Call it romance. Call it smut. Call it sweet. Call it whatever you like. But somehow, someway, this genre’s wormed its way onto my bookshelves and into my Kindle before I realized it happened. (See the On My Bookshelf 2021 page for proof).
Along the same lines, I’ve also come to love Scotland/Highlander tales, and I do believe that all started when I watched the first season of Outlander. I just wish I could’ve continued watching it. As it happens, I wasn’t keen on many things they were willing to film for the show. I didn’t start with the books the show’s based upon, so I’d no idea those scenes were coming. Perhaps I’ll read the book and enjoy that more than seeing it on a screen?
Enter in HIGHLANDER’S UNWANTED BRIDE by Ann Marie Scott. I read the synopsis and thought I’d give it a go. Fifty pages in, I’m left with more confusion than where things began. Let’s take a deep dive into why I couldn’t finish reading HIGHLANDER’S UNWANTED BRIDE.
Issues With Main Characters and Points of Views
William – main character Susanna – main character Aisla – secondary character Michael – secondary character Simon – secondary character
What do all these folks have in common? They’re each given their own points of view. Or so it would seem.
Let’s take a look at the Japanese anime, Ouran High School Host club. It’s a fun show that’s still incredibly popular, years after its original run. Each member of the club has their episode(s), and they all break the fourth wall when it comes to the show’s narration. While ninety-five percent of it is told through the heroine Haruhi’s point of view, we still see glimpses into the other character’s lives and their perspective of her. (OHSHC wiki page)
That’s how I feel Ms. Scott tried to write HIGHLANDER’S UNWANTED BRIDE. She tried to write it as though the book was a television show, not a novel. An odd cross between a script built from a show and a novel from a novice trying to hit all the marks of what “every writer should do.”
Because who’s speaking jumps so frequently and often without warning, there’s very little development for the main characters in the first fifty pages. Nothing to endear you to either William or Susanna. If you enjoy reading multiple POVs, as well as writing them, more power to you! I don’t think I could ever write more than two or three in any given novel myself. This one had at least five before chapter four.
Flashbacks and Uneven Flow
There’s much debate over the inclusion of flashbacks in stories as a whole. While many authors feel they reveal too much backstory, others love peppering them throughout the novel’s timeline. They can be used to show motivation behind a character’s belief system, or reveal why a MC behaves the way they do.
There are two flashbacks (probably more – I wouldn’t know) in HIGHLANDER’S UNWANTED BRIDE, and both happen before chapter four. Add to them time jumps backwards and you’ve got one confusing symphony of scenes.
Author KM Weiland has a fantastic post about flashbacks. If you’re looking to include one in your novel, I suggest you stop by this page first. The two flashbacks included in this particular novel fall under the latter half of the following quote:
Writers love their flashbacks. And with good reason. Flashbacks are a multi-functional technique for stepping outside your story’s timeline and sharing interesting and informative nuggets about your characters’ pasts. But just as they can be used to strengthen your story, they can even more easily cripple it.
KM Weiland; Helping Writers Become Authors – source
The first flashback is of Susanna and a man named Simon. We’re immediately greeted with one of the first instances of how the point of view changes, without warning, from one paragraph to the next. The next flashback reveals how William lost his first wife to childbirth. This information is later told to Susanna as she and William are out on the clan’s land.
While flashbacks can help an author sort out future scenes, they can run the risk of feeling repetitive to a reader. And that’s the case with both of the aforementioned flashbacks. This leads directly into the choppy nature of the novel’s dialogue and use of punctuation.
The Dialogue and Use of Punctuation
Choppy, choppy, choppy. Everything about this novel’s first fifty pages was choppy.
If you want the actions of saying and doing to be more like separate events, then repeat the subject for the verb of doing.
Did those two sentences feel overly dramatic? That’s because they were meant to. The next time you write dialogue, or even a blog post, take a look to see how many, if any, exclamation points you’ve used. Here’s a very useful article from Grammarly on proper usage of the exclamation point.
Now I know I’m not perfect on my use of punctuation. In fact, I’m positive you could pick out several things right off the bat. In the case of Ms. Scott’s novel, she really loves using exclamation points. With every character. No matter how old they are.
Here’s my humble opinion: exclamation points make characters younger than they are. Or seem like they’re always angry. Or, or, or, or. Now I’m not saying using them in a novel is wrong. It’s just a little odd when you find yourself counting how many are in any given chapter.
Overall, the story read like a first or second draft. So much so that I couldn’t get into it just to find out what happens to William and Susanna. Honestly? I don’t really care to know. That’s how detached the two of them feel to me, and I didn’t root for either one. If you’d like to give HIGHLANDER’S UNWANTED BRIDE a try, it’s available via Kindle Unlimited. (NSFW warning)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year ~~ tax time! Okay, I jest. But I am glad 2021 is here, and that 2020 is finally over. Now that it’s January, it’s time to plan this year’s Five Question Interview series.
Every Wednesday from February through April, one interview a week will go up, highlighting a member of our writing community. From its inception, this interview series will always be short and sweet with a little bit of whimsy.
If you’ve never read any of them before, I’ll link a few below. Perhaps you’ll recognize a few names, or find some new connections (click their images to read their interviews):
Plus many more including KM Weiland, Maria Tureaud, Beth Overmyer, Alex Donahue, Michelle Rascon and Jeni Carll-Tong.
February’s filling up fast, but I still have slots available for March (3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, 31st) and April (7th, 14th, 21st, 28th). You also don’t have to be an author. You can be a writer working on a new project, an editor, agent, publicist, or anyone else in the writing biz. Sky’s the limit! Please ignore the use of that oh-so-cliche phrase.
If you would like to be a part of this interview series – all correspondence done via email – please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guess what? It’s a new year. Loosen up, give yourself a break, and recognize that you’re totally worth it. Not just as a person, but as an individual entity within the great big writing community. Whatever it is you’re doing – editing, mentoring, writing, publicizing, agenting, etc. – do it to the best of your ability, improve daily, and keep going!
With all those jobs come prioritization. Did you lose your focus in 2020? Don’t worry; I did too. It’s still just January. You’ve got twelve months to get back on track with whatever it is you’re working on. Okay. Now that all that’s out of my system, here’s another pep talk.
Maintaining a website is totally worth the effort. Would I lie to you? Never!
I’ve found some fantastic writing acquaintances and friends the past few years through their websites. Some found me through mine. But it wasn’t always that way. Just look at the stats from the early days of anotherhartmanauthor.com and you’ll see what I mean:
In 2016, 98 folks stopped by. Of course, in 2016 I’d just launched this site, and in late October or November. So that makes sense. If you want to read a perfectly lame first blog post, here’s the link. (Ugh; I cringe!)
In 2017, I didn’t know what to do with this platform. I was still finding my niche, my people, my footing. 2017 saw 163 visitors as a whole.
Things started to change in 2018. I grew more confident in my blogging abilities and connected with more individuals through social media. As a result, 288 fine folks stopped by to read what I had to say.
2019 exploded with 954 readers. That’s the year I began doing the Five Question Interviews, and I’m forever grateful for those individuals willing to give my little site a chance. Finally, 2020 ended with a bang: a whopping 1,697 of you read my website! I touched upon this a bit in my 2020 Stats blog post, but I still can’t get over that. Thank you all so much for making 2020 my best blogging year yet.
