“I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it — when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
That last part of Jodi’s advice is critical. We never think of writing like that. So many times, when we are lacking inspiration, we think, “What’s the point? I’m going to write this scene, or this blog post, and it will be crap. Why write, when it’s going to be worth nothing?”
I’ve done that SO many times.
The problem with being a writer is that you eventually become a perfectionist. And when you become a perfectionist, you, well, want everything to be perfect. After writing for so many years, there have been those times when we have enjoyed the sweet taste of perfect writing. We remember the feeling of being able to pour everything out onto the page with perfect clarity and drive, knowing exactly what we want to say and how to say it.
So, what do we do when we aren’t in that state of “perfect” inspiration?
We don’t write.
Because it won’t be perfect. And we, as writers, are perfectionists.
And we need to get over this. Right. Now.
Because you can’t edit a blank page.
If you never write at all, then you will have accomplished NOTHING. There won’t be any perfection, because you weren’t willing to put up with imperfection.
There’s something beautiful about writing; namely, it’s a battle for purity. Purity which stems from a desire for reaching something greater, something higher, something that we all dream of. Our culture seriously lacks this desire for purity, for perfection. Because we’re so used to settling for less. In regards to our jobs, our relationships, our bad habits. We never try to rise above imperfection.
I think it’s beautiful that we, as writers, are striving for perfection.
But first, we have to work on our imperfections. However, you can’t work on imperfections if you don’t let them out first.
So write. Write a bad page. You can always edit it. You can always make yourself stronger through it. Don’t wait for inspiration; don’t wait for perfection. Go make it happen. Go get it.
So Elithius is the name of my fantasy universe; it’s also the name of my book series. There are three separate worlds in Elithius, all connected by portals: the Golden Lands, the Gray Lands, and the Dark Lands.
There’s not much more that I’m going to say regarding the three worlds of Elithius. If you missed anything I said about them, you can get up to speed here.
One thing that my series has always been applauded for is my characters. People tell me they are realistic, very human, but also very inspirational too. I would say that this is true mainly because I base most of my main-characters on real people!
For instance, the main character of the series, John Hedekira, is based on me. As you would imagine, it’s a lot easier for me to convey the emotions, desires, and ups-and-downs of John, since I’m simply writing about a character who IS me. I also think that writing my story in 1st person helps with connecting readers to my characters.
I thought that today I’d give you something of an overview of my two main-characters, the inspirations and stories behind each of them, and how they contribute to the story.
John is the main-main-character of the series. He’s depicted as a 16-year-old boy/young man, full of teenage-passion, anger, frustration, and cynicism. Having been abandoned by his parents when he was thirteen, the duty of looking after his little siblings (Cassie and Luke) has fallen to him.
John’s love for his siblings begins to deteriorate as they become equally depressed with their hard, parent-less lives, and start to distance themselves from him. Eventually, he loses all feelings for them, and resolves to shut them out of his life and just look out for himself.
That’s when the story really kicks off.
You see, the prologue of the first book is filled with vague imagery and a lot of symbolism, namely concerning how the Evil (the bad guys of my story) affect the universe of Elithius. One important theme that the reader should detect is that the evil inside of ourselves is directly related to the Evil (capital “e”).
How so? To quote the book, “Evil follows where evil is committed”
And this relates to John and his siblings because…?
After blowing up at his siblings and resolving to shut them out of his life, John’s home is suddenly attacked by a band of Evil.
(Make note: John and his siblings live in the GOLDEN Lands. To a certain degree, being invaded by Evil is totally random.)
The Evil kidnap Cassie and Luke and leave John for dead. Thus, the story begins.
John is determined to rescue Cassie and Luke…but only out of duty towards his family. His main goal is that of revenge; he wants to see all Evil suffer.
John, therefore, becomes the driving source of human emotion in the series. He suffers the most out of any character, and falls the lowest. He is consumed by the most hatred, which makes his moments of redemption that much greater. John is unique but, in a very special way, so personally relatable to the human failings and emotions that we all have.
