What “Death Mark” on the Nintendo Switch taught me about writing

What is Death Mark?

Nintendo Switch's Death Mark

Death Mark is described on the Nintendo store page as an adventure game, which it very much is. You play as a man with amnesia who finds himself drawn to a mansion he doesn’t recognize, with a mark, described as a dog bite, on your wrist. You don’t know how you got it, why you got it, how to get rid of it, or even who you are, but you do know that the answer is hidden somewhere in this mansion, and that is where our story begins.

Now, my opinions on Death Mark are pretty neutral. I didn’t love it, and I didn’t hate it. The Nintendo Switch title is pretty run-of-the-mill Japanese, adventure game. It’s text heavy, which isn’t a problem, usually, but the story really drags at points. The whole amnesia thing is pretty played out for me, but the horror is definitely present and well-done. So, it falls into my, “happy I played it, but probably won’t play again” pile. However, even if it wasn’t the best thing ever, there can still be a lot to learn about writing from this title, and here is what I learned:

Just because you can describe everything, doesn’t mean you always should

Death Mark, as I said before, is extremely text-heavy. Again, this isn’t unexpected of the genre, but, even so, the story just drags on and on. As a writer, just because your medium is based on words and the reader’s imagination, doesn’t mean you have to describe every minute detail. Concise descriptions can be just as powerful, if not more so, for a reader, and it allows the reader to fill in the blanks. If it doesn’t move the plot along, I would seriously question if it is necessary.

Horror can, and should, be subtle

The horror elements in Death Mark, I have to say, are excellent. There is a mechanic in the game where you have to point your flashlight around the room to reveal various things you can interact with. Often times I would be searching for something in a room, only to reveal a ghostly figure standing in the corner of the room. It never made a sound, not even when I exposed it. Even so, just knowing these silent figures could be haunting any corner of the room was enough to make me jump. The horror was pretty much all mental at that point. I was questioning myself, questioning how long it had been there, wondering how long it would wait to strike, etc. Just the presence of an unknown entity can be haunting, and not knowing if, or when, they may strike is even more so. It’s all about subtlety.

Amnesia is super played out

This could totally just be a “me” thing. I am super into anime, manga, J-RPGs, and the like, and I feel like this is more common in those mediums than any other: amnesiac main characters. I get it. It adds mystery. The person we are supposed to be relying on in the story is instantly unreliable, knows just as much as we do, and now we have to go exploring for the truth. I really hate this in most things and Death Mark is no exception.

I feel like it is a cop-out for a number of reasons, but the main one being that the main character almost always ends up being underdeveloped and the key to the entire mystery. So, I ultimately end up not learning very much about our main character, and the major reveal is typically super predictable. Now, I say all this, not to say that it can’t be done wonderfully, and I am sure there are plenty of examples out there where it is executed in an interesting way, but I feel that it is very easy to take the easy way out with amnesiac main character.

Characters can, and sometimes should, fail

Death Mark has the element of choice. During key points in the story, the character will be presented with options. Some options will lead to death, others will keep you alive for a while longer. I frequently fall into the trap of piling plot armor on my characters to the point they are untouchable. This is not something that happens to us in real life. Sure, there are such things as luck, chance, etc. However, don’t let that be an excuse. Your characters need to fail to grow, and sometimes they need to fail so hard that the consequences alter them permanently. This is how life works. Give them options, and make sure they make some bad choices.

People die, so if it is called for, don’t be afraid to kill your darlings

Sure, maybe you can’t or shouldn’t kill your main character. However, if the plot calls for it, don’t be afraid to kill people off. Death Mark is full of death. Depending on the decisions you make, you can kill everyone, or save everyone. Often times, I felt the death endings were more interesting than when everyone survived. I don’t know what that says about me. However, I do know that if I find it interesting, it is probably interesting to others. Just because you love a character, doesn’t mean you should keep them alive. Now, don’t just go killing every character all willy-nilly. Do try to keep in mind that this is something that happens in life. Would it also make sense in your story?

So that was Death Mark. Have you played Death Mark? If you have, what did you think of it? If you haven’t, will you now? What do you think of this list? Let me know, and comment below.

