September has existed in this strange paradox between long moments of rest and fast-paced, consuming whirls of responsibility and stress. Mu...

September has existed in this strange paradox between long moments of rest and fast-paced, consuming whirls of responsibility and stress. Much has happened and yet not a lot. If you're confused, then you're not alone! So am I.

It's been a long time (read: months) since I last had an edition of Behind the Pen, so I thought I'd take the opportunity this week to catch up with you all and have a chat about what's been happening in my writing, reading, and everyday life since then!

These last few months I've been grateful for...

- Lots of open doors writing-wise and being able to receive very valuable and encouraging critiques of my work.

- It's finally spring in Australia! So my neighbourhood is filled to bursting with flowers and colour, and my garden is shaking itself back to life.

- Wonderful friends at university.

- Chocolate... because chocolate is always amazing!

- My family and the support and understanding they give in regards to my writing.

Recent Reads:

"There Will Come a Darkness" by Katy Rose Pool --- a multi-POV YA fantasy about a world where the six prophets who guided humanity disappeared over a hundred years ago, but they've left one final prophecy about a coming prophet who could save, or destroy, them all. I read this one super quickly because I was enjoying it so much! Apart from a few content issues, I love books that make me gasp at plot twists and have my heart pounding, which is exactly what this one did!

"100 Days of Sunlight" by Abbie Emmons --- an emotional contemporary that explores how we view others, ourselves, and disability. While there were a few aspects of how the theme was handled I didn't necessarily agree with, I loved Weston as a character and it was a cute, fast, and feelsy read.

"A Darker Shade of Magic" by V.E. Schwab --- an adult fantasy where there are four Londons with various amounts of magic woven into their worlds. The main character can travel between them, and might be the only person able to stop dark magic from spreading into all four. I'm still on the fence about this one! I'd heard a lot of great things so was looking forward to it, but while the worlds were intriguing and immersive, the characters lacked depth for me personally, especially the villains.

Current and Upcoming Reads:

"City of Brass" by S.A. Chakraborty --- another adult fantasy! This one is set in 18th century Cairo, where our main character Nahri is an outcast with mysterious healing abilities. When she accidentally calls a djinn, she puts herself in the path of ancient and revenge-hungry beings, and has to go on the run with him. The world is very lush in this one! There's also some excellent worldbuilding in terms of history, and I'm excited to keep reading.

"Frankly in Love" by David Yoon --- to balance out all the heavy fantasy I've been reading lately, I thought I'd have a go at reading this contemporary! It has the fake dating trope which I love and sounds like a lot of fun!

I had a look back at my last writing update (in May) and no surprises here, I'm still working on the same two WIPs! Now though, rather than being on the first draft of Call of the Vanished, I'm completely overhauling it in my second draft. This is a part of my writing process I'm learning to really enjoy; the freedom to change as much as I want, cutting and adding and rewriting deeply. The largest change I've made so far is going from three POVs to only one! It's been a learning experience, as I usually write in several, but lots of fun.

A piece of exciting news is that I'm almost ready to query Blood Like Gold! (It used to be called Golden Revenge, as a heads-up.) I'm moving into the final round of polishing the manuscript, otherwise known as being crippled by doubt and stress, and narrowing down my list of agents to query. It feels as though it's time to let the story make its own way into the world, so if you could keep this process in your prayers, I would really appreciate it!

I won't give too many this month, but here's a quick one from the second draft of Call of the Vanished! Here are the two first lines, subject to change, of course:

The gun burned cold on the back of Lonnie’s neck. “Step away from the van.”

I'm about a month away from finishing my second semester of university, meaning I'm almost a third of the way through my degree! It's very strange to think of it like that. It's even stranger to think I graduated and was at formal a year ago. Where does time go?

As I'm studying Creative Writing as one of my majors, it's been especially interesting to work on the assignments they give us. I admit I was nervous knowing this whole semester would be on creative nonfiction, but I've been pleasantly surprised! The depth of research needed aside, it's really pushed me as a writer to write stories without making up anything. It certainly hones your observation skills!

Tell me about what you're reading and writing at the moment! And how's life in general? Are you feeling drowned by work or breezing through? What milestones are you approaching with your writing?
Have a wonderful day! <3

One of my favourite parts of being a writer is that I'm constantly learning and developing my craft. There are so, so many resources onl...