All of this being said, John is still the hero. He struggles, yes. But he is undoubtedly the hero…for reasons that I can’t say here (for the sake of avoiding spoilers!).
I like John because he is me; I get to envision myself at both high points and low points of life, and learn something about myself as a result. Writing a story with yourself as a character can be a very humbling experience, as much as it can be empowering…and that’s the reason why I based John on myself: to learn more about myself and become a better version of myself.
And also because I thought it was just plain cool 😉
Faith Pinck is the sweetheart of the series. That being said, don’t mess with her either, because she is pretty handy with a bow.
Faith is based on a friend of mine, and although Faith’s character is involved in the main romance of the series, I didn’t base her on my friend for romantic reasons. Putting my friend in the story was an attempt to give us something to talk about, in all honesty. Whether or not that has been a success is besides the point. Faith is an intimate part of Elithius, whether it influences my friendship with my friend or not!
So Faith left her parents for the sake of wanting to do something with her life. She is an optimistic, generous person; maybe she doesn’t understand the way the world works, but her heart is in the right place.
Well, along comes John. John gets beaten up by the bully of Faith’s village, and Faith brings him back to health. John explains his mission to her, and she decides to help him…this is the kind of thing she’s been waiting for: a way to “make a difference”.
Thus, their friendship begins.
Faith, as the second-main-character, is the gentle, female counterpart of John. She is, quite fittingly, the force of compassion, mercy, and unconditional hope for John and the rest of their friends. She doesn’t give up on anyone, no matter how low he or she falls, no matter what situation they’ve gotten themselves into. Although she doesn’t have as many “epic” moments as John, I think she is considerably the most “loved” character of the series.
And that’s why she’s a very special part of the series; she adds a touch of sweetness to the story, in a way that only a girl can.
What do you think? How do you think characters should influence a story?
Some people claim that they really don’t care how many followers they have. And that’s great! Because, if all you care about is the number of followers you have, it’s easy to get depressed. If I was only concerned with having a big following…I’d quit!
That being said, I think we can agree (especially my fellow self published authors out there!) that we would all like to be popular. We would like to be like that OTHER blogger, who has 10,000+ followers.
So…how do we reach such a goal?
The answer is actually ridiculously simple and obvious: you need to write.
And you need to publish well-written, attractive posts.
Although I’m sure you can reason WHY this is the answer, I’m going to state it for you. This method of publishing attractive posts works because 1) publishing posts is the only way you have the POSSIBILITY of getting seen 2) if your posts are seen, they are more likely to be read (duh) and 3) if people read your posts, maybe they’ll follow you.
The logic is elementary, my dear friends.
So in order to get followers, the only real way to do this is to write.
What would I consider to be an “attractive” post? First, it should have a good title, something that can be meaningful to anyone. And not an “inside joke” title, or something that only you and your “close followers” really understand. Be practical. Titles make a difference.
Pictures. Pictures are important for breaking up text and adding some beauty, silliness, quirk, etc. to your posts. They are able to draw people in…thus the “attractive” part.
I’ve honestly noticed that a few of my followers are suckers for images containing beautiful, magical scenery (I mean, who isn’t, but…). So, I do my best to satisfy those followers and give them what they want! You know who you are 😉
So pictures are important from a visual point of view; on that note, I think it’s worthwhile to mention that your posts should have small paragraphs. No one likes reading huge, block paragraphs. It hurts your eyes, requires too much concentration, etc.
And lastly, make sure you have an informal writing style, with a dash of wit! No one likes reading a ton of big words and lofty prose. Shakespeare lived in the 1500s; don’t forget that. Save the vocabulary and intricate prose for STORIES, not casual posts (like this one).
Okay, so all of those things make for an attractive post…but what makes for an UN-attractive post? What will turn off your followers, or make people roll their eyes at you?
