7 Things I’ve Learned As A Writer

Hey everyone, I’ve got a new vlog for you all! =)

Since (by my own judgment) I kind of suck at talking to a camera and may have fumbled a couple points, I wrote a basic outline that goes a little more in-depth than the video:

  1. Accept criticism of your work. Let’s face it. If you’re not willing to listen to what readers have to say about your work, you will never develop yourself as a writer. This can be a bit of a balancing act at first, but you have to learn to weigh what is most beneficial to you. There will always be self-righteous trolls out there ready rip apart your work for stupid reasons, but the good thing is that you get the final say and you don’t have to listen to that shit. Only accept what your think would make your story stronger.
  2. Read more. It will make you a better author. This should go without saying. And when I say read, I don’t mean Buzzfeed or Cracked articles (unless of course that’s who you’re writing for), I mean read actual books. Read many books, and in different
    genres and points of view. Not only will it strengthen your prose and dialogue, but it will also expand your horizons and help you see what is necessary to build stronger characters andan addicting narrative. Plus you may find yourself coming up with ideas in a genre you hadn’t previously considered writing in before.
  3. Characterization is everything, because characters drive the plot. This isn’t necessarily something I’ve ever had a problem with, because most of the stories I read deal with strong character development.I also watch people a lot and I think watching a lot of movies has really helped me develop good, strong characters and dialogue. Dialogue is actually one of the first things I write for my story when I’m constructing a scene, and sometimes I’ll even pace around my room like a crazy person trying to act out that scene. But that’s not because I’m insecure or nuts about it, I’m just emotionally moved by it, and strong characters are what I base my entire plot around. Think of characterization as the Force from Star Wars. It’s always there, surrounding everything, but you can’t see it. That’s what strong characterization does. Then the action comes, and it changes them from within, and they react. Given the Force and inner workings of your characters, how do they react? Strong characters are essential for telling a story worth reading.
  4. If you love it, stay in it for the long haul. I can’t tell you how many artists, writers, and musicians I’ve seen quit at this just because they didn’t know how to build an audience, or decided that just because one part of their story or song was crap, they
    should just throw out the entire thing. But your creations are, for better or worse, a mental and emotional extension of you. In effect, they’re your children. And you don’t throw out the baby with the bath water, do you? You don’t throw your kid out on the street just because they slipped up once. Writing a story, just like with any kind of art and even parenting, is about loving and nurturing your creation and seeing it through. So if you really love to write, don’t quit! It’s a vital part of you and I promise that with enough love and dedication, it will get better and you can do anything!
  5. Write in multiple points of view. It will expand your horizons. The fact is, most writers typically start in first person, just because it’s easier to put yourself in your character’s shoes and write his or her thoughts down. Basically, like writing a diary. The problem with this is that first person is a very hard point of view for newbie writers to pull off effectively. For one, you’re not able to see what anyone else is thinking, and two, your entire world will be colored by your character’s perception of it. You have to show equal parts introspection as well as outside action. That’s not to say that you can’t tell a great story with that point of view, but it’s important to be aware of the benefits and limitations that each perspective comes with. I for example wrote my first two books in first person, and while it worked for those stories, I realized it wasn’t going to work for my current story. I decided to try third person limited POV, and while it was a little awkward for me at first, I’ve gotten incredibly comfortable with writing in that style, and my story is much better as a result. So don’t limit yourself.

