Perfidy: Two

Serial Story, writing

Dead? Mocha clicked his pen on and off, on and off on his desk. Well, this certainly was an interesting development. 

As the words lingered in the air, the room exploded into gasps. Someone wailed. While Mocha wasn’t all that attached to the king– a head of state who did nothing seemed utterly pointless– he couldn’t deny that the world as he knew it was about to crumble. He yawned and leaned back into his chair. Jael was a few rows in front of him, no longer the epitome of calm and collected. Instead, her phone was blindingly bright on her desk and she scribbled furiously on a notepad, glancing between the paper and her phone. 

Mocha flicked his fingers and a red streak of magic shot forward, knocking Jael’s phone off the table. She took a moment to notice, but soon her eyes flicked back to where the screen didn’t exist. She glanced over her shoulder, shooting Mocha a glare, before snatching her phone from the floor. He smirked. She let too much bother her, as most nors did. For all her abilities, she simply didn’t have the right experience to try to run a mostly-magical country. Her ideas for a more democratic government wouldn’t be taken seriously. 

His smirk slid off his face, though, when she was the first to stand. Mocha’s knuckles turned white as he gripped the table. What did she think she was doing? The suppressed rage manifested into burning telekinesis in his fingers. He struggled to confine it as it sparked around his palms and Jael made her way onstage. 

She reached down and helped Aisa to her feet before returning her focus to the shell-shocked messenger and removing the microphone from his frozen fingers. She smoothed down her skirt with one hand before gazing out at the assembly. “Lords and ladies of the assembly, now is not the time to discuss matters such as norism and immigration. The king instructed us to form a more efficient union after his passing, and it seems that time has come. There will be time to mourn soon, but let us recess as an assembly and reconvene tonight. Then we can begin to make decisions regarding our country’s future. May Rowhux thrive under the lit moon.”

The crowd echoed her final sentence– the parting blessing Rowhuxians had used for years. Mocha’s eyebrows brushed his low-hanging bangs. He thought he’d be six-feet-under before Jael would ever admit that norism wasn’t the most pressing issue. A murmur arose as the assembly stood. Mocha glanced around. So they wouldn’t listen to him about how ridiculous the traditions regarding exits were unless it was an “emergency”? He rolled his eyes and snatched his backpack from the floor, slinging it over his shoulder and earning odd looks from some of the older lords around him. Mocha barely resisted rolling his eyes. Why were backpacks so stigmatized? Briefcases were harder to carry and held less. 

He shoved into the crowd, weaving in and out of the nearly-two-hundred people all trying to exit the room. One of the ladies his backpack knocked let out a loud, dramatic gasp. Mocha sped up and ducked his head. The last thing he needed was trouble from one of the ladies. Jael would know her name. Jael knew everyone’s name. He frowned at the thought. She actually had a fighting chance to implement her plans in the assembly. 

“Oi, Mocha!” A gruff voice sounded from behind him. 

He spun around to see Nadia. Her dark skin glistened with sweat, and the heels that she wore added extra height to her already lanky form. “What do you need?”

“Come ‘ere.” 

She turned a corner and slipped into a small restaurant– one of the three food courts in the building— promptly sitting down at a table. Mocha slid into the seat across from her. Nadia leaned forward, resting her head in her hands. “I was late to the assembly and then when I finally got to the room, everyone was leaving. So what’s up?”

He frowned at her loudness. “The king is dead.” 

“Dead?” Her eyes widened in alarm. “What’s going to happen to the government?”

He leaned back in his chair. The question of the hour. “I’m not sure.” 

“And what will that mean for your estate?”

Hm. He hadn’t thought that far forward. “I have a plan.” 

“Including ridding Rowhux of nors?” She raised an eyebrow, a smirk playing on her lips. 

Mocha suppressed a sigh. It wasn’t like Nadia’s powers advanced society all that much in themselves. Turning into a bloodthirsty polar bear rarely made anyone happy with her. Yet somehow she still considered herself one of the highest magic users around, and somehow had gotten a lot of the assembly to agree with her. “Perhaps.”

The smirk grew into a full-fledged grin. “That will be wonderful. Can you imagine how much stronger we’d be as a country if no one had nor blood?”

He had to admit, the thought had crossed his mind more than once. The one thing he could never quite figure out was how Nadia managed to say this stuff in private, yet profess to be one of Jael’s closest friends. At least he didn’t like the nor among them. “Yes, Nads. I can.” 

“Anyways. See you tonight at the Path’s.” 