So, as you can see, it takes loads of time for things to happen. Okay, some folks seem to gain instant success, but I’m not one of those. All this to say, I’d like to share some things I’ve learned over the years. Also included at the end will be some links to blog posts past of a more practical nature.
Five reasons why maintaining a website is totally worth the effort.
1. It’s a great way to learn from others. While blogging is a very visual and immediate way to showcase your own abilities, there’s a whole lot you can learn from other bloggers as well. There are countless treasure troves out there waiting for you discover them. The first experience I ever had with a website like this is KM Weiland’s Helping Writers Become Authors. I may have mentioned that particular link on more than one occasion, but it truly is a gem of a site, full of loads of practical information for folks at any point of their writing journey.
My site – this site – originally began as a place to share historical facts I learned throughout my own writing process. Looks like I’ve deviated from that first mission, but I hope to bring back historical information sharing in 2021. Especially since I’ve got three very different manuscript ideas running around in my head.
What do you know? Do you have experiences to share? Poetry? Specific histories? What’s something that brings you so much joy that you want to share it with others?
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
2. Exposure, exposure, exposure. Admit it. As a writer/author/editor/etc., you want to get your name out there, right? Blogging is akin to networking in the business world, but within the writing community niche. In a recent blog post, I discuss a Social Media Conundrum I’m still thinking about. Without platforms, how does a modern creative sell or showcase their work?
This is where the problems can begin. Unless you’re the most self-disciplined individual on the face of the earth, how does one balance blogging, social media, and work? Everyone procrastinates to some degree. That’s why, in my writing goals post for 2021, I decided it’s time to set aside actual writing time. I don’t know if I’ll be able to also schedule social media time, but I’ve got a whole new year to figure that one out too.
It all boils down to this: how much time are you willing to spend networking? Which is a higher priority: building a platform or working on your craft? It is possible to do both. I, personally, just need more discipline to do it….
“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.”
3. You’ll gain practical online experience and grow skills you already have. “Cancel culture” is a real thing. Definitely not imagined. From JK Rowling to that one editor who suggested authors take out loans to pay for professional editing on their manuscripts, 2020 writing Twitter witnessed the rise and fall of those who expressed controversial views and practices.
Why do I bring this up?
This is where practical online experience and exposure come into play. Not only does this apply to conducting yourself online, but it includes tech skills. Let me tell you, it took me a long time to get used to my host’s interface. It also took a me a while to figure out what templates and themes worked best for this site and so on.
It’s a tall order, this number three. If you spend any time on Twitter or Instagram, you’ve seen every type of user; from the very casual to the ones who clearly spend loads of time on everything they put out. What I enjoy about my time online is every time I put out a new post/page or have a new interaction, I learn something new about myself and the subject matter at hand. Sounds like a win-win to me!
“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.”
4. It’s a great chance to hone your nonfiction writing skills. Speaking of practical experience, blogs and websites are also great places to hone your nonfiction writing skills. Let’s face it – as an author, or one working towards publication, you’re going to have to learn how to market yourself.
My one uncle is an actor. I’ve often heard him say, “Oh the things I’ve had to do for money.” Get your mind out of the gutter. He’s not talking about things like OnlyFans n’at! He’s talking about marketing. He hates talking about himself, but had to build a website in order to gain more gigs and showcase what he’s capable of doing.
The same goes for blogging. Whether you want a place to share your knowledge or share your art, you’re going to have to get used to marketing yourself. Heck, when I built this site back in 2016, it took several months to feel comfortable even introducing myself to the online world of writing. But I now look forward to building that next blog post.
Just as with your manuscripts, your blogging style will change with time. In 2017 I put up maybe ten blog posts, and I anguished over each word. My average word count four years ago? Less than 200. Now I’m batting a thousand and am working on efficiency with my words. In my humble opinion, nonfiction is harder to write than fiction.
“I’m open to reading almost anything – fiction, nonfiction, as long as I know from the first sentence or two this is a voice I want to listen to for a good long while. It has much to do with imagery and language, a particular perspective, the assured knowledge of the particular universe the writer has created.”
5. Because you’re totally worth it. Don’t you dare sell yourself short. I don’t think much else needs to be said about this particular point. Seriously – you’re totally worth it. Now go, create, and see what maintaining a website could possibly do for you and yours.
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”
With all this new Star Trek coming out (Picard, Discovery, Lower Decks), I thought it high time to revive a blog series I’d forgotten about. Earlier this year, I analyzed the cast of Star Trek Voyager and assigned each member of the main crew their arc. Today, I’m going to take a look at the very large cast of Star Trek Deep Space Nine and give myself more work by analyzing not only their arcs, but which change best suits them, or if they’re round or flat characters.
Deep Space Nine had an absolutely huge recurring cast of secondary characters, so I’m sticking to a list of just twelve.I’m not even including anyone from the series’ Mirror Universe or the Dominion, as there just isn’t enough source material to work with. The twelve I’ll analyze in today’s post are the core characters the series’ used the most. If there is a cross next to an actor’s name, it means they have passed on into Paradise.
To directly quote Judy Blume’s Masterclass on the matter: “Round characters are fully realized characters that come into conflict with each other […] spurring character development.”
The Change Arc
Whether this character’s change is immediate or over the course of time (or both), protagonists usually have these arcs. To quote LaTorre, “This change is radical.”
The Growth Arc
Characters within the growth arc has more internal change than outward change. Change still happens, but not as radical as the aforementioned arc. They’ll grow as a person regardless of external circumstances.
The Shift Arc
According to LaTorre via Reedsy, ““The protagonist changes his perspective, learns different skills, or gains a different role. The end result is not ‘better’ or more than the starting point, just different.”
The Fall Arc
Fall arcs can apply to both protagonists and antagonists. This change often results in a decrepit state of mind, death, true villainy, etc. Or even a fall from grace.
Check out this post over on KM Weiland’s blog concerning large casts of characters. There she explains how a balance of the above changes and arcs can greatly benefit a story.
Now that all that’s out of the way, here are
Linked character names will take you to Memory Alpha, a website dedicated to fandoms and detailed pages about characters, shows, etc. Linked actor names will take you to their IMDB pages, should you wish to learn more about either!
From the very first episode, Benjamin Sisko and his son, Jake, are thrust into an intense period of change. It propels the entire series forward, and many aspects connect the Sisko family to the people of Bajor. You could say that Sisko’s path very much mimics that of the Bajorans.
The Bajoran home world has just come out of a fifty year occupation by the Cardassians. Sisko must not only bridge a broken peoples’ relationship with the rest of the galaxy, but somehow promise them there is hope for a brighter future.
Change follows Sisko all the way to the final episode. But I refuse to include any spoilers here. This series has one of the most emotional conclusions I’ve ever seen. Avery Brooks poured his entire heart and soul into Sisko, and it’s evident in his arc.
Jake: “…He insisted that she cut up his food for him. He was treating her like she was some kind of slave.” Sisko: “It sounds like he’s acting like a Ferengi to me.”
Odo, the station’s constable. Odo, the enigma. Odo, the only one of his kind on Deep Space Nine.
For much of Odo’s arc, he’s searching for his origins but he’s sure of who he is as an individual. Then how, pray, does Odo end up in the negative change arc?
Sometimes what we seek isn’t what we’re meant to find. Or what we wanted to find. Odo’s story is one with many layers, but was it better at the beginning or at the end?
