Don’t stop editing. Keep going because you may eventually find a better end than you had before.

So, I’m going to keep working on this piece. I am also going to go back and edit some of these posts because, let’s face it, they are definitely not done.

Be proud. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Be writers.

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

Personal Posts

I’ve Been Rejected

Hello friends, newcomers, etc. It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post. Rather, it’s been a long time since I felt I had something worth blogging about. Recently, I’ve had a spurt of poetry submissions flying from my desk. As I’ve said time and time again, I never thought of myself as a poet. Yet, that particular form seems to be the only one my mind is capable of creating as of late.

Thankfully, I’ve had some good luck. I have a poem coming out in a magazine. I also have a short story being published in an anthology. Did I mention I’m also getting paid for these publications? As many of my writer friends know, it’s hard to find a paid publication, especially ones that take on new, unsolicited manuscripts.

Even though I’ve had so many positive outcomes from my publishing pursuits, and I’ve made sure to document it all on social media, there’s something I haven’t really talked about with anyone.

For every one acceptance email/letter I receive, I get about 10 of these:

Why do I bring this up? Because I almost always post on  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. about all of my accomplishments. No one sees the rejections. While, yes, it is a good bit disheartening to see a rejection in my mailbox, I am proud of my rejections. I am not ashamed. I created something I felt was worthy of being read. I put it out in the world to be judged, knowing that it may get thrown out, and my work does get thrown out. A lot.

Have I been ashamed? Oh yes. Countless times I’ve seen a rejection and instantly regretted ever sending any work out. There are plenty of rejection letters that my friends, family, and readers will never hear about. However, I wonder sometimes what my writer friends think. I know I like their posts and cheer them on for every success, but what about when they feel like they’ve failed? I feel like I fail 10x more than I succeed. I don’t want them to feel like they are alone. I want them to be proud of those rejections. I also don’t want them to be afraid of rejection because rejections do happen, especially to those who achieve success. You can’t have rainbows without rain, and all that jazz.

Be proud. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Be writers.

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

Writing

9 Things you need to know before you start to query.

The QueryShark badge
Not too long ago, I wrote a post on how to format a manuscript. Then, I wrote a post on things you need to know to traditionally publish.

Now it is time to learn how to actually go about getting published.

The number one thing you need to learn to land an agent or publishing deal is to query.

What is a query you might ask?

The simplest way I can think to explain it is to go to your bookshelf/book pile, pluck your favorite book off the top, and take a look at the back cover or the inside flap where the description of the book is.

This is essentially a query.

It is a brief description of your book that will entice readers (or agents, or publishers) to read pages. It is your marketing plan without actually saying, “Please, oh please, read me.”

Want to know how to write a back cover blurb? Click here to read my tips and tricks!

90% of what you need to put in a query is what you would want to put on the back of your book. Here is what you need to know before you start querying:

  1. READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES
    I can’t say this enough. There is an industry standard when it comes to querying, but that doesn’t mean every single agent will have the same exact guidelines. Like I’ve said before, the number one reason for rejection is not reading the guidelines and being auto-rejected because the agent feels you are wasting their time. If you couldn’t take the time to read the guidelines, how could you have taken the time to polish your manuscript? To polish the query you’re sending to them? Just do it. Those five minutes you spend reading guidelines could very well make the difference between a request for pages and a form rejection.
  2. YOU WILL BE QUERYING MORE AGENTS THAN PUBLISHING HOUSES
    That’s just how it is. Most publishers won’t take you on unless you are represented by an agent – someone who knows the business. They are the gatekeepers. So don’t be surprised when you go on the hunt for publishers and no one is taking unsolicited, unrepresented authors. It’s to protect them from the ever-growing slush pile agents are having to sift through. Plus, they don’t want to have any legal battles with an unrepresented author who may not understand certain contracts or conditions. It’s just the business.
  3. YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE PUBLISHING CREDITS
    You don’t. They’re nice, sure, but you don’t have to have them. Don’t make it out like it is a huge deal either. Just at the end of your query, before your closing, simply put (… this is my first novel.) Simple. You aren’t the focus in a query. Your manuscript is. Don’t get hung up on the finer details.
  4. EDIT YOUR QUERY AS MUCH AS YOU EDITED YOUR NOVEL
    A standard query should be one page long. No more. Granted, there are exceptions, but for the most part, you shouldn’t go past a page. You want to take your novel, strip it down to the bare, bare bones without giving away the ending and there is your query. It sounds easier than it actually is. You should have as many revisions of your query as you did your novel. If you haven’t even revised your novel, don’t write a query. Want tips on editing a query? Click here!
  5. DON’T QUERY UNTIL THE NOVEL IS DONE
    You’re querying for a deal. In exchange for this deal of representation, you provide a finished and polished novel.
  6. MOST QUERIES SHOULD BE IN THIRD PERSON
    Even if your novel is in first-person, most first person queries are seen as gimmicks. What is third person? He, she, it. He did this. She said this. It did such and such.
  7. FORMATTING (SOLELY FOR EMAILS. READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTION. SHOULD BE PASTED IN THE BODY OF THE EMAIL)
    Dear Agent Name,Ashley Judd insertdramaticvoiceandstunningrevelationsoftriumphloveandacceptance, yatta yatta, blah, blah, blah.

