8 Tips and Advise for New Writers and Creators!
Make no mistake my friends, writing a book and publishing it for the first time is a long and emotional journey that will challenge and push the limits of your self-esteem and health. I am writing several posts to help upcoming creators to be more emotionally prepared and less stressed by giving you tips to deal with criticism and challenges, as well as what I wish I had known before I started.
1) You have a story, and think it's worth sharing!
Awesome! You may be sitting on something that is going to take off, and you will never know until you step out onto that narrow ledge of uncertainty and fear. However, be aware that just because you like your own story does not mean that others will. We all have tastes and ideals. Things we like that others do not. Once you have a rough story worked out, share it with a few people and ask them to be gently honest. Before you draw your comic, make your game, or publish, make sure your story is something a few other people will enjoy. Also, make a story that has something important for people to learn and grow from it. Try to connect with people emotionally.
Realize as well that all new authors start out slow unless they got lucky and found a lot of strong connections early. Take the time between writing and publishing your first book to writing the next on building an audience. Not by being pushy or tossing ads in their faces constantly, but by creating an interactive atmosphere that entertains and keeps people returning to see what you are up to now. Building a strong following will increase your chances of being discovered later.
2) Write Realistic Characters!
I was told recently by a reader of an early edition that all my characters have wonderful realistic personalities! This is what you want to achieve! Your characters need to be so much more than just tools to tell a story. You want your audience to feel like they are there in the world with them. To achieve this, you must learn to feel their emotions for them, to know them well and intimately, as well as let them be themselves. In a manner of speaking, let them possess you and live the story, feel the sensations of the environment, the animals that might be there, the smells in the air, and be in their minds for each moment. Then they will not just be lifeless dolls but the living breathing entities that they are. One way I achieved this was by trying to live out the story as one of the characters at a time until I live through each scene as all present.
Let your characters have flaws that they can improve on as they progress, or have them develop more flaws as they go and decline. In my book, I have various degrees of both. The characters are not done at the end of the book either! There are more books for them to emotionally change and develop through. For each book, though, have something about them change as it goes.
3) Do not mother or protect
Let your characters get hurt. Let them make mistakes. Too much and you can overdo it, but let them be hurt emotionally and physically in the story. Do not protect them, they will be just fine. Believe it or not but this happens automatically when we too are used to shielding ourselves from emotional hurt.
This book started in 1996, and since then the first few drafts of The Silver Dolphins Saga were weak. It had a great plot that my sister and I knew could touch the world but it needed a lot of reworking to make it something more than an everything goes right, no one gets hurt, and everyone is perfect, kind of story where they barely used the magic they had.
Why did it lack all that power in 1996 that it has now?
Back then TSDS was my escape from reality. I believe a lot of authors start this way. Our stories were our safe places, and that is why we do not like when someone is critical of it. Through this means, we end up leaving the negative emotions that have traumatized us in life out of our safe place, so we do not have to face them. This method of mothering and protecting can cause your golden tale to fail. As Prince Justin Arisdale says: “One must feel fear without allowing fear to control them.”
It's good to note as well that as we live, our self-experiences change as well and give us more to use in our writing. Reflect on what life is teaching you and use it!
4) Develop the World!
Not sure about every detail of your world? Start asking your characters to tell you about their world. As odd as that might sound, many authors will tell you that characters come to life vibrantly as you work on them. So, let them speak! Give it time if they are not answering you just yet, but trust me, when I am not sure about something I stop and ask Justin first. Rather than let my mind fill something in. Works every time. A deep lore based world with necessities, finances, problems, diseases, religion, beliefs, laws, etc. can make your story immersive and enjoyable! Take the time to flesh it all out!
Roleplay your world or characters with others. Trust me on this one! I found a lot of things I overlooked by having someone else’s character ask my characters about things in their world. What a blessing!
5) Try to write something never seen!
This is hard, especially since self-publishing floods the market with many titles you may never read. Though take a close look at TSDS. There are so many aspects that make it stand out from the crowd.
A) Unique magic system: A new spin on classic magic systems.
B) Unique god system
C) Unique races and struggles: Elder races (beast races) over power humans and used them as slaves. Which rarely happens in mainstream writing.
D) Unique plot and twists
E) Unique World Structure
F) Unique life lessons to learn: Emotional struggles such as fear, worries, anger, joy, love, sorrow. The consequences of negative, positive, and repressed emotions.
