Wednesday, April 18, 2018

#ChatWithHannah Ep 10: On Editing, Cover Design, Avoiding Preachiness, and More

Today we talk about how to make the editing process less gruesome, ways to keep your story from being preachy, and tips for keeping track of all the details in world development. I also discuss my cover design process and Delilah Dirk, a graphic novel that I’d love to see converted into a movie at some point.

AND, bonus: I reveal the cover for Flames of Courage, the second short story in the Terebinth Tree Chronicles. If you want to stay updated on its publication, follow me here:

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And don’t forget to read Colors of Fear in preparation for Flames of Courage!

Okay. On with the video:


Space Opera book recommendations:

Scout’s Progress by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Dark Disciple by Christie Golden
Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover

The next #ChatWithHannah video is coming out on May 16th, so leave a question below or use the hashtag on social media to get answers.

The #ChatWithIndieAuthor interview with Daley Downing comes out on April 25th, so leave questions for her below! Just make sure you mention that they’re for her and not me. In the meantime, check out her blog here.

Like this video and want to support my writing efforts? Subscribe to my channel or buy my short stories. Or both!

Related articles:
#ChatWithHannah Episode 4: NaNoWriMo Tips, Favorite Movies, and Overcoming Writer's Block
#ChatWithHannah Ep 9: On Writing About Tough Topics, The Batman Mentality, and More
#ChatWithHannah Episode 5: Writing grief-stricken characters and non-preachy Christian fiction

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon Affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, April 13, 2018

5 Problems Within the Own Voices Campaign (And How to Fix Them)

Own voices stories. What does that mean? In short, it's a term used to describe when people write stories that feature characters who share the same identity as the writer. For example: A Syrian refugee writing a story about Syrian refugees. A disabled author writing a disabled main character. A hispanic author writing a hispanic character. A Sikh author writing a character of the Sikh religion.

It is a concept meant to give an accurate voice to underrepresented groups. With so many groups of people being misrepresented or not represented at all, the Own Voices campaign is designed to encourage and boost authors who want to share stories closely connected to their identities.

Sounds awesome, right?

It is.

However.

Yes. There's a "however." I wish there wasn't, but there is.

The Own Voices campaign has sprouted some problematic concepts that are harmful to the writing community and the underrepresented groups it was designed to promote. These issues include gatekeeping, unintentional stunting of creativity and compassion, and the unfortunate propagation of "othering."
5 Problems Within the Own Voices Campaign (And How to Fix Them)
Now, before we begin I'd also like to point out that the issues mentioned below were not originally built into Own Voices. It began as a cool hashtag that would allow readers to find books by authors who write powerful, representative Own Voice stories. Which is great. I'm not criticizing this idea. In fact, I completely support it. This post is simply taking issue with the way that it's gone in a tail-spin since then.

Got it? Okay. Here we go:

1. It shuts down representation. This realization hit me full-force during an online writing conference. A physically-abled author asked a panel of "diversity" authors if they thought it was okay for her to write a main character who is disabled, or if she should just stick to what she "knows." As somebody with Lyme disease who's constantly frustrated by the lack of disabled main characters in fiction, I placed my cup of tea down and leaned forward, excited that a fellow author was wanting to come alongside me and help fix this problem. And then the panelists spoke with resounding, "No." Do not write a disabled character if you are not disabled. This was not the first (nor was it the last) time I'd heard this, but it still broke my heart. Here was a writer who wanted to help represent an underrepresented group and she was being told by industry authorities that she shouldn't.

Readers wonder why we have so few books that showcase marginalized people. This is one of the reasons. Writers are being told to "stay in their lane." To only write stories and characters that they know about from first-hand experience (because apparently having family, friends, and coworkers and traveling and reading and thinking for oneself aren't good enough anymore). This shuts down the opportunity to have good conversations, produce good stories, and widen the pool of books that represent the world and all of the people that live in it. Why has this shutting down taken place? Well, partly because...

2. It assumes that writers are not capable of writing a story about somebody who is different from themselves. So often I see non Own Voices authors told not to write certain characters or stories. After all, if you aren't of a specific underrepresented group, you cannot possibly have the level of understanding or skill required to write about them well. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. While we live in a culture that tries to tell us that some groups are so different from us that we cannot possibly understand them, this is simply untrue. We are all human beings and we can come alongside each other and learn from one another.

For example: What's it like to be a refugee? I am not a refugee so I will never understand what that's like on the same level that an actual refugee can. HOWEVER, I can ask questions of people who are willing to help me understand. I can read books. I can do my research. Just like you, as an abled person, can do the same when it comes to writing a disabled character. No, the story won't be the same as an Own Voices story, but that's okay. It doesn't have to be. It just has to be good. All it takes is humility, time, kindness, and hard work....All skills that every writers would benefit from no matter what story we're attempting to write.

As writers, we owe it to ourselves and our readers to work hard to understand our characters and stories. And, beyond that, we need to work hard to cultivate our writing skills so that we can write our characters well. To assume that writers are not capable of doing this is nonsensical and narrow minded.