    THE DRAMATIC VOICE AND STUNNING REVELATIONS is a horror novel complete at 45,000 words. It is my debut novel.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Alyssa Hubbard

  8. DO NOT INCLUDE YOUR MANUSCRIPT, LINKS, OR ATTACHMENTS IF QUERYING BY EMAIL
    Certain spam filters hate links and attachments. Any and all queries, if requested by email, should be put into the body of the email. It shouldn’t be a wall of text. Make some white space. Don’t include anything that isn’t requested by the agent. Do not submit to an agent that just wants your full manuscript without prior query. That should be a red flag. A synopsis is fine, but only if it is in the guidelines.
  9. READ AS MANY QUERIES AS POSSIBLE
    The best way to learn how to write is to write and to read. The best way to learn to query is to read and write queries. My favorite query website is QueryShark. It’s a wonderful place to read bad queries, their revisions, and an actual agent’s feelings on queries. That blog is an extremely valuable tool that I visit quite often. You should, too.

How do you feel about these tips? Are you query ready? Have you queryed before? What has been your experience? Let me know, and comment below.

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

Want to be a beta reader? Click here to fill out the contact sheet, and let me know!
Want to guest post? Want to trade posts?
Same goes to you! 
Don’t be shy!

Want to check out some books?
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What Gaming Taught Me, Writing

4 Things Catherine taught me about writing

WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

First a little background on the game Catherine, as described on the Catherine Wiki:

Catherine is an M-rated horror/romance/puzzle/adventure video game from Atlus USA, released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The game is developed by the same team that created Persona 3 and Persona 4: Katsura Hashino as Director, Shigenori Soejima as Character Designer, and Shōji Meguro as Sound Composer.

It deals heavily with the themes of commitment, relationships, infidelity, maturity and love, while intertwining the horror and mystery of a rash of unexplained deaths of young men, rumored to be the “Women’s Wrath”: vengeance against the unfaithful.

The story revolves around Vincent, his long-term girlfriend Katherine, and his subsequent affair with Catherine. Following the affair, he is plunged into nightmares each time he sleeps, which makes up the puzzle/action part of the game. Each night within his dream, Vincent must push and pull blocks from a tower to create a path to the top, all the while racing against a time-limit or outrunning bosses which are manifestations of his real-life fears.

During the day, Vincent can freely explore and talk to his friends at the bar, listen to music at a jukebox, send and receive text messages, order drinks, play an arcade game, and experience the narrative of his struggle of choosing between Katherine and Catherine. There are 8 possible endings based on the various choices the player makes throughout the game.

As you can probably tell, this is one of the run-of-the-mill Japanese horror games with endings separated out between “Good” and “Bad” endings depending on which woman you decide to pursue a relationship with, as well as how you treat other NPCs in the game. I’m a sucker for anything reminiscent to my anime fanatic days, then throw in a puzzle? Plus romance and horror? I was hooked from the start.

I’ve written about other games like Minecraft, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf! Click the titles to see what I learned!

