I’ve been silent on Functionally Fictional, on my blog, and here on Coffee House Writers. I want to explain what happened and what I have learned from those experiences.
Everything started in December 2018 on my trip to see my family in Ohio. The symptoms of my mental illness, schizoaffective disorder, got worse starting near the end of May.
By the end of May, I was talking with my hallucinations all day and couldn’t pull myself into reality. I wasn’t writing. I didn’t keep up with any of my responsibilities. I was in survival mode. For a month I didn’t feel like doing anything but sleeping and interacting with my voices.
The voices told me lots of stories I believed to be real. The more I interacted with them, the more I believed they were real people.
Eventually, I scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist and got my medicine adjusted so I could pull myself out of the rut I was in and function again.
The medicine wasn’t the only thing that helped me pull out of the funk. Writing and crocheting again, getting out into the sunshine, and using coping skills like staying busy so I wouldn’t converse with the voices all helped bring me back to reality.
I realized the connection between creativity and healing. I still must relearn it repeatedly. If I don’t get my creative energy out through writing or other outlets, the energy manifests itself as the voices getting stronger; drawing me into conversations, telling me many stories and lies.
To keep the voices from misdirecting my creativity, I must… [Read More]
Editing can be the bane of a writer’s existence. It doesn’t matter if your writing style is structured or unstructured or if your strength is content or copy editing. Knowing which editing approach works best with your writing style and strength lessens the inevitable pain of editing your work.
Want to further improve your impact? Walk away. Give yourself time and space away from your work. This improves your objectivity.
Your strengths also dictate what you do. If you have an eye for content editing concerns, then you could start editing your draft by yourself and know what it needs. If copy edits are more your area of expertize, send it to some friends you trust with an eye for content or join a critique group to learn what your manuscript could use some work on.
You can edit as you go, reading through what you wrote the day before and perfecting it, or you can edit once you have the entire rough draft written.
As an unstructured writer, your needs are different from a structured writer. Let’s compare your needs and editing strengths to improve your revision process.
Lack of Structure and Copy Editing Strength
Editing requires structure. Read your draft from beginning to the end, taking notes of anything you could improve upon, like description, setting, character development, relationship development, plot, etc. While listing your desired changes, also document your timeline for each scene. An outline helps you feel less overwhelmed.
The outline could be on Post-its, index cards, a word document, in a notebook, or a storyboard. The best method is the one that allows you to see the bigger picture and make changes easily.
Once you have a rough outline, look through your novel again. Look for plot holes, structure, grammar, issues, and other story killers. Part of being a writer is killing your darlings. Keep a file of scenes you have cut for possible reuse elsewhere.
Go through each scene and figure out what your character’s goal is. Are the goal, motivation, and conflict clear in each scene? If not, make it clearer.
If you truly have no idea what to fix, join a critique group with other writers. Ask them to help you or hire a content editor to help tame your manuscript. Have friends or family beta read and give you feedback.
Fix the outline first, then the manuscript. Once you are… [Read More]
Imagine a world where women rule over men. Men are slaves, sold at auctions for their skills or as breeders. They are controlled by a drug that makes them freeze in fear, and women have Hysterical Strength, something stronger than men’s strength. It kicks in when women feel threatened.
That is the world Jamie Schulz has created in her book Jake’s Redemption. It follows the story of Jake Nichols, a man who is captured and treated like a slave. He is skilled in construction and ranching because of his friend, who managed to escape when Jake was captured.
After two years of being abused by one of the most powerful women in his section of the world, Darla Cain, he is offered a deal. He can get a temporary escape from Darla’s clutches to act as a foreman on a separate ranch after their foreman had an unfortunate accident.
He agrees, albeit reluctantly. There he meets Monica Avery, the owner of the ranch he will be working for. He is attracted to her but fights his attraction, afraid she is like Darla. But he comes to see she is nothing like Darla, and they start to fall in love.
There are four main types of editors: content editors, also known as developmental editors; line or copy editors, formatters and proofreaders. Each type of editor focuses on a different aspect of your work and fixes problems within their area of expertise.
Content or Developmental Editors
Content editors focus on the big picture ideas of your work. Things like structure, scene order, plot and character development, emotional arcs, and infusing the theme into every scene. If you are just starting out with writing, it’s worth the investment to hire one of these if you are able. They can work with you during any part of the process, from developing the idea and premise for your book to editing the finished drafts. Expect to do a lot of rewriting and rearranging, adding and deleting scenes when you do these types of revisions and edits.
