Wonderful World of Writing

3 Tips for Writing a Believable Romance

In the literary world, the romance genre is often treated as a joke due to its overuse of certain tropes, unrealistically portrayed relationship growth, and focus on physical aspects rather than the romantic connection between the protagonist and their love interest. Today, I’d like to share three tips on how to craft a believable romance that will leave readers swooning rather than rolling their eyes.

HowToBelievableRomance

1) The Dos and Don’ts of Insta-Love

One of the most common complaints I’ve read in reviews for romance books involve the characters instantly falling in love upon their first meeting with little to no reason as to why. The best example I can provide of this trope is Anna and Hans from Frozen. Did anyone else cringe upon their engagement?

Luckily for Anna, she escapes the mortifying consequences of that case of Insta-Love, as the film transitions on to her introduction to Kristoff. Disney was able to twist the Insta-Love trope and make it end up as endearing for the audience. How can we as authors do the same?

Suggestions for Writing Insta-Love:

  • Give the characters one strong common goal or interest. They don’t have to have everything in common, but give them enough similarities to develop a foundation for their connection.
  • Make the initial first-sight moment develop by having the characters notice an intriguing personality trait about one another rather than a physical trait. Make the romance about the characters, not about how they look.
  • Be subtle about their initial attraction. Even if the chemistry is there on Day 1, the relationship should still have room to develop and mature throughout the remainder of the book. Don’t have them spouting out that they love each other, should get married, and have kids the day they meet, unless they have gone through a lifetime’s worth of relationship-building circumstances with each other over that period of time (Ex: Katniss and Peeta’s close proximity in The Hunger Games resulted in a Insta-Love of sorts for the viewers in Panem).

2) Don’t Base the Romance on Looks or Physical Aspects

This bit goes hand-in-hand with what I mentioned about Insta-Love, but the overfocus on how “hot” or “sexy” the love interest may be is a huge problem throughout the romance genre.

For me, as a reader that favors cleaner romance, whenever the protagonist continually describes how good the love interest looks, I cringe. For the most part, this is a tip off that the relationship will be one where lust is mistaken for love. Romance, to me, should be based on a love story involving each person’s emotions, and how, working together, the couple learns from one another in a way that results in amazing character arcs.

“Romance” books that are purely lust-based often lack the depth for promising character arcs. In fact, lust-based have their own separate genre, and I’m disappointed that its genre is often thought to be intertwined with the romance genre, as romance books then get a bad reputation for having books that confuse lust with love. Please determine which genre your story will best fit in. If it’s purely a lovestory-based book, then it’s a romance. If it’s incredibly steaming and physical… that’s not romance in the true sense of the word, and it belongs in a different genre.

Crafting Chemistry

Lastly, in order for readers to ship your fictional couples like there’s no tomorrow, a palpable chemistry between the two should be crafted. In other words, the characters, like I hinted at in the Insta-Love section, should have a common bond and/or goal that can set the course for the rest of the relationship.

There’s nothing worse than reading a “romance” where two people meet and you can’t for the life of you comprehend why they’re a good match. In order for a couple to be portrayed believably, the readers need something to latch onto, whether that be how Person A compliments Person B’s personality, how they both have been through similar traumatic experiences and help each other mend, etc.

Let’s Recap!

So, if you want to craft a believable romance that will lead to your fans shipping your couple, remember to try the following:

1) Remember the Dos and Don’ts of Insta-Love

2) Love Story = Romance | Lust Story = Not Romance

3) Couples Thrive On Chemistry


Talk to me, Arrowheads!

Do you have any tips for crafting a believable romance that I didn’t address in today’s post? Please add to the conversation in the comments!

Later, Arrowheads,

-Allyson 😀

 

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Self-Publishing, Wonderful World of Writing

Favorite Authortubers

My favorite thing to do while I’m getting ready in the morning is watching writing or self-publishing related YouTube videos. A lot of these videos have transformed my writing methods and have opened my eyes to different aspects of self-publishing. Today I’d like to share some of my favorite Authortube channels that I highly recommend subscribing to!

Abbie Emmons | Writers Life Wednesdays

Without a doubt, my top current recommendation for writing and self-publishing advice is Abbie Emmons’s Writer’s Life Wednesdays channel. I have yet to find a YouTuber who goes as in-depth into the different aspects of writing as Abbie does. My favorite thing about her channel is that she focuses on helping writers develop character-driven stories rather than the fundamental how-tos of writing. Abbie often explores the psychology behind how to make fictional characters jump from the pages, and each video teaches me more valuable lessons about the writing craft.

