Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Stay Honest with Your Story

    Editing was (and still is) slowly killing me, bit by bit. For months I've been staring at a manuscript over 100,000 words long, wondering what it was that made it feel not quite right. Wondering if it's because I've yet to nail the characters' individual voices yet, or maybe because of my lack of polished prose.

  I'm talking about Draped in Deception, a YA Fantasy that has been in my life for almost two years. It's changed so much since the very moment I typed the first page--you probably couldn't even tell it's the same story anymore.

  I've been with this story through ups and downs, bursts of inspiration, and teeth grinding frustration. The characters have haunted me everywhere; prodded me with words that have to be told.

  I was happy with it, for awhile. But after some feedback on the second draft and a whole lot of musing, I realized something in the ending was

  Not just the ending; the entire last third.

  It came to me yesterday why this offness was creeping into the manuscript. It's simple: I wasn't being honest with my story, or my characters.

  The ending was what I wanted, not what it would be realistically. The characters were putting what they most valued aside to pursue this one foolish moment, for no other reason than because I desperately wanted to write the scene.

  That's not fair.

Collage of Draped in Deception
  I like to think of myself and other writers as scribes sometimes. We record someone else's story, someone who lives in a far off world and has experienced raw troubles. They've either conquered these troubles, or been crushed by them. Either way, they want to share their story.

   Their story.

   This isn't to say that you shouldn't care about your writing and excuse it with, "it's not mine." If you want to write the best story it can be, be honest. Listen to what the characters would really do or say. Don't throw in scenes because it pleases your writer self to show off your newly acquired fancy description skills.

   When I started to think about how my story would really play out, and was honest with it, it revealed depths I'd never have seen otherwise.

Do you struggle with editing? Are you always honest with your story or do you sometimes forget to be? Wherever you are on your writing journey, good luck! <3

Saturday, 27 August 2016

My Top Ten YA Book Covers

    My bookshelf is my pride and joy. I am very particular about which book goes where, keep it clean, and squeal when I get to add a new one to my collection. There are so many gorgeous covers in YA, and today I thought I would share with you my top ten currently on my beloved bookshelf!

   (They're in no particular order. I find it so hard to have favourites)

1) Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

    The way the crown is a nod Russian architecture is just perfect for the story. I've yet to crack open the book and give it a read but it will happen very soon, I hope. The crisp whites and golds are just beautiful too.

2) Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir 

    Continuing with the gold theme, I have the very simple--but gorgeous--edition of this book. The little gold and red flecks against black really capture my attention and highlight the figures in the middle.

3) Defiance by C. J. Redwine

    The main character's (Rachel) fiery hair stands out against the more moody background, and her powerful stance matches her personality super well.

4) Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

     This cover is so chaotic and wild, but somehow it works. The design has just enough business to relate to the title, but still leaves enough breathing room with the whites around it.

5) Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

    The upside crown, spilling blood...I was immediately hooked before even reading the blurb. Again, it relates to the title and promises things to come-- royalty and spilled blood--and the book fulfills that promise.

6) Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Page

    The font captured me more than anything else. 'Die' is so large, the colour is in your face, and the things associated with Dorothy from the movie being empty really set a haunting mood.

7) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

    Whoever created this cover is a genius. The crow's feathers also form towers, but the towers could be the sky around the crow. The illusion messes with your mind, and I love that.

8) Dangerous by Shannon Hale

    Simplistic, but powerful. The symbol on the cover plays a huge part in the book, not to mention the starry background nudges your mind in the direction of the genre; sci-fi.

9) Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch

    A dress in a cage? There is so much meaning in this cover. Once I read the book everything about the cage made complete and perfect sense. The simplicity again impressed me. 

10) Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

(sorry if the cover is blurry; it's hard to find photos of this edition)

    Despite the fact that this is my favourite series ever and I love all the covers in the trilogy, this cover especially draws me in. Kestrel's dress shows her feminine side but the sword really sets it off. 

What are your favourite YA book covers? Did you share any of mine, or do you have a very different list? Let me know in the comments, and happy reading! <3

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Why You Should Roleplay

    Once upon a time I was a young, inexperienced writer who slammed keys enthusiastically and hoped somehow it would turn into a coherent story. Or sentence. (It depended on the day)

   Then I magically stumbled upon Goodreads and thought: "what is this glorious madness?" Not only did this site revolve around books, but it had an interactive writing community.

   Hence, roleplay took over my life.