3. It is policing who can write what stories. You're Indian and you're not writing a story about an Indian character? You must not care about representation. You're a Muslim writing an Own Voices story, but one of the side characters is Christian? Take that character out because clearly you aren't an authority on Christianity. You're a neurotypical author writing a character with Asperger syndrome? You can't do that because you don't have Asperger's.

I've seen so many of these types of comments and, honestly, all of them are absurd. What gives us the right to decide who should and shouldn't write what type of story? Nobody is obligated to write Own Voices. And no non Own Voices author is obligated to stay way from certain characters or plots. We're writers. We write stories. That's it.

4. It needs to expand to deal with a larger problem: Publishers. I've heard this mentioned a lot: non Own Voices shouldn't attempt to write about underrepresented groups because, if they get published, they are taking that publication opportunity away from an Own Voices writers.  This is operating out of the assumption that publishers only publish a specific number of "diverse" stories. Sadly, this is an accurate assumption. However, the solution is a poor one. Because few diverse books are published, writers should write less diverse books...? What?
Representation, whether it takes the form of Own Voice or non Own Voice authors, is important. We cannot cater to publishing houses and their propensity to overlook entire groups of people when publishing fiction. Instead, we as writers need to be telling stories that are reflective of the real world: Stories about characters of all identities. And we as readers need to be actively requesting that publishers do a better job of publishing said stories.

5. It doesn't understand that all voices and perspectives are different. There's this weird assumption that, because you belong to a certain group, you must be an authority on all things within this group. Errrr. What? This puts an enormous and unwarranted amount of pressure on the shoulders of Own Voices authors. Why? Because everyone has different experiences. For instance, my experience with Lyme disease is different from both of my parents and my younger brother. Just because you belong to a group of people doesn't mean that you all think the same way, act the same way, or write the same way. Yes, you'll share similar experiences, but not identical. And you definitely won't write about it from an identical angle. Nor should you be expected to.

With this being the case, why block non Own Voices authors from writing about underrepresented groups? Yeah, it'll be different from an Own Voices story. But that's okay. Every single story has a different voice, style, and perspective. That's what makes writing so amazing.

I know that we writers can do better than this. Own Voices stories are an awesome idea and the campaign is one that has a lot of potential. Let's not ruin it by pitting writers against each other.

Okay. I think we're done here.

Now let's open up the comment section! What are your favorite and least favorite things about the Own Voices campaign? How do you think it can be improved? What are some of your favorite Own Voices stories?

As always, please leave any and all thoughts below. Just be respectful, thoughtful, and kind. I look forward to hearing from you!

Have writing, reading, or writer's life questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!


Related articles:
9 Tips for Writing Physically Disabled Characters in Fantasy
"Write What You Know:" What This Advice Means And How to Apply it
4 Fundamental Errors in the Diverse Books Campaign (And How to Fix Them)

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, please don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Friday, April 6, 2018

10 Manga and Comic Books Worth Reading (Part 2)

I'm short on time and I think that the title of this post is fairly self-explanatory, so let's jump right in:

This is a post about comic books and manga that I like and think you may, too. It's a continuation of Part 1, a list you can check out here. Manga and comics are incredibly helpful when it comes to learning new styles of writing, pacing, symbolism, and plot, thus this blog post series.
10 Manga and Comic Books Worth Reading (Part 2)
Two quick notes:

1) Each book cover can be clicked on. It will deliver you straight to the book's Amazon page. Yep. I'm so helpful, aren't I?

2) If you see a manga you like and decide to read it, remember: You open them "backwards." This is important. You don't want to open it the wrong way and have the end spoiled for you.

Got it? Okay. Let's talk about comics and manga. 

1. Tom King's I Am Gotham, Vol 1 


Because of course this post has to start off with a Batman comic. This is one of my absolute favorite Batman comics. It's a beautiful look at bravery and fear and healing and continuing to do the right thing even when it doesn't seem to matter. Stumbled across this epic quote:

"Everyone gets scared. But remember, all that means is everyone gets the opportunity to fight that fear. Everyone gets the chance to be brave."

I read this right after publishing Colors of Fear, a story that I was nervous about publishing for reasons that can be found here. So thank you, Bats, for the encouragement. This comic is absolutely amazing and worth a read. 

2. Hiromu Arakawa's Silver Spoon, Vol 1

This is a hilarious, heartwarming story of a student who, suffering from academic burnout, decides to go to what he assumes is the easiest high school he can. But he soon finds that agricultural school is much harder than expected and starts questioning his lack of motivation when faced by classmates who all have goals and plans for their futures. The anime is charming and the manga is just as much so. It will put a smile on your face and important questions in your head. 

3. Charles Soule's Darth Vader, Vol 1

Picking up right after Revenge of the Sith, this comic follows the story of Darth Vader as he sets out to build his red lightsaber and kill the remaining Jedi. It is spectacular and heart-wrenching and adds some amazing depth to an already incredibly well developed character. As a huge Darth Vader fan, this series is one of my favorites.

4. Jun Mochizuki's The Case Study of Vanitas, Vol 1


Jun Mochizuki is an amazing artist and storyteller. I loved her PandoraHearts series and I love this series, too. It's steampunk, it's vampires, it's magic and curses and Paris and friendship and crazy plot twists. I can't decide what's best: The characters, the plot, or the insanely beautiful artwork.

