I used to think it was just me who was nervous to share my writing with other people. But as I began to become more involved in the writing ...

I used to think it was just me who was nervous to share my writing with other people. But as I began to become more involved in the writing community, and met some younger writers in 'real' life, I realized practically every writer is scared to share their work. Or if not scared, nervous, shaky, or worried.

So why is it so hard to share our stories, our writing? Thinking about my own experiences, and my knowledge of others', I've pulled together a list of a few of my ideas why:

It's Not 'Perfect'

If those close to you want to see your work, of course you want them to see your best efforts. Sloppy grammar, head-hopping, jarring sentence length, and paragraphs of dumped backstory can be embarrassing. Personally, I always hesitate to share my work, because it hasn't yet reached my standards. There's always one more scene I need to add in, character arcs to flesh out, word choice to be scrutinized for eons, and semi-colons to debate over. 

I want people to read my best work. I want to showcase a result that explains my hours, months, and years of effort and furious typing. My perfectionist side wants to give over nothing less than perfect. Yet I know, that perfection is impossible. There will always be a moment when I've done my best, and that is the time to let the story go, and share it. And still I hesitate. So what else could be holding me back?

Worried About Judgement

We're always worried about what other people will think. (If you're one of those people who genuinely does not care what anyone thinks of you, please share your secret with me.) So when I think about handing over my writing to someone whose opinion I respect, dozens of thoughts seize my mind. What if they hate it? What if they don't like my character? They're going to hate it; they don't read fantasy. What if they think I'm too young to be writing about this? What if, what if, what if?

To boil it down to the core, I'm worried that my story will be judged, and myself too. When you introduce yourself as a writer, and talk about your writing, people have high expectations. I'm afraid that I won't meet them.

Writing is a Private Experience

Unless you co-write, when you write, the story, the characters, and the world are exclusively yours. You can do what you like, you can break hearts and write fierce action scenes, and stop or start a scene when you please. The second you share it, and let someone else read your story, it also becomes theirs. The reader imagines the characters and setting in a different way, and forms an attachment to it that differs from yours. They might loathe it, or adore it.

I find at first when I have a story, I want to protect it, keep it close to my chest, and find joy in something that is exclusively mine. I suppose that's why a lot of writers, myself included, sometimes call their characters their "babies". 

But there is also a joy to be found in sharing your writing. After the torrent of nerves, fear, and anxieties, comes the delight of being able to talk about something you're incredibly passionate about with your reader. It's a bonding experience.

And in my opinion, it's worth it.

Are you afraid to share your writing? If so, why do you think you are? If you aren't, please, spill your secrets!!
Have a lovely day, and best wishes with your writing! <3

There are many things I love about the reading and writing communities. Overall, I've only really interacted with kind, genuine, encoura...

There are many things I love about the reading and writing communities. Overall, I've only really interacted with kind, genuine, encouraging writers and readers. The passion for the written word connects us all, and the reader-writer community is one of give and take.

But of course, when you have a community, there are bound to be disagreements. Sometimes these are private, other times they gain hundreds of comments, some of which can be quite hurtful. Recently on Goodreads I stumbled on a review where a reader had picked up a book, and finding it held objectionable content, stopped reading it a few pages in, and rated it one star, as well as writing a full book review on the issue.

The comment section was a war ground. Larger issues were debated, and both sides in my opinion could have handled the situation better. After reading the review and skimming the comments, several questions entered my mind:

Should we rate books lower if they have content we find objectionable?
Should we rate them higher if they make a political stance that agrees with our own?
Do people have a right to rate books if they don't finish them?
What are we rating when we rate books -- the story, the author, or the content? And can these elements be separated?

DISCLAIMER: I don't have the answers to these questions. I only have thoughts of my own, that are based on my experiences and beliefs, as a human, and as a Christian. This issue is a subjective one, and you can take my standpoint, or a completely opposite one. That's your choice, and your right to do so. :)

Book reviews and ratings are subjective. Some people may love a book and declare it the best ever, and another might hate and discard it. I think that's the first thing we need to understand -- others are going to have opinions different to our own. That's their right. We might not agree with their opinion, but just as we don't want others to scream at us for ours, we shouldn't scream at others for theirs.

The second thing is that 'objectionable content' is also subjective. An issue that others may champion as the next step for equality, may be something others consider wrong. When I say 'objectionable content' I mean something is included in the book that promotes something you think should be discouraged, or vice versa.