Posting too much about your own personal writing endeavors.
Now I would know firsthand that this is a terrible way both to gain and keep followers interested, because I used to do this! All I would do is write these short little posts, pitching my story constantly, basically nagging people into liking my ideas. And you know what? It DIDN’T WORK.
Because no one wants to be constantly listening to you promote yourself. In the end, you sound like a self-centered jerk, who is…well, self-centered.
Okay, I get it: obviously, you SHOULD post about your personal endeavors from time to time. Your followers SHOULD care about your endeavors; otherwise, they aren’t good followers. But don’t make personal endeavors the focus. Write about things that people can appreciate for THEIR OWN sake, not for YOURS. Once they actually care about you, your writing, and your blog, then they will care about your personal writing endeavors.
Another thing that will get on people’s nerves: spamming them with comments and likes, just so that they will check out your blog in return.
It goes something like this: “Hey! Your blog is great! I like how you’re writing a book. I’m writing a book too. You should come check it out! Thanks!”
This technique CAN be successful (because I used to do this too!), but it doesn’t gain you followers that actually care. And, let’s face it, having someone like ten of your posts, only to post a comment like that, shows you how LITTLE they care, and how fake their Likes are. In the end, it’s kind of offensive.
So don’t do that either 🙂
The best way to gain followers is to write attractive posts, and be courteous. Be honest. Read OTHER people’s posts, and be proactive. Comment thoughtfully, not for personal gain. Create a good, clean, healthy atmosphere, and it will pay off. Follow who you WANT to follow, not out of pity or obligation. Otherwise, will you really be following them?
Sooner or later, whether you like it or not, you’re going to find yourself wondering, “Who are my real followers?”
Sometimes I see these blogs where the author has gained a following of 2,000…or 20,000, or even 120,000. That’s a LOT of followers, and I dream of having that many. That being said, it’s interesting to note that these blogs only merit about 15-70 Likes per post. You might think, “What’s wrong with that? 70 Likes is a lot!” But compare that to the number of followers. If you have 10,000 followers, and you only get 70 Likes…wouldn’t you be disappointed? Shouldn’t you be getting…hmm, maybe at least a couple thousand Likes, assuming that other few thousand weren’t online that day?
What’s going on here?
All right, I’ll admit, we could get crazy with the statistics of blogging; maybe it’s not fair for me to say that only 70 people care about your blog when you have 2000 followers, just because you got only 70 Likes. Maybe those 70 Likes consist of 70 different people each time you publish a post, so from that perspective, you really might have a huge following, depending on how many people are online on different days.
Whatever the case, that’s what this post is about: recognizing that Likes aren’t love, for better or for worse (I just made a political pun and a marriage pun right there!).
When someone Likes a post of yours, they don’t necessarily need to View it. You don’t need to go far to see what I’m talking about. In your Reader, you can see that–without having to click and OPEN a post–you can press the Like button. And you don’t even have to know what you’re Liking. You can appear to be a faithful follower, but in reality, you’re just going through the motions.
People can and have done this to me multiple times.
How do I know? How do YOU know? Well, go to your Stats page. Heck, just go to your “Blog Posts” page, where you can see your most recently published articles. You should be able to see the number of Likes, Comments…and yes, Views!
Does the number of Views outweigh the Likes? If it does, then great job!
Now, the people who Liked your post STILL might not have Viewed it. We can’t tell if the people who Liked also Viewed. But still, the number of Views is more important, because in order to tally Views…well, someone has to actually open up your post! Which means it’s more likely that they read it. Which means it’s more likely that they care.
And bingo. You’ve found your true followers.
You’re followers are the people who read your posts, not Like them. Because you can Like without reading.
Monitor your Views. If they are lower than your Likes, try to change that. Work hard to make posts that are attractive and that really draw people in. Make your writing desirable and View-worthy. It’s easy to Like something. It’s harder to View. Which means Views are worth more.