Odo: “Where’s the Changeling? I lost him in the conduits.” O’Brien: “We haven’t seen him.” (another Odo emerges from another access port) Changeling/Odo: “Wait. It’s me, Odo.” O’Brien: (looks at both Odo’s) “You don’t say.”
Colm Meany reprised the role from Star Trek: The Next Generation
Colm Meany wasn’t sure about reprising O’Brien on another series, but I’m sure glad he did! Because of this O’Brien became an integral character on DS9. Grandfathered in, if you will.
We saw some of his development on Next Gen, but he was more of a secondary character there. Watching the Chief’s growth from Next Gen to the end of DS9 was, and still is, such a joy.
One of the most serious episodes in all of Trek involves O’Brien. If you’re already a fan, you know precisely the one I speak of. It only affirms Trek’s relevancy to what 2020’s brought us. And it O’Brien’s arc shows us that humans in the 24th century will struggle with and overcome the same things we do today.
“It’s not you I hate, Cardassian. I hate what I became, because of you.” – O’Brien to Glinn Daro
Major Kira Nerys, very set in her ways when it comes to what she believes, is still willing to accept into her life new relationships, new thoughts and takes on whatever the universe throws at her with strength and grace.
The Round character type suits Kira the most. As she’s Bajoran, she’s just as passionate about her faith and her politics as Cardassians are about order and conquest. Kira’s passion is what draws people of all races to her, and thus needs to change and grow in order to survive.
“If you want to change the government, Minister Jaro, you vote to change it. You don’t sneak up from behind it with a dagger.” – Kira to Jaro
Confession: I had a hard time pinpointing Dax’s character arc. And even now I’m still unsure if I made the right choice. Dax, the symbiont within its host of Jadzia (read up on Trill physiology here), has already given Jadzia eight life times’ worth of experiences by the time her character’s introduced in Episode One.
As such, I do believe her character was thought out long before they cast Farrell into the roll. Round in that she knows firmly who she is even with the memories of so many lifetimes inside her.
Even so, Dax still manages to experience much change. Her change isn’t as integral to DS9s timeline as Sisko’s, but their arcs compliment one another well.
Dax: “The Korvat colony. First day of negotiations, I walked out on you, right in the middle of that long-winded speech of yours. You should have seen the look on your face. Nobody had ever had the kajunpak’t to show their back to the great Kang before Curzon did.” Kang: “I almost killed Curzon that day.”
Michael Dorn also reprised his role from Star Trek: The Next Generation
Because he previously appeared on Next Gen with Chief O’Brien, Worf is quite the Round character. Much of his character’s already developed, so if you really want to get the full Worf experience in, watch all of that series first.
That’s why Worf has the Shift Arc in DS9. We see him learning new skills, learning how to deal with different situations, and how he’s able to hold fast to his heritage in a place he’s never felt quite comfortable in.
If you thought Worf already had quite the role in TNG, just you wait!
Worf: “Our gods are dead. Ancient Klingon warriors slew them a millennia ago. They were more trouble than they were worth.” Kira: “I don’t think I’ll ever understand Klingons.” O’Brien: “Don’t worry about it, Major. Nobody Does. It’s the way they like it.”
Whether you want to believe a Ferengi can change or not, Quark falls under the Shift Arc category. Two of my absolute favorite DS9 episodes are completely Ferengi-centric: “Little Green Men” and “The Magnificent Ferengi.”
Even with those two fantastic episodes, and other times Quark shines in episodes like “Business As Usual” and “Profit and Lace,” Quark ends up exactly where he began.
As a Ferengi, Quark was raised with an intense need to earn profit. The entire population within the Ferengi alliance, after all, knows the Rules of Acquisition by heart.
For Quark, even with all his aspirations and more deals gone wrong over those gone right, his character ends with some negative changes.
Quark: “You practically begged me to stay, which was against my better judgement, but I did!” Sisko: “I didn’t beg you, I blackmailed you.”
Nog, influenced by his friendship with the Sisko family, begins to desire something more than what his society expects of him. There’s so much backstory with Nog and the man who portrays him that it could be its own separate blog post.
Because of those desires, he’s met with some tough resistance from those who can’t believe a Ferengi would want something more than profit. He wants to join Starfleet.
Nog’s journey from childhood to trusted member of the crew is a great reason families should watch DS9. For a secondary character, that’s not too shabby if you ask me.
Jake: “I- I- I made other plans!” Nog: “What could be more important than dom-jot?” Jake: “I have a date.” Nog: “Ohhh. We-ell. That’s different.”
What can I say about Gul Dukat that won’t spoil anything for you? For the character that he is, he’s one of the most developed I’ve ever seen in a Star Trek series. Next would have to be Commander Worf.
Dukat’s journey is one filled with challenge after challenge. He falls from grace, reclaims his place and falls again. Does this give him some form of Cardassian inferiority complex?
Let’s just say that Dukat is the polar opposite of DS9s resident Cardassian, Garak. While their race, as a whole, is ambitious, confident and efficient, this combination of traits feed both Dukat’s ego and his downfall.
Kira: “Why is it when you smile I want to leave the room?” Dukat: “I suppose it’s because of my overwhelming charm.”
Speaking of ego, Winn Adami likes to begin many of her statements with the “I.” I’ll not hide my feelings about this particular character: Adami is a snake, and I’m sure she’ll not appreciate my use of her given name here.
Adami not only qualify for the Fall Arc, she’s a rather flat character as well. Her wants are singular. And, irony of ironies, she’s openly bitter about her circumstances.
Is that bitterness warranted? Is it self-imposed or was it fed by the Bajoran thirst for freedom from the Cardassian Occupation? I guess you’ll just have to watch and decide for yourself.
Kai Winn: “I was chosen by the Prophets to lead our people into a new era. I know that! But I was not meant to be in a room with a Cardassian, debating legalisms and diplomatic nuances.”
“But Leigh! You left out Ezri Dax. Jake Sisko. Garak. Weyoun. Keiko and Molly and Kirayoshi O’Brien. Not to mention Liquidator Brunt, Quark’s cousin Gala, Moogie, the Grand Nagus, Damar, Leeta-“
Slow down, slow down, slow down. Deep Space Nine has one of, if not the largest pools of secondary characters I’ve ever seen in a series. And, whether you like my analysis or not, those folks are secondary characters.
While Jake Sisko did indeed grow up on the show (figuratively and literally), there really aren’t enough Jake-centered episodes fully round out his character. I should hope that even Jake Sisko himself, the captain’s son turned author, would agree with that conclusion. In conclusion: his is a flat character arc.
As for the others, some I’d love to see come back if Deep Space Nine were ever revived. But without Odo or Nog (rest in Paradise, Rene and Aron), as well as certain characters written off the show, I don’t foresee that happening any time soon.
For now, don’t let my analysis of these characters dissuade you from watching Deep Space Nine. Sandwiched between The Next Generation and Star Trek Voyager, the writers for DS9 were able to explore a different kind of frontier.
Two years have passed since I first put up a post titled 18 Links Any Writer Can Use. Since then, I’ve streamlined my writing process, the links I actually use on a daily or weekly basis, and decided it was time to update that old list. To quote the original post:
With so many voices giving advice (both good and bad), how do you even begin to choose what’s right for you?
In this 2020 update I’ll share what thoughts I remember from 2018 and why I included it. Keep reading to find out which links withstood the test of time.