I have read many books, that I adore. I LOVE them. But, they hold ideas that I don't agree with; this might be in relation to side characters, for example. Yet, I still gave them high ratings.

Personally, I don't think it would be right of me to take off so many stars because I disagreed with an issue the author was trying to promote. In the case of one book, I loved the plot. I loved the characters. The world-building was superb. My heart was racing by the end. But there was that one character, those small mentions of something that made me frown a little, and think "hold on, I don't agree with that". 

I gave it five stars.

As a Christian, I often find myself walking a fine line. In this instance, I wanted to promote this book I enjoyed, I wanted others to enjoy it too, but I didn't want to promote one minor topic in relation to a side character. The reason I gave it five stars? Because if I only read books that didn't showcase some form of sin, I would be extremely limited in my choices. 

We live in a sinful world. It doesn't mean we should agree with or ignore sin, but it's near impossible to engage with any kind of book, movie, or TV show where you aren't faced with promoting sin of some kind. Wouldn't you still rave and love the latest superhero movie that made many kinds of violence seem justified?

Would it have been great if the author of that book addressed that topic more indepth and showed its consequences? Yes! Should I downgrade the rating of a story I enjoyed because it doesn't support my beliefs? In this case, I said no.

Some of the stories I hope to one day publish contain Christian elements, references, and beliefs. If someone read only a few pages in, spotted something resembling Christianity, and said "ugh no, I don't believe in this. This is so wrong and hateful. One star!" I would be upset. I would ask them if they liked the plot, or the characters, and if they said "yes", even more so. They would be dismissing all the hard work and effort put into creating a story, because it went against their political or religious views. 

If we decide to rate books lower because we disagree with the content, we have to accept that others will in turn rate our books lower. We can't have it one way. 

Now, I'm going to add something on that contradicts myself somewhat.

If the focus of the book I gave five stars was focusing solely around the one side character and the objectionable topic, I would have likely given it a low rating. This would be because the core message of the book would be, in my opinion, damaging to the readers if they took it on and believed it. I likely wouldn't have given it one star -- I would have given it three or four, maybe, and explained in my review why it lost stars.

This would be because the story's core, its whole heart, would be around the objectionable content. It would be the story. They would be inseparable. I perceive ratings as judging the story, not necessarily minor content or sly political stance. There will always be politics or the latest movements in stories -- sometimes for good, other times, for bad. Drawing the line between judging the story, and the ideas it promotes, is the very difficult part.

Should you drop the star rating if books support ideas you disagree with? I don't think there is a clear yes or no. It's something that each individual needs to put thought into, pray about if they're a Christian, and come to their own conclusion on.

Questions I ask myself before rating a book, if it holds objectionable content, are:
1) Was the content I disagreed with the heart of the story?
2) Can the content be separated from the story?
3) Am I convicted to speak about the issue in my review?

One great solution to the overarching question of the post is the rating system over at Rebellious Writing, a group of which I'm proud to be called a member. For each review, there is an overall rating, then an individual rating for lust, abuse, and language. These separate reviews tell readers of the review the rating for the story components (characters, plot, message, etc.) and then ratings for any content that others might find distressing or distasteful.

With a topic so subjective and almost only applicable on a case-by-case basis, I would say, find where you stand, whether that be on the far sides of the scale, or in the middle. Talk to others on the opposite side. But most of all, remember that not everything is about politics, and to keep reading!

What are your thoughts? Do you believe we should drop our book star ratings if we disagree with their content? Is it clear-cut for you, or in the grey area? Let me know what you think!
Please keep it civil in the comments, and have a fantastic day! <3 

Recently I've been inspired to play with story structure, from both books I've read this year and my English teacher's suggestio...

Recently I've been inspired to play with story structure, from both books I've read this year and my English teacher's suggestion. So far I've only experimented in my short stories, from including fictional poems before each scene, to writing out a fictional transcript to include at the beginning of a longer story. Through this, and loving books recently that play with structure, I've come to realize not only is it fun to read/write them, but also adds a certain level of depth!

Playing with structure captures the reader's interest, and has the possibility to reflect a theme, show off a character's voice, or enrich the experience. So without further ado, here are some ideas of what you can include, to play with story structure!

1) Diary/Journal Entries
Example: Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Diary entries (at least from what I've seen) are more common in MG or historical fiction, but there's so much potential for other age ranges and genres! Rather than having the character's story told by a narrator, the character is reflecting on what they perceive to be important events in their day. There are many possibilities here to play around with unreliable narrators, and showcase different sides of a conflict, as well as giving the reader a more personal connection to the character!