If you haven’t already, check out my interview with Abbie Emmons from her 100 Days of Sunlight blog tour!

Sarra Cannon | Heart Breathings

I discovered paranormal YA author Sarra Cannon’s channel, Heart Breathings, soon after I started watching Writers Life Wednesdays. Though I don’t typically enjoy the main genre Sarra writes, I absolutely love her videos on self-publishing and marketing (and her amazing notebook collection!!!). Though Sarra has sold over half a million books, she is humble and shares with viewers about the hardships she’s dealt with in the publishing industry as well. Whether you’re self-published, like notebooks and washi tape, or need some inspiration to write, Heart Breathings is the channel to watch!

K.A. Emmons | Author + Blogger + YouTuber + Dreamer

Sister of Abbie Emmons, K.A. Emmons is an indie author of The Blood Race series and offers unconventional yet super inspirational advice for writers. What I like most about her channel is that she often focuses on how writers (and creatives in general) need to be aware of and take care of their mental health. This is an aspect a lot of writing and self-publishing channels neglect, so watching her videos always clears my head!

Bethany Atazadeh | Bestselling Author, YouTuber, and Writing Coach

I recently discovered Bethany’s self-titled channel and instantly became a fan of the way she shares advice on writing and self-publishing. Bethany writes in a number of genres and often collabs with fellow YouTuber, Mandi Lynn. Though I haven’t watched much of her or Mandi’s channels yet, I look forward to watching more!

I also enjoyed watching Bethany’s Wander Writing Retreat Vlog featuring other Authortubers, so I aim to watch some of their videos in the future!

Brooke Passmore | bytheBrooke

Brooke is one of the Authortubers I discovered through Bethany’s Wander Writing Retreat Vlog. What I like best about Brooke’s channel, bytheBrooke, is that she is completely transparent with her writing struggles while also being hilarious. I relate to her a lot and have binged watched her videos lately! 😂


Talk to Me, Arrowheads!

Who are your favorite writing and self-publishing YouTubers? Share your recommendations in the comments! 🙂

Later, Arrowheads,

-Allyson 😀

Wonderful World of Writing

The Southern Writer’s Dictionary

As a southern writer who uses southern vernacular in her writing, I often wonder if readers are confused by some of the words I use. Well, that confusion ends today! I have compiled a list of a few words and phrases southern writers often use to aid non-southern readers who pick up our books. Behold, the Southern Writer Dictionary!

SouthernWriterDictionary

Ain’t: (Contraction) Slang for “am not” or “is not”.

‘Backer: (Noun) Slang term for tobacco.

Boot: (Noun) Another word for a vehicle’s trunk.

Britches: (Noun) Another word for pants; usually men’s pants.

Chaw: (Noun) Slang for chewing tobacco and/or tobacco dip.

Chicken and Pastry: (Noun) Another way of saying chicken and dumplings.

Dag on: (Phrase) Another way to express dang or darn.

Fly Flap: (Noun) Another word for fly swatter

Four-Wheeler: (Noun) What most people in the South call a four-wheel-drive ATV.

Miss Priss: (Noun) Nickname for a snooty/preppy female.

Nabs: (Noun) A slang (mostly in North Carolina) term for orange Lance snack crackers.

Pecan: (Noun) (Pronunciation: Pee-can) A type of nut, typically pronounced as pi-caan by others.

Porch: (Noun) Another word for a home’s stoop.

Shug: (Noun) An affectionate nickname for someone (usually a female) | Short for the word sugar.

Slaw: (Noun) Short for coleslaw; usually paired with pulled pork (eastern NC style barbecue) on a sandwich.

Wallago: (Phrase) A verbal slang for “a while ago”; can mean any length of time.

Y’all: (Noun) Slang for “you all”; can mean two or more people. “All y’all” means a large group.

Youngin: (Noun) Slang combination of “young one”; another word for child or kid. | Plural form: Youngins.


What other words can you think to add to the Southern Writer’s Dictionary? Let me know in the comments!

Later, Arrowheads,

-Allyson 😀

Wonderful World of Writing

Weird Writing Ideas? Embrace Them.

In the writing community, it seems that lately I’ve been seeing posts that talk about two sides of the same coin:

1) Tropes are bad and need to be avoided, or

2) Readers expect certain tropes in certain genres and you better deliver, or else they’ll be disappointed.

Why can’t we, as creative writers, be free to be creative instead? And, what if we dare to put our own creative spin on tropes?

*Collective gasp from the traditional tropers*

“Tsk, tsk, madame. That will certainly not do.”

But why not?

