We're on vacation this week! See you in 2018, and happy New Year!
We're taking a blogging break this week for the holidays. See you in 2018!
Merry Christmas! I'm going to be taking a blogging break this week to enjoy some holiday vacation, but I thought I'd share a favorite Christmas song of mine first. Happy Holidays, everyone! See you in 2018!
I'll be taking the next week off of blogging, to focus in on finishing and hopefully publishing the book I was planning to publish this year, "Stories of the Early Days." So, here's a look back at some favorite moments and "words of wisdom" from the past Wednesdays of 2017...
"People often say you should think about your evil character as though he/she is the protagonist in their own story. And yet, real evil often has no explanation." (Fictional evil vs real evil)
"It’s funny how when someone calls you sensitive, it’s meant to make you feel weak. But if someone has a “sensitive nose” it means they have a strong sense of smell. “Sensitive ears” means good hearing. Think about that next time someone calls you sensitive." (Daydreams of a hopeless lost girl)
"Follow your own heart. And while you're trying to let go of other people's expectations, make sure you're not pressuring another person the same way the world pressures you." (On Expectations)
"The difference between reality and fiction? Fiction has to make sense." --Tom Clancy
"We want to believe someone would only do a terrible thing if they had a real, concrete reason to. If evil is so difficult for writers to get right, what does that mean? Maybe it’s not an answer, but people seem to want to believe others are inherently good. That’s kind of hopeful, isn’t it?" (Fictional Evil vs Real Evil)
"Basically, I became a writer because I was a weird kid." (The Mansion's Twins Inspiration)
“Just keep doing what you’re doing! No one knows what they’re doing! You’re just like everybody else!” –Jenna Marbles
"Some people will find you inspiring even if you feel like a disaster." (Things no one tells you about being an author)
"Calm down ‘cause you’re not gonna die tomorrow and you’re doing the best you can." (Running out of Time)
“There's no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books.” ― James Patterson
"The way we talk about love is so weird. One on hand, we’re told it’s the most important thing in the world, it creates happiness, and once we find it, we should fight for it, because with it we’re unstoppable. On the other hand, 'Do you really want to give up (whatever) for just a guy/girl?'" (Daydreams)
"Even heroes have darkness inside them. And even villains have light and love." (What makes a good person?)
"All kids have to do is go to school. And, you know, figure out everything about who they are and their place in the world... The bright sides of childhood vs adulthood are kind of like traditional vs self publishing. When you're an adult you both have to and get to do everything by yourself, same as if you choose to self publish your book." (All we had to do)
I'm kind of ashamed to put this in here, but from Best and Worst quotes part 2, "Being up high all the time never made for an interesting ride, but neither does being low all the time. You need both to make a roller coaster." Yeah. I wrote that. Bleh.
Also, after too long a winter, I wrote this: "I felt Spring like a goddess who’s been in a deep sleep and finally decided to get out of bed. Or maybe she died, and left a little daughter behind who took this long to figure out what she was doing." (Ramblings of a sun-deprived lost girl)
Well, that's all for 2017! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and I'll see you in January!
It hasn’t been long since we’ve written a “Quick Tips Review” blog, but the year is coming to an end, so let’s take a quick look back at the past few weeks:
NaNoWriMo people: Celebrate, then finish your book for real. Think about what helped you stay motivated during NaNoWriMo, and figure out how to adapt those tactics now that November is over.
Show this post to any fool who thinks writing is easy. Also, you can use it to remind yourself what your really trying to do on days you’re too hard on yourself. Sharing in a matter of (reading) hours what you’ve spent (writing) years developing is no easy task!
Now, lets take a look further back, to some other favorite tips from 2017:
Writer's block is a myth
Write how you talk
For Love Stories:
Both rescue each other
Both are well-developed
Both have goals outside the relationship
If the relationship is creepy, make sure it’s presented as creepy, not romantic
Neither have to be stunningly beautiful, just see each other that way
Both know their limits in the relationship, and the sexual content is appropriate for the audience.
Don’t let your idea of the “strong female character” ruin your girl’s fun—I promise it won’t weaken her to let her blush a little.
For Character Building:
Contrast your characters against others in the story
Ask yourself how your character would do if placed into other stories/situations to find out more about what they’re made of.
Remember, even the best authors get negative feedback and one star reviews. When you're feeling discouraged, look up the reviews of your favorite book. I'm sure you'll find rough reviews. Books are art, and art is subjective.