2) Artwork
Ex: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Whenever I see an illustration in a book, my heart dances. As someone who struggles to imagine characters' faces and such, having artwork can help me have a clear picture in my mind. Not only that, but done right, illustrations will not distract from the text, but enrich them. The colour of drawings can build upon the tone set in the story, for example. Artwork can also showcase an important scene in the story, or if the character is supposed to be its artist, provide deeper insight into their emotional state.

3) Letters/Messages
Ex: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The first novels were epistolary novels, meaning they consisted of letters either from one person to another, or a back-and-forth letter chains between pairs of characters. For historical or fantasy novels including letters can show a different POV without having to switch prose-wise. For contemporary, text messages, emails, tweets, etc. can have the same effect -- they present dialogue and character voices in a unique, interesting way!

4) Newspaper Clippings/Quotes
Ex: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

I've been having lots of fun lately creating my own small snippets of "quotes" taken from books within my created world, and slipping them in before each scene/chapter. Done with a heavy hand it may be overwhelming, but it's an interesting technique to flesh out world-building, or show how the general public/a historian views history, tradition, or events that affect your story's present. For historical books, using real excerpts from newspapers may also help ground the reader deeper into the setting and tone.

5) Documents
Ex: The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

From maps, to transcriptions, to secret documents, adding documents is essentially showing evidence to the reader. Some stories tell themselves exclusively in a collection of miscellaneous documents, others only include one or two along the way. Regardless, including documents (especially if the text and formatting looks different to the rest of the book) can grant the reader a sense of realism, and make them feel as though they are discovering the story for themselves!

Do you play with structure in your stories? What's your favourite book that includes letters, quotes, documents, etc.? 
Have a wonderful day, and best wishes with your writing! <3 

I'm so excited to say today I'm joining a new link-up! It made my heart ache to see Beautiful People go, especially when it had help...

I'm so excited to say today I'm joining a new link-up! It made my heart ache to see Beautiful People go, especially when it had helped me develop my characters from various projects ever since I started joining in. But Liv K Fisher came to the rescue, and now we have a new link-up: The Language of Worlds!

The questions are tailored for speculative Christian fiction, but most of them could be applied to any story, and everyone is welcome! So without further ado, let's get to the questions!

1) Introduce your character and his/her story!

Damla is one of Silver Storm's POVs. Unaware of who her father is, and with her mother in prison, she grew up in an orphanage until she turned thirteen. Around that time she began to discover there was something she could do that no one else around her could -- talk to, and control, the rain.

Her story in SS starts with her enrolled in the Stormdancing Academy, visiting her mother in prison for the first time. But when all her hopes of having a relationship with her mother are crushed, she has to fight for a family through unconventional means.

2) What does he/she (your character) look for in a friend? Consciously or subconsciously?

Absolute, and complete loyalty. Growing up, Damla tried to fill the yearning of wanting a family with friendship, and for a time, it worked. (Note: 'for a time'.) She also subconsciously needs a listening ear who will hear her cry her heart out.

3) If he/she could study any foreign language, what would it be?

Trestlin, for reasons that would have too many spoilers.

4) Which person from the Bible would he/she be besties with? Why?

Probably Esther! Damla would admire her loyalty to her people, and her bravery.

5) If he/she were to visit you for a week, what would you do together?

I expect Damla would take me out into the national park, and sing a storm into life for me. (I would be both terrified and impressed.) Apart from that, I think she'd just enjoy to have someone to talk to and explore the city with, not necessarily on all these big adventures, but the small moments you remember most.

6) What is his/her ideal future?

Having a loving, perfect family who accept her for who she is.

7) If he/she were to spend a weekend alone, what sort of pastimes would he/she pursue?

Considering she spends most of her time alone, she'd likely resume normal life. If she was in the wilderness, she might experiment with the more dangerous elements of her power -- striking things with lightning bolts. In the evenings she might sew, or take a walk.

8) If you could send your character a care package, what would be in it?

The Bible, a little bundle of fresh flowers, goat milk soap, a new dress, and a book of motivational quotes.

9) Is there a song that describes your character's journey?

I'm torn between 'In My Dreams' from the Anastasia Musical Soundtrack, for when Damla's hurting and dreaming at the same time, and 'Lash Out' by Alice Merton for when anger seizes her.

10) What is your character's place in the story (hero, antihero, villain, sidekick, etc.)?