   I joined about every roleplay group that interested me in the slightest--whether is was a spin-off of my favourite novel or not. I got to work straight away, and created a billion characters (even learning basic HTML code so I could make fancy profiles). Then I wandered in conversation with other people's characters for hours. And hours.

   I won't go over the fall of my Goodreads account* (I'm no longer active). But what I will go over is how, in the madness of my roleplaying, I improved as a writer, and why you should roleplay.

    *I joined so many roleplay groups it literally took over my life, and high school hit = no time for anything other than groaning about homework.

1) Forces you to create original characters

    When you're in as many roleplay groups as I was and need to create several characters for each kind of run out of ideas. I didn't want to do the same kinds of characters each time, so it pushed me to expand more on their personalities instead of jotting down 'they're funny.' 

    Slowly, I began to create characters with deeper depths. I started to break away from a habit of creating one dimensional characters, and my stories have been better off for it ever since.

2) Spurs your creativity

    Not only could I create characters, but I could read about other writers' characters and create small stories with them. It was like one big free writing story prompt that I could explore, with no limits. I was free to explore how my characters would react in certain situations, and improve my dialogue writing. Needless to say, roleplaying gave me numerous plot bunnies.

3) Great interaction with a writing community

     Who doesn't love connecting with people with similar interests?

     I met some absolutely awesome people through roleplaying. Many roleplayers did it for fun and as a hobby, but others were more serious. I had my first conversation ever with someone else who wanted to write a novel, and do writing as a career. I knew she was around my age too, so I was a little inspired by her determination and the thought that: "I can do this too. You don't have to be 'old' to write a novel and want to be a writer."

Have you ever roleplayed or written fan fiction? Do you want to? (And would you be interested in me starting a goodreads account, but just for books? I need help deciding whether I should or not) <3

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Dreams and Doubts

    Pursuing dreams is a difficult thing.

    A dream of mine is to one day share my stories with the world. When or how it will happen, I'm not sure, but it's something I've been working towards for years. Stories are my passion. They thrill me, make me cry, fill my veins with joy, and beat in time to my heart.

   But every dream has roadblocks.

   As anyone gets older, there's one question that seems to pop from everyone's lips: 

What are you going to do when you grow up?

    Near the beginning of my writing journey, when I knew for certain writing and books needed to be a part of my life, I was shy about telling people I wanted to be a writer. I would dance around the question.

   Eventually I told people the truth.

   I'm going to be a writer.

   Some people accepted this with a big smile, a nod, and kindly asked about my writing. A few of these people were writers themselves, and I thrived on their support.

   Others weren't convinced. I could see from their strained smiles and hesitant 'mmm'ing that they weren't convinced I could be one, or that it could be a career. They'd quickly change the subject.

   It hurt.

   I knew that if I told the latter group of people I wanted to be a doctor, or teacher, or lawyer they would light up and tell me what a noble goal that is. Don't get me wrong, I respect people that take the more traditional career path a lot. Their work is super important.

   But so are the arts. So is writing, and painting, and drawing, and music, and acting. Dreams to make these passions careers are not temporary things that shouldn't be pursued.

   Because, honestly, I can't see a future for myself without writing.

   I know there are going to be more roadblocks; I've hit dozens more than this one. That's part of the journey. If you've hit something like this--people who don't believe in you and your dream--know that I believe in you.

   You will achieve your dream, no matter what they think.

What is your dream? What roadblocks have you encountered on the path to it? Have people ever doubted your passions too? 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Six Question Character Challenge

   The amazing Jeneca@Jeniqua Writes tagged me in the Six Question Character Challenge, which, true to its name, challenges you to think and develop three characters from your WIP through six questions/prompts. Thanks for the tag, Jeneca! (Brianna started the whole thing here, and has some great advice on creating characters). 

    Now, if you've been hanging around my blog you'll know that I'm juggling editing one story and brainstorming another at the moment. I decided to focus this post on Draped in Deception, which you can find out more about here.

    So without further ado, lets get to the questions!

Lissaer Jianca a.k.a. Scarlett Kielglass

Contradiction: Lissaer is a technically skilled fighter, but vomits at the sight of blood. She considers herself weak as she doesn't meet her society's expectations, but is always the first person to pull herself back to her feet again.

Meyers-Briggs: ISFJ

How Would She Slay a Dragon?: She'd swallow the disgust she has for gore in her throat, and use every inch of her training to battle the dragon and come out with only a few burns and scratches. It's important to note that Lissaer would try as much as she could to not kill the dragon (she hates killing any animal or person to her core). She'd attempt to knock it unconscious and move on.
Lissaer undercover
(image found via pinterest)

Favourite Colour(s): Gold. It's the colour of the mountain city she calls home at sunset.