And of course, my writing life always intermingles with my gaming life, so here is what I learned from my time with the wonderful game Catherine:

  1. Your characters need motivation.
    They can’t just do things, just to do them. I mean, sure, I do some random crazy things, but most people don’t do that. So you have to give them a reason. Vincent is in love with Katherine, so why would he cheat on her? The creators had to give Katherine a bit of a controlling, pressuring side to push Vincent to seek a freer partner in Catherine. Otherwise, we would have no plot, or on the flip side, Vincent would just be a dumb asshole. Vincent is still a dumb asshole, but at least we can sympathize with him a little. He has a reason. It’s a crappy reason, but a reason.
  2. People should somewhat like your main character.
    They don’t have to necessarily love them, but they should at least be able to sympathize and root for them. Vincent is scum. I didn’t like him, but I felt bad because Katherine was somewhat mean to him… and I loved Katherine, so that was hard for me to admit in the end. I didn’t agree with what Vincent did, but there was a part of me that felt bad for him, too. Katherine made me want to like him. Which leads me to my next point:
  3. Side characters are important.
    The main character is Vincent. He is you, you are him. But Vincent’s story would be nothing without Catherine and Katherine, plus all of his friends. This is a very plot-driven game. You connect stories from the people you meet, and every decision you make interacting with these characters plays a role in what ending you get. If you ignore characters, they may die, which, in turn, will cause Vincent to miss out on an interaction. It makes a huge difference. Don’t forget those side characters.
  4. Your character’s decisions have consequences.
    They can’t do something bad and expect to get away without a scratch, unless of course they are master thieves, then I guess that could happen… but for our regular characters, there are scratches. Lots of them. Vincent is a cheater and depending on who you ultimately choose to be with, he doesn’t get away with the perfect girl with just a “Sorry, love ya.” Oh no, he has to go through hell to win her back – literally. Consequences create plot. Don’t be afraid to punish your babies.

This game was interesting, fun, and kept me going until the very end, and that’s how I want my books to feel. Have you played Catherine before? Think you will? How do you feel about these tips? Find them helpful? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading!

-Lissy

Want to be a beta reader? Click here to fill out the contact sheet, and let me know!
Want to guest post? Want to trade posts?
Same goes to you! 
Don’t be shy!

Want to check out some books?
CLICK HERE

 

Writing

Want to traditionally publish? Here are 8 things you need to know.

  1. Don’t post your work online.
    I made this mistake, and I see many others make this mistake. If you want to send your work out to agents and traditional publishers, don’t post it online! It is considered previously published if you do so, and this includes on your own blog, etc. Granted, every publisher and agent has its own opinion as to what “previously published” actually means, but I find it best to avoid posting it all together. Want critiques? It is best to go through private channels (i.e. email, beta groups with a private setting, etc.). Better yet, just pass around physical copies to people you know.
    But of course, as my dear friend Ann pointed out in the comment section, you can remedy this a bit. You can edit. Edit it to the point where there is little connecting the two pieces, thus, you have created something new. I have done this with a lot of older pieces. It works especially well when recycling works. Keep this in mind if you find a lot of your work fits into the “previously published” category. But keep in mind, this isn’t always a sure fix. Don’t rely too much on recycling. It’s always best just to keep the work off of the web from the start.
  2. Read the submission guidelines thoroughly.
    The number one reason for rejection is because people did not read the submission guidelines. Don’t make this careless mistake. It is easily avoided. Most people assume that if they follow the standard manuscript format, they’re in the clear, but every publisher works differently. Don’t assume the standard can just be passed around anywhere. Just read the damn guidelines.
  3. Most publishers require a writer to be represented.
    Publishers feel a writer needs to have representation to be considered for publication, which protects them as well as you. Find agents, submit to them, then they will help you submit to publishers. But remember, agents think like publishers. Agents aren’t going to take on just anybody, and they have rules just like publishers, so read the damn submission guidelines and you may save yourself from a rejection.
  4. Most publishers don’t like simultaneous submissions.
     Simultaneous submission – a submission which has been sent to multiple organizations at the same time. It sucks, but they do it so they’re not wasting time on a manuscript that could be picked up any minute. Here’s an example: Let’s say I send you a manuscript for publication consideration. You’re in the middle of it and you think it is damn sexy. This is quite possibly the sexiest manuscript you have ever read in your life, and right before you can tell me how much you love it, I send you this email:
    Sorry, not sorry, I signed a contract with someone else. Peace.
    Yeah, not cool.
    I know it sucks waiting around for, quite possibly, a rejection when you could be submitting to other places and increasing your chances, but there is a reason they do it. Don’t burn bridges by being an asshole and not following the rules.
  5. Don’t lie about simultaneously submitting a manuscript or its status as being previously published.
    The worst thing you can do is lie, other than not following the submission guidelines, but we’ve already talked about that. Wanna burn some bridges real quick? Go ahead and lie to a publisher. It pays to have friends in this business. It only takes a second for a publisher to find out if you’re lying. A quick google search of your manuscript, boom, there is your story posted for all the world to see. Those are potential customers they are missing out on because you’re just giving the work away for free. Why would someone pay for something they already can get for free? Definitely not a publisher or an agent. And don’t get yourself stuck by lying about simultaneously submitting. What if two publishers want your work, what then? You’re going to have to tell one you don’t want it. It’s going to piss people off real quick, and information like that spreads fast. Just be honest and do what you’re supposed to. Follow the rules.
  6. It can take months before you hear back. Don’t pester. Be patient.
    With the increase of technology, publishers have become more accessible to a much wider base of writers than when most submissions were solely through the mail. This means they’re getting mass amounts of submissions on a daily basis, and sifting through that slush pile takes a long time, especially when they have to find something worth publishing. Unfortunately, unless your name is Stephen King, your manuscript will be somewhere in that slush pile. Don’t be offended, that’s just how it is now. Just wait it out. Most publishers will give you a general wait period in their submission guidelines, as well as a time you can inquire about your manuscript if you haven’t heard back — just one more reason to actually read the damn submission guidelines.
  7. Sometimes, you just won’t hear back.
    The way things are now, with such a large slush pile, you may never hear back, which you can take as a rejection. There’s no point in writing them. If you’ve already inquired, and they’ve rejected your work, at least you heard back. If you wrote them, and they still haven’t responded, just move on. They’re too busy to reject you. There’s no point in dwelling on it.
  8. If you are rejected, do not argue with the publisher/agent.
    I don’t care if they called it garbage, called you garbage, and danced on your mother’s grave, you need to be the bigger person. I don’t mean you have to send them a “Thank You” note or anything. Just move on. There have been way too many horror stories involving writers fighting with publishers over being rejected. They took the time to reject you. They don’t even have to do that. It sounds strange, but you should be thankful they took the time to reject you. Don’t become one of those horror stories that gets passed around the internet every week. You’ll burn every bridge in the business, and you can kiss any chance at traditional publication good-bye.