Oh, yes. Mocha’s frown deepened. He’d been dreading it all week– having to watch everyone do Jael’s bidding at the get-together for their group of interns. He normally avoided the parties and made excuses regarding working on his estate, but had finally promised Nadia he’d come under the circumstance that vanilla cupcakes were provided. She had sworn it would be so. 

“Anyways, I need to head out if we don’t have anything else to do but argue today. And you probably gotta go talk to Council Rivera, right?”

‘Nish. He’d forgotten about that. Rivera would have a plan for the meeting tonight. “Yeah, thanks. Bye.” 

“See you tonight.” 

“Yup.”

Nadia scooted her chair out, stood, and left the restaurant as quickly as she had entered. Mocha put his head in his hands. What were they going to do now that the king was dead? Some had recommended a democracy, but that would allow the nors to take positions of power too easily. Perhaps a monarchy would work well. Sit a magic user on the throne and their line would have power for the rest of eternity. 

What about him? He would lead well. He could keep the nors in line.

Except people would argue against it, because a monarchy was what the king had said to avoid. 

Mocha glanced up as someone slid into the seat opposite him. He recognized her face from somewhere, but didn’t know her name. Her large blue eyes were wide in desperation, and there was a tiny, strange looking hat balanced on an artful tower of hair. There was a strange symbol on the pin of her lapel. 

“You dislike nors.” It was less of a question and more of a statement directed towards him. 

He wasn’t sure how to respond. Some of the assembly thought that dislike of nors immediately made one untrustworthy. “Why do you ask?”

“I’ve heard you say it. You’re going to take over, right?” 

He shifted in his seat. Could she read his thoughts? 

“I’m not a telepath.”

He was beginning to doubt that. 

“I promise.”

“Okayyyy…” 

“My sister is a nor. Please spare her when you take over.”

He grimaced. To have one nor sibling was almost as bad as being a nor oneself. He should know. “I’m not planning on exterminating them.”

“Oh.” She stared at her folded hands. “Just promise you won’t hurt her.”

Define hurt. “I promise.”

“Thank you.” She stood. Her skirt flowed around her as she strode out of the room.

Where Dreamers Go To Die.

flash fiction, writing

The hostess hears everything. She’s behind the desk where the waiters and waitresses congregate to talk. She’s near the bar where the drunk people spill their secrets. Granted, she’s also HSP and gets sensory-overwhelmed easily in which she blocks everything out– but she picks up on many of the things that are said.

For example, she knows that the assistant manager is a talented artist and linguist– he actually went to college for illustration. Illustration. That’s so cool. But he warns everyone within earshot not to do art as a career. Look where it got him: The assistant manager of an overpriced, run-down restaurant. And he speaks English, Russian, Spanish– maybe more, she had zoned out– yet he rarely uses the latter two. Russian. Impractical, but amazing. Yet with his talents, he’s stuck running a restaurant where the waitresses don’t like him. And he’s given up on his dream.

She knows about the waiter’s sister– the sister that went into communications and ended up working in a different field. Communications. That’s what she wants to go into. Once again everyone within earshot is warned not to go to school for any type of art. She struggles not to laugh at the waiter. He used his school money for drugs. His sister altered her dreams.

She knows about that one waitress whose hair is always styled so creatively. She knows that the waitress wanted to do interior design but somehow, along the way, got stuck making less than three dollars an hour and relying on other’s generosity with their tips. Interior design. What a neat major. The waitress wants to help with wedding planning. Someday. But that someday seems very far off and for the moment the waitress has contented herself with the melancholy truth that she doesn’t have the ambition to pursue a career like that right now.

The hostess has talked to the waitress with dreams. The one who knows that she’s only going to be working temporarily until she can start her welding apprenticeship. The one has some vague form of a plan for her life, but right now is stuck in the cycle of endless days and underpaid hours and meaningless seconds.

Stuck. That’s what the hostess fears. That’s what seems to ooze out of every corner of the building and into the suffocating, depressed stink that fills the restaurant. A stuck-ness. A contentedness with the unfulfilling. A twisted happiness in the days of working for nothing and drinking it away at night. There is no drive or motivation for these people. They have resigned themselves to giving up their dreams and their talents. They have no desire to use the beautiful, wonderful, overflowing gifts that God has provided them with. They won’t pursue anything else. They’re numb and they’re broken and they’ve found themselves trapped in the grey routine of working until you die.

The hostess can no longer see the restaurant as a graveyard. It scares her.