Most importantly, remember that writing is a personal process. You might not find formulas or writing exercises helpful. Or, you might find them very helpful. Figure out what works for you. Your best atmosphere. Your personal pet peeves. Don't let anyone tell you your process is wrong, or their process is better, because every process is unique. Plenty of writing tips can seem contradictory due to how personal the process is.
So remember, there are only three universal rules to writing, and they're all you will ever need. Keep reading, keep writing, and keep doing both persistently!
Alright, last week we were sad about the twins' mother, let's take a moment for their father.
Spoilers ahead! Finish "The Mansion's Family" before reading more!
This week concludes the Christmas fairy tale "The Wishing Star." Read part one here and part two here!
Gina had packed up a good amount of food and water for Janet’s next journey, up the mountain to the witch’s house. She’d also provided her portal stone with water, and now, all it needed was some catalyst magic.
Janet went up the mountain feeling lonely but hopeful. Every now and then she’d stop to rest, to eat, and sometimes, even to practice with her sword. Animals occasionally crossed the path, or stared at her from beyond the trees, but never threatened or bothered her. Janet thought about what she might need to do if Gina hadn’t provided her with food, but the idea of killing one of those animals was nauseating. How could she kill a full grown human person? Even if she was evil, Janet didn’t think she had it in her.
While she didn’t feel like she was in any danger, these woods weren’t as pretty and welcoming as the enchanted forest near the fairies Water Circle. They were thicker and darker, and it grew colder the closer she got to the top. Not only that, but there were fewer and fewer animals about, and no song of birds. Janet knew instinctively that no wildlife was out to hurt her, the only danger she might face lay at the top of the mountain, at the house of the evil witch.
At last, it was in sight. A large log cabin with smoke coming out of it’s chimney, and strange plants growing all around. She scanned the house for entrances. The front door was probably locked. She might be able to crawl in through a window, but they all seemed too small. Then she heard a door swinging open and closed, and a cat ran outside. The back door was open! But where was the witch?
The day was growing darker, and she decided it might be best to wait for nightfall, and after the witch had gone to bed. She hoped witches did go to bed. What if they ran on magic only, and didn’t need to sleep? Well, then she would just have to be brave, like the heroes in her story.
She watched for the witch inside the house while waiting for darkness to fall completely. She didn’t see her, but there was no turning back. With the night as her cover, she quietly slipped inside through the back door.
The house was a mess. There were books and papers scattered everywhere, spells, Janet thought. There were also bottles of potions, most of them stacked on shelves or tables, but plenty on the floor as well, some of them broken. It would be awfully difficult not to make any noise here.
She kept her hand on the handle of her sword, hoping the threat of it would be enough to scare the witch away if she saw her. All she had to do was get to that fire…
“Who’s sneaking around in my home?”
Janet jumped at the voice behind her, drawing her sword. Before she could move any further, a force knocked her backward, into the opposite wall. The witch had a magic wand, and her sword was no match for it. She pulled herself up again. “I just need fire and I’ll leave, I promise!” she said, “I can trade for it, too, I wouldn’t steal!”
“But you would break in, and you would bring a weapon? No, no, no, no, no… You’re a magic thief if I ever saw one, girl!”
Janet ran at her, jumping out of the way of the next blast of magic from that awful wand. They both toppled to the floor, crashing into tables and shelves, crushing more bottles, releasing potions that made strange hissing sounds as they emptied. The witch tried to knock away her sword as Janet was trying to knock away her wand. Though she wrestled her with all her strength, Janet didn’t strike with her sword. Instead, she fought to keep her weapon away from the witch’s prying hands, while struggling to free the wand.
It didn’t take long for Janet to realize the witch was afraid of her sword, perhaps even afraid of her. There was something strange in her dark eyes, something Janet thought was only fear. Maybe the threat would be enough. She knocked the witch hard to the floor, and pointed her sword at her hand, motioning like she was going to cut it off unless she released the wand. To her surprise, the witch did so. She dropped the wand and lay motionless, completely at Janet’s mercy.
Unless it was a trick. Janet didn’t dare turn her back, even though she only wished to light the portal stone in the witch’s magic fire and get home. She was sure she could do all of that quickly, but this old witch might be playing with her, pretending to be helpless. She pointed her sword at the woman’s chest, ready to strike.
“They told you to kill the evil witch, didn’t they? Go on then. Do it.”
Janet’s hands were sweating. Her whole body was shaking. “I just want your magic fire. Then I’ll be gone, poof, I swear. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
“You want more than that, girl. What did you wish for?”
“What? How did you—?”
“You wanna be a hero, Janet? Kill me.”
Janet was speechless. Not only did she know her wish, she knew her name. “I’m not falling for your tricks,” she whispered. Something in those eyes was trying to speak to her, she just didn’t understand.
