eBooks aren’t a Get Rich Quick Scheme.

As some of you may know, I have been publishing for over a year (under a pen name) and in that time I have done better than most authors without 100+ page books or an editor. Even the reviews that comment on my editing have been more than kind about the stories themselves. So far I’ve made $60-$100 with no real advertising and just using my other(more popular) blog. It isn’t much, but let me tell you it is better than most indie authors out there who have just gotten started with putting in exactly $0.

And I am happy with this because after a year of lurking, and preparing books/short stories for release under my name I have learned one solid fact…self-publishing eBooks is not a money making scheme. Data Guy of the Author Earnings Report had an interview with  the Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast in Feb. 2016 that broke down the difficulties and successes of the market brilliantly. One comment he made really stuck out to me, however, because he recounted how the media seemed totally uninterested in the AER’s discovery that a large number of authors were getting by fine with their writing. They weren’t making millions, but they weren’t making cents. The stories people were interested in, and the stories I kept/keep finding when I first began researching self-publishing were the million dollar success stories or the failure stories.

These people had one thing in common…they couldn’t possibly be the majority of self-published authors. There’s two groups in those who “fail” at self-publishing. The 1st of those who claimed to fail? They’d written books purely to get rich off a market, usually erotica or romance. They rushed a book, published it, and though any schmo would buy it because why wouldn’t they? They didn’t have a real long term plan. They were hopeful or desperate in a way most of us have been in our lives. But they had no heart in their book and sometimes no respect for their genre or audience. They listened to the people whose only advice was “write a thing. Hit publish.”.

Elsewhere the successful indies all have a variety of stories, and the most authentic were often the most unique and inexplicable. Their situations were happenstance. The right person read, word of mouth, and they struck at the right moment. There is talent involved, but the reality is plenty of talented people in this world don’t get a damn lick of attention of praise. Remember Van Goph was pretty much only known by other artists until Johanna Van Goph, his sister-in-law, refused to let his work be forgotten after his suicide. These people are not common and their books might not even be that well written (which is fine the goal is for people to enjoy them)

While every other no name blogger may include “write an ebook” as an easy way to make passive income the truth is nothing about ebook sales or writing is easy. The truth is most of those bloggers began with a large audience they could sell to, and that’s why they made what money they did. Book quality aside they had buyers before they thought of a book. More seedy individuals have turned kindle, kobo, and smashwords into a means to get you to give them money. These individuals may have written a handful of actual books, but their main skill is marketing. While they can have very useful advice attached to that advice is convincing people that ebook sales are easy. You will look at their backlogs on their blogs, on amazon, or their websites only to see how they’ve made their money is convincing people like you to buy their book, course, etc. Every blue moon you will find someone like Mark Dawson who actually walks the walk, and loves the craft of writing. One thing that differentiates him and others like him from the former? They will tell you how to do better, write more, and become a better marketer for your writing. They don’t promise you instant sales. They don’t belittle legitimate ebook authors. They will tell you this can be fullfilling, but full of hard work. That said there’s something about people, even Dawson who I’ve interacted with and who is a nice man, whose fortunes are spent on marketing you techniques perhaps more than their actual writing.

If you notice I didn’t mention the other half of those who feel they “failed“. The reason is the second group is far more common, and unfortunately is the majority of us self-publishers. For the rest of us authors, both successful and not, the trouble is we’re all trying to get noticed. With hundreds of books being released every month every author is tasked with the torturous task of pimping themselves, and we don’t even get a pimp cup for it. The sad thing is here is where a lot of authors struggle. Those with the mean green to buy $300 worth of facebook ads or use ad services have an upper hand over those of us who simply can’t. This is a tremendous problem for black authors who traditionally face both prejudiced gate keeping, the racist belief that black books have no value for black people, and who don’t always have the social or economic capital to spend $300 or make that $300 really turn into sales.