Did I Mention I Love You? is a young adult contemporary romance. It follows the story of Eden, who visits her father in Santa Monica for the summer, despite the fact that he walked out on Eden and her mother three years ago. Eden blames her father for the divorce and the fact he never called her hurts.
Her dad has remarried a woman who works as a lawyer and they live in an expensive house with their three boys, all Eden’s stepmother’s kids from a previous marriage. Chase, the youngest, is sweet and innocent. Jamie, the middle child, is kind and welcoming. But Tyler, the oldest, is a troublemaker. He’s a drug addict and an alcoholic who always goes to parties to distract himself.
Eden eventually spends more time with Tyler and his group of friends, and she finds herself playing the role of… [Read More]
I loved, loved, loved this book. I know I’m a little late to the party, because who hasn’t heard of these books yet, and who knows how many times this site has reviewed them alone, but the more the merrier, I guess.
So, a little about the book:
Feyre, a human, has heard stories about the Faeries and how violent and destructive they are since she was a child. A wall separates the world of Faeries from the humans, but rumors have it that the faeries have been escaping to the human side of the world for a long time. When Feyre kills a faerie, unwittingly, she must die or live with a shape-shifting high-fae named Tamlin for the rest of her life.
But Tamlin has a secret. He is under a curse, as is all the fae world, a blight as he calls it, and Feyre is the only one who can break the curse. She must go through a series of trials to make sure Tamlin is safe, and she saves the Fae from the blight.
So far, we have talked about things you can do before you write. We have talked about planning your story, whether that’s outlining or pantsing, controlling the surrounding environment when you write, and rituals you can do to kick start your brain into writing mode. But what about the actual drafting process?
There are several ways you can approach the first draft. These range from how you write sentences, how fast you write the draft, and whether you revise before you finish writing the draft.
Mind Barf vs. Careful Construction: Writing Sentences
If you write more lyrical prose or your training is in poetry, chances are you think about every word before you write it. You craft the perfect sentence, or at least a deliberate one, before moving on to the next.
Other writers type or scribble whatever comes to mind as fast as it enters their brain. I like to call this mind barfing onto the page. The only limitation here is how fast your fingers move.
You may be somewhere in between these two, depending on what you are writing, how fast your brain works, and how many times you edit the words in your head before you write them down. Some writers outline only the major plot points, while others only outline the characters. This is a good way to get the major events in a story without always having to rewrite a detailed outline over and over. For more information on these types of outlining, check out the first article in this series: Outlining Vs Pantsing.
Turtle Writers vs. Rabbit Writers: How Fast Do You Write?
If you fall into the careful construction of each sentence category, you are probably a turtle writer. This means you may bang out a couple of hundred words of your project daily and call it a day. You take a lot longer to finish the first draft, but it’s more polished than those who mind barf every thought. You may produce more words than a couple hundred when you write, but you take a lot more time to get the same amount of words as your mind-barfing counterparts.
If you are in the mind-barf camp, chances are you can bang out a couple thousand, if not tens of thousand words a day in a relatively short amount of time. Your fingers fly over the keyboard or your handwriting is on the messy side because of how fast you scribble just to get everything on the page.
Old School vs. Tech: How Do You Write?
Some writers enjoy using pen and paper for their first drafts. It feels great to write this way. Plus, when you type everything up into your computer, you automatically have a more polished draft because you edit as you go. The feeling of crossing things out, drawing circles and arrows, and other such revision processes are satisfying. A lot of turtle writers and construction writers like to write by hand.
The downsides to writing by hand is that you have to count your words manually. You could lose a notebook and all of that work is just gone, without a backup. Handwriting is usually slower than typing up your work. This method also hurts your hand if you’re not used to it.
Others like the feeling of typing because you can get your words out quickly and save it in several places so you’ll always have a backup of your work. Also, you can copy, paste, cut, delete, and move things around more easily without crossing things out. It’s much cleaner than writing by hand. It’s also easier to change the formatting to meet publisher requirements and you don’t have to take that extra step to type it all up. Mind-barfers tend to end up in this camp.
Downsides to typing include eye strain, the expense of having to print things out, and losing things if you don’t save regularly or have auto-save set up.
Goal Setters vs. Go-With-the-Flow People: Do You Set Deadlines?
Setting deadlines, such as finishing your book by a certain date, writing a certain number of words each day, or … [Read More]
In this fantasy novel, we meet unassuming professor Diana Bishop, who specializes in alchemical texts. When she calls a book from the stacks of the library at Oxford University where she lives and works, she realizes quickly that there is something wrong with it. We find out that Diana has long familial history of witches, and she is not different, even if she tries to get along without her powers.