2018: Then I had no idea what social media hashtags were popular in the #writingcommunity. This list looked to be the less intimidating of what I found to share. I didn’t need a 250 point list. Or a 120. Or, or or or or. Eighty-five seemed like a great, low number with just the right variety to get started.
2020: Now I use only a select few. The world of hashtags is its own beast and, unless you’re willing to read through all those threads, those hours online could be better used outlining or working on your manuscript. Find the two or three or four – ones that fit your genre, or ones that truly connect you to others in your field – and stick with them. You can, of course, switch it up.
2018: Then: a confession. I used this link a LOT to compare my site to those most popular. I used to agonize over design, usefulness, the quality of their short stories, and the fact they had published books. It took a while to realize: that’s not what this list is supposed to be used for.
2020: Now, I look at these lists for inspiration and connection to authors and writers I otherwise may have never known. Instead of measuring up my own self worth against those who’ve worked diligently and far longer than I on their writing careers, it’s now a dream. Let’s face it – I’ve got a long way to go!
2018: Then: I used this website a LOT throughout my early research stage. As I didn’t truly know where to begin, it was in 2018 I discovered the term “research rabbit hole,” and my local librarians were more than happy to oblige.
2020: Nowadays I utilize the Library of Congress’ “Ask A Librarian” link. This is mostly due to issues with my car (I don’t trust it to get me that far) and the fact that my library was closed for four months due to the pandemic. While Northland does have an entire row dedicated to Southwest Pennsylvanian history, the information I needed later on in my research journey became increasingly specific.
I’m not saying your local online card catalog isn’t worth it. If you dig deep enough, other equally fantastic resources are most certainly out there.
“Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh holds many rare and unique collections of historical importance, especially those that illuminate the rich cultural heritage of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. These historical collections are held at the Main Library in Oakland, as well as in neighborhood libraries throughout the City of Pittsburgh.”
2018: One of Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropic goals was to make resources available to the American public. As a result, Pittsburgh has its Oliver Room. I had every intention to make an appointment to visit this special place.
2020: However, as life would have it, I completely forgot about the Oliver Room. I still think it’s a fantastic thing to have resources such as this. It’s always worth it taking a look into your own town’s or city’s historical archives. Do I still hope to visit for a future project? You bet!
2018: Then, when I shared this in 2018, it was already out of date as it was posted in 2011. This is still a useful guide, but if you’re in the submission phase to agents or publishers, keep in mind that each one may have their own requirements for manuscript formatting.
2020: Now, as I’m nowhere near that dreaded querying stage, I ignore everything but the basics for formatting.
Do I still use this link? No. Instead, I use this link. I don’t know when it was put up, but I have to believe it was within the last two years.
2018: Then, I thought I was going to use this site so, so much. As it turns out, I prefer physical books for my non-fiction over electronic resources. Ones I own. Ones I can highlight and put post it notes all over.
2020: Now, as I get easily overwhelmed when I read informational blogs, I don’t visit as much as I used to. Mignon Fogarty’s mind still fascinates me with how many useful podcasts and tweets she puts out. So go check her website out if you’ve got any grammar-related questions.
Do I still use this link? No. I do still follow her Twitter account here. And now I’m questioning the validity of my own grammar in this blog post….
2018: Then, my exact words were “Tired of seeing Pittsburgh themed links? I promise, I’m nearly done highlighting my city! […] The fact that there’s so many organizations dedicated to preserving its history, with so many people interested in its history, should come of no surprise as to why my first novel series will include it.”
2020: Now, after many many many revisions, I don’t know how it would work. What I wrote following the aforementioned statement is still true: “Historic Pittsburgh is supported by The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Chatham University Archives and many others to pool resources for research and preservation. Everyone sees history through different eyes, so it’s a good thing that there’s more than one organization preserving our past. Check with your local city to see if they have sources you may not have thought of.”
Do I still use this link? No, but I wonder: would it be a great tool for my grandma’s ancestry research?
2018: Then, my introverted self would never even have considered joining a critique group.
2020: My still introverted self has yet to join. I’m also still far from any sort of critique stage (and I shelved that 2018 novella), but I do peruse the articles from time to time. I also wonder if I’ll ever be brave enough to join up. Directly from Ms. Hardy herself,
“This is for writers who are looking for critique partners or critique groups for more than just “I need some eyes on this before I submit it to an agent” type critiques.”
2018: Back then I’d no idea how publishing works. I only knew of this phrase, “my query received another rejection,” and didn’t even know what a query was.
2020: Today I’m a bit more versed in *some* of publishing’s inner workings (the unagented, unpublished side of it), and learned it’s best to encourage other writers/authors than think of them as your competition. But that’s a blog post for another day.
“LitRejections was founded with the sole purpose of encouraging writers as they go through the rigorous process of becoming a published author. They offer several types of critiques, links to agencies in particular countries, interviews with folks deep within the writing industry and encouragement through their social media.”
Do I still use this link? No, but most definitely will when I hop into the dreaded “query trenches!”
2018: Back in 2018 I wrote: “Flashbacks. When done well they can provide important insight into a character’s motives or actions. They also run the risk of providing far more backstory than what the reader truly needs to know. It’s a tricky business, deciding to add a flashback, dream sequence or something equally vague at the beginning of a story. Contributor Peter Selgin takes us through several scenarios on what to include and what not to include. And when. A very useful post indeed.”
2020: Nowadays I barely write flashback scenes. It’s not that I find them completely unnecessary. It’s because flashback scenes scare me. What tense should they be written in? Should I introduce a new character within the flashback? Is the flashback actually necessary? Any time I find myself thinking about adding one, I revisit this link.
Do I still use this link? Yes, especially if I need a refresher.
2018: Back then Miss KM Weiland appeared a lot on this site. She was one of the first folks I connected with when I revamped my Twitter account.
2020: Now I don’t remember if I bought her books on writing first, or communicated through DMs first. However it happened, I’m glad to have found her site. Her posts, like the one above, are some of the best I’ve found. And it doesn’t matter if you’re brand new or if you’ve been “in the biz” for a long time. There’s certainly something there for everyone.
2018: It was in 2018 I realized I needed to go back to school. Back to my high school English classes and revisit my language’s confounding grammar rules. Here’s a cold hard truth: I’m not the only one who struggled with it. My troubles were quite evident to my beta readers who didn’t know what they were in for when they agreed to read early versions of FOR ONE NIGHT (my now-shelved novella).
2020: Two years later I’d like to think I’ve improved. No one’s seen my writing since then (save these blog posts). I guess I’ll find out when I begin a search for my next group of betas. Remember: It’s okay to not know everything about writing. It’s a whole beast on its own!
It’s often a good idea to, every once in a while, take a step back from the writing – be it blogging or working on your manuscript – and read. I could throw in a few of those overused, oh-so-cliche quotes about reading and how it affects one’s writing, but I shall refrain.
Last year I hit a reading rut. I just didn’t want to. Anytime someone mentioned books or curling up in a cozy chair with hot chocolate (or wine, whichever you prefer), I had this strange inner reaction. Throughout my life I’ve made it a point to go against the grain and not do what was deemed popular at the time.
Clothes one to two seasons out of style = check. Star Trek and X-Files watcher instead of Dawson’s Creek or FRIENDS = check. Got the NERDS Blizzard from Dairy Queen instead of Oreos or normal chocolate = check.