Lissy

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How to Deal with Hate Comments in Marketing and Writing

You Amongst the Hate Comments

So, I have been playing around with various ad managers out their (Facebook, Instagram, etc), to try and get more feedback on my blog, as well as just get more eyes on it. I tend to see pretty far reach, high impressions, a reasonable amount of clicks, but not very much engagement with either the ads or the blog post linked to the ad. So, I tried to go a bit more informal with my ad copy and just straight up asked people if they would be willing to check out something I wrote.

Well, I got what I wanted. I received a comment not long after I started my campaign. The comment was poking fun at my ad copy and how if that was any indication of my writing ability, they most certainly would mind reading anything else I wrote. It was the sickest of burns, to be perfectly honest, and had it been directed at anyone else, I probably would have laughed. However, because it was pointed at me, it felt like the worst possible thing to be said. I wouldn’t call it a hate comment, personally, but I could see how others might see it as one. Now, in that vulnerable state, there were many things I could have done, but I think I did what was probably best, and I want to share that process with you today:

Step away for a bit

I had a notification on my phone about the comment. I read the comment, felt horrible, then closed my phone, and did other things. Did the comment go away? Of course, not. Was I still feeling horrible? Of course, but it would have only gotten worse if I sat there and stared at it. When faced with negative or harsh criticism, it’s very easy to dwell and lash out. When you encounter it for the first time, I implore you to shut it off and walk away. Now, I wouldn’t suggest this in every situation where you face criticism because, ultimately, it isn’t productive, but when you first see it, you’re feeling vulnerable, and those emotions are guiding your action, it’s definitely best to just look away. We can look at it again once you’ve had time to process.

Do not delete the comment or respond negatively

Your first instinct is probably going to be to delete the comment, which is totally understandable. You are on social media. People will read this comment. You don’t want to fan the flame by leaving it there, but in reality, by deleting it, you may just do the one thing you are trying to avoid. They won’t be notified when their comment is deleted, but if they are following your post, they will notice their comment is gone when they check again. You will just be giving them more ammo.

It’s the same thing when responding. Don’t give them anything to work with. If you can’t respond with kindness, then just don’t respond. It is easier said than done when you are in the moment. However, you have to remember that you are on social media. People have opinions, and they can express them however they choose, even if it hurts your feelings. If you respond negatively, it will make you look bad, not the person you are responding to.

Consider, is it really a hate comment?

It is very easy to say every criticism is a hate comment. However, that is not only counter-productive, but just not true. Just because it rubs you wrong doesn’t mean it’s a hate comment. Just because the comment isn’t in agreement with your own opinions doesn’t mean it is a hate comment. Just because it is pointing out flaws in your work doesn’t mean it is a hate comment. Can critical comments be harsh? Sure, but that does not make them hate comments. When you have taken some time away from the comment, try and ask yourself, “is this really a hate comment?”

If you can, respond with kindness

I think most people comment negatively on ads because they don’t think the person putting out the ad is an actual person. I felt that this time around. So, I responded by thanking them for their honesty and ended it there. As of writing this, I haven’t received a response. Maybe I have only enticed the person to respond negatively again; maybe they will appreciate that I responded and took their words into consideration; maybe they didn’t care one way or another, and I am just wasting my time dwelling on something so insignificant. Either way, I have not made myself the bad guy. So, if you feel compelled to respond, I recommend you respond kindly, above all else.C

If you find criticism to be too stressful, don’t market your work

This is the internet. You want people to read your work. You want to get published. You want to get better as a writer, then you have to be open to criticism. It sucks, but that’s the nature of the beast. You will be faced with hate, hate disguised as criticism, and criticism you feel is hate. You will experience it all, and, of course, it won’t all be bad. There will be good times. You will receive praise, but you should never go in thinking that the world is going to be kind to you. It probably won’t be, but it’s all in how you handle it that matters.

Everyone, stay safe, be as kind as you can be, but please keep writing.

-Lissy

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Entering a Writing Competition

I entered a writing competition.

Writing competitions aren’t that different from submitting your work for general publication, but it just feels different. I feel like there is more at stake (though it could be that I had to pay a submission fee, which I have also never done before), and I feel that if I fail to win or place that it will just prove all of those insecure, internal voices right. Ultimately, though, if I ever plan to do anything more with my writing than just publishing one piece a year, I need to start taking chances, dipping my toes in bigger pools, and putting myself in more uncomfortable situations.