Spooked by the magic in the manuscript, she returns it. But soon after, she meets Matthew Clairmont, a vampire who takes an interest in her and the manuscript. A romance ensues, with each party wanting different things. However, cross species romances are forbidden, and are persecuted, in part because of Diana’s ability to call that book up even though the supernatural creatures had lost the manuscript long ago.
This book was interesting and intriguing, the characters distinct and well defined. It was slow to build up the romance and relationship between Matthew and Diana, but about two-thirds of the way through the plot picked up. I enjoyed the slow pace, but I know it’s not for everyone. Some slow parts I was not a fan of, such as the extensive descriptions of architecture, but those details show themselves to be important to Matthew’s background, so I understand why she included them.
I enjoyed the book, the slow build only adding to the anticipation, and the intensity of the last third of the book being a great change of pace. It has a… [Read More]
Sometimes it’s hard to get into the right mindset to write. That’s where rituals come in.
How Will a Ritual Help?
For anyone who has taken a Psych 101 course, you may have heard of classical conditioning. That is, associating one unrelated stimulus with something else. But what does this have to do with writing or rituals?
If you do the same thing over and over before you write, you can trick your brain into the right mindset. Doing the same ritual and teaches your brain to associate it with writing. Ritual will make it easier to snap into writing mode and allow you to get into a flow more easily.
Kinds of Rituals
There are lots of kinds of rituals you can try. They can be certain smells, certain foods, putting on a particular genre of music or a certain piece of clothing, or a variety of other rituals. The trick here is to only use these when you are about to write, and not at other times.
Tastes and Smells
These are some of the strongest senses and will be the most effective in getting you into the writing mindset quickly.
Always have the same beverage before you write. Light a certain scented candle. Eat the same food, like a candy bar or other type of snack. Put on the same perfume before you write. Use a specific scent in an essential oil diffuser, but be careful if you have pets. Certain essential oils can be toxic to our furry friends.
Play a certain genre of music when you write. Do you have a… [Read More]
*I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.*
In this spicy romance by Sadira Stone, we first meet bookstore owner Clara after a pretty intense dream about her late husband, Jared. Jared died nearly a year ago in a biking accident. They started a bookstore together, and the main attraction of the store is a backroom full of erotica, both art and written word, hidden behind a locked red door. Clara screens every person who wants a look at that room, to make sure they aren’t the creepy type.
We meet one of her love interests, Nick, when he asks to get the key to the red door. Nick is a professor who needs to jumpstart his career again by writing a book about changing perceptions in beauty through the years, and he wants to use the many books in Clara’s backroom for his research. Nick, Greek in ethnicity, is immediately interested in Clara. The feeling is mutual.
But things become more complicated as Clara gets involved with another man, Doug, who is a recently divorced high school social studies teacher. He helps her with her failing business and is a strong shoulder to cry on when she feels upset or needs comfort.
She must choose between these two men, vying for her attention. One relationship is… [Read More]
This is the second article in the Writing Methods series. You can find the first article, about different outlining or pantsing methods, here.
Creativity can change. Things that worked for a long time might stop working. There are several things you can do to try and prevent this from happening, including controlling the environment you write in. It’s all about training your brain and finding out what works best for you.
Some writers work best with background noise, such as music or ambient noise. Others work best in complete quiet. If you are one of the former, experiment with listening to music while you write. Classical or instrumental might be a good place to start if you have never done this before. If you want to try something a little tougher, put on a playlist of familiar music with lyrics. The key here is it has to be familiar because anything new will draw your attention away from your writing.
If you don’t feel comfortable writing with music, you can go to a coffee shop, library, park, or other public place to work, depending on the level of ambient noise you prefer. Experiment with different places and times to see what level of ambient noise works best for you.
You can also experiment with ambient noise through headphones such as binaural beats (check out Brain.fm), nature sounds, or other ambient noise for creativity or studying from YouTube or websites like coffitivity.com, where they record ambient noise and play it back on an endless loop. You could also put on the radio or TV in the background, but this might be more distracting than helpful.
If you are a writer that likes silence, invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs. Writing from home or in a familiar place where you aren’t likely to be interrupted is key for your writing methods.
Some writers feel most comfortable at home, with fewer distractions. Others like being around people in public places so they can people-watch or eavesdrop to get story material.
If you feel most comfortable at home, you have several options. You can…[Read More]
This book starts out with Patch and Nora together, but she demands pretty early on for him to tell her that he loves her and no matter what happens they will always be together. As an experienced reader, I knew that spelled trouble. Also, never promise things like that. You’ll never be able to keep it.
