As a writer, every experience you have, every word you write, every sentence you agonise over, has value. There is always something or s...

    As a writer, every experience you have, every word you write, every sentence you agonise over, has value. There is always something or someone to learn from. I was so happy to get my story, Golden Revenge, back from betas recently! I learned, and am learning, so much from their feedback and the experience!

    Some of you expressed interest in how I sent out my story to betas, so before I jump into the lessons I've learned, here's a quick overview of how I did it:

Recruitment: I sent out a timid request for betas within a blog post, and garnered my readers' interest in the comments. I then found these blogger's emails and sent another email with more details such as deadlines and the wordcount, asking for confirmation of interest. During this time I asked for my betas' individual preference; Word, or Google Docs, and chatted to them about any extensions that might be needed.

Preparing: I separated my (extensive) story into chapter batches; one batch for each week I was sending it out, which totaled seven (with the last being a double batch). Each week, a few days before I sent out a batch, I would do a read-through for typos.

Sending it Out: When I beta-read for others, I usually felt uncomfortable commenting on the same document as other betas, so I made sure to give all my betas individual documents. While this made more work for me, I wanted them to have the best experience!

Finishing Up: With the last batch, I sent out around fifteen general questions about the story's plot, characters, etc. Then, when each beta finished up, I sent them a personal email of thanks. After all, betas are amazing! Now, time to edit...

      Here are some lessons I learned from having betas, about the process, and about my editing style!

1) Be Flexible

When I sent out Golden Revenge, due to its massive wordcount (my latest count came in at 135K...) I suspected I would need to allow extensions to my optimistic two month deadline. Not only because of the length, but because the chapter batches went out during the holiday time. 

Betas give up so much of their time to help you make your story the best it can be! They have busy lives and a lot on their plates, just like you, so be prepared, and willing, to give them the time they need! Though you might struggle with waiting, I assure you, it'll be worth it!

2) Expect Mixed Opinions

As writers and readers we are diverse, and so are our tastes! I had some betas who loved one character and connected to them deeply, and then other betas who found this character flat and hard to connect with. This is partly why you should try and get at least three, if not more, betas. Everyone has different opinions, so if you have more than three betas, you can, for example, get a feel for if you need to rework a certain character, or whether it's more of a personal preference! 

3) Everyone Gives Critique Differently

I often read feedback from betas as they sent it back to me (mainly because I was eager and wanted to see what they had to say!), and depending on how you handle criticism, this may or may not be the best idea for you. Just as everyone has a different writing voice, so too does every beta have their own critiquing voice. 

Some might be more straight to the point and forward, others might give five positives before getting to the negative. Don't take any of it personally! We all have different styles of communication, and though some of them might be harder to digest, everyone's opinion is valuable! (Unless they tell you to burn up your work and never write again -- this hasn't happened to me, but I know others who have had cruel betas. If someone says that to you, ignore them, and go read a hundred positive comments from your other betas!)

4) Trust Your Gut

When reading through my chapters before sending them out, occasionally a sentence would make me pause in my reading. Most of the time I thought I had gotten distracted by something around me, but I wasn't, actually. A lot of sentences my betas said they didn't understand/weren't clear, were where I had been taken out of the story in my read-through. Don't ignore your gut feeling! Pay attention to it, and what it might be trying to tell you.

5) Allow Time to Reflect/Talk it Out

After receiving the overall questions from some betas, I needed to take a step back and think over the issues they pointed out. During part of this time, I had a long phone call with my absolutely fabulous critique partner (*all the hugs*). Chatting with her kicked my brainstorming juices back into gear, and a few hours later, I had a breakthrough! I'm now pursuing this idea with the hopes that it will elevate my story to another level.

6) No Quick Fixes

I will, if a bit ashamedly, admit that when I got feedback on my second draft, and a few things were pointed out, I said: "Oh right! Yup! I know how to deal with this!" I found a quick fix, a band-aid to put over the problem. I was so eager to send my book out to betas, I now don't think I sent out the absolute best version of the story I could. The issues might not have been obvious to everyone, but for me, having them pointed out a second time, taught me to look for the long-lasting, and better solution instead of slap-dash job. Your writing deserves the best solution!

A MASSIVE thank you to all who beta-read for me! I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the time, effort, and love you put into reading and commenting on Golden Revenge. Thank you, and thank you again! *sends hugs and chocolate*

Have you had betas before? If you have, what did you learn? If you haven't, are you nervous/excited about having them? Aren't betas fantastic???
Thank you for reading this long post, and have a wonderful day!

      Something I love to learn about, both in real life and in my story-worlds, are different cultures to my own. It's fascinating! I c...

     Something I love to learn about, both in real life and in my story-worlds, are different cultures to my own. It's fascinating! I could rant for days on how complex cultures are, and what 'culture' even entails, but that's not what we're here for! 