5. Ed Brubaker's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Vol 1

Guys. GUYS. I LOVE Captain America and the Winter Soldier and this series does such a beautiful job with this storyline. It does such justice to Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes' characters and captures the pain, struggle, and undying friendship that comes with the existence of the Winter Soldier.  It is hands down the best Captain America comic I've read to date. You need to read it. 

6. Ryohgo Narita's Baccano!, Vol 1

Italian mobster manga set in NYC during prohibition? With supernatural elements? Yes, it is exactly as fun as it sounds. In classic Japanese graphic novel style, it takes a supposedly surface-level concept (mafia mixed with the supernatural) and adds in some really neat themes (the importance of family and loyalty).

7. Matt Kindt's Divinity


This comic book is very, very confusing. I need to lead with that piece of information. It has a lot of layers and doesn't make complete sense until the end (and even then you have to flip back to piece things together). That being said, it's a fascinating, unorthodox comic (leave it to Valiant comics to publish unique comics) with beautiful artwork. It tells the tragic story of a cosmonaut who gains divine powers at great personal cost. Kind of. Like I said, it's confusing. I personally like Divinity II better, but I'll talk about that in Part 3 of this series.


8. Akane Shimizu's Cell's At Work!, Vol 1

This manga makes my science major heart incredibly happy. The main character of this series is a red blood cell who goes on adventures in the human immune system. She befriends a warrior white blood  cell who protects their home from invading infections, watches platelet construction workers block up holes in walls, survives a histamine attack, and more. This is an adorable and genius series that not only helps with learning about human anatomy and the immune system, but is also downright hilarious (in a nerdy kind of way).

9. Tony Cliff's Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant 

Yes, I know this is technically a graphic novel and not a comic book. Don't start with me. Delilah Dirk is an adventurous, 19th century lady who travels around the world seeing sights and causing trouble. The characters are endearing, the plot is fun, and the dialogue is great.

10. Higasa Akai's The Royal Tutor, Vol 1


I've read several volumes of this series and it never disappoints. A very vertically challenged young man tutors four spoiled princes with distinct and hilarious personalities. This series always makes me smile: It's funny, heartwarming, and the art work is great (it features many chibi characters).

Aaaaand that concludes Part 2 of manga and comic books worth reading. I've tried to include all different kinds of stories so that you can find at least one that you're drawn to. Don't see what you're looking for? Check out Part 1 or leave a comment below with a description of the genre/style you want recommendations for. I'm happy to help!

Have you read any manga or comic books? Well, why not? They're amazing!

If you have read manga and comic books, please leave a comment below and tell me about your favorites. I'm always looking for my next good read!

Have writing, reading, or writer's life questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!


Related articles:
12 Manga and Comic Books Worth Reading (Part 1)
A List of Great Self-Published Books You Should Read (Part 2)
9 Ways to Use Reading to Improve Your Writing

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, please don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Great Social Media Networks for Writers (And How to Use Them)

I am a socially awkward human. Small talk is my Kryptonite. The biggest social events I go to are comic cons...and those probably don't count as legitimate socialization.

Social awkwardness isn't altogether uncommon when it comes to writers. We're awfully good at writing dialogue (some of us are, at least), but not so good at carrying a regular conversation.

And that's unfortunate. Why? Because no matter what people tell you, writing is not a solitary practice. Writers need to be able to connect with others because we need: beta readers, editors, critique partners, support groups, readers, fans, and fellow authors who will answer all the writing industry questions that even Google can't help with.

How do we find all of these different types of people without dying from anxiety? Two words: Social Media.

Yeah, I know those words scare a lot of you. But they shouldn't. Social media has been hands down the most helpful marketing tool I've come across. It's helped me come into contact with some amazing writers (like the ones I've featured on #ChatWithIndieAuthor), given me awesome opportunities (like being the Live Events Coordinator for WriteOnCon or the MultiMedia Manager for Phoenix Fiction Writers), and allowed me to grow an epic, loyal following (as shown by my blog comment section, and reviews on Skies of Dripping Gold and Colors of Fear). Social media helped me do all of that in spite of my general awkwardness. If I can do it, so can you.

So let's talk about different social medias and how you can use them to boost yourself, your platform, and your writing.
Great Social Media Networks for Writers (And How to Use Them)

I'm going to break down five main social medias and what they're used for. Categories include: Networking (allowing you to make solid connections with followers, fans, industry professionals and gain new friends/followers), Marketing (getting people to read your books, blogs, newsletters, or simply marketing yourself as a soon-to-be author), Aggregation (a place where people can easy find all of your newest blog posts, publications, newsletters, podcasts, videos, etc).


Twitter


Best used for: Networking. 
Also good for: Marketing. 

Twitter is AMAZING. Sure, I know a lot of people hate it, but those people are wrong.

Okay. Kidding. Those people are simply people who haven't had the opportunity to learn how to implement it correctly. If you're one of these people, check out this blog post for detail on how to win at twitter.