“Stop waiting for motivation or inspiration to strike you and set a schedule for your habits. This is the difference between professionals and amateurs. Professionals set a schedule and stick to it. Amateurs wait until they feel inspired or motivated.”
— James Clear on sticking to a schedule
Bam. James Clear hits the nail on the head. He doesn’t sugar-coat anything. When you don’t have a schedule, or you have a schedule and you don’t stick to it, you’re just an amateur.
Amateurs can still produce great works of art; but you’re not a professional without consistency.
There’s not much else I can say. Let the gravity of Clear’s words sink in.
And after you’ve let those words sink in, decide–right here, and right now–what you can do to change that. What can you do to become more professional? How far are you willing to go to accomplish this?
A virtue is “a firm habit of doing good”. Consistency itself is the essence of virtue. It’s one of the greatest and simplest virtues of a writer: which also means that it is one of the hardest to practice.
Let’s strive to be consistent with our writing. Always.
Elithius is the fantasy universe I created; it’s also the name of my book series. Elithius, as a universe, is home to three races: men (who are called Knights), women (who are called Beloved), and “Evil” (who are called Malam). It is also home to three worlds, which are connected by portals: The Golden Lands, the Gray Lands, and the Dark Lands.
I created the Golden Lands to be a sort of “Hobbiton” or “Shire”, maybe even a “Tatooine”. You know, a safe, happy place, where people live in a magical world, but unaffected by any dark sides to that magical-ness. That being said, the Golden Lands is far from perfect. It’s SUPPOSED to be a place of “light, happiness, and peace”. There are virtually no individual nations, no boundaries; wealth and property is meant to be shared. It is a place of “harmonious anarchy”.
But then we see how Evil are beginning to infiltrate the Golden Lands. We see that this world isn’t so perfect after all. Children are still neglected and abandoned by their parents. There are still bullies. There are still lascivious boys and girls. The Golden Lands aren’t really so great after all. This is where the story of Elithius begins.
The Gray Lands, as a singular world, is basically like a massive war zone. It’s where the forces of light and dark collide (thus the name “gray”). The number of Evil in the Gray Lands challenges the number of humans. The Gray Lands is steeped in characters with magical/supernatural abilities, which they’ve developed for the purpose of combating the Evil. It’s in the Gray Lands that the greater part of Elithius takes place, since there’s so much conflict and action abounding in this world. It’s always cloudy in the Gray Lands, and there’s nothing exciting or serene about the scenery.
Not much is known about the Dark Lands (also called “Night”). No smart human ventures there. This is where the Evil seem to come from, and this is also where the Evil seem to take humans that they capture. The darkest and most powerful of Evil, the “Ultra Malam”, rarely exit the Dark Lands (fortunately for the people of the Gray Lands!), simply because they hate being in the light. But when things get bad in the Gray Lands, and the battles get intense…well, you can expect a few Ultra Malam to show up.
I thought this was a cool set-up for my fantasy world because it enabled me to have everything I wanted. I could have places of peace, where the peace could be destroyed. I could have places where the world was war-ridden. And I could have places where only the darkest of monsters thrived.
Three worlds all in one universe! Seemed like a good plan 😉
What do you think of the “layout” of Elithius? All thoughts and opinions are welcome!
I don’t know how many people actually read let alone NOTICE chapter names. When I was younger, I thought J.R.R. Tolkien’s style of writing was the archetype for all fantasy writers (some would say it is), and this extended to his chapter names. I was infatuated with the clever, descriptive, and even “noble” sound of his chapter names.
All of that being said, it’s interesting to note that chapter names are far less common nowadays. Now, I’m no “writer-statistics-specialist”, so you can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see people giving their chapters names anymore. I think this can be for a number of reasons (see the “Cons” part of this article). But I believe one important reason is that readers don’t like long chapters anymore (or maybe they never did, and writers finally started making chapters shorter), and so now the average novel has twice as many chapters as a novel would’ve had fifty years ago.