So here I am, I have entered a writing competition, and I am scared to death. The process itself wasn’t very difficult. I did the same thing I have done anytime I have submitted anything to anyone, expect I had to put in my credit card info, which felt really weird and wrong. Ultimately though, I shouldn’t be as worried as I am right now. At this point, though, you are probably wondering why this matters to you:

You are probably nervous, too

And I am here to tell you that it is 100% okay. You are not alone when it comes to that feeling. You are probably also telling yourself, “Why am I entering these writing competitions? I am not a good writer. I can’t do it. The judges would make fun of me,” and probably many other things. I am also thinking that way, but whether you are doing this for the first time or the thirtieth time, you will always feel that twinge of nervousness getting prepared.

That’s okay. Ultimately, though, you can’t let it get to you. You can’t let that fear stop you from putting yourself out there and reaching your dreams. If you enter the writing competition and you don’t win, at least you can say you tried. You can always regroup, rewrite, and submit again. The more lures you throw out there, the more likely you are to catch a fish (of course you should probably pick some decent bait, aka edit your work before you just start throwing it out there cause quality is king). So get to baiting, and throw those lures out there. I will be doing the same.

Once I hear back on my results from this writing competition, I will, of course, keep everyone updated. Regardless, though, thank you so much for reading. Have you entered any competitions? Are you interested in doing so? Let me know, and comment below.

-Lissy

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What “Terrace House” taught me about writing

Terrace House, if you haven’t heard of it, is a Japanese reality show for people who don’t like reality shows. When I first heard of the show, it was through a friend at work. They described it as six strangers, three men and three women, who live in a house together to seek out romance with each other. It sounded like a dramatic time sink, and I said as such. However, my friend assured it me it was so much more than that. So, I started watching it, and she was right.

Terrace House is focused on romance, but it goes so much deeper than that. Each person in the group has the goal of leaving the show in a relationship, but they also come in with goals for their lives. Some want to be models, others want to be pilots, chefs, hockey players, designers, etc. These strangers come together, forge friendships, and they cheer each other on. They take their new friend’s goals as seriously as their own. Often times they will have one-on-one sit downs where they will discuss, in-depth, how close they are to their goals, what they may be doing wrong, etc. There is drama, but it is a minor part of the show.

If there is drama, they almost always face the drama head-on. They discuss it constructively and will usually come away from the situation closer than they were before. It is really refreshing to see when we are often times surrounded by drama, pettiness, cattiness, etc. Now, you may be asking, what does a Japanese reality show have to do with writing? Well, here were some of my takeaways while watching the show:

Drama doesn’t have to be the focus

I feel, depending on the genre, that drama is typically the focus. Whether it be drama within a relationship, drama between family, drama in life, etc, I have found, after watching Terrace House that drama doesn’t always have to be the focus for it to be entertaining. Watching them sit around chatting about their day, watching them cheer at their friend’s concert. or watching them set up dinner and birthday decorations is often times just as fun as the drama, if not more so. Life is full of drama. Having a little reprieve is refreshing, and I think that can come through in literature, as well.

Romance isn’t all passion

Sure, romance novels with Fabio on the cover have their place in the world, but real romance isn’t always so passionate. It’s good to remember that small things can be just as romantic as large gestures, and it’s also worth remembering that just because there is a large gesture doesn’t mean the person is going to enjoy or love it. There is a major scene in Opening New Doors, this season of Terrace House, where someone has been courting a woman for a while. He has kissed her, taken her out on romantic dates, got her roses, and finally asked her to be his girlfriend. She said “no.” On the other hand, another romance took place. The guy went to dinner with the girl a few times, he went to her hockey games, and there really wasn’t anything past platonic time spent together. He asked her out, and she said, “yes.” Those small, friendly moments are just as romantic, if not more so, than the large, dramatic gestures.

There are rational people in the world

I know it doesn’t always seem like it, but there are people in this world that don’t just storm off at the first sign of conflict. There are people who are willing to sit down and talk things out in a constructive manner. There are people who can reflect on themselves and their actions and apologize when they know they have done wrong. Of course, there are people out there (myself, included) who haven’t reacted to things as appropriately as they should have. However, I’d like to think there are more rational people in the world than irrational. Not every disagreement has to end in a screaming match or in tears. It could simply lead to deeper character development or a new relationship to explore between two characters.

