How Reading a Horrible Book Encouraged Me To Write

Indie authors will often do something called a review exchange. It means you both exchange your manuscripts and review them for each other. A lot of times this turns into a great experience that ends with a new writer friend. Other times though, it can be disastrous. The latest exchange I joined has been more of the latter, but that’s ok. Why though? I’ve gotten a two star review on a book that otherwise has great reviews. Also, I’ve had to read through a horrible book. I don’t mean that the content was poor, but that the writing was less than mediocre. I kept making myself read further, and everything in me that loves reading and writing revolted. No, stop reading this. You’re wasting part of your favorite reading month of the year on this book. Read something—anything else—because life is too short.

Photo by Markus Clemens on Unsplash

The Worst Part

You know what offended me the most? Is that the book could have been good. It was about an interesting topic. The story had some problems, but they also could have been fixed with just a bit more effort. The whole thing was what my reading and writing friends call ‘lazy writing’… it’s the sort of thing that happens when the writer doesn’t put any effort into their writing. Using the same word three times in one sentence because you couldn’t be bothered to use a thesaurus? Lazy. Jumping from present to past tense as if there isn’t a difference because using the correct tense sucks brain power? Lazy. Using a cliche every other paragraph? Lazy! Writing is an art. It takes a lot of effort and constant education to increase one’s skill. It isn’t easy. If you want to do something easy, don’t write. As my favorite writing quote says

“Easy reading is terribly hard writing.” -Richard Brinsley Sheridan

No thanks, I’m ok being rubbish at my job.

But don’t be discouraged. I am also a stubborn believer that anyone that wants to can learn to be a writer. Because of that, I emailed the author and asked if she would like me walk her through why I would give her book one star if I did review it. Her response: “I would appreciate if you didn’t review it.” No, “Sure, I would love to hear your constructive criticism!” It makes me sad.

A few years ago I would have made a list of examples of why her writing was so difficult to get through (including the use of cliches, many grammatical errors, and lack of creativity when choosing words)… but now I ask first because usually I received a reply like, “Thanks for your email, but my readers don’t seem to mind the things you pointed out, so I’m just going to keep writing like I write now.” Why would you be ok being bad at something you supposedly love? I don’t get it. Sure, it takes time to learn how to be a better writer, but isn’t the time investment worth it? Because money. These authors don’t care if their books are good or not because their books still sell, and contribute to the idea that self-published books can’t be held to the same standards of other books… forget literature.

Photo by Jonas Svidras on Unsplash

Over the summer a writerly friend read two of my books. The first one I ever wrote, and the most recent (book number five). She said, “You can definitely see a difference in the quality of writing between the two.” THAT! That is what I want. Thank you, friend. That was the best compliment to me you could have paid.

After reading that horrible book I’m encouraged. Now I know what I don’t want to do, and I realize more than ever how much I care about the written word. I want to get better and write amazing books. Maybe I won’t be able to convince anyone they should read my books anytime soon. But either I’m going to do it right, or I won’t do it at all. Let me close with this quote:

“What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.” -Samuel Johnson

Happy reading,

Kristin

A Note To The Weary NaNo Participant

I remember before I went through the organized insanity that was my first National Novel Writing Month (now you know why we abbreviate) I thought I wouldn’t finish all 50,000 words. In retrospect I realize how stupid that was because I’m very goal oriented, and I would have rather died than not finished. I have a very supportive husband that made sure when I needed to write, “Just 2,000 more words today…” that my children didn’t starve or my undone laundry pile reach Matterhorn like heights.

Don’t Quit Before You Start

If you’re expecting a pep talk along the lines of, “I have three kids, a full time job, and I still did it. What’s your excuse?” you are obviously new to my blog. Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here. Also, I’m not mean like that. What I will say is that you shouldn’t be afraid to start because you think you won’t finish. So, so many people ‘lose’ NaNoWriMo every year. But you know what? They have more words than when they started. That’s the whole point, to add more words to the words you already have. Maybe you have zero. Even one sentence should be considered a victory.

Go-on Girl. Do Your Thing. (Or Boy)

I mean, we all know that the first few pages are the hardest to write. “But I have to fit the very soul of my work into the first few lines or the reader will get bored and return my book!” I’m not opposed to a stunning opening line, ok? But give we readers some credit. Tell me a story from your heart. Find a good editor so that I don’t get lost in a swamp of mistakes (post-NaNo), avoid having the protagonist say the same three things over and again as inner dialogue (a current peeve of mine), and I promise I will make it all the way through your book.

You can do this!

Whether this is the first time you’ve ever written something or you are a weathered, tenured author challenging yourself to do something for the first time, welcome. Insanity will ensue. Yes. But the crazy people are all in this with you. Let’s make more words, worlds, and characters that will get stuck in someone else’s brain forever. Shall we?

Whether you are a planner, pantser, plantser, or don’t know what any of those are, what plan do you have to help you beat discouragement into a bloody stump this November? Comment below. If you don’t have a plan, may I invite you to participate in my #nanopropel2017 challenge? Check it out. It’s easy and helpful. I promise.

Without further ado… let the battle for your right to write begin!

Almost naively optimistic,

Kristin

#nanopropel2017 – A Personal Mission to Inspire

I’m annoying.