“Because genre norms need to be in place so–“

*Anti-Tropers flip a table*

“No man, you gotta defy it all! You have to be 100% unique and not rely on any other existing trope to–“

Both of you, just hush. Let people write whatever the heck they want to write. Stop nitpicking over the slightest of details.

WeirdWritingIdeas

Who cares if something about your book is a little cliche? Unless you’re totally copying the book or film that set the standard for the trope, you needn’t worry. Use your unique storytelling ability to look at that trope in a new light.

And don’t be scared to venture outside your comfort zone. As long as it makes a good story and your characters aren’t total snorefests, have at it.

You want to write a YA contemporary where the mean girl is a cheerleader and the main character is totally crushing on the antagonist’s boyfriend? Write it. Just make sure your characters are well developed.

Want to write a spy thriller with sci-fi, horror, romantic elements, and alien koalas? Do it. Just make sure the plot transitions well when each sub-genre is featured.

So, ignore those who preach your story has to fit into certain specifications to be enjoyable. If you write a good story, no matter what it contains, people are going to enjoy it. Embrace your unique writing ideas. They may be tomorrow’s best-seller.


What’s the weirdest writing idea you’ve ever had? Comment below and we’ll embrace them together!

Later, Arrowheads,

-Allyson 😀

 

Self-Publishing, Wonderful World of Writing

It’s Okay to be a “Slow” Writer

In today’s society, every aspect of our lives seems to run at hyper speed. We can communicate with someone with the tap of a screen. We can receive news within minutes after it happens. Likewise, in the realm of self-publishing, readers often don’t have to wait extended periods of time for the next book in a series to be delivered straight to their Kindles. In fact, they often don’t have to wait more than a month or two!

Due to the self-publishing strategy of rapid-fire series releases, many authors are feeling pressured to write faster in order to keep readers engaged in their series. Attention spans are shrinking due to the growing norm of instant gratification, so why not join the club?

You can’t rush art. -Toy Story 2

This is at least the third time I’ve quoted the toy repairman from Toy Story 2 on this blog, but the sentiment remains true in this situation. While I’m in no way against authors releasing books in a rapid-fire strategy if the books are backlogged (I actually think that’s a genius tactic), I’m wary of the practice of rushing to write and publish books back-to-back within the span of a few months. Though some authors can and have mastered the art of remaining quality prolific writers while publishing those titles as fast as possible, it’s not a tactic I recommend for most writers, including myself.

SlowWriter

For the same reason that I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo, I don’t think that writers should force themselves to complete their writing projects as quick as humanly possible. Granted, they may strike a fit of creative genius and crank out a mesmerizing first draft that requires minimal editing; however, they may also produce a hot mess manuscript that will require a heap of extra care to edit, care that may entail pushing the publication date back and skewing release plans. Or, the writer is stuck with a hot mess manuscript and chooses not to take the necessary time for edits, publishing said hot mess as is.

That’s a big no-no, my friend.

You see, as writers, as people who see the value in words and know how powerful they can be, I’m a firm believer that we should seek to publish high quality works over a heaping quantity of mediocre works.

As a reader, I would much rather wait a year or two for an author to release another book that I know will meet my quality standards than have them mass produce books that aren’t up to par because they didn’t receive enough time in the incubator so to speak, molding and growing into their full potential before being thrown out into the world. When readers buy a book, they’re expecting it to be as good as it can be when it reaches the marketplace. Readers will eventually see through those hyper-released hot messes and choose to spend their time and money investing in a more polished series.

The moral of the story is it’s perfectly okay if you’re a “slow” writer who takes more than a few months to write a book. There are positives and negatives of the rapid word count trend, so don’t let peer pressure overrule your writer’s heart. Choose the method that works best for you. You’re not any less of a writer if you take more time to finish your WIPs. Don’t beat yourself up for taking the time to make it the best it can be. Just write, and enjoy the process.


Whether it takes you two months or two years to finish your WIPs, you’re still a writer, my friend! Comment below and tell me how long it takes you to finish a manuscript, and if you’ve ever felt rushed trying to finish it within a short time frame?

Later, Arrowheads,

-Allyson 😀

Wonderful World of Writing

Top 3 Tips for New Writers

Have you recently discovered the joys of writing but fear you’re too new at writing to be successful? Hang tight and don’t give up, my friend, as today I’m sharing my top three tips to help you level up from a newbie writer to a knight in shining writerdom!

I’ve been writing stories pretty much since I learned to form sentences on a page, almost eighteen years ago. Still, I’m no expert at this whole writing thing. I learn new things about the writing craft every day, but these are some tips I wish I would’ve come across when I first began to take writing seriously.

