Tag Archives: books

Seven Books that Shaped Who I Am

Hello everyone!

The other day I had a conversation with sci-fi and fantasy author Olivia Berrier about the seven books that have had the greatest impact on us.  I was able to come up with two lists of seven books: seven that shaped who I am as a writer and seven that influenced who I am as a person.

Your challenge is to come up with a list of the seven books that have had the greatest impact on you.  Think about how and why they influenced you.  Then, send each author a short message letting them know what their book meant to you.  You will make their day!

To help you get started, I have included my list of the seven books that helped shape who I am as a writer.  (I cheated a little – If the series as a whole influenced me rather than a specific book from the series, I listed the title of the series.)

Cover of The Lion, the Witch, and the WaredrobeThe Lion, the Witch, and the Waredrobe by C.S. Lewis – This was the first story I ever fangirled over.  It established my love for allegories and fantasy worlds.

Cover of Flight of the EaglesThe Seven Sleepers Series by Gilbert Morris – It built upon the foundation Narnia had laid.  My love of allegories and fantasy worlds was solidified.

Box Set of The Inheritance CycleThe Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini – The Inheritance Cycle showed me how to explore different belief systems in a fictional setting and introduced me to the idea that magic can have rules.  From a technical standpoint, I learned a trick for minimizing use of the auxiliary verb “had” when relating something that had happened before the story began.  (This only applies to books that are narrated in the past tense.)

Cover of The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – This book was my introduction to first-person narration.  It is my favorite go-to example for how to set your reader firmly in a world without having an info dump and for what information to include in the first chapter of a novel.

Cover of Bridge to TerabithiaBridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson – This book showed me that children’s books can cover difficult, real-life situations which young people sadly face but society often considers too mature to discuss with children.

Welcome to Camden Falls coverMain Street Series by Ann M. Martin – This series showed me how to grow characters over the course of several books.  It also demonstrated how to write about real-life, too-mature-to-discuss-with-children situations in a tasteful way.

Complete A to Z Mysteries book seriesA to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy – This series showed me how to structure a chapter book mystery series.

Happy writing!

Katie

Advertisements

Finding the Beats

Hello everyone!

Last year, I decided that I wanted to write a chapter book mystery series.  The problem was I didn’t know how chapter book mysteries were structured.

Magnifying GlassBefore I started writing, I read over 20 books from different mystery series.  Every time I read another book, I paid special attention to how it was similar to other books within the same series, and I also compared it to trends I had found in other mystery chapter book series.  It was a time-consuming process, but it paid off when it came to outlining the first book in my mystery series and editing the rough draft into a polished version.

Below is an exercise I did that I recommend to anyone who wants to get a better grasp on the established beats for books in a specific genre.

  1. Read a book in the genre you want to write.  (I think this exercise works best when done with a book that you have not read before.)
  2. Read chapter one.
    • Write down what you know about the protagonist.
    • Write down what you know about the antagonist.  (The antagonist might not be a person.  It could be an organization, a weather phenomenon, etc.)
    • Write down the information which you think will be important in the rest of the book.
    • Write down the names of characters who were introduced in this chapter and their relationship to the protagonist.
    • Write down what you think the main conflict will be for the book.
    • Write down any major events that occurred in this chapter.
  3. Read chapter two.
    • Write down the same information that you did for chapter one.
    • Write down any additional plot information.
    • Be sure to note if the protagonist attempted something in this chapter along with whether he/she succeeded or failed.
  4. Six Pages of NotesContinue doing this for each chapter. (If you hand write your notes, I recommend having a separate piece of paper for each chapter.)
  5. Once you’ve finished the book, go back and find the beats.
    • In which chapter was the conflict introduced?
    • In which chapter did the climax take place?
    • At what point(s) in the book did the protagonist fail or hit a setback?
  6. Now, read a second book in your writing genre and repeat the exercise you did with the first book.  (Subsequent books can be ones you have read before or books that are new to you.)
  7. Compare the two book outlines.  Which beats were the same and which ones were different?  (If you repeat this process with a third book, you will start to see the pattern for the genre emerge.)
  8. Use this pattern to guide your outline for your own book in this genre.  (I recommend reading no less than five books, 10-20 is better, in the genre you want to write before you start writing your own book.)

Happy writing!

Katie

Developing Believable Protagonists

Hello everyone!

For me, the protagonist is what makes or breaks a story.  If I don’t like or relate to the main character, I won’t get on board with the plot.  I have stopped reading books when this happened.

The two crucial things to do are to make your protagonist relatable and to have him/her grow throughout the story.  Relatable characters are believable.

The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait ThesaurusTwo resources I like for developing believable characters are The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus, both written by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.  The lists for each trait really help with developing realistic, multifaceted characters.

As a way of ensuring that my protagonist’s thought processes, voice, and reactions feel real, I often endow my main character with part of my personality.  For a more in-depth discussion about this method, which some authors view as problematic, read “Who me? Not I!” by Gail Carson Levine.  She includes suggestions for writing characters that are nothing like you and some writing prompts designed to help you avoid accidentally writing yourself into your protagonist.  My advice is if you choose to write yourself into your main character, make it an intentional choice.

Below are three things that I consider vital when creating a believable protagonist:

  1. Know what’s motivating your protagonist and let that guide his/her actions and responses (“The Wonder of ‘Why?’: Getting to the Heart of the Matter”).
  2. Make sure your protagonist is not perfect (“Character Flaws”).
  3. Show how your protagonist feels through facial expressions and body language (“Writing Books with Emotional Savvy”).

Happy writing!