  6. Remember to write and read with cultural diversity in mind. AKA, #CheckYourPrivilege. Hopefully, you’re not racist, misogynist, or a hater of LGBTQ people. I cannot stress this enough, because it’s a question a lot of straight, white, male authors seem to struggle with. There’s a good quote a friend of mine said a while back, and that is “it takes effort not to be racist”. My point here is that if you’re a white, straight author and your stories don’t include women, people of other ethnicities, sexual orientations, or gender identities, you’re being ignorant and your stories will probably be boring. Consider that it is possible to be ignorant by omission as well; if you’re not including the physical descriptions of your characters and you are a white author, it’s generally assumed your cast is white unless noted otherwise. If you are genuinely concerned with how to remedy this problem, I highly suggest visiting a Tumblr called Writing With Color that will tell you pretty much everything you need to know on how to write with cultural diversity in mind.
  7. Make friends with other authors. Seriously. There are way more of us than you think! Especially indie authors, who need your support the most. Plus there’s nothing more beneficial to your writing than making a few friends who might help you edit and beta read your work. So get out there and make some author friends, because they’re literally all over Twitter. Join a writers group! Even if there aren’t any in your local area, there are plenty you can find online. Sign up for NaNoWriMo. I know that’s in November, but its extension site, Camp NaNoWriMo, is going on all throughout the year to help keep you motivated. You can make personalized writing goals and keep in touch with groups of other authors just like you. You literally have nothing to lose. Even if you’re as painfully introverted as me.

    So those are my Top 7 Things I’ve Learned As A Writer, and I hope they help you too =)

House of Rats (Part 2) is now available to read!

The latest installment of my web serial, Adventures in Viktorium, is up now for your reading pleasure here =)

I have to say that it’s going in a couple unexpected directions, but that’s the beauty of writing; nothing is final until you type it down (or use a pen, if that’s your chosen method…I almost miss using them). Though you may plot it perfectly and have characters planned out to a tee in your head, sometimes they just do what they want to do and reveal what they wish at different times. It’s interesting to me how the visual is a constantly evolving thing as well. I started off looking at the maze of the city environment, knowing where everything was. Suddenly there are canals and bridges and statues popping up in the most unexpected places, and building floor plans have changed. But that’s okay, because I don’t think I’ll be providing a map for readers (as of yet…I’ve been experimenting with different web applications, but I haven’t found much that satisfies me yet).

Lucien is going to end up being one of my favorite characters, I can see it already! Crafty bastard, that one. In addition, I’ll also be including some scenes with characters who up until now have been background voices, i.e. Benoit Laurent and Constance Renou. The mayor will also make an appearance soon.

I adore my cast of characters.

This web serial is probably the single greatest thing I’ve ever done for my writing productivity, ever. I used to struggle to pound out 1,000 words per day and now suddenly I’m cramming in 3,000-4,000 on average on my days off work. That is so far beyond what I would have previously expected of myself. I’m learning to be a confident writer, it’s awesome!

Anyway, it’s my bedtime. But if you haven’t yet, please do check out my web serial and give me some feedback on it! I’ll need it because I’m planning to launch Kindle versions of it in the near future with maybe a few extras included, not 100% sure yet.

Also, I promise I’ll try to post on this blog more. I know I’ve been pretty lazy with it, but I’m trying more to keep up with Adventures in Viktorium.

Later for now!

My web serial “Adventures in Viktorium” has just launched!

Hey everyone! So there’s this great-big-massive-huge project I’m working on which for some reason I don’t think I’ve mentioned here before, but I will now.

Viktorium is actually many things. It will be a group of serial novellas (or novels, I’m not sure yet). It’s a web serial. It also involves characters interacting on Twitter. Basically, I’m trying my damnedest to create this insane steampunk world, because I love the idea of it so much that I want to share it with people and encourage active fan participation to expand the world as far as it will go. That includes (but is not limited to) artwork, fanfiction, RPGs, etc. So I’m spreading it around the internet like a virus and hoping it might catch on. Crazy idea.

Anyway, the basic premise is that a scientist named Charles DuPont discovers this other frequency (a parallel dimension) which is exactly like Earth’s reality, but it’s unpopulated. What he does know is that souls of people who died show up there for a short time, but they don’t seem to stay. He resolves at first to turn it into a vacation spot or tourist attraction to test it out by building machines to cross over. It fails miserably at first, but eventually he produces technology to reroute the souls of everyone who dies to this new land, which he dubs Viktorium.