Anyone that has participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) knows that moments of discouragement will come. It’s like an evil troll magically appears on your shoulder whispering, “Wow… that’s what you wrote… ok. It’s your literary career’s funeral. Excuse me while I go barf up a rainbow on your kitchen floor.” You never know when that annoying troll is going to show. For some it’s during the first week. For others, it emerges the last day chanting, “Lo-ser, lo-ser!” Some NaNos the little annoyance surfaces every single day. But this year I have a plan.

I’m not personally that inspirational as a writer. My books haven’t been selling very well and I’m still only three years into my career. So… I’m turning to the big guns, the experts in our field for inspiration this NaNoWriMo. I have selected inspirational NaNo-spirited quotes from “The Little Black Book of Writers’ Wisdom,” from the big guns. Joseph Conrad (I have such a crush on his style), Ralph Waldo Emerson, E. B. White… etc. So check out the hashtag on Instagram for this NaNo-themed Insta-challenge. In addition to all your wonderful posts, I’ll keep the quotes coming daily.

My history with Insta-challenges is sketchy. I’ve never finished one. So this challenge isn’t your typical “Post this thing every day” type of challenge. You can post these items in whatever order you want, and there are only 10 challenges for the whole month! See… I’m setting both of us up for victory. I hope you join the #nanopropel2107 challenge. If it doesn’t propel you to victory, at least it will propel your Instagram account to a new level of awesomeness.

I hope I didn’t spend all my saved up NaNo juices on writing this post. Oh well, that’s what the inspiration quotes are for, right?

Yours lovingly,

Kristin the Troll Slayer

Worldbuilding and Anticipation – NaNoWriMo 2017

We are T-Minus 12 days from the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2017 and this year my NaNo prep has been super intense. Why? I am a making a multiverse!

That’s right, my very own space themed wonderland complete with different beings, cultures, religion-run time travel, and unrequited love (I consider myself an expert on the latter). At first the task seemed daunting. “I’ll just work on it a little each day,” was my mantra as I attempted not to feel overwhelmed about being responsible for creating different solar systems, universes, and complex characters who needed both physiology and personality. I can confidently say I am finished with the backbone of the story. The 3D characters are mapped out. I still need to create a stunning cast of 2D characters to make my 3D beings shine even brighter… (or not shine… even darker? This parenthetical statement turned confusing) but I will not fret a thing. A steady viewing diet of Star Trek, Star Wars, The Orville (an amazing Sci-Fi in its own right… you MUST watch it) and a year of reading old and new Sci-Fi/Fantasy has me anticipating all the aliens I can create.

Worldbuilding What Exactly?

So… what exactly is the Space Fantasy baby I’m birthing into the world this November? It’s called ‘The Introvert Time Traveler’ and follows the life of Ezeit Traginus, an amphibious humanoid from the planet Krigrag in the Septum Majoris system who is chosen to be this century’s Traveler by the panfamous Tigd. (Did you notice the made up word? Yeah, that’s going to happen a lot in this book)

The problem is, Ez, as his friends (wait, does he have any?) call him is super introverted and also insecure. When his selfish ambition causes two unsteady worlds to go to war, again, he must discover a way to fix what he has done… without manipulating the rules of the Aanving, the Tigd book of laws and ordinances, or his ship’s companion Vitality, Jotie.

I’m so excited about this project. I can’t wait… as in, I want to write it now! But I still need to figure out a few things (like what is the fan convention called where Ez attends to meet fellow fans of his beloved graphic novel series turned Exo-net video sensation).

My kids are not cooperating with me writing this post… sigh. Sorry if it makes little sense. I don’t write well with screaming/yelling/insanely loud talking in the background (contrary to popular belief).

What projects are you looking forward to this fall?

Happy reading (writing, sewing, whatever),

Kristin

When Characters Don’t Behave

One of the topics that comes up a lot at writing meetings is that wayward character. The one that doesn’t end up being anything like they were when they were still just an idea floating in your head, before your birthed them onto paper. I’m almost finished writing the first draft of “Kerfuffle,” the third book in the Desires & Decisions series, and one of the characters is ruining everything.

When Characters Don’t Behave

Chance was supposed to be kind of a red herring. He sits next to Olive in Spanish, and helps her through a few difficult moments, but the more I wrote his character, the more I started to think, “Oh no, I like him better than Dean.” The way I wrote the first two books in the series, you aren’t supposed to like any other boy for Olive, and so far, that has been working. The emails, comments, and feedback I got all included Dean.

“Is Olive going to end up with Dean?”

“Is Dean going to get saved?”

“Dean is such a nice boy.” (This one came from an older reader)

But Chance, as I said, is ruining everything. He’s too nice and considerate. And he’s funny. He isn’t overly mature like Dean (which I always found to be Dean’s most irritating quality). Chance is the kind of guy that us mothers would want our teenage daughters to like.

Imagine he has black hair, and this is Chance…

This is when things get tricky. As a writer, I have the next three books for the Desires & Decisions series plotted (they will be about Holly [Pastor Lance’s wife], Olive, and Anna), but now I’m wondering if maybe I shouldn’t reconsider a few things. I can do that, because I’m the creator of this world.

I know that no matter what I do, there will be some people that are disappointed. I also know that there will definitely be #teamdean and #teamchance after this third book comes out. The way “Kerfuffle” ends, I won’t have to decide, but in the next Olive book, “Resplendent,” the decision has to happen pretty much right away. But that book isn’t on my writing schedule this year, so I have time to think.

I can’t wait for you to read what happens between Dean and Olive in “Flummoxed,” coming out on March 28th.

Happy reading,

Kristin