Sure enough, less than twenty pages later they had broken up over something stupid and trivial, although suspicious. Chaos ensues, with Nora doing everything in her power to get Patch back by playing games. She also keeps seeing her father, who is supposed to be dead.
The ending was a surprise for me, but… [Read More]
This is part one of a series about different writing methods. I will share different approaches you can try to unlock your creativity. This week I will talk about outlining versus pantsing.
Creativity is a fickle thing. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. Many times, each project uses a different method. Experimenting is the best way to figure out what will work best for you and each of your projects.
This is the best-known writing method. When most people think of outlines they remember the detailed, paragraph-by-paragraph plan we had to turn in for research papers in school. The truth is, outlining can be as comprehensive or as sparse as you want it to be.
Some writers describe every scene in detail from the beginning through the end in a scene list. Others put these scene descriptions into a table that tracks the point of view, characters, timeline, and word count for each scene. Still, others fill out all the major plot points in a beat sheet, while some know only the beginning and end before they start writing.
For an example of a beat sheet, read Save the Cat or Save the Cat Writes a Novel. You can also use any number of beat sheets available online. A beat is a plot point. There are various methods and numbers of beats you could choose to plan. Some beat sheets calculate the approximate page number where something should happen depending on the target word count of the project.
Shop around and see if you can find a beat sheet or outlining method that might work for you.
So far, I have mentioned outlining methods that focus on planning out the plot. Some writers sketch out their characters in addition to, or instead of outlining plots. There are many techniques for building characters.
This is the final book in the trilogy, for now. Let’s just say Stanford left the ending in a satisfying way that wrapped up the major plot that spanned the first three books, so any new books in the series would tackle a new set of problems. It was satisfying but open-ended, which made me hope for more.
But some more things about the book: Alex and Flynn and their friend group have survived the bloody war in the last book with minimal casualties and some pretty big bombshells being dropped. Now, they are stuck with three sides to a looming war, the Azure Loyalists who want things to go back to the way they were with Attis as their leader, the Azure Rebels, led by Flynn and Alex, who want to overhaul the system and do what is right, and the Depths, run by Samuel, who want death and destruction and power.
There are some surprising deaths in this book and some twists and turns, not all of which I liked. At one point, Flynn told Alex that he needed her to be his moral compass. I didn’t approve of that. It made me feel as though the characters had become too dependent on each other, and some of the things that Stanford brought up in regards to Alex’s moral compass made me… [Read More]
Have you ever written something that you never planned on publishing? I start most of my articles this way. Sometimes I even start a novel that I have no intention of publishing because the real-life events I wrote about are too recognizable. I worry the people involved might realize I was writing about them.
Why would anyone write something with no intention of publishing it?
For one, it takes the pressure off and allows creativity to flow. Think about journaling. People write down their thoughts and feelings and lock them up, hoping no one ever reads them without permission. It’s a record for us to revisit all our painful and joyous times whenever we want.
Yes, most of my fiction has elements of truth, some more than others. Still, there is a reason I don’t journal as much as I write fiction. When I am journaling, there isn’t enough distance between me and myself.
What do I mean by “not enough distance between me and myself”?
This article is an update on events in my life right now, regarding to the theme of change.
Change is hard. It’s a huge part of my life right now and the uncertainty is driving me crazy.
For one thing, one of my favorite Facebook groups for writers closed down. The admins had too much on their plates and couldn’t keep up with it. My heart hurt to see it close, so I decided that I would take over as sole moderator. It’s a small group, only twenty-seven people, but it’s a huge responsibility since I have to respond and interact with everyone on a daily basis.
Another change in my life is getting displaced out of my room because I have to get the ceilings fixed from Hurricane Irma. I need to pack up all of my things and move them somewhere else out of the way and private but still accessible. I hate having my “nest” disturbed.
Getting the ceilings fixed sets into motion the process of…[Read More]
The Duff has a very sarcastic narrator. It makes the book very entertaining, despite the fact that the narrator is very secretive and treats her friends like crap throughout most of the book. It’s understandable why Bianca treats her two best friends like that, though. She deals with a lot of crap. It starts with her mother always being gone, her parents getting a divorce, her dad relapsing into drunken rages after eighteen years of being sober, and her ex boyfriend, who treated her like crap and was dating someone else at the time, is back in town, engaged.
She complains about everything, but it’s in a humorous and entertaining way. Bianca is an intelligent, smart-arse character whom I loved. She starts sleeping with the school’s notorious playboy, Wesley, who helps her quiet her brain and escape her life and problems. They start falling for each other and find that they have more than a no-strings-attached sexual relationship.