Top3TipsNewWriters

Tip 1: Work on One WIP at a Time

Though some seasoned writers may be able to handle writing two or more books at once, when you’re attempting to write your first novel, (and, truthfully, your second or third), please stick to one WIP (work in progress) at a time. Though I finished my first novel, Can’t Beat the Heart of a Carolina Girl, without another plot bunny forming, once I started writing Speak Your Mind, I got the ideas to start writing The CrushOn the Flip Side, and a couple other projects that I’ve abandoned for now. I finished CBTHOACG over the course of a year and half. Because I was flipping back and forth between WIPs for seven years afterwards, I didn’t finish another novel until completely dedicating my writing time to Speak Your Mind from late 2017 to early 2018.

Don’t follow in my footsteps, young grasshopper. Don’t think that just because you get stuck on one WIP that you’ll be able to start and finish another with no issues. The devil is a liar! If you do get ideas for other writing projects, simply write them down and go back to them after your current project is finished. Stick it out one WIP at a time, and try to…

Tip 2: Outline Your Plot

I pantsed Can’t Beat the Heart of a Carolina Girl like there was no tomorrow, but pantsing Speak Your Mind eventually led to getting stuck on one easy scene for a year or two and causing the other novel ideas to swarm. Basically, pantsing and waiting for inspiration to strike thwarted my progress as a writer. Once I sat down and mapped out the course I wanted to take the novel, everything started falling into place.

No, I don’t have a fancy outlining method. For the most part, I take a single sheet of notebook paper and list out all the events that need to happen in the book. This is better explained in my post The Quick and Easy Guide to Rewriting.

Another outline method that I’ve stumbled across recently is Abbie Emmons’s Turn Your Messy Story Idea into an Outline guide, which can be found here. Abbie offers a printable PDF that you can fill out in order to make better sense of your random ideas for the novel. I highly suggest checking out this guide and her videos on outlining, as they’ve helped me tremendously when rewriting The Crush.

Tip 3: Seek Feedback, but Ignore Destructive Criticism

The first time I ever received feedback for my writing was during the one and only Creative Writing class I took as an elective in community college. Though I mostly received positive feedback, during our Poetry section, my instructor provided constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is advice that will build you up as a writer and propel you forward. New writers, be sure to seek out constructive criticism and learn to tune out destructive criticism.

Destructive feedback occurs when a fellow writer/reader speaks negatively (moreso rudely) about your writing with no real reason why, or a reason that is merely opinion based rather than craft based. For example, if your critique partner reads your politically-driven dystopian novel and comments, “this story sucks because the main character supports the use of guns”, the feedback is merely opinion based, as they may not have the same view on guns as the character, or you as the author.

Another example would be if your reader throws in comments like “annoying”, “horrible”, or “hot garbage” when describing your work. Constructive criticism will never involve rude language to describe your work. Rude language is only used to belittle your work. There’s a difference, my friend. Learn to embrace the constructive feedback and ward off those who have nothing nice to say. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. 😉


There you have it! New writers, I hope these tips have been helpful!

What other tips have you come across that have helped you as a writer? Feel free to share in the comments!

Later, Arrowheads,

-Allyson 😀

Wonderful World of Writing

3 Steps for Smashing Writer’s Block like Mario

Whether you’re a new writer or have been penning books for decades, the hideous torturer that is Writer’s Block can haunt you at any given time. You may be tempted to fall ill to its restrictive nature, but I have three steps you can add to your arsenal to conquer the Writer’s Block beast. Are you ready to smash Writer’s Block like Mario? Let’s get started!

SmashWriter'sBlockLikeMario

Step 1: Discover the Cause

Nine times out of ten, Writer’s Block hinders our creativity due to an underlying problem. The problem can be a number of things, ranging from an inhibitor in our minds, personal problems, or story issues. In order to discover the cause of your case of  Writer’s Block, take a moment to reflect on what the root of the problem may be.

Self Reflection

Many times, we as writers hinder ourselves from writing due to mental blocks. Ask yourself the following questions. If you can answer YES to any of them, we’ll seek to solve the issue(s) in Step 2:

  • Am I afraid of what others will think of my writing?
  • Am I afraid of rejection?
  • Am I comparing myself to other authors?
  • Am I dwelling on achieving success as an author?
  • Are any external factors (friends, family, work, stress) affecting my ability to write?