Is this what heroes are all about? She didn’t feel heroic at all, pointing that sword at that old woman. And that’s all she looked like right then, a poor, crazy old woman. Janet could barely move. She couldn’t kill her, couldn’t even hurt her, and especially not on Christmas.
Janet’s heart was beating so hard she felt something banging on her chest with every beat.
“What are you waiting for, girl? Go ahead. Be a hero.”
Those eyes… Could it be? Gina’s voice echoed in her mind. “Remember her face.” Something hitting against her chest… The vile! The fairy dust! “Stay where you are!” Janet said, “I’ll show you what heroes do!”
“So be it,” the witch muttered, and closed her eyes. Janet grasped the tiny bottle of fairy dust, and popped the cork over her.
A cloud of glittering dust enveloped the old woman, and she shrank before Janet’s eyes. When she sat up, her face was different. Younger. Still a grown-up, and maybe still a witch, but… No, just a confused, harmless woman.
“What’s happening?” she whispered, looking around as the dust slowly cleared.
Janet knelt down beside her. “Sierra?”
“How do you know my name?”
Janet pulled out the picture Gina had given her. “This is you, isn’t it?”
Sierra’s eyes filled with tears. “Yes, it… it was.”
“I… I came here the same way you did,” Janet said. “I think… I think you were cursed.”
“Cursed,” she whispered, standing up slowly. “What’s your name, girl? How did you get here?”
“I’m Janet. I made a wish on this,” Janet said, presenting the wishing star.
“I’ve seen this before!” she cried. “I thought I lost it, but it must have been sent to you!”
“You’re from my world?”
“Yes! I came here as a little girl! The fairies said they’d try to make me a portal stone, but I waited for years without seeing any progress. I was desperate, so I… I started gathering magic on my own. All the magic I could get my hands on… I didn’t realize it was so dangerous. I didn’t know how to use it. It was all too much, put together in so many different ways… I didn’t know. It’s been so many years…”
“It’s okay!” Janet said. “They finished the portal stone for me! Well, it’s almost finished, all we need is some of that fire to complete it, and we can both go home!”
She shook her head sadly. “I’m afraid a portal stone will only work for one person. You should go. It’s too late for me anyway, any life I had in your world is over. At least now, I’m free from all this mixed up magic.”
“But the portal stone will return you to the time you left, and you won’t have aged! I think… I think you should take it.” Janet let the words fall out of her mouth without thought, just feeling. She missed her home so terribly. Her parents, the stories… She so badly longed for a cozy Christmas morning, waking up to a house smelling like pancakes and bacon, and digging through a full stoking of gifts… But they always said Christmas was about more than gifts, and this was a chance to give Sierra something she couldn’t get in a box.
“Please, take it,” Janet said.
Tears were streaming down Sierra’s face. She reached for the stone with a trembling hand. “Are you sure?”
“Completely. Go home.”
Sierra embraced her. “T-thank you, child… Oh, thank you…”
Janet just nodded as Sierra pulled away, lit the fire, and watched the stone begin to glow.
A window opened in the wall, and Janet saw a room not unlike her own. A little girl’s bedroom. She watched Sierra the woman, formerly the evil witch, step inside. Years melted away from her body until she was Janet’s age. She watched her face light up like Christmas as two figures entered the room to greet her, and she ran into their arms. The window slowly closed, leaving the image of the child Sierra, reunited with her family at last, burned into Janet’s memory.
Then she was gone, and so was the portal stone. Janet sat down in the wrecked room, held her wishing star, and started to cry. “I did what heroes do, I think,” she said. “I just wish I could go home now…”
Her tears fell on the tiny wooden star. How did something so small and ordinary teleport her here, and why wouldn’t it work again? And why was it suddenly… glowing?
“I wish I could go home!” she said again, picturing her bedroom, her parents, Christmas morning… Light enveloped her, and when she opened her eyes…
She was in her room. The smell of pancakes wafted in, and she heard her mother’s voice from the kitchen. “Yes!” she shouted, and ran from the room. “Mom! Mom!”
She ran into her mother’s arms, and squeezed her hard.
“Oh! Well, merry Christmas, baby!” her mother laughed. “I’m used to you running straight to your presents! I must be on the extra-nice list this year.”
“I—I’m just… I love you, Mom,” Janet said. “Merry Christmas.”
The best guideline I can give you for how long you should make your book is simply to tell the full story. Start at the beginning, and write until your finished. Basically, don’t worry about how many or how few pages the finished product will be, instead, worry about having a complete story within those pages.