A bit of advice, the best way to spend $300 is to find an editor and someone who knows how to put together the cover you want. I’m cheap, artistically inclined, and honestly hate 90% of covers in the genres I write in. So I make my own covers. However, I am preparing to send my proper novels to an editor once they’re complete and I find one who understands my work. My 99c story, Mind and Frost, will be self edited, and released in the next three weeks or so because I just don’t see the benefit in paying for the short story with experimental tense use. But perhaps I’m dumb as rocks because those who receive any sort of help on book production see a spike of around 34% in sales.

Despite that we can work our buts off instead, really making constant mistakes and correcting in order to find the best marketing tactics for our audience. We just have to market differently, be more aggressive, and more clever. It’s not that simple by far, but that’s the long and short of it.

Book marketing, book writing, and taking the time to create your brand isn’t something you can just throw together. Story after story after story gets published about authors who break the bank only because they’re extremes. Humans like extremes because they make for eye catching stories. The reality is most self-published authors don’t quit their day job unless their partner has a stable job or, I suspect, they come from money. The reality is most self-published authors of any quality with a good cover sell, based on observations over the last year, about 20-50 copies on average depending on the genre, and supposedly make under $500. But that’s money you didn’t have before, and money that if you hit critical mass (let’s say 3+ books in a series/world)  you can make twice over that, take what you’ve made, and reinvest in your passion.

But you will not get rich quick.

Instead focus on getting your book done in a way you will be happy with.
That’s the first step to making your life richer.

One of those articles I sort of trash has some good advice.

Reblog: How NOT to start your novel

Reblog: How NOT to start your novel

This is the classic trap most new writers fall into. I know I did. We get into storyteller mode: “once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there was a____ who for many years….”

Great for fairy tales. Not so much for modern novels. In a contemporary novel the reader wants to be in the story, not outside telling or hearing about it.

If this is sci-fi or fantasy, your job is tougher, because you have world-building to do, and there’s going to be a huge amount of history to get across. But you don’t have to do it on page one. Slip in the world-building on a “need-to-know” basis.

Damn this article is both hilarious and thought provoking as a writer. No matter the genre some of these themes bring me back to my high school composition class, but many crop up again and again despite writer experience. This article captures both why they don’t work and is a damn funny take on the omnipresence of Disney princess sheets. Take a look over at:

Anne R. Allen’s Blog: How NOT to start your novel

How to Settle in for Writing Fiction?

How to Settle in for Writing Fiction?
  1. Create a playlist that suits your story. I use youtube and soundcloud to create unique and fun sounds from contemporary, classical, and indie artists all over the world.
  2. Give yourself 15 minutes to fool aorund on your phone
  3. Put your phone down
  4. Open your writing program or grab your favorite pen and paper
  5.  Prepare both a large mug of hot and soothing tea, and have a chilled bottle of water(large) for after the tea is consumed. Good teas? For a racing mind I drink chamomile. For a chill day spearmint or peppermint. However I am down for chai tea at any hour of any given day.
  6. Have a pack of snacks that go with tea, preferably cookies/biscuits…preferably chocolate chip.
  7. Turn off your wifi, unplug your Ethernet, toss cord out of reach.
  8. Put your phone down.. Didn’t I tell you to put your phone down.
  9. Put playlist at low to medium volume.
  10. Sip your tea
  11. Write
  12. For every 200-300 words eat a cookie/biscuit, and feel rewarded and accomplished.
  13. At 1200 words reward yourself with a 15 minute break,
  14. Get back to the joys of writing
  15. Repeat every day or until writing is finished.

There is my foolproof guide to writing with a motivator(the sweets reward), something soothing, and without distraction!