    Today I'm hoping to help you out by asking you some questions about a people group, or ethnicity, in your world. It's so important to have a mix of people groups in your story-world, as it makes it realistic, and intriguing for the reader. But where do you start? How do you know what to focus on? Here are some questions I hope will get you started, and inspire you!

1) What region/land did this ethnicity originally belong to? Are they still living in a similar geographical location, or have they been forced to leave their land, or did they migrate? Why?

2) Above all, what values does this ethnicity hold above all others? For example, is physical strength valued above everything else, or love, or family, or personal success? Where did these key values originate from?

3) What physical features set them apart from other ethnicities? Do they have a certain hair colour exclusive to them? A certain skin tone, or face shape, or birthmark, or something else?

4) What colours are associated with them, and what ways of dress? Do the women wear bright wrap-around skirts, do all wear golden hoops in their ears, or something else? Do they have different garments to mark status within their community?

5) Who is of the highest authority within their people group? Is there a leader for each tribe, each town, or each city? Or do they all follow one central government/leader? How is the person in authority chosen; are they the oldest, the heir, or elected by the people?

6) What is considered to be their traditional meal? Is their food famous throughout other lands, or is it considered undesirable? (Quick note: remember that their food will be affected by the ingredients they have! Where they live will determine what is available. For example, if they live far inland, the likelihood of seafood is practically impossible without modern transport!)

7) What kind of housing do they live in? Do they live in easy-to-dissemble structures if they're nomads, thatched cottages, tents, brick/stone homes, townhouses, or something else? What does this choice of style of home say about them?

8) What name are they known by, from within their community? What do other ethnicities call them; something different, an insulting slur, or the same name?

9) What are their thoughts on war? Do they see it as a way to advance their values on other people groups, necessary for resources, or a part of what defines them? Are they more likely to attack or defend?

10) What is their reputation among other ethnicities? Are they considered respectable, scoundrels, or something else? What does this say about them, and what does this say about the other people groups?

11) What is the main occupation of the members of their community? How does this affect their status in comparison to other ethnicities, and how does this influence what they import/export?

12) Which form of transport is the most popular among them? Horses, wagons, carriages, oxen, camels, donkeys, by foot, or by something else? 

13) Do they have any celebrations unique to them? Why do they celebrate it, and not other people groups?

14) What religion do most members of the ethnicity follow? Or do they not follow any religion at all, or do they have a specific way of life? Do some members say they are a part of the religion, but are secretly part of another, or don't believe in its teachings?

15) Do they have their own language? If they share a language with other ethnicities, what slang or words are unique to them?

16) What would a 'regular' family group look like? Does marriage exist, or another form of commitment? Are couples expected to have children straight away, or wait? Do generations live in the same house together?

17) How would they describe themselves in one word? How would other ethnicities describe them in one word?

18) What kind of music and art is common among them? Do they have a unique instrument, style of dance/drawing/painting/pottery? What patterns and colours are associated with them?

19) How proud are members of their ethnicity? Are they ashamed and try to hide it, do they brag about it, or something else?

20) Are members known for a particular skill, or talent, such as pottery, the arts, or creating technology? Do they have magic? 

More in the Questions to Ask When... series!

Cities      History      Celebrations      Magic
Characters (Backstory, and Interview)
Schools      Monarchies      Religions

Tell me about your story's world! What ethnicities are in it? Where in your world would you want to visit, and where in it would you like to live?
Best of luck with your writing, and have a lovely day! <3

    February. How is it already February? I could have sworn 2018 just started... Ahem! Anyway, I recently realised it's been a while si...

    February. How is it already February? I could have sworn 2018 just started... Ahem! Anyway, I recently realised it's been a while since I've updated you, my friends, on what's going on with me! A lot has happened since my last Am Currently, so let's get to it!

    I've decided to take a small break from my usual fantasy reads, with a new sci-fi read: Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Maegan Spooner. About a third of the way in I got bored, thinking the plot would drag on and on, but, um, WOW things picked up quickly. If you like a book with twists...this is the one for you.

    Over my Christmas holidays I also read The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS BOOK WHEN IS THE SEQUEL I LOVE IT SO MUCH IT'S SO AMAZING READ IT RIGHT NOW. So. If you're interested in faeries, and intelligent characters with twisting, intricate agendas, I highly recommend it to you. 

    The last few months have been up and down, writing wise. I sent out my first ever book to beta-readers in December (some of them have finished, the rest are so close to!) which has been a wonderful growing experience. I have had to rethink parts of Golden Revenge as a result, particularly the ending. Having betas has taught me so many things, which I'll probably have to save for another post, but I've appreciated hearing their thoughts so much. *hugs to all of you*

    One particular down was slowly fading away from the first draft of Of Traitors and Tricksters. I haven't given up on the story! But between hitting a road block plot wise, and preparing Golden Revenge for betas, my time and ideas for the story dried up. I'm hoping after completing my next round of edits for GR, I can slowly ease myself back into the story.