Fifteen years later, a coup is staged and he’s exiled. Political corruption runs rampant and everyone in positions of power line up for the throne, constantly sabotaging each other and allowing the general public to suffer because of their greed.

To that end, I’ve created three fictional Twitters so far of some characters who are basically there to discuss what’s going on in Viktorium, though they play minor roles in the Adventures in Viktorium series:

Benoit Laurent – @BenoitLaur
Constance Renou – @VFranceTransit
Nikola Tesla – @DPSteamworks

I should clarify that Adventures is solely a web serial which takes place just prior to the events of the books I have planned, which are called The Dispatchers Chronicles, in which Christophe and Vitalie–the children of Charles DuPont–travel to Viktorium in search of their father, whom they barely knew.

More is coming soon, and incredibly exciting things are happening! I’ll talk at greater length perhaps later, but for now it’s long past my bedtime (don’t ask, I’m on a horrible schedule!)

Be sure to check out the first post of Adventures in Viktorium here!

The first chapter in my post-apocalyptic sci-fi series “The Burntown Chronicles” is FREE on Kindle until Saturday =)

From today until Saturday, you can get the first part of my monthly post-apocalyptic science fiction serial The Burntown Chronicles free for your Kindle here =) Get it fast, I’ll be putting out the second part very soon!

Synopsis:

July, 2021. When the small rural town of Kentsburg, Mississippi finds itself cut off from the rest of the outside world following a terrible thunderstorm one evening, no one thinks much of it, although several teens can recall seeing flashing red lights on the horizon just before the power went out. The next morning, even stranger things begin to happen.

Nobody’s car will start, clocks are frozen, and all cell phones are mysteriously dead. Then come the circular drones that some farmers have started digging up in their fields–heavy devices which house a plethora of deadly weapons to kill anyone who interferes with them.

In the days following the aftermath of what many refer to as “The Shock”, an unlikely young antihero named Markus Huxley rises, eventually declaring himself de facto leader of a place henceforth known as “Burntown”. Influenced only by his haunted past and an unusual penchant for fire, the future of those who remain in Kentsburg under his reign seems uncertain.

With the town’s older residents dying off, the younger teens soon turn to drugs and alcohol in order to cope. And so the parties rage on, even as the world has seen fit to end in fire…

To The Prince of Cavarice.

To you has passed the cup of a great hardship in the era of your reign.

I understand that few must call you by name, for it is said that you were born with none. Your title is stolen, so let us dispense with any necessity that we must converse in so proper a manner. To do so would insult the memory of he whom you took it from, much as a thief in the night, yes?

I was your right hand man for over a decade, so unlike the rest of the populus, I will not pretend to defend your honor. There is little left for you in these days, my good friend. I assume that even you must be aware of this, even now as you sit at the end of your long table with a crystal goblet in one hand and your scepter in the other, no doubt ready to strike down any who defy you.

You may not remember the reason for which you sent me on this great pilgrimage, though I suppose that much is to be expected; it has been over ten years since you dispatched me, of course. Did you really assume that I was dead? I did tell you that I would come back unscathed. There is no monster in the hills, and I think that you and I both know that, just as we both are aware that you did not send me out there to slay any dragon. Those days are over, as are the years of your glory that so oft slipped away from your forebears.

I feel I must inform you that you did not come from your own land, though I believe you must have some knowledge of this as well. In case you were wondering, no connections to your ancestors turned up during my journey. For now, your throne is safe.

For now, let us speak of things as they unfold before you. The nature of this conquest was never one to be taken lightly, of course. The people are convinced that you have struck down a god, that you alone are worthy of the throne. I think I need not inform you that the history of mixing men and gods to justify mass bloodshed is a rather dark one. Everyone in the olden days wished to associate themselves with the royalty of the heavens beyond; however behind this veil lurks a certain fabric woven from the silk of the Tigris’ whiskers, or as they used to say, “an excuse for everything and the king who shields them”.