Writing Experimental Science Fiction: Experimenting with Time, Space, and Trust

Writing Experimental Science Fiction: Experimenting with Time, Space, and Trust

Experimental fiction is pretty self-explanatory in theory…except when it is not, and that is where I’ve found myself as I’ve begun a short piece that is totally unlike my usual fair. In the world of self-publishing being able to categorize and understand the possible audience for your story is key to unlocking marketing practices that most benefit you. Outside of that world being able to explain you story whether to potential readers, to workshops, to agents, or to yourself can be incredibly important in coming to understand what your fiction gives in terms of knowledge, entertainment, or even just understanding how it’s experimental. So not knowing what to call your story can be a real kick in the nards. So how do we come to begin unlocking what your story is? We start with a story. I’ll use my current work as an example, not because I am the authority but because you need to understand where I’m coming from first.

Play+with+Elements+of+Fiction
The core elements of fiction are plot, character, and point of view. Often, experimental fiction takes a radical approach to these. Ex: A story titled After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned by Dave Eggers utilizes first-person point of view, but the first-person point of view belongs to a dog!

I didn’t intend to write the story, but somehow it spilled out of me when I had been experimenting with Written Kitten a site you can type stories into and assign certain goal posts to reward you with images of kittens or puppies (and one scantily clad 3D rendering of a lady someone accidentally tagged into the photo album the site uses)

Three hours later I had written the key components of a story that blurred science fiction with fantasy, and engaged in metaphysical visionary fiction. At the time I didn’t know if the last genre existed for certain, but apparently it does. It has it’s own wiki page and everything. I don’t know exactly where this story came from but as we speak I’ve taken a break from editing my CampNaNo novel to work on this book by writing this post. How does this help me? Well it’s more like how this conversation can help you?

How do we begin understanding our experimental fiction in order to begin learning how to describe it?

I tend to look at stories as integrated parts.

The Heart (the characters)

The Brain (the plot)

The Muscle (the obstacles surrounding those things)

The Skin (The set dressing/mood)

All of these come together in unique ways to tell your story, and how you begin to understand how they fit makes a difference in continuing to write your story, improve through edits, and enticing people. It is what you put down and how those things come together that define your story best.

The Heart of my story, Mind and Frost, are Daniella and Kenda, two Mentalists in a world were those with telepathic and psychic powers are viewed as suspicious especially Kenda whose powers have caused incredible heartache in the past. Their desires are mutual in one respect because they desire to be together, but what that means and how are constrained by the muscle and brain of the book. This aspect of the heart gives it a sweeter and more romantic edge…but how Kenda and Daniella interact is what has pushed me away from categorizing the book as a straight romance.

51ljfrbb4dl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Now here is the critical part, and something I think people often forget in talking about genre, which is there are aspects of every genre in most fiction. People I know who say “I can’t stand romances” often still like romances in fiction, but they don’t like the manifestation of romance in the romance genre. A good friend of mine has told me he can’t stand science fiction books that lean towards the space opera genre, but he absolutely adores the use of technology and plot in The Windup Girl.    The story is certainly not a space opera, but it has many of the same elements from warring factions to questions of humanity and survival. Yet for him the differences make all the difference just within that genre, and separate the two. How you use an element like romance and how the relationship is conducted should be useful in determining what your story is.

In my story, Mind and Frost, the couple has many theoretical conversations about the nature of existence, as well as, their own semi-imprisoned state and relationship to their doctors/caretakers. This goes beyond what is normally within the romance genre that readers have come to expect.Even in terms of language their interactions differ in basic ways. What is real to them is something outside of what you and I have been taught to conceive of. Time itself is different for them as in their dreams capes they struggle to differentiate between present and past.

While I’ll be sure to highlight the love story as a key component of the book I’ll avoid using the word romance to describe what Mind and Frost is for kindle marketing purposes. However, the key nature of their relationship is what drives the book, so I may in this blog and elsewhere describe the book as “Metaphysical romance” or “Romantic Science Fantasy”.