One of my favourite parts of being a writer is that I'm constantly learning and developing my craft. There are so, so many resources online and offline to help writers, from workshops to classes to blog posts to webinars. But while the amount out there is incredibly diverse and enriching, it can be difficult to wade through all of it to find what's useful for you!

Over a year ago I shared my top 5 resoucres for writers, and since then I've discovered even more that have kept me in touch with the industry and pushed me to grow! My hope is that you too might find them beneficial for your writing journey!

1) Susan Dennard's "For Writers"

The best way to describe this website page is a goldmine. For years Susan Dennard has written articles on everything from query writing, to ways to edit your work, to overcoming productivity blocks. I've only just dipped my toe into these articles, and already found myself furiously taking notes. Susan is able to condense complex questions into bite-sized chunks, and teach in a straight-forward and clear manner that will make you fall in love with writing all over again.

She also has a wonderful newsletter and guide to querying which are absolutely worth checking out!

2) 88 Cups of Tea 

88 Cups of Tea is a podcast hosted by Yin Chang that has interviewed hundreds of author superstars and literary agents, such as Holly Black, Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, V.E. Schwab, Stephanie Garber, Samantha Shannon, and so many more! Each episode is beyond inspiring, with authors sharing how they fell in love with stories, how they pushed through the writing blocks in their journey, and writing tips. The podcast does a wonderful way of showing how even the most popular authors met periods of struggles and doubts, but also celebrates their successes and passions.

Additionally, the website has thought-provoking articles and essays on all things writing!

3) Jane Friedman's Blog

Jane Friedman is a highly respected publishing industry expert, and her blog is a hub for excellent articles on the latest changes, trends, and writing advice. There are also classic guides to writing queries, synopsis, self-publishing, and different traditional publishing paths. I highly recommend subscribing to the blog posts and spending time sifting through the wealth of information available!

4) Pub(lishing) Crawl

The question I've been asking myself recently is: how did I not discover this before? Pub Crawl is yet another goldmine of articles, these written from a mixture of successful authors, literary agents and editors. Virtually every category related to writing is here: writing craft, promotion, writing as a career, agents, revision letters, motivation... You could spend years reading through everything!

5) The Middle-Grade Ninja Podcast

You don't have to write middle grade to enjoy this amazing podcast! There is a staggering array of guests on this show: from YA to middle grade authors, to literary agents, to editors at huge publishing companies, to book promotion experts. If you're in the stage where you're looking for literary agents, I highly recommend finding episodes featuring agents! It will give you a great grasp of what they're looking for, as well as their personality!

Have you heard of any of these resources before? What are your favourite writing resources? Feel free to share them, I'd love to have a read/listen!
Happy writing and researching! <3

Due to our modern-day association of technology with smartphones, the latest earpods, and TVs, it can be easy to overlook developing the tec...

Due to our modern-day association of technology with smartphones, the latest earpods, and TVs, it can be easy to overlook developing the technology of our fictional worlds. When I read, it's rare for fantasy books to steer from traditional swords, parchment, daggers and other medieval-esque technologies. Which is a shame! It makes more sense for fictional worlds to have their own technologies, and gives these worlds so much more depth!

So what do I mean by technology? According to Google, technology is "the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry." Essentially, technology is developed to make tasks easier or more efficient. It can range from weapons to communication to cooking materials to blacksmithing.

If you're eager to add unique yet realistic touches to your world, then creating technology for it is the perfect place to start. Let's get to some questions you can ask yourself, to help develop them!

1) Why was this piece of technology invented/created? What problem does it solve? How does it help people achieve a specific goal?

2) Who created it? How long did it take, and were they being paid for it? Did they plan to keep it to themselves, share it for free, or sell it on the market? What were the challenges of creating it and its prototypes? Why was the creator motivated to invent it?

3) When can it be used? Does it rely on shifting materials or time, such as sunlight or the stars? What limitations does this put on it?

4) What is needed to operate it, whether that's skill, certain materials, or a specific individual? How easy are these skills, materials, or individuals to come by?

5) If an individual must be trained to use it, how long does it take to obtain a basic understanding of it? What about mastery? Who trains them, where, and at what cost? How exclusive is the training?