The characters are everything

Reading this post back to myself, I almost feel crazy. I ask myself, if there is no drama, no large romantic gestures, no arguments, what is there to enjoy? What is going to keep the readers reading? I don’t think I would enjoy a book without some of these elements, but then I think of Terrace House. While yes, it doesn’t have a ton of drama, the romantic gestures aren’t always grand, and there aren’t people fighting in the middle of the living room every night, there doesn’t have to be. The people are just so unique, they all have dreams, ambitions, and goals. They have lives outside of the show that you get to hear about daily. I feel like I am watching my friends or family, and I am cheering them on all the way. The characters, they are the main reason I keep watching. Good characters can make up for a lot. That is probably the most important thing to take away from all of this.

Have you seen Terrace House? What do you think? If you haven’t, are you interested? Let me know, and comment below!

Lissy

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6 tips on writing query letters/cover letters for fiction novels

A Bad Cover Letter / Query Letter

If you’ve been looking to traditionally publish a novel, chances are you have heard the terms “query letter,” and/or “cover letter.” In case you haven’t, though, these two things are what you will typically send to either an agent or publisher to introduce your novel. You may ask yourself, “Why send a letter talking about my novel when I can just send the whole manuscript?” Well, here’s the thing: Imagine your job is to read manuscripts and judge whether or not your company is going to publish said manuscripts. Which is more efficient:

Receive thousands of manuscripts and read them to completion.

or

Get thousands of short, one page synopses and judge from those.

If it were my job, I definitely would go with the one page synopsis, and that is what a query or cover letter is. I have also found, after following some agent twitter accounts, that agents/publishers feel that individuals who are unable to write a succinct, exciting cover/query letter, typically, aren’t able to write decent novels. I don’t know how true that is, but that is definitely worth thinking about when you go to write your query letter. This is your one chance, so don’t waste it. After lots of pow-wows with published authors, and my own research/experiences, here are six tips on writing query letters:

You don’t like form letters, neither do they.

It’s, apparently, rare to receive a cover letter that isn’t the run-of-the-mill, “Dear Editors of Really Cool Books Publishing Company, LLC;” Agents and publishers seem to have grown accustom to this and find that opening as a sure sign they are either receiving a copy-paste form letter, or the person sending it didn’t take an extra few seconds to see who the editors actually are. I highly recommend you do some research, and see if there are specific editors/agents/people you can reference in the letter.

Of course, sometimes this information isn’t readily available, but if it is, make sure you take a moment to seek it out. It will show that you are making an effort in your cover letter, and that probably means you made the extra effort in your novel, too. Plus, if you’ve ever received a rejection letter, it’s pretty annoying to get a standard, copy-paste rejection. It probably feels the same on the agent/publisher end when they get query letters.

Don’t go overboard with the creativity.

Yes, you’re an artist. Yes, you’re probably up against a ton of stiff competition. Even so, you don’t want to stand out in a bad way. There are some standards when it comes to query letter formatting: 12-point font, Arial or Times New Roman font, black text color, your contact information, single-spaced at the top of the page, agent/publisher contact information under that, also single-spaced, left justified text overall, one page, boom. That’s pretty standard, and there are reasons this is the standard. The font choices tend to be the easiest to read, black text is easier to read on white paper, etc. Your creativity should be focused on the content of your query letter, not on the format.

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS read their guidelines first.

Do not. DO. NOT. ever assume a publisher is going to follow the same standard as the last fifty you queried. There are standard formats, but there will always be someone who has a preference. Don’t get tossed out because of something as insignificant as font size or style. Always assume this new publisher/agent is going to want something different. Even if all fifty want the same thing, don’t assume that until you’ve read their guidelines. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Read them. There is a reason they have them, and while you may think it is silly or insignificant, you will only be hurting yourself in the long run if you don’t follow them. Of course, if something seems unclear, contact the person/group you are querying. Most places do provide some kind of email/phone number for queries other than publication. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so call, email, tweet, whatever. Make sure you are meeting all of their requirements. It can only help your chances.

It’s actually good to have a pre-written cover letter ready.