So what of the brain and muscle? By the time we meet them they’re in love, but Kenda is in a medically induced coma and their doctor fears her interacting with his dreams will cause him to wake up in a traumatic and destructive way. This forms the Muscle, and this muscle can be flexed melodramatically with Daniella weeping over their being apart; dramatically with her screaming at their doctor to have a heart and free him; or as I’ve chosen to handle it with a dry cynicism on her part. Kenda, not accepting of his fate now that he’s found love and finally realizing regardless the stories he’d told about freedom were lies, ceases to expect much but remains hopeful towards something else. How the heart responds to the muscle is what drives the actions of the brain. Random nerves fire between all these organs and the brain regulates it all by giving structure and guidelines.

In my work I have begun using questions to help guide thematic development once I’m past chapter two, which ultimately helps me understand what I am writing. The questions themselves can sit beside the short explanations of the plot as quick ways to tell you what your book should be about.

images (3)In Mind and Frost the brain is concerned with the question of both “what will you do to be free, and can you be free while bound by the customs and norms around you?” and “Can you be devoted to someone or something and still claim to free?” More simplified the brain is Freedom with a capital F. It isn’t in the context of just love or just a relationship. Because the relationship merely functions as a way to better understand those questions, I won’t call it’s genre primarily romance. Instead this makes it drift towards speculative fiction.

For your story the brain may be concerned with coming of age in a hostile environment, “Can we live a good life and still say we want to change”, or the meaning of privacy. It could simply be that you have two factions warring over territory and what it means to survive. All of this comprises the brain as you tie each scene together, coincidentally it also drives the heart and develops it thus forcing the other muscles–barriers, obstacles, incentives, and wants– to move as well.

the_left_hand_of_darkness_by_cosmiccoz-d51kba6
cosmic coz 51 kba: The Left Hand of Darkness Protagonists

Dr. Cohen-Sloane, Kenda and Daniella’s doctor and perhaps antagonist, function in ways deeply tied to questions of both spiritual and scientific importance. He questions his ethics, and so do his patients. The world is turning on Mentalists and he is responding to it while still trying to preserving his life and late-wife’s work, which forces this couple to respond. The brain, questions of spirituality/love/freedom, happen in the context of that plot. They get the muscles moving.

Much of the story’s design evokes some of what I loved about Ursula K. Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness in that the science fiction elements are grounded not with marvelous wonder or trepidation, but with the practical eyes of people we would recognize in our lives. In fact Le Guin, somewhat of an experimental via speculative fiction, manages to provide insight in a society without true gender and uses elements of psychology and social understanding to create not just science fiction, but truly speculative and feminist science fiction. The brain of Left Hand is distinctive, challenging gender and cultural absolutism within the context of this complex and rich relationship that is in this conflict ridden world where trust is hard to come by. The government officials using Genly Air and Estraven as pawns in a greater game are muscles, pulling and constraining, as much as the differences arising out of the heart(the character’s backgrounds and existences) are.

tomorrowsf1

And let’s wrap it up with one of the hardest and easiest aspects of figuring out just what the hell you’re creating…the set dressing and mood, which make up the skin in this analogy. The skin is an organ, binding everything inside like a nice package. For literature, this isn’t just the cover, but time period, the world you’ve chosen, the class/ethnicity/etc of the world’s characters, and also the style you’ve chosen to write with. Very few true romances begin with the same set up as a grisly murder in a romance novel. You can easily experiment with that, but that’s the general rule of thumb. What sort of skin does your story have?

Are the characters prone to brooding and the atmosphere echoes that? Do scenes often feature cramped corridors or evoke a sense of being trapped? Do you go into detail describing cotton fields and hot southern Louisiana summer days in the year 1910? How you construct the world of your story and the type of world you construct work with all those other parts to more clearly define what your story is even if it is experimental or an unconventional book or unconventional short story.
specgenredefsimage
So often people will say that figuring out genre is the easiest thing in the world, but non-traditional or genre blurring stories don’t have it so easy. I’ve even been told by an experienced author that if a person doesn’t have a set genre they may as well put the book aside or publish it under an alternative pen name. Yet I think we can find a happy medium between saying “just experimental” and perhaps misnaming our book’s genres, but taking the time to dissect the body of our work. Ironically that may just give it the most life.