Because that graveyard is where dreamers go to die.

Perfidy: One

short story, writing

Aisa had to admit, the government could be really confusing and frustrating. She sighed and skimmed over her papers one more time. At first, she had thought it was just Senator Swarhos who would change the subject matter of her speeches, but after being transferred, Senator Brell did the same thing. 

She drummed her fingers on the table and flipped to the next page. While norism– discrimination against nonmagical humans– was technically illegal, it still was very present in Rowhux, and according to Senator Brell, the MOST IMPORTANT THING SHE MUST PREPARE A SPEECH ON. 

That is, after she had already prepared a speech on how taxation affected the Rowhuxian impoverished, and before that, a speech on why large-scale magic ought to be banned. She sighed and glanced at the desk beside hers. Edison had his feet propped up on the desk, papers strewn everywhere. A small blue fish swam–or more precisely, floated–in circles around his blond head, and that fish seemed to be the only object of his attention. 

How he managed to get into the internship program, she didn’t know. It either took brainpower, a parent’s influential power, or, even rarer, incredibly strong magical powers, normally. She had a little bit of all three. Edison, from what she’d gathered, came from Authnoma, a shabby mountain town known for its inbreeding. His speeches were decent but overridden with the accent that made all his words slow and his vowels sound like “ay.” And the only magic power she could detect was the live fish that perpetually swam in circles around his head. 

She sighed again and rolled her eyes, but apparently, this second sigh was enough to deem her worthy of attention. 

Edison tore his eyes away from his fish, which also turned to look at her. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” She nodded towards the pile of papers. “Just tired of working on this.” 

“What’s it on?” He ran a hand through his hair, narrowly avoiding smacking the fish. 

She tugged on a strand of thick, dark hair. “Norism and implementing it into the workplace.” 

“I’ve never seen why it’s such a big deal.” His white collared shirt was wrinkled. Very wrinkled. Didn’t he own an iron? “Like, sure, I have magic, but it’s only that Saph swims around my head all the time. I can’t do anything else, and I still get jobs.” 

Aisa let a tendril of her own magic snake around her fingers. She stared at the sparkly darkness. It wasn’t like her own magic was very useful in getting her jobs, but still, someone with controlled death was less discriminated against than even someone who couldn’t kill people with a wave of her hands. 

After a moment she shrugged. “Yeah, it doesn’t make sense.”

“It’s kinda hard to see why it’s a big deal.” His eyes followed the fish again. “Less than half of the population is without some form of magic.” 

“I don’t know.” Aisa shook her head. “It feels confusing and messed up. Sure, nors ought to have the same rights as us, but sometimes they can’t perform jobs as well.” 

“Jael’s a nor, and she basically runs the whole government.” 

Aisa said a quick prayer for patience. Edison would just keep playing devil’s advocate until she admitted whatever side he happened to be on at that very moment was right. She checked her watch. “Speaking of Jael, I’ll have to avoid her at the party tonight if I don’t get my butt over to the hall.” 

Edison saluted. “We wouldn’t want that. See you tonight, then, I guess.” 

Aisa stood and waved slightly before gathering up the pile of papers and leaving the small office that she, Edison, and Senator Brell practically called home. She kept her head low as people pushed into her in the overcrowded hallway. She had proposed that she write a suggestion to expand the offices, but Brell quickly informed her that there were more pressing matters at stake. At least Jael would be happy that norism was being addressed. 

The room hummed with hushed voices when Aisa entered. She slid into the nearest seat and stacked the papers in front of her. Her eyes darted across the room. She spotted Jael’s light-brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, but she couldn’t see the young woman’s face. It looked like her friend was talking to one of the high council members– a group of three nearly-retired officials who were only employed in times of crisis. 

Butterflies fluttered in her stomach. She really needed to present this speech correctly it If she didn’t, she would be sent home to continue as a rich lady whose only purpose was marriage. The general commissioner tapped the microphone in front of his podium. It only took him a moment to address all of the pressing issues within the assembly, before he gestured to her. Nerves churned in her stomach as she stood up. Eyes bored through her black dress and into her soul. She pushed a strand of hair from her face before climbing the narrow steps to the stage. 

Her ankle twisted, the high heels slipping out from under her. She was sprawled on the stairs. The papers in her hand exploded across the room. Someone behind her gasped. ‘Nish. Why did something like this have to happen to her under such circumstances? Heat burned her cheeks as she forced herself to her feet, leaving the high-heels behind her. With each passing step, her ankle ached worse. Tears whetted her eyes, but she tried to blink them away. After a few more limping strides, she reached the podium. She leaned against it, the cool metal chilling her fingers. Resolve balled in her stomach, freezing the butterflies with its weight. She’d practiced this speech a dozen times. She put her mouth to the microphone. 