Story Reflection

Our stories themselves may also be causing our inkwell to run dry. If you passed the Self Reflection portion, ask yourself these questions about your WIP:

  • Do I like the direction the story is headed?
  • Are my characters flat?
  • Do I have an idea of where the story is headed?
  • Am I having reservations about telling this story?
  • Does it contain cliches or inconsistencies?

Step 2: Write it Out

Now that you’ve determined your reason(s) behind your case of Writer’s Block, it’s time to tackle the beast by doing the one thing it’s keeping you from doing… writing!

Hey, don’t roll your eyes at me. We’re not diving back headfirst into your WIP with your newly discovered writing anxieties looming over your shoulder. Instead, break out a sheet of paper and write about why you have the anxiety in the first place.

For example, when I first became serious about rewriting my current WIP, The Crush, last year, Writer’s Block kept punching me in the gut. Writing out why I was 1) Afraid of what others will think of it, 2) Panicked that I had no idea where the story was headed, and 3) Having reservations about telling the story helped me realize I needed to nip those anxieties in the butt.

Writing out these anxieties provides tangible reasons why the anxiety exists, reasons you can then use to find solutions to ease the anxieties.

Writing Out Your Reasons

  • Why do I feel these anxieties?
  • What can I do to relieve these anxieties?

Do your best soul-searching to answer these questions, and answer them thoroughly. The more thorough they are, the more helpful they will be in getting you back on track. Coming up with methods for relieving these anxieties opens new doors for your WIP.

Referring back to my example of The Crush, I realized I was having Writer’s Block anxieties and came up with action steps for each of them:

Fear: Afraid of my peers’ opinions on the story.
Method of Attack: Learn to embrace constructive criticism. Ignore deconstructive criticism. Write for myself and God’s opinion only.

Fear: Afraid of having a Nowheresville plot.
Method of Attack: Learned to plot for the first time instead of pantsing it out for ten more years.

Fear: Having reservations about telling this story.
Method of Attack: Learned to edit out the parts I was having reservations about and rewrite the story to better reflect the new plot direction.

It’s not easy, but if you spend time and effort on learning to put your writer anxieties to rest, it’s worth it.

Step 3: Take a Break and Try Again

After writing it out, collecting your thoughts, and forming a game plan, take a brief break to clear your head of all things writing. No, this is not Game Over; just relax for a day to a week, and then jump back in your WIP. With a fresh outlook and new strategy, you should be well equipped to smash Writer’s Block like Mario and win the game with a finished draft under your belt.


Talk to Me, Arrowheads!

What are your methods for battling Writer’s Block? Let me know in the comments!

Later, Arrowheads,

-Allyson 😀

Wonderful World of Writing

Why I Write Realistic Christian Fiction

A common dilemma many authors of Christian fiction face is whether to write about hardships and situations as realistically as possible, or write an ultra-clean read void of the grit of tough subjects. While I feel there is room in the Christian fiction market for both sides of the spectrum, for some reason books that are more realistically written and portray the world as it is are often claimed to be less clean than others and not fit for the Christian market. Today, I’d like to share why I prefer to write realistic Christian fiction, and argue for the positive impact it has in Christian media.

RealisticChristianFiction

Public School Students Need Relatable Christian Influences

I realize a vast portion of Christian fiction readers includes conservative homeschooled Christians, but there are also Christians who attend public school who have the potential to face racy circumstances on a daily basis. I attended public school from Kindergarten to 12th grade, and can attest that kids (even coming from a sheltered, Christian family like my own) are bombarded with all kinds of different viewpoints at school, good and bad. I write realistic Christian fiction to help public school students like my younger self navigate the trials and tribulations public school place in their lives.

The War on Christian Morality in the Public School Setting

As mentioned in my post Why I Write YA Romance, Christians who attend public school need more examples of how a dating relationship can honor God without fear of crossing the line physically or being terrified of even holding hands without being reprimanded. Even as young as elementary and middle school, public school students are exposed to misleading information concerning dating and sex from their classmates.

I often heard vulgar things in middle and high school that, coming from a sheltered home, I did not understand were immoral until I asked my parents about it later. Even some sheltered Christian kids, however, may be persuaded to think that the use of vulgar language, sleeping around, and the use of drugs and alcohol are fine because their friends are doing it, especially if they want to be considered cool.

The first time I ever heard the F-word was in 7th grade… by a student. Recently, I heard of a middle schooler selling drugs in my county. Many of my classmates’ parents were divorced or had affairs during our time in school. I even overheard gossip that a teacher was asking inappropriate questions about students online. I witnessed bullying and was bullied myself.

Christians Have Turned a Blind Eye for Too Long

As Christians, we can either sweep all that under the rug and pretend that these issues don’t exist because they’re too “dirty” to deal with, or we can put on the armor of God and tackle them.