Disagreements? Questions? Comments? I’d truly love to hear your thoughts below.!

Stand Alone Books V.S Series

Stand Alone Books V.S Series

Should you write a stand alone book or abandon it for a series? This question is one many fiction writers in all genres must have because out of the 15-30 writing groups I am part of this question has been asked in each one, and is asked again every few months.  The struggle between what authors envision both in their product and what everyone says works is a constant struggle. It’s a fascinating question, in part because I think it induces flailing panic and anxiety in authors who want to make a supplemental income or reach large swaths of people with their books. Like people constantly arguing between whether to book more or blog less; what keywords to use and how; whether to make your own cover; the answers are many and varied…but generally concede to the supremacy of series. Repeatedly this question ends with “Maybe your solo book can do alright?” or a treatise on why series should come before all else.

flailing arms
“But I only want to write a stand alone! MY DREAMS ARE RUINED.”

So often those questions have a dozen responses like “Is there anyway you can make your standalone a series? If it’s a long book you could cut it in two, or you could put it aside and work on a 10 book series for now”. In fact  I just read a comment that went straight to the point “Find a way to make it a series.Find a way to make them a series, even loosely. A character is friends or related to someone in the other book. Or they work for the same agency. Live in the same town.” None of this is bad advice…but there is something inherently cheapening in forcing series and sometimes it can leave the author feeling dishonest. Not because series are inherently bad because their story is a one and done. It ends where it should end and is structured how it should be structured. Why should they be penalized for that?  For a lot of authors who prefer to write stand alone fiction that leaves them high and dry with a distinct feeling their books won’t sell.

There’s one other question I rarely see people ask does a series do more to disappoint than entice as is suggested in this awesome post by Bionic Bookworm? Could it be we’re all so trained by movies, video games, comics, and books to have inferior or less enjoyable sequels that we don’t really comment on them? Is a series really always better then simply telling your story even if it is just one novel or novella? I don’t think so, but I want to share some of my thoughts of the topic with you.

You should write what you desire to write first. If there isn’t a feeling you care about your work chances are it will become clear to the reader. Nothing matters more than infusing the excitement you feel for your work into your work for your intended audience. Failing to do that can kill your book before it gets off the ground. With a series it could also be taken as somewhat of an insult, a waste of your readers time; and if a lot of your readers are also authors then it may come across as a pointless money grab because they know the game. Write what you love with purpose and it makes a difference

afbf4fb63469dbb968a691b6ccc47c5f
Yes, my brother and I had all the Childcraft books, and to be honest I have still read the fairy tale one because it’s such a fun and beautifully rendered nostalgia trip.

A series at its core is a commitment of love through trial and tribulation. After all what is a series other than something you should want to write  enough to stick with it, and expound upon? Writing a series can be a great opportunity to explore both how to market and more importantly all the elements of the world you’re building through your writing.

 

The best part about a series is the sheer number of possibilities to explore. The comment I just read and shared with you has a very good point about how to blur the lines of stand alone and series to benefit both you and your audience. You may decide to end one story in one of your worlds, but then open another. They are stand alone and still part of a series. If you’ve built this rich and luscious world, why not keep it? Why not travel through it again and bring people on a tour of something you didn’t explore in your first book? Share your love with them. That way you have the best of both worlds. However, if the idea of having to explore those possibilities seems daunting and more of a burden perhaps that is not the bast path for you to take right now. In terms of finding ideas for sequels there was an article shared here by A.S Askalon that offers a very thorough technique on how to approach a series(Original: How to explode with ideas for your sequel)

enolaholmesseries1From a more hard lined marketing perspective, as a writer with several pen names in the steamy and erotic romance categories, there is some truth to the fact that a series will usually pick up more readers. People hate leaving worlds and characters, and if you craft the story right people will keep coming back. It’s addictive because it’s familiar and your audience becomes invested in the long term welling being of either characters or world. Sometimes it is simply a matter of readers being curious. Either way you are almost guaranteed to pick up some of the same readers with sequels.