This may seem a bit contradictory to my first tip, but hear me out. It’s one thing to have a template, it’s another to have something you just copy and paste and send out to every single publisher you come across. I highly recommend creating a template for yourself, so you have something to go off of when you write your cover letters. They say the hardest part is starting, so if you have something you have already started on, it should be much easier to get done, and get it done right. This piece of advice actually came from one of my professors who was teaching us how to write personal statements. I actually feel personal statements are a lot like query letters. Don’t know what a personal statement is? I got you:

Write it like a personal statement.

What is a personal statement? It’s a statement about you. Your who, what, when, where, and how, in a paragraph or a page. It’s like your elevator pitch, but longer. What is an elevator pitch? For the sake of publishing, it’s like seeing your dream agent in an elevator, and you only have until the next floor to let them know why they should take you on and help publish your novel. You want to show them you’re a competent author and that you can tell a story with skill and creativity.

Most personal statements are actually narrative-based, which fits right in with what a query letter is. You want to think of this as your personal statement into the publishing world. However, instead of being all about you, this is all about your novel. If you have a personal statement that you used to get into a job or an education program, pull it out and have a look. If you don’t have one, there is someone out there who does. Get one from a friend, read some online that were successful, and pretend that statement is about your book, as opposed to yourself.

Read other query letters, or read the back cover of some books.

There are loads of blogs out there from agents and publishers with successful and unsuccessful query letters (one of my faves is Query Shark). Check them out. Read what worked and what didn’t work. I would also recommend going to a book store, find whatever genre your novel fits in, and read some of the back covers or the inner-sleeves. You know those book descriptions on Goodreads? Read some of those, too.

Those were written to sell the book to consumers. Your agent/publisher is your first consumer. You want them to think they can sell this book, so read some book descriptions in books that you love or that are successful in your genre. Take notes on what they are doing, and take that back to your own query letter. Sell your book.

There you have it, my six tips and tricks on writing query letters. What do you think? Was this useful? Have you written any query letters? Please feel free to share your own tips, tricks, and experiences. Comment below, and let me know.

Thanks for reading.

Lissy

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Where is “The End”

I’m at this point in my life where I am constantly looking back. Back at old videos, back at old photos, back at old posts, etc. So here I am, back at this post. This was the first post I ever wrote and published on my blog. How ironic is it that the beginning was about the end? Want to know what is even 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, and here is why I changed my mind:

Fall of 2016, the last semester of my undergraduate degree. I only had my credit hour requirement to fill, 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 one-on-one sessions with the professor. We were instructed to bring in 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 the story was done. I was ready to start writing cover letters and send 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 ever imagined.

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.

Lissy

6 ways to make your writing pack an emotional punch

I’m reading a book right now that is making me feel things. This, from a writer’s perspective, is an awesome accomplishment. He, the author, has created characters that make me hurt. He has put me in scenarios that scare me, all despite it being based in a fantasy world that couldn’t possibly exist. Even so, it moves me, and carries real world weight for me as a reader. How cool is that?

Pretty flipping cool from the view of a writer, but super inconvenient for me, the reader. I am an emotional sponge. If I am already upset, knowing others are upset (even for completely unrelated reasons) will only intensify my emotions. On the flip side, if I am in a depressive mood, but surrounded by happy people, I will easily perk up. One of the worst situations, though, is when I am in a good mood, then a character’s emotions drag me into depression with them.

I wanted to take a moment and figure out what made this character real to me, and gave him enough emotional weight to drag me down with him:

The character wasn’t built on negativity
Any time I recall a “mary-sue” or “gary-stu” character, I can’t think of a time their character wasn’t enduring some tragic event. There are plenty of compelling stories where real people have lived mostly tragic lives, but the key there is “mostly.” There must be highs to know how low the lows go. If we are always wallowing in the valley, we don’t really know how far down we are. If we start at the top of the mountain, then we can see how far we have fallen and how much there is to lose. This is the key to developing a real character.

The supporting characters are well-developed and matter
This is probably super obvious, but it is worth mentioning. While it is of utmost importance to focus on and develop the main character, don’t let those supporting characters fall to the wayside. Relationships are hella important in both life and in your writing.  Relationships can bring your character down, as well as help build them back up.