I didn’t come out of my “no reading” funk until I did an experiment earlier this year where I didn’t turn on my television for an entire month. As a direct result, my reading time skyrocketed. Surprised? No? I wasn’t either. According to my Kindle statistics, I’ve read for sixteen weeks in a row – from mid March to now. I’ve also smashed my original reading goal of twenty books (low goal, I know) and upped it to forty.
Those numbers don’t include the paper/hardback copies I’ve read. And those books have mostly been of the non-fiction variety. So here are four non-fiction books I’ve been reading (or have already read…or need to read) this year. Some are on this list, others are brand new and I’ve yet to update the page to include them. As I always say, I hope you enjoy this post and perhaps you’ll find something new to read!
1,000 CHARACTER REACTIONS FROM HEAD TO TOE by Valerie Howard
This book, the newest addition to my self-help collection, is part of a series designed to help spark creativity and get out of one’s rut of using the same words over and over again. One of this series’ other books, 1,000 STRONG VERBS, arrived on my doorstep earlier this week.
While it’s not a complete list of every reaction a character can have, Howard does include spaces after each specific section where you can put your own spin on what’s provided. In reality, it’s a two-in-one book and workbook.
What drew me to this book was her blurb: “As an author, are your characters always sighing and nodding? Did you just sigh and nod? If so, this handy little booklet is for you!” I can handle dialogue just fine, and I adore world building. Character interactions and movements are my biggest problems.
Not only that, when I now pick up a book to read for pleasure, these nuances are forever front and center because I’m paying attention to an author’s style. Flow and odd interactions never stood out to me as a teen. Now they can make or break a book.
I refuse to stay in my rut, so I’ll be keeping these little booklets on my desk for future reference.
True Ladies and Proper Gentlemen edited by Sarah A. Chrisman
Apparently I missed the memo when I began my writing journey that there’s an arsenal of books from the Victorian era that many historical fiction writers use. TRUE LADIES AND PROPER GENTLEMEN is one of those books.
I also didn’t know this book existed until a research stint a few weeks later when I stumbled upon this title and immediately drooled over the cover. Okay, I didn’t actually drool. I metaphorically drooled.
Modern nuances in historical novels has always annoyed me, and that applies to character mannerisms as well. Historical novelists are always faced with this conundrum: do we write a book filled with historical references but modernize its characters to fit the current state of things, or do we write according to the time period we choose and try to be as historically accurate as possible?
No matter what’s chosen, I’m afraid that choice is always met with criticism from readers who prefer the former or latter of the aforementioned situations. Then, do we explain and defend ourselves in a preface or epilogue note at the end of the story?
TRUE LADIES AND PROPER GENTLEMEN is a reference I’m glad still exists. It gives insight into the unique and complex social proprieties of the day. I’m still unsure if it was originally published in 2015 or if it’s an edited version from an earlier publication.
Whichever the case, more research and reading is most definitely required!
Images of America: Pittsburgh’s Bridges by Todd Wilson and Helen Wilson
Images of America, in case you’re unawares, is a vast collection of historical imagery archives compiled into books by subject. Of course, for me, the Pittsburgh series have become an invaluable resource and catalyst for furthering my interest in what “the ‘burgh” looked like before my parents were even born.
My last surviving grandmother is 84 years old (born in 1936), so some of these books have been like walking down memory lane for her. As such, she’s also conducting her own deep dive into Hartman history and connections within Southwestern Pennsylvania.
It’s because of my grandmother’s interest in my great great great grandfather’s bakery in Allegheny City that I picked this up.
I *may* have to interview her one of these days about him.
I digress, as usual!
PITTSBURGH’S BRIDGES proved itself to be an accurate resource, and let’s just say that one of my book’s pivotal scenes was inspired by a fact found within its pages.
Creating Character Arcs by KM Weiland
I know, I know. Not this book again. But I saved it for last because I didn’t want you guys to feel like I’m beating you over the head with this series.
However, Weiland’s books are just that good.
While I’ve read each one at least thrice over, I still refer to them (them being CREATING CHARACTER ARCS, OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL and STRUCTURING YOUR NOVEL) time and again when I need a refresher.
I highly, highly doubt that any one person can know absolutely everything about writing. Sometimes I’ll freeze in the middle of a scene and will need a reminder right then and there.
Thank goodness my home is only 625 sq. ft., and my non-fiction bookshelf is but twenty paces from my writing desk. Correction: fifteen paces. I got up and checked.
Here’s my point. You don’t need a reference from me to find what resources work best for you and your stories. Let’s face it – I’m still a “noob” when it comes to this thing called writing. However, Ms. Weiland was one of the first authors I connected with when I first began looking for community online. She’s always been willing to answer small questions here and there, and her experience is both highly valuable and unproblematic. And that’s really refreshing.
Did you find anything worth diving into?
I love making these short book lists as they force me to go back to my stacks and rediscover old favorites or books I’d forgotten about. In all honesty, I’d completely forgotten about the Improve Your Writing book (my apologies to Ms. Hahn!)
What are some books you own but recently rediscovered? You’re in a judge-free zone, so don’t be shy and share those titles in the comments below! Let us all discover something new today. Happy reading and have a great writing week!
Why is there all this focus on Star Trek on my website? The answer is simple – it’s my absolute favorite franchise. Every time it’s on, it’s like I’ve come home to a friend, or rediscovered a favorite comfort food from ages past. Not only that, but if you can look past the sometimes-hokey story lines and bad episodes (there isn’t a single franchise that can claim immunity from a badly written episode), you’ll grow to love the characters themselves.
Star Trek Voyager‘s original run began in January 1995 with “Caretaker,” and wrapped in 2001 with “Endgame.” Throughout its seven seasons the writers introduced and said goodbye to many secondary characters, and some primary ones too.
In writing, a character’s arc, or their development, is an important piece to the story’s overall puzzle. When written well, a character can incite excitement or take a viewer or reader into the depths of despair. The downside to any Star Trek series is there will always be a character(s) who’ll get more screen time than others.
As with any story, each character has a purpose. Some are clearly main characters, others decidedly supporting, and still others make but a brief appearance. As I learn more about these character arcs, I started comparing them to the crew of the USS Voyager. We’ll observe them by rank, and figure out which arc they fall under. But first, let’s take a quick look at the types of character arcs.
These examples all come from KM Weiland’s “Helping Writers Become Authors,” because her resources are awesome.
Please be sure to stop by her blog, because she goes more in depth with each of these. This is just quick reference forthis post.Also, each arc is linked to Weiland’s website so you can dive even more deeply.
Positive Change Arc To paraphrase: Also known as one of the heroic arcs, characters with this arc uses a known or newly learned truth to try implementing positive change.
The Disillusionment Arc Characters with the disillusionment arc will either join with the positive resolutions of the story or return to their original world, even while knowing the new “truths.” This is a.k.a a “negative change arc.”
The Corruption Arc Characters with the corruption arc rarely want to positively change. Instead, they use their original lies to continue on in the “new world”
The Flat Arc [Also a heroic arc] “These characters experience little to no change over the course of the story. […] Sometimes these characters are catalysts for change in the story world around them.”
The Fall Arc Another negative change arc. The simplest definition of a Fall Arc is the character must face the consequences + aftermath of their choices. No matter what they try to positively change, if they try, it’s met with resistance and futility.
Now let’s see which senior officer exemplifies which arc. Do any turn to Corruption?