Katie

How to Grow from Past Mistakes

Hello everyone!

So, I have been reviewing my writing goals for 2018.  At the beginning of the year, my plan was to take my novel The Four Crystals from a rough draft to a polished draft by the end of the year.  I had a plan to accomplish the daunting task (breaking the editing process into weekly segments and tracking my progress); however, I made a few mistakes.

The first one was thinking I could take a rough draft to a polished draft in one edit.  It took longer to edit the first fourth of the novel than I had been anticipating.  Then, I realized that due to all the changes I had made to the first fourth of the book and all of the plot changes I was planning on making to the remaining three-fourths, it would be quicker to re-write the remainder of the book than it would be to edit it.

Fairy Tales 3My second mistake, which I technically made years ago when I started writing The Four Crystals, was not reading a variety of fantasy books before I started writing one.  Up until this year, I didn’t understand that there is a difference between fantasy and fairy tales.  After all, they both have magic, fairies, elves, dwarves, and quests.  Some of my writer friends kindly alerted me to the fact that The Four Crystals, which I wrote to be a fantasy novel, read more like a fairy tale – probably because I have read so many fairy tales and fairy tale spinoffs.  Once I learned that there was a difference, I started reading fantasy novels to get a feel for what beats I would need in my novel.  I also needed to figure out which fantasy clichés I had accidentally put in my novel.  (The wise old mage working with the know-nothing teenage boy might have been one of them.)

Mistake 11.jpgThings I have learned from this year’s mistakes:

  1. Read a minimum of five books in the genre you want to write before you start writing (ten is more advisable).
  2. Do multiple edits and focus on one thing per edit (e.g. characters, plot, dialogue, etc.).
  3. Set a goal, but if everything falls apart, DON’T GIVE UP! Learn from your mistakes, regroup, and try again.  (The failure rate for people who give up is 100%.  I will not be one of them.)

My goals for 2019 are to complete a new draft of The Four Crystals and to write at least the first book in the mystery chapter book series I started brainstorming and researching during the second half of 2018.  (Don’t worry, I already read over 20 mystery chapter books to make sure I understood the genre.)

Happy writing and happy New Year!

Katie

P.S.

I would like to shout out a special thank you to the two people who most supported and encouraged me after I discovered that I needed to do a major re-write to The Four Crystals: my brother and creative consultant, Gregory, and my friend and author, Olivia Berrier.  I don’t know what I’d do without the two of you!

Self-Publishing: Hiring Contractors Beyond a Copy Editor

Hello everyone!

As promised, here is my interview with sci-fi and fantasy author Olivia Berrier.  In the interview, Berrier talks about her experience with the self-publishing process and what types of contractors a self-publishing author can hire.

If you read my last post, you know that I had quite a learning curve with this project.  Below are the top three things I learned about making a YouTube video:

  1. Always shoot your video in horizontal.  Never film in vertical.
  2. Use a microphone or have a sound recording device close to your mouth.
  3. Double or triple the time estimate you allot to the editing process.

Happy writing!

Katie

Tension is Good for the Reader

Hello everyone!

Ever have a scene that just didn’t hold your readers’ attention?  How about an info dump you couldn’t eliminate because it contained vital information?

Janice Hardy offers some good tips for correcting both of these issues in her articles “Ready, Set…Where’s the Action? Keeping Informative Scenes Tense” and “Is a Lack of Action Really the Problem?”

When it comes to adding tension to a story, I personally am a fan of:

  • Argument 9two characters with conflicting opinions going head-to-head
  • no-win situations
  • point of no return decisions (especially when the protagonist has to choose whether or not to rely on someone who may or may not be trustworthy)

I hope Janice Hardy’s articles give you some good ideas for how to raise the tension in your scenes and keep your readers hooked.

Happy writing!

Katie

Is It Worth the Cost?

Hello everyone!

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.  […]  Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.”
― Veronica Roth, Allegiant

thM7R5DEQIThink about your favorite book.  What does the protagonist want?  In the end, does he/she get it?  That question and answer give you the basic plot.

Now, here’s a deeper question: What does trying to achieve his/her goal cost the protagonist?  The answer to that question is what makes the story and/or character interesting.  In my opinion, the cost is essential to the protagonist’s growth.

untitledConsider The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Edmond wants to be a king, but by siding with the White Witch, he sacrifices his freedom, his family’s trust, and – without Aslan’s intervention – his life.

Now let’s think about The Hunger Games.  Katniss is willing to do anything to protect her sister.  When Katniss takes Prim’s place in the games, she sacrifices her own safety to achieve her goal.  Once Katniss is in the games, her goal becomes to survive.  Surviving the games costs her what little childhood innocence she has left, friendships, and her peace of mind.

By the end of the books, both Edmond and Katniss are changed.  Regardless of whether or not they succeeded, they have to live with the consequences of what they did.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to:

  1. Choose a protagonist you have already created.
  2. Ask yourself what your character wants.
  3. Decide what he/she loses or willingly sacrifices while attempting to achieve his/her goal.
  4. Write the scene where your protagonist either chooses to pay the price or realizes what he/she will lose even if he/she is not willing to lose it.
  5. Does he/she feel like the cost was worth it?  (I do not think this necessarily needs to be included in a book, but I as the author like to know.)

In “The Four Crystals,” the novel I’m currently editing, having each character risk, lose, or willingly sacrifice something of value has raised the stakes and made the characters’ motivation stronger.  It’s also required a lot more editing than I ever imagined having to put into the novel.  (In-depth editing is the cost of writing a novel worthy of publication.)

Happy writing!

Katie