My main problem with “sweeping these issues under the rug” is that if all these issues are ignored, students who need guidance are going to trip over that big lump in the rug and fall flat on their faces.

Yes, Christian parents should be teaching their children biblically sound morals, but do children (especially those who are willing to do anything to fit in) always obey their parents? They should, but it’s not always a guarantee.

That’s why I feel a strong need to write books that portray the negative consequences sin can reap on young people and adults alike. Kids don’t always listen to their parents, but maybe if they discover a book that realistically portrays a situation they’re experiencing, it will show them there is a way to deal with the situation that is pleasing to God.

I don’t want it on my conscience that I saw a need and didn’t write a book that dealt with it just because some Christians think its too taboo to be discussed in Christian literature. Kids don’t need to be totally sheltered from the world; they need to be well-equipped to combat the enemy’s influence by knowing what kind of negative impact the enemy can have.

The Need to Write about God Showing Grace and Mercy for Past Mistakes

*Sips coffee* I am a HUGE proponent for portraying how people can overcome sin from the past and become renewed by the grace and mercy of God. When realistic difficult circumstances are considered taboo or dirty in Christian fiction, it increases the chances of readers who have gone through those situations believing that 1) Christians are judgmental, Bible-thumping legalists who don’t understand the overall message of the gospel themselves, or 2) That they themselves are too far gone to be saved if their past is allegedly “too dirty to be Christian”.

Let me remind everyone that Jesus himself went in the trenches and witnessed to those vile sinners, the ones whose situations are often too “uncomfortable” to dissect in Christian fiction. I don’t know about y’all, but I don’t want to be a modern-day Pharisee who sits and nitpicks everything my brothers and sisters in Christ do and judge whether they’re godly enough based on legalistic standards. Instead, I want to mirror Jesus, to portray the love and mercy of God through my writing and show readers that their past sins can be washed away and their spirit can be renewed if they accept Jesus’s gift of salvation.

Keep In Mind:

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.” 

-Romans 3:20-27

The Overall Point

Christian fiction comes in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, much like the authors who write the books. Christian fiction can either be squeaky clean or not afraid to get readers’ hands dirty by diving in to tough topics. As long as the writing itself is not blaspheming God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, and is promoting the true gospel of Jesus Christ, I wholeheartedly believe it qualifies as Christian fiction. When I started writing Christian fiction, a guidelines sheet didn’t fall from the sky and tell me what is and is not acceptable for a book that features Christian characters. Instead, I truly believe that God calls us all individually to write what He puts on our hearts.

That “filthy” book you may think isn’t worthy to be labelled Christian fiction may lead a reader who related to that book to accept Jesus as their Savior. Never forget that.


That’s it for today, Arrowheads! I hope you enjoyed this post, and remember to never be ashamed of what God calls you to write. He will use you to make a difference in someone’s life.

Later, Arrowheads,

-Allyson 😀

Self-Publishing, Wonderful World of Writing

Recognizing and Preventing Author Burnout

When aspiring authors first begin to scour articles on writing and the publishing process, they’re often drawn to the “sparkly” side of being an author: penning that best-seller, working with cover designers and making all that money. Like many aspiring authors, when I self-published my first novel in 2017, I was pumped to embark on the sky-high journey to accomplishment and stardom… but, there was a teensy problem. The road to becoming a best-selling author is not paved with golden, sparkly bricks. In fact, it’s difficult to find a well-groomed path at all. And in the midst of tearing through the internet to locate that sacred pathway to successful authorhood, I soon discovered the opposite: the dark and depressing lair of Author Burnout.

2018 was a difficult year for many, and within that nightmare of a year, I experienced two mild and one major case of Author Burnout, the latter leading me to take a month hiatus in December. Reflecting back on each of those three periods of Burnout, I’ve realized there were precautionary measures I could have taken beforehand to prevent a Burnout of that magnitude from occurring. Whether you’re an author aspiring to publish your books someday, or are a seasoned author with several books under your belt, I’d like to share some tips with you on how to recognize and prevent Author Burnout.

RecognizingAuthorBurnout

Recognizing Author Burnout

Symptom 1: Constantly Checking Stats on Social Media

For self-published authors, book sales stats, rating stats, and content view information are only a click away. Today’s society thrives on instant gratification, and if our books are doing well, then we’re on cloud nine. But then there are the days, or weeks, or months, where no sales roll in. It seems like everyone is turning their nose up at your books. You find yourself repeatedly refreshing your stats pages in search of something–anything–to validate your worth as an author. And once that sale shows up, or our blog hits its highest view count to date, we only hunger for more.