However , stand alone books can sell and do spectacularly well despite taking a bit more work. There are readers, and sometimes I can be one of them, who enjoy reading one collected story. There’s something satisfying about getting a real conclusion and that draws a certain type of reader.

8ae371a0ca7976aabdc0bf0077af286c
Stand alone novels all by Nora Roberts before she was a go to name she still wrote stand alones that people went to because of how and what she wrote.

The key is convincing readers to come back to your name through your voice/style, and then them recommending your book to others. That is the struggle of all fiction, but stand alone books have to have a very strong and distinct voice to continue bringing readers to you because more so than with series an author who wants readers to check out her next books has to essentially seduce an audience with a voice and style that brings them back.

 

Once you have conveyed the type of voice you want in your stand alone. You have to truly begin understanding the strengths of your writing and highlight that in the book, and in how you market it. A stand alone has to really hit a home run in what the book does well and selling that appeal on every ad, in every book reading, and in every interaction around the book. In my upcoming short story Mind and Frost, I know the weirdness of the metaphysical is an inherent draw alongside the very odd circumstances of central protagonists, Kenda and Daniella. I sell their world and their place in it hard in my drafted material. It could become a series later if I feel like, but for now I’ve written down the stories strengths as I see them, will submit to beta readers, and will then write down the strengths they see. Stand alones have to be crafted in how they’re sold with a fine hand, and confidence that one is enough.

Series can ride general expectations, or even just the fact that people like to get into series so they have books to read for a while. There’s ultimately less pressure in an odd way, even though as Bionic Bookworm there’s a different type of pressure to stay relevant. Stand alones don’t get a lot of leeway to get things right. For example, I left a very critical review of The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney on amazon, but I’m still probably gonna read her next book to see if the elements I loved in The Missing Ones are focused on more (and DC Lottie Parker stops being an idiot *grumble grumble*). Because stand alones don’t get that grace period of book one and book two we authors of stand alones have to market our writing abilities. If Mind and Frost’s setting is what people respond to I’m carrying that into Five Days with the Stranger or my next book still in drafting stage No Pressure Here at All. The former is a neo-noir about a former soldier turned killer’s relationship with a waitress, and the latter a 1920s and 1940s fantasy novel focusing on witches. What do they have in common? They have my voice, they have my care, and they have my awesome but not lewd ability to craft amazing sex scenes! People will be chomping at the bit if they like what I, as a writer, do, and if you know what you do well it will be the same for you. It may not happen with the first or second book. Honestly most self-published and indie authors may not get an audience to book 11 or 14, series or no, but if you put your best foot forward, show off those sexy gams, and do a spin? People will see you and people will find you.

Stand alone books can sell just as much as series. We just have to take the time to put in a lot of work, and a lot of care, because we’re competing against 13 book series, which gives that authors 13 chances to be noticed just through Amazon or Nook searches. So when you write, know what you do and don’t be afraid. You’ll never know until you try, and if you’re introspective as you try your hardest you will hit your stride. I firmly believe that and believe in you.

stand-alone-books
All of these are very successful stand alones. You can be like these authors.

Here are some lists of well loved stand alone books and best selling stand alones:

Did I hit the nail on the head? Did I miss something? Do you think I’m totally off the mark? Well, let’s chat! Hit up the comments section

Tips for Teen Writers: From Me to Me.

Tips for Teen Writers: From Me to Me.

I wrote a lot of awesome ideas as a teenager. That wasn’t that long ago really, and though my teenage years felt like they lasted forever in retrospect I can’t help but realize how quickly they went by…and how with all that time I could have finished more than three or four stories! I was a chronic unfinisher, suffering from a dreadful case of “Great ideas and no execution” beyond a few powerful scenes. There’s so much I’d like to tell myself back then, and so much more I’d like to tell all the writers making the same mistakes. So here’s some advice that I wish I’d known and internalized back then.

