When I got the idea to my ‘Council Of Twelve’ series, I considered doing some research, start with finding ‘experts.’ I talked to two people I considered experts: a nun and a monk.
Unfortunately, both were not as good as experts as I had hoped. The nun is an amazing, wonderful personality with a huge golden heart, selfless, helpful, pious – and an avid reader and a big fan of fantasy books. I could not ask even one of the many questions I had; she didn’t stop talking, telling me about all the fantastic books she already read. By listening to her, I had the impression, in her imagination, she actually wrote my entire series. It was an enjoyable, interesting afternoon, but I got home with nothing than a headache.
The priest was a different kind of expert. He answered most of my questions with quotes directly out of the bible, and he was not at all a fan of my idea for that series. He found, the fight Good versus Evil should be left to our Lord. I can only agree with that, but I had not planned to single-handedly fight Hades and the entire Underworld! I was only planning to write a book, for Heaven’s sake, and we’re not talking about a non-fiction reality report. We’re talking about a fantasy book series. Towards the end of that conversation, I had the impression if I ever wrote that ‘Council Of Twelve’ series, my ‘expert’ would do anything to get me excommunicated and not only that; I would be going directly to the Catholic ‘jail’ and my soul would be grilling in the inferno for all eternity.
I cured that headache too and decided to write the series anyway, even without Father Thomas’ blessing.
The wonderful thing about fantasy books, as compared to history books (or all non-fiction, of course) is, that the creation of worlds, characters, and magic does not need as much research as the book that entwines around existing facts. The Council Of Twelve series bases on values, the Christian values I grew up with, and a few of the characters that cement my beliefs.
Since I now got the few already existing characters, I started adding up with more figures and creatures on the good side…
However, the evil side needed more of my attention. In my book, it exists, but it’s not like I’m an expert on that side. Therefore I went on a research crusade. I needed demons… I needed to ‘build’ a picture of the evil side. And I had to build antagonists…. not one, but uncountable ones.
An inexhaustible source of information in my case was ‘Wikipedia’. I got quite a few lists from them. Theological Demons and their classification, Demonology, a list of fictional demons, and a list of legendary creatures. Occasionally these lists helped me while writing.
It not only gives the name of the respective demon but also its look, what kind of demon it is, what command it’s under, and the legions of minions under its control. Now…
I know that the evil side exists, just as I know the good side exists. That is rooted in the beliefs I grew up with. But I’m writing fantasy books for young adults. I have to keep it simple. This list is not a fact list… I, therefore, permit myself the freedom to use the respective creature I need – and I don’t feel very guilty adjusting the demons a bit in order to be useful for my current scene.
With a little bit of my own spicy humor, I allowed myself to object the common existing demon-name-lists by leaving the fallen Archangel Lucifer’s name as it was and positioning him on the top of the seven thrones of Hell. Experts on that might kick my butt for that, but no matter how many ‘bad guys’ there are, in the series, I’m working on fighting them. I figure, one more isn’t that much of a drama.
Also, I did not forget that Evil tempts with softness, with the illusion of love and with beauty… Demons in my books rarely look like leathery wings carrying, flying, and walking horror creatures…
Lucifer is a beautiful as a personified sin… and so are his minions in the form we humans can understand… But when they are home… where they live… in their place and their environment… that’s different. Then the entire extent of the evilness they hold becomes obvious – and visible.
It seems there is the one or other author around who either don’t know what the job of a beta reader is. Also, some authors don’t want to pay for an editor and therefore try to ‘use’ the beta reader to get the editor’s job done.
From what I learned in my ‘long’ career of two published books (and a few lined up)… my order of ‘writing and publishing’ is the following:
personal editing #1
personal editing #2
professional editing (proofreading)
filing for copyright
sending the manuscript out to the beta readers
having the book cover done
possible corrections when getting the manuscript back from beta readers
At times the corrections, added paragraphs or even pages, demand a second round of proofreading or editing.
Now, what does the beta reader do?
Beta readers are helpful people around you – can be friends, co-workers, family members. They are asked to read the book pre-release. Often they are asked to review the book online, just after release. Most beta readers are very happy to do so in exchange for the book.