Note: Spoilers and episode recommendations to follow
Captain Kathryn Janeway Kate Mulgrew Arc: The Flat Arc
Hear me out here. As the first female captain portrayed by the Star Trek franchise (we can only assume that other female captains preceded her within this universe), Captain Janeway had a lot to live up to. Let’s face it. She followed the likes of James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard. A scientist a heart, Janeway often took it upon herself to study the mysteries of the Delta Quadrant along with her underlings. Episodes like “Year of Hell,” “Scorpion” and “Macrocosm” successfully exhibit her tactical resilience. However, she does have a stubborn streak. One where both Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Tuvok oft have to act as checks and balances, and remind her she isn’t alone in her command-making decisions. Throughout all seven seasons, Captain Janeway remains one of the most constant characters of them all, and clearly the most developed even before the show begins. For this reason, I’ve labeled her as a Flat Arc character. While she wrestles with her truths throughout the entire series, she rarely falters. What influenced my choice –> How to Write a Flat Character by KM Weiland.
Commander Chakotay Robert Beltran Arc: The Positive Change Arc
Commander Chakotay, ex-terrorist under the Maquis (if you followed the Deep Space Nine series you’ll know more on what this means), and once a cadet at Starfleet Academy, Commander Chakotay is a perfect example example of the positive change arc. We see a LOT of change within Chakotay’s character (and many fans today wished he’d “hooked up” with Janeway, especially after “Resolutions“). Even after Chakotay’s own fall from Starfleet, and even after his commanding position as a Maquis, I think Chakotay became a father figure to the ship’s crew. Both Starfleet and Maquis alike. While his arc eventually flattened out in later seasons, he was uniquely (purposefully) placed to step in as commander in “Caretaker, Parts 1&2.” From his initial introduction to “Endgame,” you know you’d want Commander Chakotay defending your honor. (ie “Basics 1&2“).
Lieutenant Tuvok Tim Russ Arc: The Flat Arc
Commander Tuvok, the steadfast Vulcan of Voyager’s bridge staff, as well as proficient tactical officer, rarely had episodes dedicated just to his character development. Out of VOY’s entire run, only “The Raven,” “Author, Author,” “Gravity,” “Repression” and “Innocence” showcase Tuvok’s loyalty and tenacity as he works to solve problems or even a murder. His keen investigation skills are sharpened by his interactions with the rest of Voyager’s crew, whether he’s willing to admit that or not. Tuvok’s arc was hard to place, but his is the same as Janeways: The Flat Arc. Before you “poo poo” my conclusion, think of this way. Before VOY aired, you can tell Tuvok’s character already had purpose. He’s placed as Janeway’s confidant and valued friend. And, as the oldest member (being a Vulcan), he’s already had a long-standing Starfleet career (“Flashback“). As such, it only makes sense Tuvok would have a somewhat flat arc.
Lieutenant Tom Paris Robert Duncan McNeil Arc(s): Positive Change with a lot of Fall
In the series’ opening, we already know Tom Paris, son of a Starfleet Admiral, fell from grace due to bad decision making and then lying about his mistakes. In Starfleet, rank and relations won’t protect anyone from their own undoing. But Janeway gave him an opportunity to redeem himself (“Caretaker”) and his flyboy nature couldn’t keep him from negotiating a deal. We see his arc grow until season five’s episode “Thirty Days.” Up until that time, he’d worked to earn the field commission he’d been given in an emergency situation. From there he had to work again to regain his crew’s – no – his family’s confidence in him. Notable Tom Paris episodes include “Alice,” “Vis a Vis,” “Lineage,” and “Investigations.”
Lieutenant B’Ellana Torres Roxann Dawson Arc: The Positive Growth Arc
B’Ellana Torres was especially hard to nail down, but she’s definitely got a positive growth arc. When we first meet her in “Caretaker,” her Klingon half rules over her human one, and she often gave into it during Voyager’s early seasons. One of her major turning points took place in season four’s episode, “Day of Honor,” when she finally (spoiler) admits her true feelings to Tom Paris. Her development does taper off a bit as with any show, but we get to the core of who she is by season four’s end. Notable episodes: “Extreme Risk,” “Lineage,” “Faces” and “Dreadnought.”
Ensign Harry Kim Garrett Wang Arc: The Positive Growth Arc
Garrett Wang himself has portrayed Harry as “Voyager’s whipping boy.” With everything the writers threw at him – multiple near death experiences, actual death experiences, individual time travel – Harry could’ve easily gone by way of the Corruption Arc. However, Wang’s character managed to keep his optimism, curious mind and scientific know-how. Ensign Harry Kim, I think, drew a lot of his strength from others around him, most profoundly Captain Janeway and Lieutenant Tom Paris (even though Paris disappoints him from time to time). Even though Kim was, in my opinion, under-developed, he still had some positive growth, if not a little flatter than most. Notable Harry Kim episodes include “Caretaker,” “Favorite Son,” “Demon,” “The Disease,” “Course: Oblivion,” and “Ashes to Ashes.”
The Doctor Robert Picardo Arc: The Positive Change Arc
My original feelings about The Doctor aside (I found him quite annoying, along with the rest of the crew), The Doctor does possess a positive change arc. This emergency medical hologram (or EMH), probably had the most lines on the show. One such example of his arc is that it took him years – literally years – to choose a name for himself. From his first scenes to very last. There’s also the added logistical nightmare behind his technological “genes,” somewhat solved with the addition of his mobile emitter in “Future’s End.” After season three he calms down, but has a tendency to throw himself into each new hobby he picks up (opera, a holo-family, social lessons with Seven of Nine, just to name a few). Notable episodes include “Darkling,” “Revulsion,” “Flesh and Blood,” and “Projections.”
I’m a doctor, not a battery.
Neelix Ethan Phillips Arc(s): Disillusionment to Growth to Flat
As you can see, Neelix is a complex fellow, and that complexion is perfectly portrayed by Ethan Phillips. Phillips had previously played several characters in the franchise, including a Ferengi on Next Generation and a different Ferengi on Enterprise. Neelix begins his Voyager journey in disillusionment. While his girlfriend, Kes, settled into life on Voyager quite easily, Neelix was tempted to run on several occasions (as in “The Cloud“). At some point in season two, he and Kes are no longer a couple, and he begins to finally grow as an individual, spreading his own wings and expressing a willingness to try new things (“Fair Trade“). By Season Five, with his character established, his arc flattens. Notable episodes include “Jetrel,” “Once Upon A Time,” “Rise,” and “Investigations.”
Kes Jennifer Lien Arc(s): Positive Change –> The Corruption Arc
Wait? Seriously? The original ying to Neelix’s yang? Unfortunately, Kes is one of those characters viewers either loved, or loved to hate. Kes, a Delta Quadrant native, willingly joined Voyager‘s crew because of her intense desire to explore the galaxy and leave her Ocampan homeworld behind. Due to her species’ strong telepathic and mental capabilities, Kes eventually had to leave the ship in season four’s “The Gift.” This is where her corruption arc comes into play. Spoiler ahead! Kes returns briefly in season six’s “Fury,” as an incredibly angry individual, believing the crew abandoned her. Something corrupted her in the new years since “The Gift.” But does she stay corrupted? You’ll just have to watch to find out! Notable Kes episodes include “Caretaker,” “Before and After,” “Cold Fire,” and “Persistence of Vision.”