About 90% of the connections I've made have been on twitter. I've found favorite indie authors there, been offered amazing writing jobs, strengthened relationships with followers, and had a lot of good laughs. If you can only join one social media, join Twitter. It will take some getting used to due to the fast pace, but it is well worth it.

Facebook 


Best used for: Aggregation. 
Also good for: Networking. 

Some would argue that those two should be switched out: That Facebook is best at networking and second best at aggregation. I say: It depends on how you use it. If you put most of your time into a Facebook page, Facebook is great for aggregation. You put all of your latest and greatest on that page and people will see it and stay up to date with all that you've been doing. This also often leads to good networking. However, if you put most of your time into Facebook groups, you can connect with a lot of amazing fellow writers. So which should you do? Both. Both is good.
Now, please keep in mind that a lot of people don't like Facebook. I'm not a huge fan simply because it's out of date. However, a lot of people still use it, which is why it's good to keep a good Facebook presence. It allows you to keep in touch with a different demographic that you may not be able to reach on Twitter. 


Instagram


Best used for: Marketing.
Also good for: Networking.  

Instagram is perfect for what I like to call brainwash marketing. You post cool, pretty pictures that make people think you're awesome. Throw in a few awesome pictures of your book...or maybe make sure that your book is in the background of a lot of photos. People start to like you. They start to like your book. They buy your book. You become rich and famous. All thanks to Instagram.

Okay. Maybe that's not quite right. But Instagram is definitely a very laid back way to market. It's also a good way to meet other writers by posting pictures of your writing (or day-to-day) life to help people connect with you better. Instagram is a great, easy, fun-to-use, and very calming social media platform that you should definitely consider.

Goodreads


Best used for: Marketing. 
Also good for: Aggregation. 

Goodreads is super helpful. Not only does it allow you to keep track of all the books you've been reading lately, it also allows people to follow you as an author and see what books you've published. The more people that add your book to their 'to-be-read' shelf, the more your book circulates around the web, thus attracting more eyes and more reads.

It's also helpful for aggregation because people can travel to your Goodreads page to see all of your publications. Goodreads also can connect to your blog so that all of your blog posts are connected to your Goodreads, too.

And it's just plain fun because you'll discover all sorts of amazing books. But be careful: That part gets addicting.

Pinterest


Best used for: Marketing. 
Also good for: Aggregation. 

I used to Pinterest. Still do, actually, though they're constantly changing the algorithm and format to ones that I don't like as much as the old ones. However, Pinterest is still incredibly helpful for marketing despite their constant algorithm changes. How? Group boards. Join group boards for writers, bloggers, authors, etc. Pin your latest works to these boards. Within hours those pins will be flying all around Pinterest and will continue to circulate until the end of time...or the end of Pinterest. Whichever comes first.

You can also create your own boards and pin all of your latest books, blog posts, interviews, etc there. That way new followers can check out your Pinterest account and see what you've been up to. 


Google+ 


Best used for: Marketing. 
Also good for: Networking. 

I have a love-hate relationship with Google+. Google+ Communities are a great way to get your writing circulating. They can also be a good way to meet other writers. And, supposedly, using Google+ increases your SEO (though I have no idea if that's true, so don't quote me). That being said, this platform seems to have a lot of trolls. And it also seems to be mostly dead. Yeah, some communities are very active, but a lot aren't, so it's kind of hit or miss. It's worth joining if you have the time, but if you have a lot of other good social media platforms on your hands, Google+ can wait.

Have questions or comments about any of these social media platforms? I'd love to hear them! If you're on any of these platforms already and want to be introduced to other great writers, here's what you can do:

1. Follow me on any of these platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, Pinterest, Google+.

2. Send me a message, reference this post, and let me know you'd like to meet other writers.

3. Wait for my response as I introduce you to all the cool people.

You're welcome.

Have writing, reading, or writer's life questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!


Related articles: 
10 Tips for Using Blogging to Build Your Writer's Platform


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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Ep 7 of #ChatWithIndieAuthor: M.D. Tolman



M.D. Tolman writes speculative fiction and is the author of Aldenaire and the creative Wolf of Class 1D. In this video he discusses using anime and manga as inspiration, how his life and his stories intertwine, and gives us a sneak peak at his upcoming publications! 

Remember: You can listen to this chat on iTunes!

Find M.D. Tolman's books here.

Are you following Mac online? No? What is wrong with you? Go say hello:

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Website

Personal Blog

Japanese Research

For questions and inquiries, e-mail Mac at vo(at)malcolmtolman(dot)com

When is the next #ChatWithIndieAuthor episode? Great question! Wednesday April 25th will bring us a new chat. Have questions for the next video? Leave a comment below or on social media using the hashtag!

Like this video and want to support my writing efforts? Subscribe to my channel or buy my short stories. Or both! 

Related articles: 
Episode 4 of #ChatWithIndieAuthor: E.B. Dawson

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, please don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, March 23, 2018

12 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Beta Reader Feedback

Authors are weird. We tell stories because we want other people to read them. But we also really, really hate letting people read our stuff. It's scary. What if you publish a story and then have reviewers point out a massive plot hole? What if they notice a crooked character arc you didn't catch in your editing?