Every beta reader works differently. Some return a paper manuscript with scribbles all over the place…, some send an email with a few ideas, suggestions or remarks, some send texts whenever they discover something. When I beta read, I write a list and later send that list by email. So far, I never discovered a huge plot hole, but I found the one or other ‘thing’ that bugged me and that I had to let the author know about. Many other beta readers do the same thing.
There is one thing beta readers don’t do: they don’t correct typos and grammar. That’s what’s the editor is for. I’m not saying they always are perfect, and should I catch a forgotten typo, of course, I will tell the author about it. But I’m not actively looking for them.
I am lucky enough to have a beta reader who is sweet enough to actively look for typos and grammar problems that escaped my editor’s attention. The one or other author might be just as lucky. But generally, beta readers are not here for editing!
They should return your manuscript with a bit more than ‘I liked it.’ You want to get their notes. You want to hear about their feelings… when did they laugh? When did they cry? What scared them or amused them? Did they enjoy the read, and would they recommend the book? According to them, what age range is the book for (if you’re writing Young Adult), and what did they not like so much?
Did they discover something about the plot they didn’t like? Do they have questions about the story, the plot, or the characters? Is there anything they discovered that isn’t right?
Let me give you a couple examples. One of my last beta readers told me that she loves my book, and she finds ‘Sundance’ as a character very interesting. However, she misses Katie, the ‘Soul Taker’ and wishes her back. She is an exceptional beta reader and informed me about several other things that I later corrected. (I did not write more ‘Katie’ into the second book since that is ‘Sundance’s’ story).
When I was beta reading for a male author, I discovered a wardrobe flaw with one of the female character’s ‘undergarments.’ I told my fellow author about it, and he corrected that.
We all were grateful to have our beta readers. It is important to us having people with open minds paying attention to our stories. And we always hope we don’t ask too much.
Thank you, beta readers, for helping us with your time, your efforts, and your honesty. We need you!
Thank you very much, Charles Yallowitz, for providing us with great tips on writing fantasy. I personally found your post phenomenal and I’m sure not the only one.
One power that I use a lot in War of Nytefall is the regenerative powers of the Dawn Fangs. They can heal quickly and keep fighting as long as their head and enough limbs are attached. That second part is debatable for some characters too. Parts can be reattached if pressed to the wounds as well. It means that their fights can be very bloody, but only because of how I use this power. I consider every usage to make sure it still fits, which makes me realize how healing factors might not be as easy to write about as I thought. It can fall into abuse before you know it. So, what are some things to consider?
I found an excellent blog post about describing the weather, written by Bryn Donovan. This is great! Thank you very much for sharing this, Bryn!
A lot of writers struggle with describing settings. I’ve written before about how to describe settings and why it matters, but a few people have told me they’d like me to do some of my master lists for writers to help them out!
I have a weird love for creating lists like this, so I’m happy to do it. “How to describe weather” seemed like a good place to start. This way, you won’t get stuck trying to figure out how to describe nice weather, or thinking up ways to describe rain. Hopefully, this will make your writing go faster.
I always include simple as well as more creative ways to describe or write about the weather. Sometimes, the simple word is the one you want! I included dryness and humidity in a few of the categories because it felt weird for them to get their own.
As always, this is not a comprehensive list, and I might add to it. My list will probably make you think of other possibilities, too. Bookmark or pin it for future writing reference!
THE BOOK DESCRIPTION AND ITS JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD
I was creating a Goodreads giveaway yesterday when I noticed that one of my book descriptions didn’t look quite right. Then I realized that a few of my book descriptions had similar issues. (I haven’t yet looked at all of my books there, but did check my recent releases.)
The problem was that I had formatted my descriptions at Amazon KDP using the limited HTML that is available (boldface, italics, line breaks, bullet points, and ordered lists). While that resulted in improved formatting at Amazon, the HTML had a few undesirable effects at Goodreads. In particular, if you use short bullet points with words or phrases in each point, the words and phrases might not appear on separate lines and there won’t be any bullet point symbols.
So if you meant to make a list like this:
red riding hood
big bad wolf
It could instead look like this at Goodreads:
red riding hood big bad wolf grandma’s house
It actually can look even worse when it blends together with the previous and following sentences.
