Two days ago, I was scrolling through Instagram, oohing and ahhing over gorgeous book photos. Then I stopped, and I stared. I had landed on ...

Two days ago, I was scrolling through Instagram, oohing and ahhing over gorgeous book photos. Then I stopped, and I stared. I had landed on a photo of a book, with a cover and title similar to what I imagined my WIP's might be in the future. Surely it's different, I thought. Surely.

So I looked the book up on Goodreads. As I read the blurb, my heart sunk, and sunk. My beautiful story idea, my premise, elements of my cover and title...they were already published, in another writer's book.

I'll be honest here: I felt like crying. I felt like walking away from the story in that instant, declaring it had already been done before, that it wasn't worth it to keep working on it.

Some stubborn part of me scrolled down into the reviews. I was curious, I suppose, to see what others' thought of the book -- or the premise we shared. As I dug deeper, and as my emotions began to settle, I began to notice things mentioned in the review. The POV focus was different, I didn't have pirates, the time period was different...

We both still shared the same myth re-telling, with a female focus on a girl who had the touch of gold (or could sense gold, in the other book's case), and other various elements. It wasn't quite as bad as I first thought, but the sliver of doubt remained. What if my story isn't original enough?

Later, I was reminded of post I had recently read by my beautiful friend Hannah White @ Ink Blots and Coffee Stains, who explained how if a story was completely original, no one would be able to relate to it. To quote her:

"Where did this idea come from, anyway, that says our writing has to be full of new things? If we could create something completely new, it wouldn't be as amazing as you might think because people wouldn't even be able to relate to it. They might find it wild and interesting and highly entertaining, but it wouldn't last because they wouldn't be able to connect to it. And if we can't connect, it doesn't really have true meaning."
-Hannah White

Maybe I won't be able to throw around my premise anymore with the pride of 'Look how fresh this is! How original!', but maybe I never should have. Because writing stories should not be about crafting something that you can brag about making, about how original you are. Writing stories is deeper than that. It's about the message, the light or darkness you show, about what's burning on your heart to be shared.

When we start wringing our hands over how many points for originality we'll get, we lose focus of the story's heart. Originality is the glitter and sequins that can add some extra shine to lure others in, but they aren't the heart and soul, the foundation of a good story. 

We are called to write stories from our hearts -- sometimes those stories have already been told. But they haven't been told by you. When you put fingers to keyboard, or ink to paper, you are rewriting an old tale of what it is to be human. 

You're reaching through the page to touch hearts that haven't been reached before. And your words may be the first to do so.

Do you ever have doubts about whether your story is original enough? How do you combat them? Do you think all stories have to be original, or not?
Have a great day, and best wishes with your writing! <3

Though it feels as though we've skipped autumn, and jumped straight to winter down here in Australia, it's spring in the Northern He...

Though it feels as though we've skipped autumn, and jumped straight to winter down here in Australia, it's spring in the Northern Hemisphere! (I assume, at least. Some say it's still cold?) Anyway, the lovely Victoria tagged me to participate in this spring writing challenge, which was originally created by Deborah!

Here are the rules:
1) Link back to the person who tagged you. 
2) Share the picture.
3) Answer the questions or even pick and choose which ones you answer. 
4) Tag 3 other writers and inform them that you tagged them (via comment/message/email or hey, even carrier-pigeon or smoke signal; I’m not picky).

1. Dust-bunnies and Plot-bunnies: Reorganize Your Writing Goals (Or Make New Ones)

Over the rest of the year I'd like to, at least...

Finish Draft Four of 'Golden Revenge': I am so excited for this draft! I've been mulling over beta feedback in recent months, and though I loved the story I told in the earlier drafts, I have some ideas I'd like to try. At present I'd like to say I have a good story, but I want to make it the absolute best it can be. The heart of GR will stay the same; I'm working on refining character arcs, motivations, and some of the content.

Complete First Draft of 'Silver Storm': I have a love-hate relationship with the sequel. There are elements I adore about it, and characters I love, but there are the usual sequel doubts and the plot is slower than I would have liked. But, I just have to remind myself that we have editing for a reason!

Develop Plot for 'Ashes Ever Shifting': Having Character-Chatted with these characters for approaching close to a year now, I feel I have a good grasp on the characters and world-building. Before first drafting (probably this November) I would like to strengthen my plot!

Develop 'Bronze Mirror' and Other Story Ideas: There are a few ideas floating around in my mind, such as a potential third book for the GR series, involving a re-telling of Icarus. Other ideas include a girl who loses her shadow, and a group of highschoolers being kidnapped to another world. So I'm letting them simmer, and will jot down any new revelations that come throughout that process.