Her Darkest Secret: Spoilerss...

Where Does She See Herself in Ten Years?: If this was where she hopes to see herself in ten years, it would be owning a jewelry store. But she sees herself still chained to serving in the Beautian army by duty and obligations.

Eric Relen

Contradiction: As the second prince, he's supposed to be in charge of paperwork and administration, but Eric can't read. He's also an athlete in a sport that requires for you to be bare chested for safety reasons, but is extremely self-conscious.

Meyers-Briggs: ISFP

Favourite Colours(s): Green

His Darkest Secret: He's terrified that he'll never be enough. Never be useful as a prince, never be talented enough to grab his parents' attention, never be good enough for someone to love him.

How Would He Slay a Dragon?: With his treasured bow and arrow

Where Does He See Himself in Ten Years: Eric sees himself still trying to avoid duties involving reading and writing so his secret stays safe within his family, and still playing emberball (think football/soccer for Americans, except with burning balls).

Adam Xander

Adam, execept imagine without the pins
(Image found via pinterest)

Contradiction: Adam talks himself up, constantly complimenting himself, but inside he doesn't think anything good about himself. It's a shield.

Meyers-Briggs: ESTP

Favourite Colour(s): Brown

His Darkest Secret: More spoilers ;)

How Would He Slay a Dragon?: With large explosions and fancy inventions.

Where Does He See Himself in Ten Years: He doesn't know, and isn't sure he wants to. To quote him, "danger is my food". He likes living on the edge and for his life to be unpredictable and wild.

I now tag... *drumroll*

What is your Meyer-Briggs type? (I'm an INFJ!) Do you relate to any of these three characters in some way? Are you like me and build characters off of their deep secrets, or do you have another method? Let me know in the comments, and remember you're amazing! <3

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Am Currently... #2

    I can't believe it's August already! It feels like June and July flew by, especially now that I'm back at school. Life gets super busy whenever I'm not on school break, so here's a little catch up about what I'm currently doing!

   I've almost finished reading "Walk On Earth a Stranger" and so far I'm loving it so much. The writing has a simplistic, clean flow to it that helps me flip the pages. Not to mention the premise is awesome. 

   When I finish it I'll be either devouring "The Crown's Game" (the cover is gorgeous + magic = has to be awesome, right?) or the highly recommended "Six of Crows." 

   At the end of July I finished the first draft of Golden Revenge. It was bittersweet, as usual, because I know for sure that it will only be a stand alone novel. I love the characters and setting and plot so much, so it was hard to finish writing the epilogue and not feel sad it had finished. Now I'll be setting it aside for six weeks, and then I'll crack it open for a read through and to start editing.

   But whenever I finish a first draft, I tend to feel a little lost. I feel like I should still be part of the story for hours a day, pounding the keys. Then there's the big question of which story to work on next. I ended up starting to edit Draped in Deception, despite having been furious at it for months, and brainstorming Safe-House. 

  A couple of songs I've had on repeat these past few weeks (or days, for the new ones) are: "Make You Stay" and "Cry Wolf" by the Girl and the Dreamcatcher, "Real Love" by Florrie, and "Rise" by Katy Perry. They're all such amazing singers!

  A bit stressed, to be perfectly honest. Huge life changes are coming up for me in the next couple of months, and the fear of the unknown is trying to choke me. Maybe I'll do a post on it soon.

What's your favourite song right now? Any books I absolutely must read or I will probably die? Is your writing going well? I hope you're all having an amazing day! <3

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Beautiful People: Appearance Edition

    Welcome back to another Beautiful People! I'm really excited about this one, because I'll be sharing about a story I'm world-building/brainstorming right now called Safe-House

    (If you're curious about why I'm not doing Golden Revenge this month, it's because I finished the first draft and am now setting it aside for six weeks before revisions.)

    Beautiful People is hosted by the wonderful Cait @ Paper Fury and Skye @ Further Up and Further In. This link-up is designed to help you get to know your characters better, and never fails to help me!

    So, what is Safe-House about? 

    I'm so glad you asked.

    If you didn't catch the blurb from last week's post, here it is.

The Safe-House.

Criminals from all over the city seek shelter behind its walls when their lives are in danger. The Criminal Guilds' laws demand that no murder take place in the Safe-House, a rule that most follow grudgingly--or die. When weapons expert Mercy falls out with her Guild and takes a job at the Safe-House, she never expects to wake up to multiple murders.