“Lords and ladies of the assembly, we have a present crisis that plagues many of the lower class–“

A door slammed open. A nervous noise bubbled through the room. Aisa paused her speech to watch a rumpled messanger sprint up the aisle. Terror pounded through her veins as he lept two-by-two up the stairs. He reached the microphone and grabbed it with both hands. She stumbled aside. This could mean only one thing. 

“The king is dead.”

Darkness — Radiate Literary Journal

poetry

I recently had the opportunity to be featured on Radiate Literary Journal’s site! Check out the poem below!

With vivid imagery told through an initially simple piece, the talented Emily K. Seaver really evokes passion and feeling. Enjoy!

She loved the confines of the night//Where stars and moonlight showed so bright//Where monsters crept and shadows roared//And stars pierced dark skies like a sword//With wind-whipped hair, she smiled at the moon//While wind-whipped leaves whispered […] Read More

Darkness – Emily K. Seaver — Radiate Literary Journal

How to Write a Plot Twist

writing

Twists are good in books. Everyone (well, unless it’s not in the favor of your favorite character) enjoys a good, thought out plot twist. Perhaps it’s betrayal. Maybe it’s sudden death, or the character having the wrong ingredients for their world-saving smoothie. I have lots of twists in my books, and from what beta readers have told me, I pull them off fairly well. However, if you ever read The Siren’s Stone, my first book, you’ll know that I liked to throw in twists at random. “THEY’RE ALL MERMAIDS!” “THEY’RE IN LOVE!”* “BETRAYALLLLL! DEATH! SADNESS!”**

So obviously I had to learn that if I wanted to do that, I needed it to make sense. And also not set books in real places with no explanation of magic and people turning randomly into mermaids and/or dying.

Foreshadowing

This one is important. Guys, if one of your characters is planning something that your MC isn’t, please, please foreshadow it. Now, I’m not asking you to have one of your characters overhear them plotting nefariously. (Not even sure that’d be foreshadowing anymore… that might just be the reveal.) And I don’t mean foreshadowing by the MC going “I had a sudden feeling they were going to try to murder me in my sleep.”

Instead of the MC saying/thinking that, have your MC see them sharpening a knife. Maybe it looks suspicious. Maybe it looks normal. It all depends on the character. A lot of times, “throwaway lines” that technically build character are great for foreshadowing. Maybe one of your characters makes a joke about how they’ve always thought it’d be easiest to kill someone sleeping. (Jokes are often a great way to reveal character/foreshadowing.) Maybe your character is forced to kill someone else and doesn’t act as sad or disturbed as they ought to be. There are hundreds of ways to use little character quirks to foreshadow and make your twist make sense.

Vulnerability

If your MC doesn’t react, does a twist even matter? If someone they were friends with suddenly dies and they just shrug it off, how much will your reader actually care about the death? I think it was… Hunger Games, maybe (I haven’t read it) that someone was complaining to me about, because one of the characters died really suddenly and no one stopped to care about it.

People often throw twists about for the shock factor, but that just confuses the reader. Make your character be in a vulnerable moment– be it happy or sad– and twist the world around on top of them. One of my characters gets betrayed when they are in a moment of deep despair. I remember… Okay, I admit, I was laughing as I wrote it, but that was only because I could feel the character’s and reader’s pain and knew the shock for both. Plus, the foreshadowing I intentionally wove in would make it even more fun for someone who read it with the twist in mind. (I know this because, even after all my times of reading it, I still grin when I read over my own foreshadowing. I’m rather proud of it. 😛 )

Liar, Liar

There’s a book I read once (Or maybe listened to an audio book of) that I liked fairly well. It had to do with boys in an orphanage and a search for a long-lost prince. (That may not have been the exact premise, but bear with me– it’s been a while since I read the story.) From what I remember, it was Anastasia-esque, with the boys being trained to appear to be the long lost prince and fool the kingdom, gaining the money or power or whatever. All this was good and logical. You read most of the chapters from one character’s POV. Because of the way these stories go, it wasn’t hard to guess that one of the boys would turn out to be none other than the prince.

And then the POV character up and revealed that he, in fact, was the prince. He, whom we had trusted to tell the story faithfully in first-person-past-tense. This was supposed to be the “amazing twist” and the “great reveal.” Unreliable narrators are fine. Character misunderstandings are fine. Characters lying to each other are fine.