2. Which Stage Are You At? Expound!

a. Remodeling layouts (planning the story)
b. Painting the walls in colorful hues (writing)
c. Polishing the windows and scrubbing the floors and putting flowers in vases (editing)
d. Blueprints (not to the cleaning or remodeling yet… just drawing up plans for the very beginning inklings of a story)
e. Some combination of those things (cleaning out a closet)

Oh gosh, all of them, but for different stories!

3. Treasure From the Back of the Closet (Share one to three snippets you love!)

Damla knew the rain before she knew her mother.
A clear, dry blue sky poised in the window, shoving its sticky tongue of heat all over her skin. If she hummed, or sang, she might be able to call drops of water out of the ground, tether them in the sky with her notes, and then let them shower the earth. The soft pitter patter of rain on the roof would unbundle the thick knot of nerves in her throat.
But singing in front of the prison warden would not go well.

A fire shuddered through his muscles as the messenger led him out of the slinking gang headquarters, into the streets of Benjast. In this cut of the city, the ocean foamed against the docks, tossing up white slobber onto the wooden tongues of ships swimming through the black and blue waves.
Salt, from when the river roared too high, and the ocean rose to the moons’ yanking, crunched under Zeki’s worn boots. Wind slapped skin. Slaves hauled boxes on and off towering merchant ships, sweating, panting. Their overseers fixed falcon gazes on their ragged forms, fingers never far from their whip.
Zeki kept his head high, gaze never drifting their way for long. Being Trestlin was as much about being the whip, as it was the walk. Shoulders back, head high, footfalls loud and confident. Enslave the weak, empower the strong.

3.5. Bonus: Do Some Actual Spring Cleaning of Your Writer Self! (and share a picture!)

I'd like to say I'm fairly organised with my writing space, and I've recently sorted my documents, so I just took a picture. I do have Scrivener, but since I write on multiple devices, I stick with Google Docs! 

I tag...
And anyone else who would like to do this tag/challenge!

What are your current writing goals? What stage are you at in your writing? If you're feeling brave, share a snippet with me!
Have a wondeful day, and best wishes with your writing! <3

Last Saturday I had the amazing opportunity to attend my first ever sessions at the annual Sydney Writers' Festival! I booked sessions ...

Last Saturday I had the amazing opportunity to attend my first ever sessions at the annual Sydney Writers' Festival! I booked sessions during the All Day YA celebration, and between meeting my dear writing friend Imogen Elvis in real life, for the first time, and madly jotting down advice, I had a wonderful time!

So today I thought I'd share some tips and thoughts about the three sessions I attended, as well as my overall thoughts!

From the Sidelines
Authors: Sarah Ayoub, Tamar Chnorhokian, Patrick Ness, Rameen Hayat (Moderator)

My first session was a panel which discussed diversity in fiction. The authors were as diverse in their viewpoints as their backgrounds. What I took away with me was:

1) Check your motivation for diversity. Are you making a character diverse to please the trend, or is it realistic the character would be diverse in the real world?

2) To write diverse characters, write them as you would any other character: as a person who is not one-dimensional, and who simply happens to be from that 'diverse' background.

3) Look at who you would expect to play certain roles in a story, then switch things around and write who is really there.

Sorry for the bad quality photos, but we weren't allowed to take photos of the authors, and the lighting wasn't ideal! xD
Writing for YA Books and Films
Authors: Jesse Andrews, Patrick Ness, Will Kostakis (Moderator)

There was a huge crowd for this session, probably due to the high profile authors. In some ways it was more fun than anything, with a quirky chemistry between the authors, and their contrasting personalities. Apart from my constant laughter, my main takeaways were:

1) Screenwriting teaches all writers that if you can say it one sentence, say it in one, not two. Don't waste the audience's time; you must have a purpose and meaning behind every word.

2) Experiment in all story-telling mediums, pull out the best lessons from each experiment, then take it back to your writing, and you'll grow!

3) Patrick Ness's advice to aspiring writers: "Write the book you want to read, not what is expected".

Architects of New Worlds
Authors: Jay Kristoff, Claire G. Coleman, Jesse Andrews, Cally Black, Adele Walsh (Moderator)

This session was more craft-focused, particularly on world-building and speculative fiction, and my pen was zipping across the page! I may have only fangirled a tiny bit seeing Jay Kristoff; the rest of me was trying to comprehend authors are people, and how tall he is! (He's a giant!) Craft-wise, here are my favourite tips from the session:

1) World-building draws a reader in with shiny lights and decorations, but it is the characters who will make a reader stay or leave. Characters are what readers continue to read series for.