 

  1. Writing by the seat of your pants is great, but you will never feel accomplished until a story is done. You won’t. You’ll fill over 30 journals, teenage D, but you will always feel a touch incomplete. Some of those stories you’ll revisit in college and after, but you have to really want to finish them and if you do you can begin really engaging with your teachers and mentors as someone aiming at publishing and not just the idea of it.  Stop putting stories aside because you hit writers block or lose interest even though you know you’ll be wanting to write the story. Keep trying to write even if its garbage. Write to an end point. Maybe not the one you planned by a point where it could end.
  2. To write by the seat of your pants effectively you have to plot. Not bullet by bullet point , though that works for some people, but you have to write out the greater plot elements: Who is involved, what are their relationships, What events effect the over all plot, and why? Answer those questions succinctly from start to finish.
  3. Don’t try to do this and end up writing an omnibus of lore instead of an actual book. Look, readers and younger me…I spent several months on a world building project for a story I never finished and developed not just basic elements, but the economic system over the last 200 years in the world. It was headache inducing…why did I do that? Because sitting down and writing seemed like a hassle and this seemed like it still helped my writing. It didn’t. It usually doesn’t. It can help you only if you’re writing at the same time. Now speaking of time…this next one is gonna take a minute…
  4. Drama doesn’t = story. I’m sorry. I know I used to love Lifetime movies and melodramatic manga. They’re great, but they have story elements. It isn’t just scenes for the sake of scenes. The element that makes the drama in those movies and manga work is that the drama between characters is woven through their lives. Most movies, books, shows, and manga fail when their love stories are one of two things…horribly cliched or the story doesn’t connect on any real level. They just sort of sit there and happen because of romance cliches, because of drama cliches, because of mystery cliches. A series of dramatic events doesn’t inherently make for a story or a plot. You don’t have to follow classical plot structure, but you should write a story not just a series of events. I used to have a habit of having stories that went: Event 1; Event 2; Event 3; Event 4; Big Event and then so on for 12 more events. The story never really ended, but it never really began. The characters didn’t really get to know each other, and in some ways they weren’t so much characters as reactive puppets.
  5. Drama must have meaning. This is a big one. I love fan fiction, and began reading it years ago with Sailor Moon and Xena stories. After a decade reading some of the best and worst unknown and hobby writers one thing that almost all young writers seem to do is thrive on drama without weight and meaning. Stories of sorrowful and dramatic miscarriages that have nothing to them than sorrow and no real sense of what that sorrow means. Stories of couples hating each other then suddenly falling in love without sense of what that would take or why other than…because the writer wanted it. Couples betraying each other and then forgiving not because they’ve grown but because one is just misunderstood and its excused because the betrayal only serves to make the reuniting sweeter; also this happens over one chapter. Nothing that happens hold weight. What separates the good stories from the bad is a world with weight. Pride & Prejudice is remembered because it is a story about love and marriage in the context of the socio-political politics of the regency era. The drama of Legally Blonde is situated in the context of what the world sees in Elle Woods as a blonde, rich, attractive, and overtly feminine woman. The inherent drama of Call the Midwife, True Blood, or Warehouse 13(All very different shows) is situated not just on character drama but in a world where those character dramas are inherently impacted by and impact the worlds they inhabit. The drama has weight, and so it feels reals. Being a teenager is high octane emotional drama…but those moments in-between and those moments where we’re just responding to the world define our stories . Life builds to crescendos of emotional heat. The betrayal of a lover doesn’t vanish in a chapter spanning a week. It takes something climatic, it takes an awareness that one was hurt and regardless love must be rebuilt. When you don’t take the time to understand what your drama can/should mean for your characters then your drama will mean little and leave so little impact. Your writing will feel young, and like an “edge lord” trying too hard to force everyone to feel because its a story so full of meaning.
  6. Don’t just try to impress people or mistake being edgy and dramatic for good writing. Edge lord, for those who don’t know, is slang for people who essentially try too hard to edgy. Some people tell funny off color jokes about, for example, assault as though to say “I’m a hard core person”. Others are constantly judgey. A desire to be edgy is very consistent in most teenagers writing. It is healthy and natural, and annoying as hell even to other teenagers. Teenage D agrees even as she loved sorrowful drama herself. You have to sit and think, and research. Read more about the world, think less about the drama and more about what those dramas mean because that will inform the feeling.