I never thought you capable of such deceit. Not that you have fallen into it by any means—I know you much better than that. Or at least I should hope so.

Anyway, as I said…there is no monster. There is, however, the shadow of one that looms in the north. A currency is growing in these foreign lands from which I write, a currency rich with exploitation, a new coin of Denari that has been bathed in the blood of the children. They are all slaves out here, it seems…penniless, wasted, malnourished, dirty. I can scarcely contain my eyes to look at them, should one cross my path. One would be lucky to count how often this happens; they mostly work below in the mining colony of a place called Fort Rives. Their vacant stares are one of a disturbed nature, the sort that rubs off from the abuse inflicted upon them by their masters, no doubt.

At night there are howls beneath the earth, as if the very grounds I walk upon are crying out to me not to take another step. It hurts them, as I have come to learn. I effect what little changes I can, mostly small. The planting of a new seed here or there, tending to my garden, giving back to the soil that which I’ve stolen in my weary steps that are so far removed from the suffering I’ve seen in the poorer classes out here. Tourism has been the main driving force of this land, and it has grown into an evermore profitable venture for anyone proud enough to look the other way. As with any refined society of the Older World, the rich make a killing. I mean this in literal terms, of course. You always were of the fundamentalist attitude.

Unfortunately, I am not so certain what you wish of me anymore, my Prince. You did instruct me before my departure that I was not to interfere in any culture I might encounter, lest I start a war that you would be forced to finish. I suppose now that you can rest assured that I have been safe all these years and am doing quite fine, trading and buying amongst other merchants in my craft. I must, however, admit that I am currently facing the throes of a moral dilemma of how I should proceed up here in the norlands.

The Denarus of Kuldör is gaining quite a footing up here, and the more that travelers make their payments in this crimson-soaked coin, it seems the more children I can see just out of the corner bit of my left eye. Forgive me for not making you aware before, but my right has since been cut out of me in the middle of the night due to a failed agreement some time ago with my first landlord over the hill. He would not accept my payments in our own bills and coins, which up until this point I was convinced was an acceptable currency in all of Vaalbara.

Therefore, I feel that as your once loved and most trusted friend, I ought to encourage you to consider the threat present in this new currency, for it is not only the culture of Kuldör that began its change long before I arrived. The islands of Humont are in danger as well, and it should be noted that this is the very place from whence the myth of the great “monster” referred to in our oldest texts first emerged. Ah…not “ours” I suppose, but that of the land known as Cavarice. And beware, my friend, that the savagery you once so courageously fought against back home has also taken up a new residence not far from this land. He whom you exiled is here, it seems…not quite by name, or at least not the same as before. But he is here, and I can sense him even as I write these words.

Perhaps beneath the earth, he reigns. No commoners are permitted in the mines beneath, which is also where the Denari are forged. Superstitions have emerged in the months I have rented my own rooms and constructed my own storehouse…great myths of the Old World, of the way things used to be. They say it will be the same again; bloodshed, all of it. Those who are not yet infected by the great Plague of Alabaster Bay shall fall to it soon enough, if not to the blood currency.

A monster, you asked…a monster capable of great and terrible things, a fiery horned dragon rearing its ugly snout, breathing fire, smashing the cities to bits with a mere swing of its clubbed tail…this is what you wished me to find, is it not?

Then of course, the answer is no. Such creatures—apart from the fairytale books your mother once read you as a child—do not exist. No, my friend. All that exists is man. The man who will do nothing, the man with a crown of thorns who only changes minds, or the man bent on conquest. Neither is befitting of a human soul to me anymore, and were I with you right now, I would knock the golden laurel leaves from straight off your head! Being that I am not, however, I leave this choice up to you.