2) When creating fictional technology, draw on the familiar. It can be wildly different and out-there on face level, but the basic concept and core of how it functions must be able to be understood by the reader. 

3) Before each writing session, allow yourself some time to focus. At the end of each writing session, leave yourself a small note of where you were thinking of going with your scene, or an idea to expand on, so you can pick it up more easily in the next session.

4) Find a time and place to write that is just yours, and write. Writing everyday is like going to the gym -- you'll hate it at first, and then get into the habit of it.

5) To write dynamic fight scenes, try to reflect action movies' fight scenes, pacing-wise; the reader should be able to read the scene as quickly as watching one of the movie fights. Keep sentences short, snappy, with hard consants and sounds. Also use sharp verbs, and only show what the POV sees.

My quill pen I brought to the festival!
Overall Thoughts

It was very special to be able to be in a place surrounded by hundreds of fellow readers and writers of YA. There was a swarm around the book stand, and seeing the passion for the written word right before me, really warmed my heart, cheesy as it sounds. Meeting an online writing friend was also a very special experience, and chatting face-to-face was so much fun!

All in all, I will definitely be going back next year, and feel blessed that I was able to attend this year!

Have you been to a writing festival or conference before? Did you enjoy it? If not, do you hope to go to one soon? What are some writing lessons you've learned recently?
Have a wonderful day, and best wishes with your writing! <3

Ah, self-publishing. The wild child of the book world. Ten years ago (or maybe even less), self-publishing was seriously frowned upon. “An...

Ah, self-publishing. The wild child of the book world.

Ten years ago (or maybe even less), self-publishing was seriously frowned upon. “Anyone can self-publish,” they said. “Only people who can’t get accepted by real publishers self-publish.”

*dings bell* I call that rubbish.

Hi, guys. I’m Rebekah DeVall, fantasy/action/adventure/fairytale retelling author. 

Rebekah DeVall prides herself on being the girl who wrote 200,000 words in 21 days. She’s a Christian author with a penchant for killing characters and a love for writing real female protagonists described as “the example of a Christian hero that young readers need to see”. 

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About three years ago, when I first began my serious writing journey, this question came up a lot. Should I self-publish? Should I query? What is involved? I spent many hours on the internet following industry blogs and agent websites, down to the original data and everything. It was actually rather fun.

In my senior year of high school, I wrote a career paper on different writers, and one of the authors I contacted for an interview was also an editor for a small Christian press. I asked her my burning question: Is it possible for an international writer to be traditionally published in the U.S.? (For the record, I live in Bolivia, South America, which makes everything more interesting in the publishing world.)

Her answer was a solid Yes! Traditional publishing was a definite option.

So here I was, stuck right between two options. Both were possible for me. Which would I do?

From that point on, I started looking up self-publishing, mostly because I like the idea of being my own boss.

Would it be easier? Would it cost me more? Could I learn the process all by myself, or would I need to possibly sell my soul, just to get this book formatted, a cover designed, and the entire book published? 

That’s a very real concern, especially for those of us who are still young, not CEOs of huge companies or making thousands of dollars a month. Some of us are still in high school. Who has hundreds of dollars to spend on a book cover? Not me!

I’m proud to announce that today, almost exactly a year since I self-published my first book, I have had no vital upfront costs. I spent $0 in order to get my books published.

Is this recommended? Absolutely not. Can it be done? Yes.

A lot of people point out cost as one big pitfall of self-publishing. Traditionally published authors don’t pay any upfront costs. Their agent charges them nothing until the book is sold. They don’t even pay postage these days, thanks to internet queries.

“If you self-publish, you have to shell out all of the money yourself.”

True or False? Well, both.

There are a lot of steps, but you can very feasibly learn to do them yourself.

“Every book is rubbish unless at least one professional editor has looked at it.” – some random professional, somewhere. I’ve read variations of that phrase all over the web. Does a professional editor help your work? Yes! Do you need to pay $1k and above to have your book edited? No!

I wrote and published Iron Core without a single professional editor looking at it. If you read the book, you may find a typo here or a missing closing quotation mark there (I will point out that I’ve seen similar mistakes in traditionally published books too). 

You can write and self-publish a good book without selling your soul to an editor.