So, how do you feel about this list? Does it upset you? Does it all make sense? Are you trying your hand at traditional publication? Have you been successful? Have you experienced any of these things? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

Want to be a beta reader? Click here to fill out the contact sheet, and let me know!
Want to guest post? Want to trade posts?
Same goes to you! 
Don’t be shy!

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Writing

How to Write Female and Male Characters

When I am asked this question, I like to refer back to one of my favorite picture sets of all time:

Same goes for men.

But anyway, I know this is a serious question. I’ll give it a serious answer, but first let me reflect on something I’ve recently been toying with. Have you ever thought about writing something without any genders at all? Nothing at all. I’m not saying write a story about a genderless species or aliens (though that is always cool), I’m saying writing a story where even you don’t know the genders until the end. It’s very interesting to see what comes out.

If you’re having to ask this question, maybe this is something you can try. Create a personality, one without a gender or name associated with it. I often pick names of seasons or months just to identify different voices, then at the end go back and see how they feel. Maybe you can try this? See if you like it? Regardless, onward to the post:

  • Personalities aren’t the same as a gender.
    Not all women are feminine, not all men are masculine. Not all women want to be out of the house, some men want to be house-husbands. Not all women like dresses and Gossip Girl, not all men like cars and women, at least not exclusively. Make a personality, give the character likes and dislikes, make a person before you make a woman or a man. It’s much easier to write a character when they have a personality of their own. That way, gender isn’t the only thing that separates them from other characters. It’s easy to say, she’s a woman, he’s a man. It’s much better to say she’s a gamer who likes to read and make fart jokes, and he’s an outgoing socialite. See? Personality isn’t synonymous with gender.
  • Gender identifiers.
    If you have a character with a stunning personality, or shitty personality, whatever, and you still feel like your character’s gender isn’t “real,” then here is a short list of things often associated with men and women:
    This can differ depending on their jobs or personalities, so keep that in mind, too. Don’t sacrifice your character’s personality for these stereotypes. Not all of them apply to every woman or man, and these shouldn’t be considered 100% factual. A lot of these are plain wrong, but coming from beta readers, this has been my experience, which is unfortunately skewed.
    -In dialogue men tend to have shorter sentences, women tend to be more detail-oriented with their speech.
    -Men tend to “worry” less than women. A woman will often times have more nervous body language, men more relaxed.
    -Women are thought-oriented. If you have lengthy expositions of just thought, it is more likely to be considered a woman.
    -Women tend to multitask (i.e. listening to music while reading), while men are often found doing a single task.
    -Women have closed body language (arms crossed or held close to the body, legs crossed), men are more open (arms resting on their knees, legs spread).
    -Men are less likely to touch each other, women are a lot more personable and polite with one another (though neither may feel that way).