For if you do wish to keep such a trinket that in all the realms of infinity will eventually come to mean nothing whatsoever, then you may just have to go to war. If not for the people, then for your land. And I therefore implore you, I urge you…no…I beg of you to do what you know in your heart is right, for if you shall see something of yourself in these poor children as I once saw in you when you were but a boy yourself, then I know you will do the right thing.

So as I’m sure they will say some amount of a million years in the future, the likes of which my eyes have been so blessed to see in my dreams back home…”the ball is in your court”. It is your move, my old friend.

Until we meet again, if ever.

Signed,

Roberus Maximun Archillås

One Coffee, Cream and Equal.

Two coffee rings were staining the table, but only two. They did not bleed into each other. They did not intersect, tangle, or make a Venn diagram; that would imply that there was some solution to be found. And what was more curious, one was a fading shade of black whilst the other had clearly been infused with cream. This was also the circle surrounded by sugar.

No, not sugar…sucralose. A candy-coated lie, a sweet taste that when dissolved in the mouth leaves the putrid flavor of happiness turned sour. Still, he preferred this over drinking his coffee bitter because he would rather feel surrounded by the illusion of comfort. Pillows, warmth, sweetness, that sort of thing.

And then there was black. Just black, nothing else. A shadow that had been, a reminder of what remained. A dark, empty, cold thing. Had the two rings of their morning ritual formed a sort of diagram, hers would easily have eclipsed him. As it was, the black ring was bigger. Fully formed. Independent. Stronger.

He still needed the comfort of sweetness to hold him in place. Perhaps that’s just the way it was. He had come out of his maker no different, having been brewed with just the right blend of courage, tenderness, love. But when his maker broke, that’s when he found himself turning to sugar. No, not sugar…that damn dreaded sucralose.

In many respects, this is what had increased the divide. He had been aware of the bitterness at first, though it came in subtle doses. The gradual increments of something new in the mix, a change of taste, the adding of clouds like magical swirls to cover the treachery of angry skies and black, soulless depths. Eventually, he had withdrawn from the way he used to prefer it: Real. Independent. Strong.

Of course he would make the excuse that it wasn’t the same sort of bitterness, this sucralose habit. There was something there. Something that just hit the right spot. Perhaps it was the tamer shade, the gentler side of things that kept him going for a while and masked the sour pain of it all, and the only thing that reminded him of its existence was the horrid aftertaste. Just a hint, that’s all. Nothing to be scared of.

“I like my coffee with cream and Equal just fine, thank you very much.”

But the truth of it was that these two coffee rings in their composition could not have been any more different, and this is what he had secretly feared. That somehow, that sour bite of bitterness was waiting to attack him at just the right moment. It was still there, after all. The evidence was conclusive, and he also knew this because of the morning he had grown desperate. A dark morning, a morning independent from the rest of the summer season. A Thursday morning. This morning.

It was the same morning he just so happened to have run out of decaf, excuses, Equal, and clean coffee mugs. All the same, she had run out of patience, resolve, sick days, and caffeinated blends. In haste, he had woken up only ten minutes prior to her alarm going off before realizing they were out, so he quickly drove to the nearest convenience store and came home to create quite the destructive brew. Cleaned two mugs. One bigger, one smaller. He gave her the former.

That’s when he remembered there was no Equal left. Drove to the store again. She would be late for work, but he needed it. Craved the comfort. Had to have it or else. It was the sort of sweetness he expected. He could deal with the false notion of aftertaste, the brand of bitter that was acceptable. Better than her brand of morning bitterness, anyway.

Returned home. Coffee was cold, but the strength was still there. No, not his strength…her strength. Bittersweet, codependent.

And just like that—without a word nor a whisper—she angrily grabbed up her mug from the table, poured the decaffeinated brew out in the sink, snatched the keys from his hand, and smartly slammed the door behind her.

That morning, he drank his coffee cold. Cold as their hearts, cold as the snow that now fell from the clouds, colder than comfort had ever been. But at least he had his sucralose.

He smirked at the rings a moment before wiping them away and picked up the phone to call his father.