That'd be unfortunate, wouldn't it? You'd have to change your name and leave the country. If only there was a way to avoid such a catastrophe. If only there was a way you could test run your story without actually publishing it.

Well, good news! There is a way to test audience reaction before actually committing to publication. They're called beta readers. And they'll save you from having to re-name yourself John Michael Kane  and relocate to France.
12 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Beta Reader Feedback

What are beta readers? 


You know how pieces of tech often release beta versions? They're always a bit buggy, but people volunteer to use said tech and give their feedback, thus allowing a fully-functional version to be released later down the road. Well, beta reading is basically that for books. You write a story, edit it as much as you can, then send it off to readers who have agreed to give you general feedback: What they liked, what they didn't like, what confused them, what they think you should burn. It's like getting a review on a book, but privately and by somebody you know so that you (hopefully) don't feel like strangling them when they give you two stars. 

Who makes a good beta reader? 


Somebody who likes the genre that you write and who has read widely within it. 

Somebody you trust to give you honest (even brutal) feedback. 

Somebody who understands the concept of "writing voice" and isn't going to try to trample on yours. 

With that explained, let's talk about the ways that you can get the most out of your beta reader feedback: 

1. Have more than one beta reader. Seriously. Because what if you have only one beta reader and that person is way off or misses something huge? Yes, this happens. Beta readers aren't perfect. That's why you need more than one. You'll want a minimum of three beta readers (and that number only works if you really trust those three people and know they'll give you good feedback in a timely manner). Five or seven has always seemed like good numbers to me because it's enough feedback to get a variety, but not so much that it's overwhelming. But I know writers who have had as many as fifteen. The number of beta readers depends on the story type, length, and project timeline. 

2. Make sure your beta readers are different from each other. You want beta readers who think differently. Beta readers who will come to your story with a unique outlook. Yes, you want them to have some similarities (see the "Who makes a good beta reader?" section above), but not many. This will help ensure that no huge problems slip by. What one beta reader doesn't notice may be a glaring issue for another. 

3. Send them the jacket blurb, genre, and length but don't explain the story to them. Try not to influence your beta reader's view of the story. Send them the jacket blurb, the genre, the word count, the story, and the questions you have for them (more on that later). That's it. Don't point out the story's themes, spoil plot twists, etc. You want honest feedback, so don't go all Grima Wormtongue on them.

4. Consider having a few rounds of beta readers. Get major feedback from one round of betas, edit, then send it out to a new round of betas. This new round can be the same as the first, but it's best to have new people or a mix of new and old. Depending on the feedback from round two, you may need a third round. 

5. Give them specific areas to critique. You wrote the story, so you are probably already aware of its weak spots. Ask your beta readers to focus on specific scenes or characters that you struggled with. Get feedback on how your readers perceived these issues: Did they notice the problem? What did they think the issue was? 

6. Give them broad areas to critique. While it is a good idea to give your betas specific parameters, it's also good to get their general thoughts on the project. What did they like? What didn't they like? What parts bored them? Did they like the characters? How did they feel about the ending? Did they have any random thoughts they wanted to tell you as they read? Gather as much general info as you can. 

7. Ask open-ended questions. Rather than asking, "Hey, did you pick up on ____ theme in ____ scene?" ask "What was your understanding of _____ scene?" This goes back to not wanting to influence your beta's feedback. While there are times for specific questioning, they shouldn't be your go-to and are usually better left for 1) Round two betas and 2) When you get feedback from your betas and then want to ask follow-up questions. 

8. Make sure they know they can be brutal. This is important. Stress that you would appreciate their honest feedback. You want them to give you their unedited thoughts, not the sugar-coated version. Be sure they know this.
After you do this, do NOT whine, argue, or be upset with them when they give you feedback. That's a good way to break trust and make people feel horrible about themselves. 

9. Decide which parts of your story you are not willing to change, regardless of the feedback. Look. While you are getting feedback with the intent of using it to make your story better, you need to understand: This is your story and, ultimately, you know what's best. So decide what parts you refuse to change and stick by this decision. But also make sure that you are darn sure that those parts of your story are, in fact, necessary. 

10. Don't change everything your beta reader doesn't like. You need to be able to discern what is your beta's specific taste in reading and which are legitimate critiques. Yes, these will often be the same thing, but sometimes they won't be. So don't go around changing every little thing your betas don't like. This will rip holes in your plot, destroy your writing voice, and leave your story worse off than it was before you sent it out. 

11. See where your beta reader feedback intersects. Are all of your betas saying that one specific scene is confusing? Then it is. Fix it. Are all of your betas saying that your characters are flat? Then they are. Re-write. While there are times that your betas are wrong, it is pretty much impossible for all of your betas to be wrong when they're all saying the exact same thing. So suck it up and go about fixing the parts that all (or even most) of your betas have taken issue with. 

12. Test out feedback. Not sure if a specific piece of feedback has merit? Think it over for a few days. Ask yourself how you would apply that feedback and how it would affect the story. If it would make it better, go for it. Not sure? Then ask: Would it make it worse? If it won't, then it's probably worth at least trying to apply the feedback. Better safe than sorry. 

Have tips and tricks of your own? I know there are tons out there, so I'd love to hear yours! Please leave a comment below.