    I also happened to finally give in to the nagging part of my brain that whispered to consider sequel possibilities for GR. I have a plot slowly forming in my mind, and I can't wait to see what becomes of it!

    By chance I stumbled upon some music from the movie 'Anastasia'. I instantly loved its songs, and went to explore its soundtrack. Then, to my joy, I found a Broadway Musical version of the soundtrack on Spotify! It has even more songs than in the movie, while still keeping the best ones. Here are the songs from the Broadway version I love:

In My Dreams
Once Upon a December
Land of Yesterday

   Tired and a little unwell, yet I'm still pushing on. I'm entering a scary and exciting year of my life, being the last year of school, but I'm trusting God that He has plans for me, forever and always.

Tell me about what's going on with you! What are you reading or writing? What's your favourite song at the moment? How are you?
Have a lovely day! <3

     There's nothing like a good prompt to spark ideas, whether it be for a character, or a world! I love scrolling through prompts, and...

     There's nothing like a good prompt to spark ideas, whether it be for a character, or a world! I love scrolling through prompts, and imagining how a new or prexisting character would react in a certain situation, or learn more about them.

    So to help you come with ideas for, or expand on, your story world and characters, today I've put together ten character and world-building prompts!

#1 -- Blind Explorer

You are a blind explorer in a foreign land. You pause for a moment, to gain a better understanding of the place. What do you smell? What do you taste? What do you feel when you reach a hand out? What sounds surround you? How would you describe the culture of this new land?

#2 -- Ruined Library

In your travels you stumble across a hollow, burnt out building. You climb over a fallen pillar, boots chuffing through ash, and slip inside. After exploring its shell for a few minutes, burnt air grating on your nose, your eyes catch on some pages tucked under a black coated bench. There’s writing on them, and appear to be from some kind of book. What does it say? Is is a history book, literature, or can you not tell? What happened to this place?

#3 -- Map of Blood

Pull up a copy of your story-world map--if you don’t have one, start afresh. Instead of marking where the mountains and rivers lie, mark where cities or towns are with dots. (Or if it’s a more zoomed in map, the outline of houses.) Don’t add details. Grab a red pen or pencil, are mark the places where violence has occurred. The more red, the darker the history of the place.

Was a war fought on that plain? How many died in that house? Think through what caused the bloodshed in each place as you unleash red upon your world.

#4 -- City of Paradoxes

Think of one word to define your city. Let’s say you said “bright”. Tell me about the parts that aren’t bright. Tell me about the dark nooks and crannies that residents overlook. Who or what lives there? Or maybe it’s “poor”. Who then are considered the rich? Where do they live, and what do their lives look like?

A vibrant world is crafted on opposites, on still and twisted reflections alike. Tell me about yours.

#5 -- Ancient Tree

You walk by an ancient tree in the city square, everyday on your way to work, and your way back home. One night you've worked late, and enter the square. A thick silence lies over it, until you hear a voice call your name. You follow it until you arrive at the base of the towering tree, branches knotted, with grooves and twisting bark. It's watched this city for thousands of years -- what has it seen? What does it need to tell you? What city secrets does it know?

#6 -- A Pair of Mirrors

Bring your character over to a pair of mirrors. The first one will show them what they really look like, and the second, a reflection of what they think they look like. Ask them to choose one which one they forever want to see, without explaining which is which. Which side do they choose? Why?

#7 -- A Body's History

Draw your character’s body, with or without as much clothing as you feel comfortable with. Get coloured pencils, make a key, and mark where they’ve been hurt, or felt the warm encouraging touch from a loved one. Any physical scars? Show that. Mental scars? Add that in, too.

Then, if you feel comfortable, write the story behind each mark.

#8 -- I'll Give You My Heart

Draw a heart, life-like or otherwise, and break it up into sections. Who owns the largest section? Are there any shattered pieces that still belong to someone else? Are there dozens of names, or only one? Is it just people, or are there religious figures, gods, animals, or possessions there too?

#9 -- My Thoughts are a Mess

Go for a little journey into your character’s mind. Hold up a flower in front of them, and follow their thought process for five minutes. Does the flower smell remind them of something? What? And what does that memory remind them of? Where do their thoughts end up? Or maybe they don’t care about the flower. What then do they care about? Or don’t they? Are they shut off from their emotions?

Down the rabbit hole we go.

#10 -- Different Era

Your character suddenly finds themselves in another era, either hundreds or dozens of years in the future, or past. What is their initial reaction? Do they stand out? What do they think about the new society’s customs and culture? Are they fast to make friends? Do they furiously search for a way to get back home, or do they want to stay?

Which prompt is your favourite? Do you find prompts spark ideas, or help you get to know your characters/world better?
Good luck with your writing, and have a great day! <3