But WAIT. Hold on. Don’t go run out and hit “publish” on that 355k-word manuscript that you quit writing this week because it was just too much work.
If you’re not going to go through a professional editor, I recommend you take these steps instead:

Beta Readers. These amazing people read the story after you do and tell you how terrible it is.
Revisions. Once you get feedback from beta readers, fix that baby up. Put your manuscript on the surgery table and SAW, SAW, SAW! (Wow, I’m getting creepy now.)
Gamma Readers. Everyone has a different name for these people. Some people call them a second round of beta readers. I’m a geek and call my readers by the Greek alphabet (Alpha, Beta, Gama, Delta… readers). Send that baby out to more people. Let them criticize it and send it back to you.
That One Friend. If you’re like me, you have that one friend. She (or he) may be a very nice person, but wow are they picky about what they read. In my case, it’s a good friend who’s an English major. If she sees the same word used twice in the same paragraph, she yells at me. We work very well together.

In short, revise your story until you think it’s absolutely perfect (or absolutely horrible and you want to throw it out the window), and then send it to other people. When they tell you all the ways that it’s horrible, revise it again. Keep revising. Forever and ever and ever… *echoes*

Caveat: there’s also such a thing as over-editing. If you think you’re stuck in that situation, take a step back. Talk to a trusted (more advanced) writer friend. Don’t despair.

Does this sound like a lot of work? Well, no one ever said writing would be easy.

This is another skill you’ll have to learn if you’re interested in self-publishing. Traditionally publishing – yes, they do that for you, from everything I can find on the subject.

A lot of self-publishers I know pay to get their formatting done. I’ve heard all good things about Rachel Greene over at Penoaks Publishing. She’s formatted so many of my friends’ books, and I’ve heard absolutely nothing negative, so I can thoroughly recommend her.

You can also do it yourself. Amazon has this SUPER-HELPFUL book out, giving a detailed, step-by-step process on formatting for ebooks, which you can find here. The best part is that it’s free, so… like I said, no upfront cost.

Paperbacks are a little more difficult… but not much. You can actually write your book in one of CreateSpace’s interior templates and have it already formatted when it comes time to upload the story. (This was a thing I only recently discovered, and wow it makes formatting so much easier!)

Don’t even look up the prices for professional book cover designs… unless you want your credit card to die of a heart attack. It’s ridiculous. Who has hundreds of dollars to spend on a cover for a book that may or may not actually earn you a hundred dollars?

Enter Canva, an online graphic design website. With an account, you can access their templates and make all kinds of graphics – book covers, Facebook party headers, YouTube thingies, take your pick. I have friends who enjoy PicMonkey and/or Photoshop, so definitely search around until you find something you like.

When it comes to images for said book cover, you can definitely take your own and upload them. Just make sure they’re good quality, so the cover doesn’t come out all pixelated and nasty-looking. After all, you’re putting your name on this thing, so you want to make it look as professional as possible. I personally use pictures from royalty-free image websites such as Pixabay, Pexels, and Unsplash.

Don’t just steal images off Google. A, that’s illegal, and B, you’ll get in trouble for it. Also, don’t just slap images together on a Canva template and call it a book cover. Google “book cover design”. Spend a couple of hours at your bookshelf, looking at what book covers in your genre have in common and what they don’t. 

Get feedback. Share the design with your writing friends (and non-writing friends! You need readers too!). See what they think works and what doesn’t.

Now we’ve come down to the core of this post. You’ve probably realized by now that I’m very pro-self-publishing, and also very much a DIY girl. I have decided that, personally, self-publishing is the best road for me. It’s taken a lot of practice, a lot of mistakes, and many, many, many, many, many, many, many hours of research, but I’m doing it.

Self-publishing isn’t looked down on as much as it was years ago.

So in the end, it’s up to you. How much do you want to do yourself? Are you willing to spend hours of research and practice (not that you wouldn’t do the same with traditional publishing)?

Tell me about yourself. Where are you in your writing journey? Which publishing route do you imagine you’ll take?

Melissa here, everyone! Thanks for all your tips and insight, Rebekah!
For all of you who don't know, she's just recently released a fantastic book called Iron Core! Here's the blurb:

Everything will be okay. 
Deep in Brancaleone, a prison carved from the mountainside, eighteen-year-old Lunetta plans her escape. Raised behind iron bars, all she wants is freedom -- and to take her mother with her.

Check it out on Amazon here!

As Rebekah said, tell us about where you imagine your writing future to go! I personally am leaning towards traditional, but I have so much respect for indies, and think it's a great option for the right writer! What are your thoughts on self-publishing; yay or nay?