Have writing, reading, or writer's life questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!


Related articles:
Macro and Micro Editing: What They Are and How to Use Them to Fix Your Story
5 Steps to Fighting Off Writer's Insecurity

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, please don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every week!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

#ChatWithHannah Ep 9: On Writing About Tough Topics, The Batman Mentality, and More

Today we talk about writing on topics like drug addiction, how to know if your story needs more characters, the "Because I’m Batman" mentality, how reading influences my writing, and more. I also mentioned 3 older books I like that aren’t particularly good, but have amazing covers.
Yes, this video is longer than usual. Sorry. Ish. It was a good video, though. Right? Right??

Not-recommended older books that aren’t super great, but have cool covers (shush, that’s a genre now):


The next #ChatWithHannah video is coming out on April 18th, so leave a question below or use the hashtag on social media to get answers.

The #ChatWithIndieAuthor interview with M.D. Tolman comes out on March 28th, so leave questions for him below! Just make sure you mention that they’re for him and not me.

Like this video and want to support my writing efforts? Subscribe to my channel or buy my short stories. Or both!

Related articles: 
#ChatWithHannah Ep 7: Batman, Large Character Casts, and Concise Short Stories

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Tips for Writing Scene Breaks and Transitions in Your Novel

One thing I've always envied about movies is their seamless scene transitions. A clever camera angle, a  change in music, viola! You've entered a new scene and didn't even know it happened.

How can we do that in books?

We can't.

But we don't need to, either.

Scene transitions don't need to be hidden in novels the way they do in movies. You can spot-light them if you want to. Or not. Whatever works for your story. Scene transitions can be used in a plethora of ways: To show off your sense of pacing, to create tension, to change POV and character voice, to further your plot.
Tips for Writing Scene Breaks and Transitions in Your Novel
But before we go into any of that, let's answer the question:

What is a scene break? 


Simple. Scene breaks are any time you change location, time period, or character POV in a story. They often come in the form of a new chapter, but can also be indicated mid-chapter with various symbols like: 

***
Or
#
Or 
---
Or any other symbol, really. 

Okay, with that out of the way:

When do I transition from one scene to another? 


That's up to you. Next question? 

Just kidding. 

While it is up to you, let me give you some scenarios in which scene transitions are helpful: 

When a scene would be better shown from a different POV. This only applies if you're writing from multiple POVs, but: If you know a scene will be more powerful from a specific character's POV, switch over to them by using a scene break. You don't have to pick up at the exact point that the other scene left off, either. You can take it up a little bit before, a little bit after, or even a lot before or a lot after. Whatever works best. 

When you need to change locations. You don't have to show characters traveling from one place to another (unless you feel it is important to the story). Scene breaks are a good way to jump past all of those tedious details.

When you need to indicate a time lapse. Again, you don't have to show every moment of your character's life. Feel free to skip over irrelevant parts of their day, week, month, or year(s) using scene transitions.

How can I use them effectively?  


Well, you're already on the right track given that you're getting writing advice from me, Queen of Writing Advice (Princess? Noble? Errrr....Merchant? Maybe I'm a jester? Yeah. That sounds right. Crap. I don't want to be jester. Help!).

1. Use them to cut out the boring parts. Seriously. That boring scene you're writing that bores even you as you type? Nobody wants to read it. Not sure if it's boring? Pretend your reader is Sherlock and then see if the scene holds up (hint: It probably won't).
Unless the scene has some vital piece of information, skip it. Transition into a new scene. Even if it does have a vital piece of information, you can probably transition to a newer, more exciting scene and add that information there.

2. Use them to build tension. You know how authors put cliffhangers at the end of novels? You can use that same principle for scene breaks, but just on a smaller scale. So, retaining-wall-hangers instead of cliffhangers. Yes. That's a completely legitimate name for it. You can transition away just when things are reaching its peak. Keeps people on their toes. However, be sure to read point 4 to make sure you aren't overdoing it.

3. Use them to keep secrets. Does one of your characters know an important plot point you don't want to reveal to your reader until later? Transition into a new scene from a different character's POV. Or even a new scene with the same character, but just in a scenario where they wouldn't be thinking of or acting on the secret. That being said...

4. Don't use them so often that you disorient or frustrate your reader. You don't want to head-hop so often that your reader loses track of which character is doing what. And you don't want to have so many retaining-wall-hangers (stop smirking! It's a totally acceptable name) that your reader loses faith in your ability to tie up loose ends or produce a satisfying climax.

What are the rules? 


Pffft. Please. Have you learned nothing from this blog? There are no writing rules. Just guidelines. And those ones aren't always good or helpful. But I'll humor you here: 

Don't have too many scene breaks too close together. Generally, a standard 10-page chapter has about one or two scene breaks in it (supposing the author uses scene breaks...many don't). But of course there's no reason you can't do more than that. Just make sure it doesn't mess with your story's flow and pacing. 

Be consistent. You want to try to maintain the same number of scene breaks per chapter. Supposedly. Personally? I think this is idiotic. But I generally think that about most writing rules, so...I guess you'll just have to figure out what works best for you. Use your head. 
C'mon. It's not that scary. 