How others react to your character can be just as powerful
There is a point in this novel where a supporting character reacted in such a gentle and kind manner to the main character that it made the main character’s emotions much more real to me. So just like you don’t want to have an underdeveloped supporting cast, you also don’t want to forget who is in the room with your character when something is happening. If the main character is in a bar and hears word of his mother passing, how does he react? When he reacts, how do those closest to him react? I don’t even mean how do his friends or relatives react. I mean within reasonable proximity to your character when they get the news. How do they react to the character’s reaction? This can create a wonderful reflection of your character, as well as help intensify that emotion.

There is more than just sadness
I think a lot of writers forget about other emotions. Sadness is so powerful and is very easy to visually represent in writing. However, some of my favorite novels explore many layers of emotion. Anger, jealousy, happiness, etc. All these emotions are powerful. Of course, don’t hesitate to give me some sadness, but that sadness is so much more poignant when we know how the character acts while feeling all the other layers of emotion.

Don’t discount the small stuff
Of course a character’s parents dying is going to be painful for a reader. Of course, the birth of a baby is probably going to be a joyous moment for the reader. These are major, life-altering events that many people can probably empathize with in some way, but you know what else a reader may empathize with? The feeling of finishing a really good book, the feeling after hearing your supposed friend make fun of you, the feeling of stubbing your toe on your bed post, the feeling when a close friend moves away. etc. These small events may not illicit strong emotions, but it creates different levels of emotion for your character. It’s easy to show a baseline, content character, and it is nearly as easy to show a character reach a deep level of any particular emotion. It is just as important, though, to show varying levels of these emotions, so the character is real to the reader.

Life isn’t convenient, don’t make the bad stuff convenient
How many times have you heard of people getting into car wrecks on their way to their last final for the semester? There has been so much build up, so much riding on this, and the person is either super confident or super terrified, but all that changes in an instant when they get into a fender bender on the road. Now they are worried about paying to have their car fixed. Now they must make up the final. Now they must worry about insurance going up. Suddenly, the anxiety from before seems much more insignificant than it did when it was the person’s only focus. That’s how life works. I feel the bad stuff almost always happens when we are already dealing with a lot. It is shocking in real life, and it will be just as shocking on the page, but, again, you don’t have to always focus on the negative. Maybe something wonderful happens during a tragedy. Surprise us!

Just based on what I’ve read so far in this book, these are some of the key elements in making an emotional sponge like me a sloppy mess. What do you think? Let me know, and comment below!

Lissy

Writing Goals

With the start of summer break, my new internship, and my job, I’ve had a lot of trouble keeping up with my writing.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been majorly slacking on a lot of things. Sure, I have excuses:

Tornadoes ripped through my state and my town, the great snowpocalypse, general anxiety… but writing is something that has always made me feel good. It comforts me, and to have avoided just because of sheer laziness is unacceptable. So, in order to keep myself on task, I have set up writing goals for myself so as to start the next school semester fresh and productive.

ONWARD TO THE LIST!

  1. Have my three short horror pieces beta read…
    I have already somewhat started on this, and a lot of these will pretty much be continuations of what I’ve started, but it needs to be out in the world. If I post it publicly, I will definitely feel more obligated to do it. If you’d like to help out, please fill out the contact sheet and let me know how much you’re willing to read and when.
  2. Send my short stories out to as many publications as possible…
    I am extremely lazy. BEYOND lazy. I desperately need to sit down, go through some journals and magazines, and filter through the horror market. I need to see where I can fit in, where I can’t, etc. I don’t want to burn bridges by just spamming my work, but I do need to make a more conscious effort to get out there. I’ve already sent one out. We’ll see what is done with it, then edit, edit, edit, if necessary. Then, send again.
  3. Write for some themed journals…
    I’ve never been in to those journals that only publish for a theme. I understand a genre, but themes have just never appealed to me. If I want to get out there, I need to be able to expand my horizons, so to speak. I need to be more willing to write for something else. It’ll increase my productivity immensely, and I will be able to test myself. I need to at least try.
  4. Finish Ice Over, then go back to writing short stories…
    I love writing long pieces. I love it more than anything else in the world. Apocalyptia and An Austrian March were fun. But I need to become a better writer before I can continue to be a novelist. Short stories are just that, short. They don’t require too much time, though time is necessary. I can write a large amount, send them out, get critiques from a lot more people, and better my writing so I can eventually get back to novels. Ice Over will probably be the last long work I write for a long, long time.
  5. Test the waters with my poetry…
    This year, I thought, would be the year for my prose. It has actually been much more fruitful with my poetry. I’d like to explore my poetry a bit more and expand my skills in that field, too.