In short, just write the character. Everyone’s different, and there is no way you can encapsulate the entire gender within a single character. So, what do you think? Are you as disappointed with the gender stereotypes as I am? Do you agree that personality isn’t synonymous with gender? Anything you’d like to add? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading!

-Lissy

Want to be a beta reader? Click here to fill out the contact sheet, and let me know!
Want to guest post? Want to trade posts?
Same goes to you! 
Don’t be shy!

Want to check out some books?
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Writing

Beta Readers – The Ultimate Guide for Writers

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  • What is a beta reader?
    A person who reads a work for context, plot, and continuity. Not to be confused with an EDITOR who looks for mechanical errors as well as context, plot, and continuity. Is usually not paid. Can be done for any piece of writing, including, but not limited to: blog posts, short stories, poems, novels, etc.

 

  • Where to find them?
    Google+, Twitter, pretty much any social media site you can think of. Local libraries may have info. Friends (the honest, brutal kind, preferably), family (also honest and brutal), local college campuses (plenty of brutality there). Take the time to ASK people! There’s no time to be shy when you might be published.

 

  • Are there bad ones?
    Yes.

 

  • Are there great ones?
    Yes.

 

  • How to tell the difference?
    Good give you concrete reasons why they didn’t like it.
    Good are honest.
    Good mark up your work.
    Good give you more than just: I hate/love it.
    Good give you reasons why they like it.
    Good read what you give them.
    Bad will promise to read it, then never will.
    Bad will give you butt pats and sugar coat everything.
    Bad will analyze you as a person, rather than the work.
    Bad will make changes, but won’t explain why.
    Bad will tell you its garbage and that you’re an idiot.
    Bad will comment on your work without reading the whole thing.
    Bad will usually start with, “No offense, but…”

 

  • How to be a good AUTHOR to beta readers?
    Know that you don’t have to use all their suggestions, but you should still listen to them
    Thank them even if they say they hate it. They took the time to read it.
    Never send them a rewrite unless you asked them beforehand. Don’t take advantage of their kindness.
    Don’t argue with them. They have an opinion. You asked for it. Take it, regardless if you use it or not.
    BE. HUMBLE. Stephen King started as garbage, you started as garbage, EVERYONE started as garbage. Your shit don’t smell like roses.
    EDIT before you send them work. Editors and beta readers are two separate things, though one person can be both. Don’t assume a beta reader is also an editor.

 

  • When do you seek a beta reader?
    When you’ve edited the piece to the point of near-publication readiness MECHANICALLY. Edit out typos and ensure grammar is near-perfection before seeking beta readers.

 

  • What’s the purpose of a beta reader?
    To be your pre-audience, audience. These are the people you let read your work before all of society has access to it. See what they say, take it to heart, and then decide what you need to do before publication or sending it off to a judge/final editor.

 

Once again, and I can’t stress this enough, beta readers are here to help you. You actively seek them out yourself and ask them to read it. They didn’t force you to let them read it. They aren’t forcing their opinions on you. It’s your work. You can do what you want, despite what they say, and that’s okay. But remember they are only trying to help (most of the time). Just thank them for their time and effort and move on. What do you think? Anything you agree or disagree with? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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Writing

How to Map Your Plot

As we all know, I’m a huge proponent of outlines, lists, etc. including during the writing process. As such, I thought it would be cool to take it one step further and let you all in on a new process a friend of mine has for mapping out her stories.

Unlike me, she is a pantser, one who couldn’t give a crap about lists, especially when it comes to writing. She finds them stifling to the process, and would rather be shackled and chained than to be stifled by a list of plot points. However, she is like me in that she craves organization in her stories, and she’s actually quite good at keeping everything in line as she writes. As such, I asked her how she did it, and this is the “list” she gave me.