My friend, when you find that you’ve become addicted to checking your KDP reports, blog stats, and Goodreads Author Dashboard every day (or more than once a day), it’s a sure sign that you are deriving your value from your author platform. Yes, there will be spectacular months, but keep in mind that there will be no sales months. Your blog’s view count may vary drastically from month to month. Your book will inevitably receive a low star rating. And whenever these bombshells hit, you’re going to need a shield in your arsenal.

Prevention Method

If you find yourself addicted to checking your follower count, sales stats, and book ratings, I suggest restricting your access from these sites. Don’t check your Goodreads Author Dashboard, KDP reports, or Author Central on your phone. Make it a rule of thumb to only check these sites once a week or month.

If the struggle is beyond that and you find your heart rate increasing in anxiety whenever you look at those sites, don’t check them at all. Constantly checking stat sites for any sign of life and then finding your collective author rating has dropped has the potential to lead you to Symptom 2. Trust me, you can survive without knowing what readers think of your work. To be honest, you’ll be a lot happier.

Symptom 2: Increased Stress and Anxiety

When authors are so caught up on what readers think of our work, our creative endeavors become engulfed with a cloud of negative thoughts hanging over our heads: Will they like this? Will they buy this? Will it be worse than the last book?

When our creative voice is strangled by these thoughts, we face the beast that is Writer’s Block. We think we have good ideas, but hesitate from using them for fear of what the readers will think. We start losing sleep at night, laying awake wondering what we can write that will SELL. Every time we hold a pen in our hand or poise our fingers above the keyboard, ripples of anxiety overtake us. And, if we’re not careful, failing to combat this symptom will lead us to Symptom 3.

Prevention Method:

If Writer’s Block due to increased stress and anxiety over writing endeavors is looming over you, I suggest taking a short intermission (a day or two) and focusing on other facets of your life. Hang out with your family. Go on a special date with your significant other. Play a board game, pick up the guitar, watch a movie. Build an entire town on The Sims 2 *raises hand*. Do whatever you can for as long as you think you need (not in excess of a week) to refresh your mind. Then, go back and give writing a try. Nine times out of ten, this short intermission works for me, but if you’re still struggling, you may have:

Symptom 3: Decreased Interest in Work

The most notable symptom I had in the lead-up to my major case of Author Burnout was decreased interest in working on author projects… mostly this blog. After having poor sales from a recent release and having spent the entire month before on blogging efforts for marketing said book, I had no desire to even type up the handwritten drafts for blog posts and schedule them on WordPress. The longer this symptom was ignored, the more depression seeped in from the Burnout. The final straw was the first week in December, when I verbally lashed out at my boyfriend due to depression and anxiety I was facing over author stats. I seriously considered taking my books down for good, because I was tired of feeling so low. If you can relate to any of this, please adhere to this prevention method:

Prevention Method:

If you’re up to this level, take a hiatus. That’s right. Take a minimum of two weeks off from all author endeavors. If you have made low-demanding prior commitments such as a blog tour stop, it’s perfectly okay to contact the coordinator if you’re no longer feeling up to it. If you’ve already made a larger commitment, such as a deadline, talk to whoever you need to to have it postponed.

Your mental health is worth more than winning NaNoWriMo or reaching #1 in your genre. Your mental health is worth more than destroying yourself trying to sell books.

Know Your Worth

God did not call you to be an author to have you constantly worried over your “value” as an author. Your value as an author is IN GOD, because He equipped you with the necessary means to make you an author.

God did not call you to be an author just so you could let it beat you down. He has a greater purpose for you, my friend.

Most importantly, don’t assume that any mistakes you’ve made as an author will prevent future success from coming. You never know what God has up His sleeve for you, and you’re not capable of thwarting His plans.


Talk to me, Arrowheads! Have you experienced any of the symptoms above? How have you handled Author Burnout? Feel free to share in the comments!

Later, Arrowheads,

-Allyson 😀

Wonderful World of Writing

The Quick and Easy Guide to Rewriting

If you’ve been writing for several years, there are most likely some old WIPs you’ve worked on but ended up setting aside at some point because you were convinced they were downright bad. You may have even finished this story, but hesitate from letting others read it because you’re embarrassed to unearth this foul, untamed beast. Yet, deep within your heart, an inkling of hope still cherishes this story.

Maybe you loved the characters. Maybe you were on the verge of a killer plot, but couldn’t quite figure it out back then. Whatever the thought that keeps you from trashing the story might be, let me ask you this: would you rather this story and your hopes for it be buried under a pile of dust, or would you like to revive it?