6) What legal restrictions or benefits on using the technology exist? It is illegal, and if so, who is still willing to use and trade it? If it's encouraged by the government or power structures, why? How does it benefit them?

7) How have attitudes to the technology changed over time? Was it first distrusted, then accepted, or vice versa? Have attitudes stayed the same? What caused this change or stagnation?

8) How likely is it that the technology will be replaced with a better, updated model? Is it the latest upgrade, or the first? Why might someone use a more basic model compared to the latest, or vice versa?

9) Who has access to the technology? What might be barriers to individuals obtaining it; money, laws, social pressure, something else? What might encourage individuals to obtain it despite these? Or is there no stigma or cost attached, and the technology is readily available? Why?

10) How do different cultures view the technology? Is it widely spread, or is only one people group using it? Why?

11) How large is the piece of technology? What is required to transport it? Is it able to be tucked into a pocket, or is a box needed, or a wagon? How difficult is it to move?

12) Are there any religious protests to the technology's invention or usage? If so, then how does it clash with the religious teachings or doctrine? Are religious groups' members encouraged to use it, banished if they do so, or something else?

13) How are people using the technology in a way it was not designed for? Have people been able to repurpose it for criminal deeds, or for good? What effect has this had on the people who use it, and their society?

More in the 'Questions to Ask When...' Series
Cities      History      Celebrations      Magic
Characters (Backstory, and Interview)
Schools      Monarchies      Religion (Part 1 and Part 2)     

What is your favourite piece of technology from a book you've read? The most creative? How often do you create your worlds' unqiue technologies?
Have a wonderful day, and best wishes with your worldbuilding! <3

In my early editing sessions, whenever I found a plot hole or a character that didn't fit, I'd seek the least time-consuming solutio...

In my early editing sessions, whenever I found a plot hole or a character that didn't fit, I'd seek the least time-consuming solution. I'd insert a line or two into another scene, pretend that band-aids were large enough to cover potholes, and move on. All my edits were shallow in scale and far less effective than I hoped.

Six years later, after reading the first draft of one of my WIPs, which had three POVs, I cut two completely. In a WIP I'm polishing at the moment, I've rewritten entire character's motivations, plot points, and stakes.

What changed? Why did I move from tentatively cleaning up my stories, to overhauling thousands upon thousands of words?

It came from a lesson I realized about the way I write: Drafts are how I understand what does and doesn't work in my stories.

I used to be afraid to make large changes to my stories, whether that was cutting or adding characters, shifting settings, or even removing a scene. Wouldn't it make it worse? Isn't the point of editing to work with what you already have and make it better?

Yes, that is editing. But there's a stage that comes between drafting and editing: revising. Revising means looking at the guts of your story, and knowing where to clean and pull out, and what to keep. Revising is seeing what you've written so far and molding it into something greater.

First drafts are never perfect, and yet we want to treat them as such. In my earliest projects I cradled the ideas I'd had from the first draft, not wanting to lose them, because they had to be the best options, didn't they?

Now I've discovered the freedom in deep revisions. You aren't constrained to the story you wrote before; you can keep as much or as little of it as you like. If it scares you to start chopping twenty thousand words and writing in a new plot line, save a copy of the draft and work in the new document. If you don't like what your new draft becomes, you can go back to the old one!

Stepping into a time of deep revisions can be terrifying, as are most new endeavours. My first few times, I was extremely stressed that I would be making the story worse and lose its heart.

But every time now I finish a deep revision, I grow even more excited for my story. I'm discovering new ways and avenues to tell it. I'm letting myself explore it deeply, not held back by fear of making hard choices, and seeing my story grow. That's what deep revisions are; they're opportunities for you to fall in love with your story in a hundred and one different ways.

There are parts of me that still want to cling to old elements of my stories, but I know that rewriting them allowed me to strengthen the story I wanted to tell. There's power in deep revisions, a power in letting go.

So go have another look at your WIP and dig deep. Cut, add, strengthen, chop off, and completely rewrite as much as it needs. Discover the core of your story beneath your draft, and let it shine.

Are you afraid of deep revisions, or do you embrace them? What's the largest change you've ever made to a WIP? How's your writing going at the moment?
Have a wonderful day! <3