I wrote some damn good stuff as a teen, stories and scenes I’m proud of, but as you mature you learn to recognize the worst of your tendencies and that of others. These were just a few of mine and my friends. I hope you don’t take this too harshly, my teenage readers. Even if you do the things I warn against you can still have talent, but maybe my tips will help you mature your writing a little faster. Maybe you can be a bit further along than me by the time your my age as a result. I’m not old, but I definitely  wish I could make more efficient use of my time and stories by going back and talking to my younger self. In the self-publishing world having stories published as quickly and as well as possible makes all the difference. If I started really focusing in on where to improve and how then I could have gotten in on the ebook boom of 2012. I could have had several books out and be comfortable saying I had some up for sale. With that said I’m comfortable where I am. My writing is better than ever and I spent a lot of time getting to where I am.

Hopefully you won’t need as much time,

Peace and tidings reader.

Flash Fiction: Looking for Kansas

The depths of the cave seemed endless, as she trudged through the knee deep slime that coated the floor. She tried not to look directly down too often. Instead she focused on the bright light illuminating the footprints in front of her from her cell phone. Truthfully she hadn’t known that cave existed before. Of course Kansas would find some rinky-dink little hole. Why did she encourage her to play adventurer? Ah because she believed in dreams. Stupid.

The sound or rain became a distant memory, and soon only the sticky echo of her steps filled the air. With each step the mud got deeper, reaching her mid calves and she wondered how the ten year old would have managed. Hell, how was she managing when her legs were beginning to feel so strained? Worse, the sloping ground made every step harder than the last. She chuckled as she imagined herself on a plane nose diving towards the ocean floor. She breathed again and coughed. She stopped, swallowing a gulp of damp wet air that choked her throat. She never should have let Kansas play outside. She never should have encouraged her. That sort of thing got Amelia Earnheart killed probably. Why did she think it was a good idea?

Regaining her bearings with a grimace, she got back to moving. Nervous sweat trickled down her neck until her curls clung to her flesh. Down and Down to the hungry bowels of the Earth, but that wasn’t a cheerful thought. She’d find the girl and chastise her for exploring too far from the cottage. Then they’d have dinner. The haddock should’ve been defrosted by then, but that girl wasn’t getting Mac n’ Cheese at this rate. Mac n’ Cheese was for good girls. Her palms stung with sweat.

“Kansas?” she called.

Further and down, with bats fluttering above, leading her to descend, into the hungry bowels of the Earth. She hadn’t seen her niece since lunch, but she saw those prints and she was a good auntie. She had to be even if fear sank into her flesh, even if her shoulders twitched every time she heard a bat, and even if it felt like she’d been walking way too far for that cave. She was a good auntie.

But then the prints stopped dead in the middle of the cave. The mud sat perfectly undisturbed.

“What the hell?” She nervously forced a foot forward through the mud, praying she wouldn’t hit anything hard or human shaped. She shone her light around only to see more tunnel.

But she hit nothing, and confusion began to ravage her thoughts. Should she had gone back and called the police? What would she say? A gentle huff of air rolled over her shoulder, and she almost jumped out of her boots. She started to call out, her finger hitting the 911.

All she heard was silence.

All she saw was amber eyes and a red raincoat on the cave’s ceiling.