The way you transition does not have to be uniform. You don't have to have the same type of transition style in each scene (some will say you will, but...well...you know my feelings on writing rules). If you need the scene to end abruptly for pacing or mood reasons, then cut the scene off abruptly. If you want to end the scene with a piece of dialogue, do so. If you feel symbolism is the way to go, dive on in. 

*dusts off hands* I didn't think I could stretch a discussion on scene breaks into a full blog post, but I did. Yay!

Just remember these key points and you'll be fine: 1) Use scene breaks and transitions to be not-boring. 2) Be like Loki. Do what you want. 

Have tips and tricks of your own for writing scene breaks and transitions? Or maybe you have questions? Please leave them in the comment section! 

Have writing, reading, or writer's life questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!


Related articles:
How to Effectively Write from Multiple POVs
What To Do When Your Story Bogs Down
8 Ways To Use Movie Watching To Improve Your Writing
Why You Shouldn't Listen to Writing Tips Blogs


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Friday, March 9, 2018

How to Use Youtubing and Podcasting to Build Your Author Platform

What if I told you that there is a place you can find amazing books, blog posts, and podcasts by a group of talented indie authors? Would you be excited?

Good.

Get ready to be excited.

Phoenix Fiction Writers is an indie marketing collective. We write weekly blog posts about writing, marketing, and being an indie author. We record monthly podcasts on different writing topics. We write a new chapter of a serial story every month.

Who is "we" you ask? E.B. Dawson. Beth Wangler. J.E. Purrazzi. K.L.+Pierce. Kyle Robert Schultz. And me, myself, and I.

Yep. That's the dream team right there.

Anyway. Today, I'm going to point you towards a blog post I recently wrote for PFW on using Youtube and podcasting to build your author platform. In case you hadn't noticed, these two multimedias are ones I've been starting to dabble in recently....with #ChatWithHannah, #ChatWithIndieAuthor, and hosting the PFW podcast. It has been an amazing and helpful experience so far, so I wanted to share some of the things I've learned along the way.
How to Use Youtubing and Podcasting to Build Your Author Platform
Building an author’s platform can be hard work. It takes time, sweat, creativity, and, sometimes, gallons of caffeine.

Thankfully, the internet is always providing us authors with new, interesting ways to building up our following and market our writing. Currently, two of the new(ish) marketing tools have presented themselves in the form of Youtube and podcasting. These multimedias give us the chance to greatly extend our reach without having to invest a lot of time or money.

How can you get started?

The possibilities are endless. Let’s start with going over ways you can use each platform, what each platform is good for, and what you’d need to get started:






Awesome. If you have any questions or comment about this topic or PFW in general, please leave them on the PFW blog post or on this blog post. Either works. I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Have writing, reading, or writer's life questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!


Related articles: 
11 Tips for Building a Successful Writer's Platform
Building Your Writing Platform: 13 Tips for Winning at Twitter

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Some links are Amazon affiliate links. Thank you for your support.

Friday, March 2, 2018

9 Tips for Writing Physically Disabled Characters in Fantasy

There are two things I would love to see more of in literature:

1. More Batman comic books. Because...Batman.

2. More fantasy books with physically disabled characters. Because...so many reasons. Let's talk about a few of them.

Fantasy is an amazing genre meant to inspire a sense of wonder and courage and hope. Fantasy is capable of being a reflection of our own world, but with unique and wonderful twists.

And, yet, often times it doesn't do these things. It is very rarely a reflection of our world. How can it be? After all, there are a lot of physically disabled people here on earth. But how many are there in the fantasy genre? Barely any. And that's a problem.
9 Tips for Writing Physically Disabled Characters in Fantasy
Sure, sometimes the physically disabled get represented in fiction that delves into what it looks like to be disabled. That's cool. But can we not be depicted in fantasy novels as well? Do you know how uplifting that would be? Think about it. There's a reason people loved Black Panther so much. After years and years of the African and African American community being featured in books and movies about black suffrage, they were finally represented in an action movie that showed them as heroes and people of power with a rich history and culture. They were finally treated as "regular" characters, not "diverse characters." And that's huge.

We can do the same when it comes to the physically disabled: Show them as humans first and disabilities second. It's not hard.

And, yet, there's something about physically disabled characters that seem to be taboo in the fantasy novel writing realm. Authors are skirting around the subject. Why? I can guess at a few reasons:

Authors find it restricting to write characters that are disabled. They're limited in what they can do: Physically disabled characters can't run, fight, or be badass. They'd probably just die immediately. Right?

Authors don't feel they have the right to write disabled characters. If you aren't physically disabled, you can't write a physically disabled character. I mean, sure. You can write characters that are of different genders, different races, different religions, but a different level of able-ness? *gasps* How is that possible?

Do you hear that? That's the sound of me groaning and rolling my eyes.
Let me help you help me stop rolling my eyes. Here are some tips you can use when writing physically disabled characters in fantasy:

1. Broaden your scope. Physical disability is something that prevents a person from normal body movement, function, or control. Do you know how many different types of disabilities fall into that category? Tons. Which is unfortunate, but guess what? That means you can be as creative as you'd like to be. There's MS, crippled, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, various spinal problems, various types of chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and more. On top of that, you are free to make up your own types of physical disabilities.