I, in general, just want to be more well-rounded as a writer. I thought I had found my place in the writing world, but I’m finding that there is so much more still to explore. Writing is a journey, and I’m taking it one step at a time.

Now, if you’ve made it this far, I want to ask you, what are your writing goals this summer? Anything special you’ll be working on? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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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

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Word counts? How important are they?

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For as long as I’ve been a part of writing communities, I’ve been surprised by how intensely focused everyone is on their word counts. NaNoWriMo? Based solely on word count. Writing sprints? Based on word count (most of the time). Genre? Has preferred word counts. Novels? Novellas? Short stories? Flash fiction? All based on word count.

Success is linked to word count, and I can see why. In the technical and business sense of it all, word count is beyond important. But I am of the variety which couldn’t care less about word counts. If you’ve ever read my editing technique posts (#1 and #2), then you know I start all of my projects on paper, then move up to typewriter, where I then finish on the computer. It’s a long, drawn-out process, but it gets the job done. Paper has no word count, typewriters (unless they are of the modern variety) have no word counts. I usually don’t know my final word count until the draft is already complete and has gone through two edits. I, personally, hate word counts. I feel like they are stifling to writers, though some people find them to be helpful, and keep them motivated.

Though it is against my own personal preference, I’ve decided to make a list detailing why word counts are so important (though I still say write how much you want to write. Write until the story is done, and all that jazz). Anyway, before I change my mind, ONWARD TO THE LIST!

  • Most Literary Journals take Fiction of a Certain Length
    Granted, most of these journals also have themes people can write for, but it’s still worth noting. I’ve found that most literary journals will take lengths ranging from 5,000 words to approximately 10,000, though that is pushing it. They prefer shorter works because the lengthier the journal, the more expensive it is to print. If you’re looking to get into a journal, it’s best to follow their guidelines exactly. If they prefer a certain word count, it would be in your best interest to meet that word count.
  • Most Presses take Fiction of a Certain Length
    Same goes for big name presses. They want big books. The bigger the book, the more money there is to be had. It has been statistically proven that people like buying bigger books. So, the bigger the book, the better (most of the time).
  • Genre Presses always have a Length Preference
    Most YA presses want lengths in the 50,000 to 100,000 word range. Most sci-fi presses want 100,000 to 300,000. Fantasy can go from 50,000 to 500,000. It all depends on how strict the press is and what they believe is the ample word count for the specific genre they are hoping to publishing. It is important to keep in mind the genre you are writing for because that will also determine how much you need to write.
  • Word Counts are Encouraging
    There is a reason NaNoWriMo is always so successful. People like having a specific number to achieve. It’s similar to why I like making lists. I like being able to reach something, to have a specific goal I can aspire to. Thus, setting a word count goal can help to encourage your inner-writer. If you can’t seem to finish a draft, try setting daily word count goals or an entire draft goal. If you give yourself a specific deadline, you’ll have a better chance at achieving it.

Word counts are important, but in all honesty, write until the work is finished. There is no point in adding fluff and useless info just to reach a word count goal. If you finish the draft, then it’s done. Same goes for cutting things out. If you think the work is as complete as it’s going to get, once editing is done, then don’t worry about trimming it down. Now, just for those who are interested. I’ve added a list of common, general words counts for genres and book sizes below. These aren’t set in stone. Each press usually has a different interpretation as to how many words a genre needs, but this can be a fairly accurate place to jump from.

Novel – over 40,000 words
Novella – 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novelette – 7,500 to 17,500 words
Short story – under 7,500 words

Middle Grade Fiction – 25,000 to 40,000
YA Fiction – 45,000 to 100,000 (possibly 120,000)
Paranormal Romance – 85,000 to 100,000
Romance – 85,000 to 100,000
Category Romance – 55,000 to 75,000
Mysteries – 65,000 to 90,000
Horror – 80,000 to 100,000
Western – 80,000 to 100,000
Thrillers and Crime Fiction – 75,000 – 100,000
Mainstream/Commercial Fiction – 50,000 to 120,000
Science Fiction and Fantasy – 80,000 to 120,000

Now then, what do you think about word counts? How important are they to you? How strict are you with them? Are you like me and couldn’t care less about them? 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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