Unique, unique, unique, that is the primary answer to a strong story. The more, the better! If you’re writing a story about wizards, there is only so many ways to make it different from another wizard story. They almost always use magic with wands or staves and words spoken from books, they often always have pointy hats and beards. In fact, wizards are so cliche now that you cannot ever register for a trademark on a character that is one if it has all these features. Its power is gone from being overused in the public domain. So are werewolves and vampires and so on. Try to avoid them or make it a brand new experience with power.
6) Create a plot outline and the world back story
Simple enough, beginning, middle, and end. What is the plot, how does it start, what is the climax, and how will it be resolved?
Fill in the between chapters to get the character to their goal in an entertaining way. Here is where you add the parts to build the characters, the world, and the backstory of the world to be an immersive experience as your characters chase the plot!
Also, experiment with plot twists! They are fun and keep your readers on the edge of their seat. If you're careful, you can wow them, and they won’t see it coming. TSDS has a lot of plot twists like this that had not been predicted by beta readers, but were well foreshadowed. That is the effect you want to achieve.
Mind your story pacing. If you cannot avoid having a lot of world lore building section between big action, make them have some wow factor or something of personal value to be taken from it. Assume readers are taking in one chapter a day, and ensure that chapter leaves them walking away with something to think about through the day.
Generally, you want to have a small window of down time and let the action ramp back up with drama and/or action then simmer down, then pick back up, rinse repeat. One book I gave up on spent half the book setting up one character’s life and their current position with little to no drama or action in between that was engaging. It was a ten book series, but honestly, the entirety of book one was set up, and I never saw the turning point or plot by the time the climax should have come. Set that one down and walked away.
Too much detail and complexity can hurt more than help. Be mindful. I was listening to an audible book that tried to make the complex money system it had entertaining by showing the interaction with it. It had the opposite effect on me and turned me away since I struggle with math. I was frustrated with trying to learn, remember, and understand what I was listening too. This broke my immersion, and I stopped reading it.
7) Beware of logic/plot holes. I will go into more detail on this conundrum in writing once TSDS is safely out of the spoiler waters. Though we all face this. A powerful scene of great action and drama, you believe you got your evil scheme all worked out well then ask your characters, let’s see if you can get out of this one! If they reply with, “well, you forgot that I have this ability and can use it to get out of this situation,” you failed.
Yes, this happened. I slapped my head hard and realized I had a big problem threatening one of my most powerful moments in the book. Fortunately, due to my unique magic system lore that I had established, I found the answer and the plot hole was well filled. The scene was saved! Later in the book, it is revealed to the character why they were stuck, and the scene is further cemented as valid and logical.
There is nothing more destructive to you as a writer than not taking the time to look at each scene from many angles and outside of your own thinking. If a reader sees the glaring logic hole for what it is, bad reviews will follow, and they may not finish reading the book. Therefore, beta readers are so valuable!
8) How to deal with criticism
Once you have everything written, it’s time to test the waters! Beta readers step forward!
We can become blinded by our love for our creation that we often cannot see its flaws and take criticism hard. This can cause us to emotionally lash outwards at others with anger. Just breathe and take a step back, no one is perfect, and we can all make mistakes and its ok. As a first-time writer, it helps to accept that now and save yourself some emotional distress later. A mistake does not mean we are bad, or stupid, or worthless, it’s how we learn and grow! It's ok not to be perfect, and I encourage you all not to be.
Just do your best!
I was told that the best writers are the ones that just write. They are not experts on grammar or structure, and so on. That is why you get help from feedback. Just write to write with passion, to share something beautiful with a few people, not with the focus on being famous or wealthy. Get the story fleshed out and let beta readers and your editor show you where you can improve.
Do not react
There are a lot of very critical people out there as well as trolls. Learn to recognize who is helpful and well-meaning and who is just trying to start something negative because they find it fun. Ignore the negative.
Take an emotional step back when you receive criticism. Deep breath in, deep breath out, settle, and calm. Just because someone disagrees with what you wrote does not mean they are right. Though do consider their point and question if what they suggested or said could, in fact, make the story work better or not. I had some of this very sort of criticism in the beta, and I did not respond well. After I stepped away from it for a time, I finally saw the glaring problems for what they were and painfully rewrote the first four chapters over. The rewrite was 100% better and very powerful! In the end, I was glad to be pushed like that despite how upsetting it was at first. Expect to get this kind of feedback from beta readers and editors. It will happen since no one is perfect.
Next time we will cover some facts on how to self-publish and what is involved. Make no mistake it’s a lot of time, money, emotions, and effort, but it feels good to have some fans that enjoyed your work.
Please post questions or feedback on anything you would like to know more about. Thank you!