  • Write the chapter first
    Despite my need for outlines prior to writing, she demands letting creativity take its course however the characters see fit. Write it out chapter-by-chapter and let the natural plot and characters lead you.
  • Once you’ve completed a chapter, write a short synopsis
    This would be a great time to use my notecard method, especially considering what will be done with the notecards afterward. Once you’ve completed a chapter, write a synopsis for that particular chapter. Mark down every important event, any new characters and any information pertaining to plot movement. Write it down on a notecard, then move on to the next chapter. Do the same for every subsequent chapter.
  • Every time you finish a synopsis, tack it on the wall
    Wherever you do your writing, or if you have a place you come back to, to write your synopsis, go to that place and stick your notecards somewhere they are in plain sight. That way, you’ll have a visual representation of your book. Somewhat of a storyboard, if you will. This will help you visualize pace, plot devices, and major events you have going on and allow you to move forward in a way that follows the storyboard.
  • Use the storyboard for organization and plot editing
    Once you’ve finished writing the book, look at your synopsis wall. Maybe synopsis #2 (Chapter 2) would be better after synopsis #3 (Chapter 3), etc. It makes it much easier to just select notecards and move them about than digging through your document and deciding which should go where.

All-in-all, I think this is a great method for pantsers and planners alike. And while she didn’t want me to use her name, as modest and shy as she is, I will say that all these ideas came from her. I only take credit for my posting of them. Thank you so much, friend, and thank you so much reader for taking the time to read this. I hope it helps you just as much as it has helped me. Anything you see here that you’ve used before? Anything you plan on using? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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Personal Posts, What Gaming Taught Me, Writing

What I learned about writing from Minecraft

I’m embarrassed to say that only a few days ago I finally bought myself minecraft. I’ve played the pocket edition demo and enjoyed watching my friends and favorite let’s players play it, but never had I played the actual game myself before. I can’t believe I have lived so long never having played it. Better late than never, I suppose.

I knew I was going to love minecraft. It’s creative and exciting, two things I love, and who doesn’t? But what I wasn’t expecting was how much I would learn about writing through minecraft, and, as always, I’ve made a list for it. ONWARD!

  • It’s all about location, location, location
    Where your characters take root or travel to should always play a role in the story. Does it snow? Are the characters acclimated to that kind of environment? What kind of trees are there? What kind of animals? Will there be towns to stay in or will they be forced to shelter in isolation. These are all key in setting up a believable location.
  • Physics, guys. Physics
    If your characters are going underground, and they try to dig, will sand fall onto them? If they’re digging into gravel, wouldn’t it shift depending on the gravity involved? If they stand in a body of water, will the current move them? It doesn’t have to be much, buy don’t make it easy on your characters. The environment can be just as big an obstacle as any other.
  • Please, please, please make your side characters somewhat interesting
    The AI in minecraft can be fun, funny, and extremely interesting to watch as they go about the environment, but the villager NPCs are absolutely dreadful. They make the most awful noises and the only thing they’re good for is trading but they hardly have anything worth trading for. If I find a village, I usually just go on ahead and slaughter everyone (I promise, I’m not a psychopath). Make even the most minor characters into something. If they appear, then they need a personality, too. Make every character appearance meaningful in some way. Otherwise, don’t put them in.
  • It’s okay to write scenes where your characters are alone
    A major part of minecraft is when you’re traveling or just living day-by-day trying to survive. It gets lonely. If you’re in single player, you’re just that, completely alone with nothing and no one to talk to. And hopefully this isn’t just me, but I get majorly self-reflecting when I play. I mourn animals I have to kill, I get tired of killing things, I pray I find a village or that I will find someone or something in the seemingly vast and never ending world. Make your characters self-reflect. They’re humans (or non-humans?) too, and will have moments of loneliness, self-reflection, and in the beginning they mourn having to do certain things to survive. Just something to keep in mind as you write.
  • Even in the most fantastical and paranormal of places, there are rules
    In minecraft there is a mode called “Creative Mode” where you have unlimited access to every material available in the game without having to search for it as you would in the regular “Survival Mode.” You can no longer burn up in lava, or drown in water, and enemies no longer attack you, giving you free reign to build and manipulate the world however you see fit. However, there are still rules. You can spawn any creature, including the boss Ender Dragon, but they’ll still try to escape, they’re still hard to control, and the Ender Dragon will still try to kill you even though it can’t. And if you teleport off the map or try and teleport somewhere, which will get you stuck in a wall, you automatically die. Though this isn’t a big deal and everything is still easy, it is something to think about as you create your worlds. Even though you give your characters free reign and fantastic abilities, there needs to be a limit, otherwise there can be no plot and no conflict. What’s the point of a world with no obstacles?

Most of these are common plot aspects we see in everyday literature and things easily picked up on, but it’s nice to see how they are used in other mediums of creativity. Now for a few questions: What have you learned about writing from video games? Is there anything else you’ve learned in minecraft that I’ve failed to notice? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

Want to be a beta reader? Click here to fill out the contact sheet, and let me know!
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