First drafts, my fellow writer, don’t have to be perfect. Neither do the second, third, and fourth. You see, even bestselling, Pulitzer Prize winning novels still have flaws in the eyes of some readers, and in most cases, probably their authors too. The difference is that those authors put that idea they believed in to the test and gave it the time and attention it needed… including rewrites.

GuidetoRewriting

Rewriting: The Negative Connotation

The term “rewrite” often fills writers with dread, as they believe it means that their entire work needs improving. While in some instances that may be the case, I strongly believe that most “bad” WIPs can be improved by rewriting some areas and patchworking scenes that work from previous drafts into it to form a stronger story. The thing is, how do we distinguish the scenes that work from the ones that don’t?

Trash or Keep?

First, let me give you an example. During the time of writing this post, I’m currently on the third rewrite of my YA romance novel, The Crush. I’ve been working on The Crush off and on since 2011, and had reached 250+/- pages when I realized I didn’t like the direction the story was going. The characters and plot were too much like  slightly reimagined real-life people and events from my own life, and after reading about how that can be a huge mistake in The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, I started rewriting it bit by bit, tweaking characters’ names more, getting rid of obvious events, etc. while keeping the main message I wanted to relay to readers.

But… even the second draft mirrored the events after a while. I was attached to certain scenes from the first draft, and to get those to work, I was lazily adding those bad scenes back in.

All The Feels

That’s where the difference lies between working and non-working scenes: the scenes you are attached to in the first draft are most likely why you still have hope for this seemingly awful story. These scenes either highlight strong characterization, include epic descriptions, or make you fangirl while reading it. If these scenes provoke a strong feeling in you, they are nine times out of ten worth keeping, as they will most likely provoke a similar feeling in other readers.

Talking Trash

On the flip side, if reading back over a scene or typing it into your new draft fills you with dread or makes you bored, it’s time to remove that bad mojo from the equation. BUT, keep in mind this doesn’t mean sending this scene into the Island of Deleted Scenes; keep a file full of these “trash” scenes handy, in case you’ll need certain information they contain for later use.

Fixing the Overall Issues

Rewrites are needed for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to the following:

  • Punctuation issues
  • Paragraph and/or Dialogue formatting issues
  • Plot holes
  • Poor characterization
  • Lack of descriptions
  • Lack of tension

Before You Begin

Whatever the issue(s) may be, before you attempt a rewrite, go back and read what you have of your existing WIP first, and compile a list of all the issues you would like to resolve into respective categories. This list will come in handy when you’re rewriting, allowing you to tackle each category individually to avoid overload. It is also a good practice to make notes of those Keeper scenes and bookmark them for future reference.

Before you begin the rewrite, to avoid repeating major punctuation issues and paragraph/dialogue formatting, do some research on proper formatting. Spending an hour or two learning how to correctly format will save you loads of time (and money) during the editing phase later on.

The Game Plan

If you’re tackling issues such as plot holes, poor characterization, lack of tension, etc., it is beneficial to construct a game plan before releasing your creative juices again. Ask yourself:

  • What was missing from the previous draft that needs to be added?
  • Where can I weave in stronger characterization?
  • How can I go about adding in the Keeper scenes in a way that is purposeful and drives the plot forward?
  • Where can I best create conflict?

My master game plan for figuring out these answers came in the form of plotting. I grabbed a sheet of notebook paper and listed out one-sentence descriptions of every scene that I would like to take place to reach the desired end. I added in the Keeper scenes when needed, and connected the dots by thinking of lead-up scenes.

Though I’ve always been a pantser on past WIPs, plotting The Crush for this rewrite has increased my productivity by creating a roadmap to follow. To create your own novel roadmap, come up with scenes that will provide answers for each of the questions above, and then decide the order in which you plan to implement them.

Implementation

If your chapters consist of one scene each, take your roadmap and write down the chronological order for each scene. If your chapters consist of two or more scenes, group related scenes together (maybe one scene for each question above) and BOOM, you have a chapter outline! Try to use similar scene counts for each chapter to keep the rhythm consistent. For The Crush, I tend to use four or five scenes per chapter.

Keep in mind that this rewrite draft, too, will not be perfect. No writing, however, ever truly is. But, by implementing these practices, you may have a clearer path to follow to better enhance that WIP you believe in. 🙂


That’s it for today, Arrowheads! What additional advice do you have on rewriting? Feel free to share in the comments!

Later, Arrowheads,

-Allyson 😀