Why does the number of chapters in a book influence whether or not they get names? Well, who wants to waste all that time thinking up names for 25+ chapters? Honestly, naming chapters that are between 6-9 pages long is annoying.
I’ve already started listing some cons, so let’s take a look at some pros.
Pros of Naming Your Chapters
What usually grabs your attention when you pick up a random book at a bookstore? The colors of the cover, obviously the image of the cover…and maybe the name?! Names are great because they have the power to incite certain feelings within the reader. Obviously, the titles of books are able to do this, whether they elicit feelings of curiosity or excitement, but chapter-names have the ability to do this too.
Think about it. Oftentimes, when we begin a new chapter, we are either continuing to write about an event that happened in the previous chapter, or we are opening up a new scene/new setting. Chapter names are able to help us accomplish this; they give the reader an understanding of what’s going on, meaning that we don’t have to waste time explaining it to them.
Suppose you were reading a fantasy novel, and the story was changing from one setting to another. Which arouses that fantasy-magical sort of feel?
Chapter 6: The City in the Treetops
The second title makes you think of what? Really huge trees, so big that they contain buildings? Lots of crazy architecture? Perhaps Elves, or other woodland creatures?
Seriously, names can make images and ideas EXPLODE into your mind.
Chapter-names are also great for setting “the feel” of the entire chapter. Consider these two titles.
Chapter 25: The Final Battle
That first title doesn’t give any description concerning what’s about to happen. That’s fine, if that’s what you want as the author.
But which title do you think makes the reader excited? Which one sets the tone? Which one makes the reader go: Oh my GOSH, this is it!!!
Names have power. They are great for setting the tone and inciting feelings in the reader, feelings that you want them to have.
*Point goes to chapter-names*
The only other (main) reason I think chapter-names are good is because they give your book a sense of orderliness. It’s convenient for readers to know in which chapter they last left off, and it helps them to remember in which chapter so-and-so dies/gets married/eats brussel sprouts/etc.
Cons of Naming Your Chapters
We’ve already determined that people like short chapters nowadays, so it might seem silly to name all 35 of your chapters, when they are each only 8-12 pages long. Sometimes there isn’t enough action in each chapter to merit a name. You don’t want to have chapters that are 3 pages long, and you get stuck naming them things like “No Honor, No Glory, Only Blisters in Unfortunate Places” (ahem, Inheritance by Christopher Paolini).
Also, naming your chapters also runs the risk of being too descriptive. Ever read The Children Of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien? (probably not, because you’re not a nerd like me!)
Well, this book by far has some of the WORST chapter names. Three chapters were named: “The Death of (insert name of important character)”.
Great. Well, we know that (insert name) dies.
If you don’t trust in your ability to name chapters well, don’t name them at all. It’s better than being stuck with a name you don’t like, or a name that gives information away.
Another reason not to name chapters is a matter of taste. If you think chapter names sound too “old”, then don’t have them. If you want your story to be wrapped in mystery, or you have a story full of surprises, maybe chapter-names aren’t for you.
Remember how we decided chapter names give your story order? Well, sometimes they can give your story too much order. Chapters that are long (and long enough to merit a name) can end up becoming a story within a story; each chapter forms its own little short story within the book.
If you strongly dislike this idea, and you prefer your chapters to run together, then maybe you shouldn’t have chapter names. If you have a story where chapters are really only present to give your reader a break, then why waste time naming those chapters?
Elithius (my story) doesn’t have chapters with names, as of now. I simply have too many chapters to name them all. Also, there are plenty of surprises and plot-twists in my book, so I prefer to keep the element of surprise. My story is fast-paced and really runs together; there isn’t time for each chapter to have “a story of its own”. And there’s nothing wrong with that; that’s just how I want to “play my hand”.
When it comes to chapter names, how do you play your hand?
I hope this provided some helpful insight into whether you should name your chapters. As always, I love to hear what you think.