Everyone is a suspect; the sassy cook quick with poison, the mysterious Hood who changes faces every day...even Mercy's own boyfriend.

In the Safe-House, safety is just an empty promise.

    But because that's a very short and proper blurb, the equation below (story math, not algebra; no need to panic) sums up some of its elements.

All criminal POVs + a lot of murder, stabbing, and chase scenes + sass + everyone's done so much shady stuff that anyone could be the killer + a person called Hood who is the master of disguise + Sob Story Saturdays + touches of romance + Criminal Guilds' wars + a vain but cat-loving girl who invents deadly weapons = Safe-House

     So this month's Beautiful People in on Mercy, who is the vain girl that invents deadly weapons in the above. She's one of the major POVs, and is a new staff member at the Safe-House. 

     To the questions!

1) Give an overview of their looks. (Include a picture if you want!)

      A super quick overview is she has dark brown eyes, dyed ash blonde hair that's brown at the roots, and plucked arching eyebrows. A picture of Mercy is after the next question. (Sadly I only have one because I can't figure out who the model is) 

2) Share a snippet that involves description of their appearance.

     This is a snippet from Hood's POV: 

     Mercy smoked on the steps, huffing out streams of white between painted lips. Rings clustered on her fingers in clumps of fake jewels and bulging metal spikes--a cross between fashion and death. Hood's fingers itched to draw her face; the strength of her jaw, the fading hair dye, the hardness fading from her eyes now that she thought she was alone.The hardness was instead filled with a swarm of memories drowning in pools of sorrow.

     Yes, Hood would draw her later. Maybe some of Mercy's haunted beauty could wipe the smear of ugliness lingering underneath the hood.

Not exactly like she is in the snippet below, but close
3) What is the first thing people might notice about them?

    Mercy's red lipstick. She will never go anywhere without it on.

4) What are their unique features? (Ex. freckles, big ears, birthmarks, scars, etc.)

    If she's wearing something strapless, the long slicing scar on her shoulder would be obvious, which she got from the daughter of the head of the Murderer's Guild. Tension simmered between them for several months due to clashing personalities, and it kind of boiled over into a fight with long knives and swords and bad language (as you do in this Guild). They both ended up with scars.

5) How tall are they? What is their build (Ex. stocky, slender, petite, etc.)

   Mercy isn't particularly muscular (she prefers the weapons she creates to do damage instead of her body). She's more slender, and slightly taller than normal.

6) What is their posture like? How do they usually carry themselves?

   She always sits up straight if people are around. Vanity is in her bones, so she carries herself proudly.

7) Your character has been seen on a "lazy day" (free from usual routine/expectations): what are they wearing and how do they look?

   Mercy would still wear her make-up, but slightly less. She'd also shrug off the tight fighting outfits she wears to work, and slip on a loose short skirt and flowy blouse. Even if no one's around she stills likes to be done up, just in case. 

8) Do they wear glasses, accessories, or jewelry on a regular basis? Do they have any articles of clothing or accessory that could be considered their trademark?

    A lootttt of jewelry lies in Mercy's jewelry boxes, and she sometimes forgets what she has, there's so much. She loves her rings which also work as spiked iron knuckles. That as well as a locket with a picture of her pet cat Topaz would be her trademark.

9) Have they ever been bullied or shamed because of their looks? Explain!

    Mercy is quite pretty (I think) so she was never picked on by girls her age, but she was in a relationship shortly before Safe-House takes place that was not healthy. One day her ex-boyfriend would call her beautiful; the next she'd be called ugly and fat. It would take me ages to explain how that relationship worked (or didn't), but basically he made her depend on him and manipulated her. A lot. She lost a ton of self-confidence, but she's trying to pull it back by talking up her beauty in her mind.

10) Are they happy with how they look? If they could change anything about their look, what would it be?

   She's happy when she looks her best, and any less she won't go out in public. So yes and no? If she could change anything, she'd smooth out the bump where her nose was broken in the past.

Do your characters have any trademark accessories? What do you think of Mercy? And if you've done Beautiful People, feel free to link in the comments so I can check them out! 

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Is it Ok to Be Angry with Your Story?

    I have a confession to make.

    A couple months ago I finished the second draft of a YA Fantasy Romance called Draped in Deception. I thought the story was the bomb when I finished the draft, and that, sure, there might be a few things to fix up, but this was it. It felt like I had nailed the characters and plot. So I asked a very lovely person to read through it and let me know what they thought. 