Damla's an interesting character, as she works for the MC sometimes, and then other times completely against. So she's nearly a contagonist!

What do you think of Damla? Would you like to be able to control storms? Tell me about one of your characters! What is their ideal future, and what would you send them in a care package?
Have a wonderful week, and best of luck with your writing! <3

The world, and every part of it, is incredibly complex. For a lot of writers, this can make world-building seem impossible or even terrifyin...

The world, and every part of it, is incredibly complex. For a lot of writers, this can make world-building seem impossible or even terrifying! When I world-build, I love to ask myself question after question after question. This enables me to delve into the deeper layers of my storyworld, and breaks down the mammoth process into smaller chunks.

So today I've put together a list of more questions to ask yourself, when creating a fantasy religion! The first post focused on basic ideas, so I've tried to ask deeper questions in a Part 2; questions that will (hopefully) inspire you or give you ideas to play around with!

1) What is this religion's view on gender? How is this translated through the responsibilities its members fulfil, in religious gatherings, the home, larger society, etc.?

2) What stories are narrated to children? Do they differ from the original story in the religions' important texts, or are they exactly the same? What core beliefs are introduced to the children first, and what laws? Are parents considered responsible for bringing their child up in the faith?

3) What rituals and customs does this religion have? What do they involve? Which rituals can only be done publicly (eg. praying at a temple) and which ones are done privately (eg. offering incense at home shrine)?

4) What does this religion say about the existence of an afterlife? Do its members believe in reincarnation, a version of Heaven or Hell, or none at all? How is this reflected in its members' everyday beliefs?

5) Has the religion spread outside of its core geographical area? How has it spread? (Merchants, missionaries, trade, printed books, etc.) Has it been widely received or rejected?

6) Why are people drawn to this religion? What hope, purpose, or meaning does it offer them? What demographics highly populate the religion, and which are under-represented?

7) How does the religion and its members respond to people with different beliefs? Do they engage with respect, or do they silence any opposing voice? How has this affected the view of the religion, in the community outside of it?

8) What images, texts, colours, and smells are associated with this religion? Are these mocked by others, or considered sacred objects?

9) Are there any songs or chants associated with this religion? What do the lyrics/words convey? (Eg. a story, key beliefs of the religion, praise. etc.)

10) Do laws exist in the holy texts that dictate how members are to live their everyday lives? What values do these laws reflect? Do the laws outline how to proceed with everyday activities/relationships, or are they general laws relating to conduct across a variety of activities/relationships?

11) Who wrote the religion's holy texts? How are these texts contained (eg. scrolls, books, etc.) and where are they kept? Does every member have a copy, or is it only accessible to a select few?

12) Where are the religion's deemed holy places? Are there holy places (eg. temples, shrines) in every local area, or is there only one per continent or country? What is the significance and meaning of these sites? Are members encouraged to go on pilgrimages to them?

13) What technologies in place have allowed, or discouraged, the spread of this religion? (eg. magic mental links with those countries away allows discussion of faith without sitting next to each other, etc.) Have the religion's members embraced or resisted the technological changes?

14) Are members required to give offerings to a statue/god(s)? Are these offerings animals, fruit and vegetables, flowers, money, or something else? Where do these offerings take place, and who conducts them?

15) Are there monasteries, nunneries, or the equivalent for this religion? How are the members within these buildings economically supported? What activities and studies do they commit themselves too?

16) Can anyone become a leader/teacher/priest? Is there any special training required for it? If so, who trains them, and what level of leadership do they enter once finished with training?

17) How closely tied is this religion with the surrounding country's government? Are members of the religion the sole owners of political positions? Are laws influenced by the religion's beliefs? Or is the religion declared unlawful and its members oppressed by the government?

18) How inclusive is the religion? Is it open to all, or is it against receiving new members? Are there any initiation rituals? If so, do they have to be at a certain age to participate, and is it only be performed at certain times of the year?

19) What stance does the religion take on all levels of romantic relationships? What is its perception of marriage? Are members encouraged to have multiple partners or only one?

20) Is fasting a requirement? If so, when do these fasts take place, and for how long? What do these fasts represent, and what is their significance?

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

Cities      History      Celebrations      Magic
Characters (Backstory, and Interview)
Schools      Monarchies      Religion (Part 1)     

What's your favourite part of world-building? Any topics you'd like me to cover next in the 'Questions to Ask When Creating...' series? How is your writing going?
Have a wonderful day and best wishes with your world-building! <3