Seven of Nine Jeri Ryan Arc: The Positive Growth Arc
Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine joined the cast at the end of season two, effectively replacing Kes. The Voyager writing room ramped up her arc, using Janeway as her guide as they did with Kes. (Do you see now why Janeway needed to be the most established character in the beginning?) However, Seven grew so much that she was able to call out Janeway as they disagreed on procedure and life in general. Her story continues with Star Trek’s newest addition to its lineup, Star Trek Picard. Notable Seven of Nine episodes include “Imperfection,” “Scorpion,” “The Raven,” “Someone To Watch Over Me,” and “Bliss.”
If you’re a Star Trek fan, did I get this wrong? Or did I correctly analyze these ten characters from a writer’s viewpoint? Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below.
Conclusion: the more you learn the art of writing, the more you’ll analyze your favorite forms of entertainment.
For I dipt into the future, far as the human eye could see; Saw the Vision of the World, and all the wonder that it would be…
Alfred Tennyson, from the bridge plaque on the USS Voyager
Writing Prompt: Pick one of your favorite television and try figuring out their character arcs. Perhaps you’ll discover why you love them or love to hate them.
Even though I’ve done a lot of writing since childhood, this is the first time I’ve attempted something as big as Project Firedamp. Not only are there a lot of moving parts, historical facts to keep straight, and cultural differences to look out for, things are in their early stages and I’ve got time to make changes.
When my idea for #ProjectFiredamp first came to fruition, I tossed around several sub genres of historical fiction before settling on historical adventure. The time period I chose (late Victorian) and the characters created (some real, some not) really give me wiggle room in the adventure realm.
However, since a few NPCs (if you do online gaming you’ll know this stands for non-player character) and my antagonist were, in fact, real people, I still have to play the “How far can I go into their historical facts without bogging down the reader?” game. (Thank you, Paulette, for getting “NPC” stuck in my head! I love our writerly DMs). Not only that, but since I decided to have two point of views instead of just one, the fear of under developing one of them is real.
Dare I add a third POV? I’m not sure I’m capable of juggling that many subplots just yet!
I asked a question similar to this on Twitter a few weeks ago and KM Weiland shared her method for developing characters. Not only does she have a full book called Creating Character Arcs and its corresponding workbook, she also has a list of interview questions I’ve started using myself. While my fear of under developing a main character is still ever present in the back of my mind, these resources have really helped keep some of that anxiety under control. Let’s face it – I’m a list lover. And you’ve surely deduced by now that I’m an outliner as well.
Method is something I never looked at as a kid. Heck, I grew up in the 90s. We didn’t have as many easily-accessible resources then as we do now. I promise this isn’t a sponsored post. Ms. Weiland will have no idea I’m writing this until I share it on Twitter. Everyone has their own way of helping them keep track of their characters. So far, keeping a running dialogue with them via a list of “interview” questions is helping my process. Maybe those lists will help keep that seed of multiple MC doubt from growing!
To be borderline cliche with this post’s opening statement, the Internet can be a vast, confusing place. With so many voices giving advice both good and bad, how do you even begin to choose what’s right for you? So, then, how can you trust anything I have to say?
I didn’t mean to go all philosophical with this post, but it went there. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, my most recent being 62 Things I’ve Decluttered or Stopped Buying. And it’s not even about writing! I do a lot of tweaking on my website. Probably more than I should.
Earlier this evening I revisited the Quick Links page I put up many moons ago. Granted about half of them are regional in respect to where I live, but I still think they’re useful to anyone digging into history or research of any kind. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a historical, informational hub, and I hope to one day add my stories to it. For now, here are 19 Links Any Writer Can Use.
Social Media. Niches. Hashtags. I’d like to think I’m a savvy enough individual to keep up with these things, but when you consider every type of platform out there, you realize that it’s physically impossible to keep up with all that plus your writing. I didn’t even know the #histfic tag that I now use from time to time. Here’s the thing. There are so many tags, communities and connections out there that it can get confusing very quickly. This post helped me narrow down my options and I still use those tags to this day.
Okay, yes. I’m aware that it’s 2019. We’re 3/4 of the way through the year and soon it will be 2020. Regardless, Dana Sitar via The Writer Life covers a variety of topics in the list, giving everyone a chance to shine. From Nicole Bianchi and Re:Fiction to Comps & Calls and Enchanting Marketing, this is a great resource no matter the year. Take a look and maybe you’ll find some gems that’ll help your journey.
While I can be quite nostalgic in that I miss the era of paper card catalogs – pulling tiny wooden drawers open, cards made up with typewriters, and “return by” inked on by a stamp – I do have to take a moment to show my appreciation for the ACLA Card Catalog system. During the initial research phase of Project Chronicles I used them a lot. And I mean a LOT. I reserved books, was able to request books from other counties, or from libraries within Allegheny I wouldn’t have had time to visit. I’d definitely suggest joining your local library system. They’re incredibly helpful and know how to dig up things you may not.
This link banks off the ACLA one in that it’s another librarian based resource. I don’t know if this is a federally funded or state funded thing, or if it’s available in every state, but Pennsylvania has a fantastic resource that anyone can use. With options to chat online, access to e-resources and more, I used this several times when trying to find info on a Pittsburgh landmark which no longer exists. So it may be worth it seeing if there’s a system similar to AskHerePa in your area.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh holds many rare and unique collections of historical importance, especially those that illuminate the rich cultural heritage of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. These historical collections are held at the Main Library in Oakland, as well as in neighborhood libraries throughout the City of Pittsburgh.
One of Andrew Carnegie’s goals was, through philanthropy, make resources available to the American public. The same American public who worked in his mills and places he had connections to. As a result Pittsburgh has its Oliver Room. They preserve historical documents and gives patrons an opportunity use them in a safe environment. The other thing I find really cool about them is that they have genealogy records, rare books and Pennsylvania topographical maps. One of these days I need to take a day and explore this great resource.
I confess. This one might be a titch out of date, as it was posted in 2011. Dear Lord, that’s eight years ago! I’m sure much more than a “titch” has changed. This is still a useful guide, but if you’re in the submission phase to agents or publishers, keep in mind that each one may have their own requirements for manuscript formatting.
Grammar Girl was also mentioned on the 100 Websites for Writers List 2018 (linked above). There’s a reason for this. She covers a variety of writing topics regarding words and punctuation. She covers things I wouldn’t even think of and I learn something each time I visit. Definitely check out Grammar Girl!
The Heinz History Center is more than just one building. Part of The Smithsonian network, its main focus is Southwestern Pennsylvania. There’s the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, Fort Pitt Museum the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village…I think I’ll stop there. They are experts on knowledge of my region in the United States, and I’m grateful for the work they do. They also post a weekly blog centered around historical events most may not know happened.
Tired of seeing Pittsburgh themed links? I promise, I’m nearly done highlighting my city! But Pittsburgh is one of the most historical cities on the Eastern seaboard. The fact that there’s so many organizations dedicated to preserving its history, and so many people interested in its history, should come of no surprise as to why my first novel series will include it. Historic Pittsburgh is supported by The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Chatham University Archives and many others to pool resources for research and preservation. Everyone sees history through different eyes, so it’s a good thing that there’s more than one organization preserving our past. Check with your local city to see if they have sources you may not have thought of.
Now this is something I’ve yet to participate in because the introvert in me is still afraid to do so. It’s been several years since I first bookmarked her site and I forget who introduced it to me, but she has a series of novel writing books on structure, revising and understanding how things work together.