Yechelyah Ysrayl touches a subject that keeps all of us new authors on our toes: our newsletters and the people who unsubscribe from our email list. Thank you very much for your valuable post, Yechelyah!
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Email unsubscribes. Yup. I’ll be that one. I don’t care what anyone says, if done right and if it’s your cup of tea, author email lists work. At the end of the day, everyone’s journey is different so none of us are in the position to say for absolute certainty what works and what doesn’t work for someone else.
That said, IF you are a fan of the email list (I don’t refer to them as newsletters….I prefer email list), check it.
Not everything about being an author is peachy. Email unsubscribes feel like silent rejections and sometimes confusing because you don’t always know why the person left. Unsubscribes can leave authors feeling abandoned, especially if the person was a long-time member of the list. All kinds of thoughts go through your head.
“What did I do wrong?”
“Am I providing value?”
“Does my writing suck?”
“Do I suck?”
Did I email too much? Too little? What happened?”
The good news is that whether someone leaves your email list or your blog, it is not a bad thing. In 2019, we are not taking losses, we are taking lessons and there are tons of lessons we can learn from email unsubscribes. I hope this list encourages you and motivates you to push past that feeling of confusion and rejection.
1. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY 2. TALK ABOUT IT 3. CELEBRATE IT 4. LEARN FROM IT 5. PICK YOURSELF UP
There are all these amazing lists of recommendations on how to deal with rejection. Of course, I’m not saying they’re bad! More the opposite. We writers should read them, internalize the help and support other writers and psychologists are giving us! We should be grateful to know who we can turn to when we need comfort and what to do with the given advice. I’m serious, and there is no sarcasm in my words!
Take the list above. Each one of the points has a foot long explanation online, and every word is supportive and well meant. If any writer asked me how I’d deal with rejection, I would most likely use exactly that particular list and give calm and well-considered explanations with each advice.
But let me be honest: what is my reality? What are first and true emotional reactions on rejection? – This:
What are my honest (AND SECRET!!) replies to the recommendations mentioned above?
Don’t take it personally, right now it’s just not a good match – yeah, good match my ass. These guys don’t see my knowledge, my talent, my abilities or my potential. They’re BLIND!
Talk about it – go to your shrink and tell him that you are suffering, because rejection hurts! And then get a triple-box of Xanax and a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Celebrate it – the rejection gives you a chance to improve your writing! Of course! We got nothing better to do than to sacrifice a bottle of champagne to someone who’s hurt, stabbed – KILLED us!
Learn from it. Yes, we will, since we can show we can learn and deal with all this. – Forget that crap – I learned my craft, and I know what I’m doing – and no teenager barely out of high school is telling me what I’m doing wrong.
Pick yourself up – yes, because it’s easy to continue submitting. We are convinced there’s a great match somewhere. – Of course, after we found the light swimming in the lake of our tears and after we have nearly drowned in self-pity, we might consider submitting again. In like – two, three years, maybe?
I admit I’m curious… am I the only one who doesn’t take rejection well? Yes, I know, I’m an adult, I should stay calm, I should use my brain and my ability to accept constructive criticism. But I don’t. I’m acting like a kindergarten kid. My face, my brain, my knowledge, my experience tell the other person: “Yes, you’re right, thank you for the advice, it will give me a chance to improve.” But my emotions, my really, really enraged heart screams: “You prove me – and prove me a hundred times more you can do it any better before you DARE rejecting my work and therefore hurting, criticizing, insulting and humiliating me.”
Really, with all my life experience, all my rationality and common sense sometimes I’m such a wimp.
It isn’t easy coming to the end, which is something I’ve certainly been saying since I finished writing Legends of Windemere: Warlord of the Forgotten Age. So, let’s go over some tips for those that are coming up on the same milestone. Warning: There is no promise of tips working because every journey is different. If there are any failures, we will assign you the proper scapegoat for free.
Actually have an ending. I know it sounds strange, but there series out there with nothing. The whole thing simply ends with no real conclusion as if the author simply feel asleep on a comfy pillow. You might think it’s done, but everyone else is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even if it isn’t a final battle, at least show the hero realizing they left a wild boar in the crock pot and should probably see…