   Here's my confession: I was looking for compliments, not feedback.

   So when this lovely person read it through and at first made comments on what they thought could be improved, I was like: "Yeah, alright. Just small things, right?"

   They got to the end. I was excited to read their reaction for days, practically buzzing. I wanted to hear how great my story was from someone else's lips.

   Reality hit.

   They liked it, but...

   There were big flaws, obvious ones that I brushed off in the editing while thinking: no one will notice them.They don't matter, not really.

   One of those flaws blew Draped in Deception out of the zone of realism for this lovely person. They told me this, straight and blunt but also with kindness, yet still the truth hit me like a punch to the gut.

This is what I wanted to do
   There were two thoughts that swarmed my mind:

Why didn't I edit that?


My story sucks
    Anger made me close my laptop and blame Draped in Deception. It didn't have a chance at being published anyway. The plot was horrible. All the characters were the same. It was trash, and I should never touch it again. 

    I wasn't ready or open to the feedback at that point, right as it was. It was said only to help me improve (which I now appreciate).

    But in my anger I turned to writing other stories, convinced they were better and deserved my time.

    It wasn't until I finished a first draft of another story, and a couple months later, that I found myself staring at the file in my list of documents. What would happen if I looked? Part of me was sure it was still a horrible mess of cliches, and the other wanted to see if there was anything left to salvage.

    I opened it.

    I started reading in a random place and a thought washed out all others for a single, wide-eyed second.

This is...ok. Maybe a little more than ok

    I realized that I was furious at my story because I had put it up high and expected everyone to turn a blind eye to its flaws instead of giving well-intended feedback. I'd reversed my perception of Draped in Deception from gold to trash, blaming it for all its faults.

   To be honest, I don't have any advice right now on how to conquer this; I'm still in that process. I'm still a little angry and confused on where to go with the story.

   But is it ok to be angry with your story?

   Maybe 'ok' isn't the right word for it. I think it's natural to be angry or frustrated with your story at some point. But I think we also need to believe in our stories, and keep fighting for it.

   That's now what I'm trying to do. 

Have you ever been angry with your story? How well do you respond to criticism or critiques? Also, I want to let you know that even if no one else believes in your stories, I believe in them, and in you. <3

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

I Write a Lot of Criminals

    About half of my stories involve ideas revolving around criminals, and almost all have a criminal character slipped in somewhere. They could be antagonists, funny side characters, or even protagonists.

    Now, before you give me a weird look, let me give you an example of a story I'm brainstorming (so you get what I mean about casting criminals) and then I'll tell you why I like writing them.

The Safe-House.

Criminals from all over the city seek shelter behind its walls when their lives are in danger. The Criminal Guilds' laws demand that no murder take place in the Safe-House, a rule that most follow grudgingly--or die. When weapons expert Mercy falls out with her Guild and takes a job at the Safe-House, she never expects to wake up to multiple murders.

Everyone is a suspect; the sassy cook quick with poison, the mysterious Hood who changes faces every day...even Mercy's own boyfriend.

In the Safe-House, safety is just an empty promise.

This is Hood, if she/he (who knows?) was in modern times
    Back on topic, there are two reasons I love to write criminal characters.

They Have Depth

     I love to dig into criminals' backstories, and try to figure out why they started being criminals. Did they do it because they had no money and needed to provide for their families? Are they good at nothing else? Did something in their past turn them away from the 'traditional' job path or pressure them into doing crime? Or are they just malicious?

    Their personalities also intrigue me, as do most anti-heroes. There are more sides to them than what they do for money, and through writing I can explore those hidden sides.

After having difficulty finding good pictures to represent criminals, I'll just pop one down of Mercy, who smokes when she wants to look tough
They Challenge Me

    My personal morals don't exactly line up with criminals such as thieves and murderers. In fact, they're pretty much the complete opposite. 

    When I write from a criminal's perspective, I'm in their mind. Feeling what they're feeling. Seeing what they're seeing.

    Writing what I don't agree with makes me flex and feel out my own morals; put them to the test. Getting inside criminals' heads and understanding their thought processes challenges me to write them as believable characters. I also challenge what my characters believe. Some of them change their morals throughout the story, others don't.

    I think it's important to show both sides of a situation--black and white--and all the shades of grey between. From there characters, readers, and writers can settle on what they believe.

Do you find yourself drawn to morally grey or anti-hero characters? Have you ever written any? Also, let me know if you want me to do a Beautiful People on Safe-House!