The point of this particular inclusion is to highlight the Critique Groups section. If you don’t want to share your MS with completely random strangers you’ve never interacted with through social media, this may be the place for you. Directly from Ms. Hardy herself, “This is for writers who are looking for critique partners or critique groups for more than just “I need some eyes on this before I submit it to an agent” type critiques.”
I’m far from any sort of critique stage (as I’m working on a rewrite of my novella), but I have this on standby for when the time is right!
This one operates in a similar fashion to AskHerePa but on a larger scale. These librarians are highly trained professionals who can help you research any topic you approach them with. They are a bit slower to respond as they take their time, or if you message them on the weekend, but they are thorough in the types of resources they provide you with. One time I received not only web links but book titles my local library may be able to get for me. I highly recommend giving this free service a try!
This may seem like an odd one to include, but aren’t rejections a part of every writer’s query journey? Let’s face it – we offer ourselves up as tribute (lame Hunger Game reference there, I know) each time we send our work off to someone. Then the rejection comes in – hours, days, weeks or months later – and we find ourselves disappointed yet again.
LitRejections was founded with the sole purpose of encouraging writers as they go through the rigorous process of becoming a published author. They offer several types of critiques, links to agencies in particular countries, interviews with folks deep within the writing industry and encouragement through their social media.
Flashbacks. When done well they can provide important insight into a character’s motives or actions. They also run the risk of providing far more backstory than what the reader truly needs to know. It’s a tricky business, deciding to add a flashback, dream sequence or something equally vague at the beginning of a story. Contributor Peter Selgin takes us through several scenarios on what to include and what not to include. And when. A very useful post indeed.
Miss KM Weiland appears a lot on this site. No, I don’t know her personally. She is, however, one of the OG (original) folks I connected with when I first got involved in the online writing community. I don’t remember if I bought her books on writing first, or communicated through DMs first. However it happened, I’m glad to have found her site. Her posts, like the one above, are some of the most insightful I’ve found.
Grammar. I love to hate it and hate to love it. The cold hard truth: I know I’m not the only one who struggles with my grammar. I’m constantly second guessing myself whenever I write something down, be it on this website, in email correspondence, in a notebook or a Tweet.
My trouble became quite evident to my early beta readers as I switch from tense to tense. At least I’ve yet to mix up which form of POV I’m using in a manuscript (knock on wood). I still have to refer to sites like No. 15 for a quick refresher course every now and then.
Remember: It’s okay to not know everything about writing. It’s a whole beast of a learning process on its own!
Back in 2016 I was granted an amazing opportunity to tour one of my city’s most historic music halls. Home to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Heinz Hall offers visitors a variety of shows and events throughout the year. A couple years ago I attended a Harry Potter night and everyone had a grand time.
Heinz Hall provides an opulent, rich setting any writer would love to include in a story. They have their own unique history as well as a curator who cares for it. Of course this is specific to the orchestra, but if you have a theatre scene in your story, consider checking out actual locals. They may have a curated, dedicated history center you can utilize.
Why is QueryTracker frequently mentioned in online resource lists? Because of the type of resource that it is. Many established agents and agencies use it to connect with writers, and some use it exclusively for manuscript queries. Gone are the days of mailing giant stacks of paper in manila envelopes (though some still do). There’s still the Writer’s Market [insert year here], a printed guide book you can use. But QueryTracker is a faster method of searching for agents and what their MSWL (manuscript wish lists) are. And guess what? It’s free!
And here’s yet another article by KM Weiland. She’s just that good, okay? While this post doesn’t specifically use the word voice, as in a writer’s voice in their story, it did help me understand the concept a bit more. When I first worked with beta readers I was often complimented on my voice. But…what did that even mean?
Eventually, you’ll find what works for you. Do you need a certain technological tool to help you write? Or do you enjoy looking up obscure words and weaving them into your tales? Do you prefer writing in the mornings, afternoon or evenings? This post encourages you to find just that.
Whew! What a list! At one time I considered removing the section from my website and keeping them to myself, but why not share? I may have a resource you never even knew existed.
I suppose there aren’t as many Pittsburgh-themed links as I anticipated, but they’re still just as useful as the others. Expand your knowledge. Look in places you may never have thought to go, and you may be handsomely rewarded with knowledge you never had before.
There are many things within the authoring world that confuse me, but there’s even more that just makes sense. What might be a necessity for one writer might not even be on the radar for another and vice versa.
I didn’t even know about outlining until a year into my research process. I don’t remember whose Twitter account it was that eventually led me to KM Weiland’s but I came to appreciate her tips and guides and blogs. THEN I discovered that she was a published writer herself with several self-help books on the process – she isn’t just fiction. She’s non-fiction as well.
The more I went through her blog, Helping Writers Become Authors, the more I realized that I really was lacking direction. All I had was the idea, but no idea on how to get from point a to b to c and so on without just abandoning my story all together. From past experience I knew that was my biggest downfall and this time around I want to be published more than ever.
Some, more experienced writers are able to function without the outline structure. They’re the more free-spirited type of writer. The more artsy who has notes and post-its and every inch of their wall or notebook covered from top to bottom with random ideas. Then there’s me. I can’t do that. I need to have a clean work space, I need to be organized, and I need to know exactly where I’m going.
That’s why the outline concept appealed to me from the very beginning, so down below I will be pointing out more pros than cons on the method. I’m sure it’s been discussed on countless other blogs before, but these are just based on my own observations as I’m slowly working through my series.
Some publishers request a copy of your outline. It wasn’t until I started looking through that Writer’s Guide book to publishers did I realize that some of those folks actually want a full copy of the outline for your work. I think I saw it pop up more for fiction publishers than non-fiction, but if you already have an outline started and your interested in submitting to a specific place, you don’t have to go back to the beginning of your novel and convert it into outline form. It’s already done and saves you several hours’ (or days, depending on how long your story is) of work. All you may need to do is format it if the publisher requests it and you’re all set!
Even though you may deviate from your outline during the writing process you can always have multiple drafts of the outline. While I mentioned I don’t like having multiple notes and post-its earlier in this blog, I don’t shy away from writing in the margins of my physical copies. You should see the first two pages of the first draft of my overall outline – it’s a hot mess of reminders, tips and updates. I’m already working on adding things to my outline that I didn’t have in there before, like certain things a character does or an important subtle hint on what’s coming. I’ll just have to remind myself to print out a new copy once all is said and done and save that version as THE version so I don’t accidentally send a publisher the disjointed original.
Gives you a guide from beginning to end. There really isn’t much that needs to be expanded upon with that statement. It says it all right there. An outline’s main purpose is to help guide you all the way through your story from, well, beginning to end [or lack thereof if you’re having a procrastination day!] I felt nearly completely lost without mine. Some days I still feel a bit lost because, let’s face it, I’m creating my own world for someone else to enjoy and that’s a lot of pressure!
Whether you outline or not, whether you fully read this blog post or not, I suspect that we’re all heading towards the same goal of becoming a published author for the first time or you already are and you’re just preparing for your next release. Regardless of your methodology, you need to find what works best for your pacing. Having an outline has helped give me a sense of direction and some sense completion. If you are a new writer I strongly suggest having a read of KM Weiland’s helpful series available on Amazon. (She has no idea I’m plugging this so I swear this isn’t an #ad or anything like that. I just think they’re incredibly useful!)
So don’t worry if you have a day of complete distraction and procrastination. Even seasoned authors have them! Just keep pressing on!