2. Don't be afraid to make them your main character. Despite what you may think, having a disabled main character isn't impossible. It requires creativity which, surprise surprise, is necessary for any type of novel-writing. So maybe your character has a hard time walking. He can use his cane as a weapon...or perhaps he's can be an expert scholar or magician or equestrian or dragon-rider or griffin-rider or any-type-of-mythical-creature-rider. So maybe your character is in constant pain. Well, she probably has a high pain tolerance, making her a perfect, badass, scary warrior. Don't for one moment think that having a disabled character will limit your fantasy story. Because you know what? One thing your disabled character will certainly have is a unique outlook on life...and also a huge amount of determination. That's perfect material for an amazing character. Go for it.

3. Never lose sight of the disability. Disability shapes a person whether they want it to or not. It determines how they live their day to day life, either because they aren't physically capable of doing things "normally" or because the disability has so influenced their personality that they live differently (either for better or worse). So every time you write about this character, you need to ask yourself: How does their disability enter into the situation? You need to be able to look at things zoomed out: If they have chronic fatigue, how does that play into them being able to captain a ship across an ocean? You also need to see things zoomed in: If they have a crippled arm, would they be able to easily roll underneath a fence to escape a pursuer or would their arm get in the way? Always, always, always pause to think about how your character's disability enters into everything from plot to character development to dialogue to individual scenes.

4. Don't define your character by their disability. While you shouldn't ever lose sight of the disability, you shouldn't get lost in it, either. A helpful tip? Change the way you view your character: As a being (elf, dwarf, human, etc) first and a disability second. This will allow you to create a well-rounded character. Also, understand that their story doesn't need to revolve around their disability. In fact, it probably should not (harken back to my Black Panther commentary above). Give your character hopes, dreams, skills, personality traits, and background outside of their disability. Develop them as you would any other character.

5. Do your research. What, you thought writing fantasy means you don't have to research anything? Ha. That's funny.
Though your disabled character does live in a made-up world, you still have to research to make sure that you are accurately portraying the life of a disabled person. If you are basing their disability after a real one, you need to look into the real disability. Even if you've made up a disability, you'll want to pull symptoms from various illnesses/disabilities to add realness to your character. AND you'll absolutely need to talk with disabled people (either online or in person) to learn about the daily struggles their lives hold. As mentioned above, disability changes everything in a person's life. If you don't do your research, you'll overlook important facts and your character will fall flat.

6. Take world-building into account. Seriously. Skipping this step would be the equivalent of the 2015 Fantastic Four movie. Translation: It would be really, really bad. This is a fantasy novel, isn't it? World building is important, isn't it? Don't think for one moment that disability shouldn't in some way connect with multiple aspects of your world. A few examples:
  • Religion. In our world, often times physical disability was (and still is, in some areas) seen as a curse by a specific deity. This may be the same in your world. OR it may be the opposite. It depends. But put some thought into it. 
  • Magic. Can magic cause, fix, alleviate, or worsen a disability? Why or why not? 
  • Survival. Is your world a place where people with disabilities can easily survive? Are there specific jobs they can have? Or will they be cast aside, shunned, unable to obtain work or food? How disability friendly are various cities and races? 
  • Healing. Can your disabled character go somewhere for treatment? A healer? Shaman? Apothecary? 
  • Social status. Are the disabled frowned upon or looked up to? Why? 
  • Transportation. If a character can't walk, how do they get from place to place? A wheelchair? What is it made of and is it powered by magic? Can they travel by dragon? What about palanquin? A flying carpet? How expensive are each of these modes of transportation? Are some only accessible to the rich? 
Think long and hard about how disability ties into your world building. This will strengthen character, plot, and world.

7. Don't use the Magical Healing trope. The what? The "Yeah, my character was disabled, but there's a magical cure and he's all better now" trope. That's incredibly unhelpful. I'm not saying that you should never, ever do this, but....You probably shouldn't. What's the point? If you're going to do this, you may as well write an able-bodied character.

8. Don't kill them off. PLEASE. I know this is completely new, shocking information, but it is discouraging for disabled people to read fantasy novels where the disabled character dies just to provide development for another character.

9. Don't worry about not being physically disabled yourself. To answer the question that I know a lot of you are wondering: No, you don't need to be physically disabled to write a physically disabled character. I plan to write an entire post explaining why, but for now: Just write. Write the character you want to write. Bring a new, unique character into the fantasy genre. And don't let anybody tell you that you don't have the compassion, skill, or ability to write a character who is different from yourself.

Have tips you'd like to add? Please leave them below, along with any questions you may have. Also, if you know of any fantasy novels that have a well developed physically disabled main character (or, at the very least, a well-done secondary character), please let me know! I'm always looking for new books to read. Thanks!

Have writing, reading, or writer's life questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!


Related articles:
7 Tips for Writing a Character with a Chronic Illness
4 Fundamental Errors in the Diverse Books Campaign (And How to Fix Them)
Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, please don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every week!

Some links are Amazon affiliate links. Thank you for your support.
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