It doesn’t matter how tired you are. You still have to do it. It’s more than just a hobby, it’s more than relaxation; it’s a discipline. It’s an art. And art requires practice and dedication. You can’t just do it “when you’re in the mood”. Because what if your mood doesn’t change for a few days? A week? A month?
You don’t need to write because you want to. You need to write because you have to. Life isn’t about doing whatever we want. It’s about what we should do. The key is to learn to love what we should do: to Want the Should.
Challenge yourself today and every day. Write. Not because you always want to, but because you realize–in order to reach your goals as a writer–you have to. The dedication will help you in more ways than just your writing. Trust me.
Elithius is the new name of my fantasy series, which was previously called “The Golden Lands”. “The Golden Lands” sounds too happy and peaceful, when, in reality, the story is a dark, fast-paced tale of vengeance, destiny, and supernatural powers. Elithius is also the name of the universe in which the Golden Lands reside, and I thought that “Elithius” was a cooler, more epic name for my series. So it all makes sense 😉
What’s the plot of Elithius?
Here’s my logline:
John Hedekira and his friends must track and rescue Cassie and Luke, John’s little sister and brother, before they can be taken and sacrificed to the God of Death by Nirak, the Red Captain.
Well, that’s the general plot of the first book. Maybe that sounds too simple of a story, but there are plenty of obstacles in the way of John and his friends. They have to fight the minions of the God of Death, John is being hunted by a serial killer, and the clock is ticking, hanging over their heads, a constantly reminding them that if they don’t save Cassie and Luke in time…well, then Cassie and Luke will be sacrificed to the God of Death.
I will admit, maybe the plot sounds a little TOO dark. But the story has too many feel-good and silly moments for the overall FEEL to be dark and disturbing. The plot is…intense, yes, but that doesn’t mean the story is some horrifying form of fantasy.
There’s still a lot of work to be done before I can present Elithius as a full-fledged novel. I’m excited to reedit my work and get a new cover; my series is getting a total makeover! It should be awesome by the time it’s finished 😉
Writing to live, in the end, turns out to be an “all or nothing” endeavor, because it just won’t happen otherwise. If you don’t put everything into your writing, into reaching your goal, you won’t ever reach it. Nothing will be given to you.
If you try to publish traditionally, you’ll have to put everything into your writing through a contract. Perhaps traditional publishing seems like an easier form of “all or nothing”, considering that “all or nothing” gets decided by your publishing company. But it still requires your time, your heart, and your mind.
We self-publishing authors also know that we have to go “all out” if we want our writing to make it big time. This is both the blessing and the curse of self-publishing. In a way, like a big publishing house, we personally decide what “all or nothing” is. But unless we are willing to spend buckets of our time (and even money!) promoting our story, networking, advertising, and networking even more, we’ll never make it big time.
And isn’t that what every author wants? To have readers everywhere appreciating their work?
The bottom line is simple: if you want to write for a living, you need to make writing your life. Are there any guarantees that your hard work will pay off? No. That’s what makes this endeavor scary.
Like I said, it’s all or nothing. Are you willing to go the distance, knowing that you might not ever make it?
Are you willing to try?
Recently, I cancelled the self-publication of my series, The Golden Lands. I needed to do some serious editing and “remodeling”. Why? Because it’s a necessary step to “going the distance”. In order to gain ground, I am retreating on purpose.
I would encourage you to ask yourself some of the following questions:
Is my story where it needs to be?
What’s holding me back from promoting my story? Are these reasons legitimate?
Am I not letting go of certain nuances in my story, simply because I’m personally attached to them?
How can I network better and reach out to readers? Do I even want to try?
How much does my writing mean to me? Who are some people I could reach out to for help in promoting my writing?
As aspiring world-famous authors, we need to work together to help each other achieve his or her goals. Any thoughts or opinions would be greatly appreciated! Please share your knowledge or your publishing experiences!