Google Keywords and Insights – Valuable Tools For Indie Writers!

Every once in a while, I have to admit I’ll buy those certain self-help books. You probably know the kind I’m talking about. They’re the kind of books geared specifically toward people who have the dream of writing, of being a best-selling Kindle author like Amanda Hocking, H.P. Mallory, J.A. Konrath, etc., and every single one of those books purport to tell you how to get there, how to rise to the top, and how to successfully market your book.

Of course, there is no blueprint path to success. Well okay, there is a blueprint, but it’s largely dependent on how you build the house and use the materials that counts.

That’s not to say that none of those “how to be successful!” books contain important advice, because many of them do. I have one on my Kindle written by H.P. Mallory herself, entitled Quit Your Day Job: A Guide for the Self-Published Author, in which she explains all the various starting points we all are pretty much aware of. You must have a Facebook, a Twitter, a personal blog, professional-looking books and covers, and perhaps the hardest rule to master: use tag words appropriately.

Now that sounds pretty simple and straightforward, right? Not necessarily.

I know this for a fact, because I’ve changed my keywords many times with varying results until I started to finally get steady sales. Now I am by no means an expert on this, nor have I sold loads of books myself. What I have learned, however, is that keywords themselves are crucial, as are the keywords you can assign to your book on the Amazon product page for people to agree with. If more people start agreeing on the tags, your book has greater chances of getting noticed. The catch is, you only have so many ways to really get this right. The better side? You have an infinite number of chances to do so.

First, let’s look at Amazon KDP. You are able to choose up to 7 keywords to help direct people to your book. On the product page, you can use up to 15 under the “Tags Customers Associate with This Product” section. Of course the question we all have to ask ourselves is, “How should I tag my book?”. It sounds like a simple question, right? Not always. Here’s an example:

My book Blue Car Racer is currently tagged with the following: teen, gay, domestic violence, abuse, high school, adolescence, young adult. These are all simple terms of course, and my trial/error method of getting to them wasn’t easy.

Now here’s the tricky part. Should I be tagging it “domestic abuse” or “domestic violence”? They almost mean the same thing. “Gay” or “homosexual”? Should I even be tagging it as “gay”, being that it’s more of a minor theme in the book? Should I use broad search terms or more targeted ones?

Thankfully, you can dispense with the headache for a bit, because Google provides two extremely helpful (if underrated) tools that can aid you in placing all the pieces right in this horrendous puzzle called self-publishing. They may not guarantee you success, but they will pave a path to figuring out how to be successful, and trust me…in the end, you’ll find yourself putting down that self-help book of advice, because there’s more than one way to be successful. I haven’t seen any indie author that used the same straight-cut formula to become successful. We all should use the same basic tools, but it involves a lot of trial and error.

That said, here’s one of the things H.P. Mallory suggests in her book on the section about tag words.

Google Keyword Tool – This tool can be used to type in your tag words, and a list will pop up telling you how popular those search terms are. It even suggests other keyword ideas for you, and gives stats on global and local monthly searches using your terms as well as highlighting the competition level for each. The more you can use that fit your book and preferably are rated low under the competition column, the better. Try to use both specifically-targeted as well as more broad keywords.

Google Insights – What this one does is a bit similar, but this is for after you’ve compiled your list of keywords. Basically, you can type each one into the search field and filter results for the category, location, and any period of time ranging from 2004 up until the current month. What then pops up is a graph that shows you the popularity of the term over the period of time you specified. It also breaks it down into regional interest and top searches using the term.

I haven’t exactly tried this method yet, but in my opinion, these tools can really help if you’re confused about how to tag your books, and I frequently am.

Before you try all this though, here’s a few good books I recommend that have helped me along the way:

The Taleist Self-Publishing Survey
Quit Your Day Job: A Guide for The Self-Published Author
Social Media Marketing for Writers

Good luck and happy marketing =)