A quick search gives some guidelines for how long certain types of books generally are:
Novels: 40,000+ words.
Novella: 30,000 to 60,000 words. Short but complete book, longer than a short story but shorter than a novel.
Short stories: Shorter than 30,000, but often times, the shorter the better. I began “The Wishing Star” because of a short story contest, however, the contest only accepted works of 1000 words or less. Personally, I don’t have the skills yet to form a complete and award-worthy story in so few words, so “The Wishing Star” is for this blog only.
Flash Fiction: Some would say that contest wasn’t really for “short stories” but for flash fiction, which is around 53 to 1000 words.
Once your story is complete, you’ll know better where you fall and where you want to fall on this list. Novels, Novellas, Short Stories and Flash Fiction all have their place, and all sell in different places. You’ll want to figure out where you want to sell your work.
Also, take your genre and audience into account. Young adult, middle grade, and children’s books should generally be shorter. Science fiction and fantasy genres can run longer, because there’s usually more world building and depth to add.
Longer books can put people off. My best advice is to write your story in it’s entirety, then go back and see what can be cut.
Unless you already have a good idea of your genre and your goal length, put those worries aside for the moment and tell your story first. Finish the story and see where it best fits, then cut it down and edit it to match as best you can.
Remember, most readers are just looking for a good story and quality writing than worrying about the length.
Another song for Cassandra Senka. Actually, this is her perfect song. I wanted something beautiful, devastating, and acapella, and this group delivers perfectly.
Spoilers ahead! Finish "The Mansion's Family" before reading more!
A short Christmas fairy tale--read part one here!
Janet traveled on with the guidance of the fairies, out of the forest, over a hill, and down a path into the human village. A lake glittered nearby. Huts and gardens lay in neat rows, and people milled about, working and chatting. Heads turned toward her as she entered the village, with questioning looks, and several people turned to whisper. Janet heard Sierra’s name mentioned more than once.
A woman gestured to her to come over. Janet went to her, hoping for guidance in the next step of her journey.
“Welcome, child,” the woman said. “I’m Gina. Did you happen to come here in any unusual way?”
“Oh yes,” Janet said. “Did the fairies tell you?”
“No, but you’re not the only lost little girl I’ve come across. Please, come in. I have something important to show you.”
Janet followed, wondering what else she could do. She didn’t feel any sense of danger, just her mother’s voice nagging at the back of her mind not to talk to strangers. But perhaps real-world rules didn’t apply in a fairyland where she knew no one. Asking for help was her only way to get back home, and this might all just be a dream anyway.
“Back here,” Gina said, leading Janet to a child’s bedroom. “This was Sierra’s room.”
Janet was speechless. This woman had sheltered Sierra?
“Now, if you’ve encountered the fairies, I’m sure they’ve told you about her. She was a sweet little girl who only wanted to get back home to her family. We tried to help her find the right magic for her portal stone, but the witch got to her before we came close. Ever since then… Well, I’ve only wished I could have saved her somehow, but there’s no going back in time. I suppose the next best thing would be to help the next lost little girl to get back home. Have the fairies made a new stone?”
“Yes,” Janet said, presenting it. “They said it needs water from the human village. Can I just go get some from the lake?”
Gina stared at her for a long moment, and back into Sierra’s old room. “Sierra stayed with us for some time before the witch stole her away. Probably used her for some terrible magic until she had nothing more to give. You can have water for your portal stone, girl, but you have to promise something in return.”
She went into Sierra’s room and rummaged under the bed. When she emerged again, she presented a small—but very real—sword. “Slay the evil witch. Avenge Sierra, for all of us.”
Janet stared at the blade. It was her size, yet the thought of holding it was paralyzing, let alone slaying anyone. “But… But I’m just a little girl! I don’t know how to use a sword!”
“The fairies gave you their blessing. You can do this.” She placed the handle into Janet’s small hand. Janet gasped, staring wide-eyed at the blade. It was light, and felt easy enough to use, like it was made for her.
“My names Ja—”
“Don’t tell me. Please. I can’t know another child like I knew and loved Sierra only to lose her. I want to believe you’ll succeed, but I also know how dangerous it is. So I’m not letting you any further without some way to defend yourself. I’ll get your water and provisions for the rest of your journey. If you don’t want to kill the evil witch, and if you can get what you need without killing her, that’s your choice in the end. But take this, too.” She carefully removed a photo from it’s frame, and handed it to Janet.
A girl of about her same age stared back at her. She had dark curls, bright brown eyes, and she was smiling big for the camera. “Is this her?”
“Yes. Remember her face.”
To be continued next Wednesday!