Characters lying to the reader for 3/4 of the book are not fine. Characters making up a fake backstory are not fine. It was supposed to be an amazing reveal, but it just got dropped on me. I felt shocked, sure– but the twist felt like it had been thrown in just for shock value. Some random twist to make the reader feel stupid and cheated– because apparently this character could become a completely different person at a pen drop, and apparently his thoughts and emotions were filtered for the audience.

forgive the rant.

All that to say, please do not let your POV– specifically first person POV– character straight up lie to the reader for the entirety of a book. Suspense is one thing (“Were they able to retrieve the long-lost gem?”) lying is another (“Wait, the MC– who’s thoughts I’ve been reading the whole time– actually wanted to kill everyone?”)

All That To Say…

I think the biggest way to pull off a plot twist can be summed up with this: Make the reader feel enlightened. Make them suddenly understand why X was acting weird. Make them notice that other characters in the know had already seemed odd, and that off-hand comment that struck a nerve actually had a purpose.

Most authors try to write plot twists that make people feel. However, this can lead to people feeling cheated or feeling confused. With the right amounts of foreshadowing and truth, your twist can be believable. Add a bit of vulnerability from other characters– shocked joy, intense sorrow, distraught confusion– and you can make a scene pleasing both to logic and emotion.

What do you think? Do you agree with my assessment of plot twists? Is there anything you’d add?

*A result of too many Disney movies.

**I fully admit to still doing this in my books, but I would say I pull it of much more gracefully thanks to what I’ve learned about foreshadowing.

Neverland: A Flash Fiction

flash fiction, writing

Some adults never grow up. She always hated those who lived in their kindergarten Neverland.  Those who would push and shove their way to the front of a crowd, those who are willing to endanger others for fear that they would be second — the horror— to the front of the red-light-line.  She wasn’t the perfect driver she thought she was, either, but over the many times I rode with her, I learned two things.

First, it was clear that the most important thing for her was to keep others safe. She loathed any driver who valued their own life and time the highest. Second, she regarded being honked at as the worst form of discipline. She, herself, only used the horn when someone’s life was in danger because of other’s actions, and to be honked at, to her, meant that she had accidentally risked someone else’s life.

She had gone two years without a car but with a license, finally saving enough that she was able to buy a “dinged-up-but-still-safe” vehicle two days after she turned eighteen. She let me ride with her the first time. She cruised down the highway, a smile lighting up her features with the car she finally owned. The next months were filled with firsts– first time going to get donuts in her own car as an adult. First time she filled up the gas in her own car. I’m not sure why she thought those moments were special… but she had always been that way. Even when we were kids.

It was about three months after she got the car, I think, that it happened. We got the call when she was somewhere between the Sphinx and the college campus– about one red light apart. The dingy blue bug had acquired a whole new level of dents. It was hard to tell it had ever been a car in the first place. She didn’t feel any pain, just panic as she had swerved off the side of the road to avoid the person who needed to move to the right turn lane that very second. They were unscathed, if you were wondering.

It was a close-casket funeral. Mom wouldn’t let me see her. The doctors said her head had been bashed in. It was sunny when we lowered her into the ground. She and I liked to play in the woods on sunny days, when we were little. She played the pirate, I was a lost boy. We buried her with her favorite compass necklace. Some adults never grow up.

My Writing Process

writing

Writing process… it’s such an odd thing, isn’t it? Every author has a different writing style that they use to go about writing and editing their books. Some even have a different method for each book that they write. Within the past year, however, I have found a pretty solid method that works for me in my writing.

(Note: This is just my writing process. This may work for you, or it may not. It took me a long time and many tries to figure out what would work best for me. It’s a large conglomeration of different articles I’ve read, coupled with my own experimenting.)

First thing’s first: I start out by trying to figure out what I want the story to be about. I want to work on writing more character driven stories, but at the moment it’s easiest for me to start by knowing where the story needs to go. In this process, I decide what the ending is. It may sound counter intuitive, but personally, it’s the very first thing I need to know, or else I’ll probably end up ditching the story. In this process I normally come up with the characters (as, while I work, I generally figure out who’s going to be in the story and what I want them to do).

Number two: Hamilton arrived with his crew. I use the Story Embers Three Act Plot Sheet (I take no credit for this wonderful resource) to plot my book. It’s so helpful, both to actually create the plan and to follow through with it. You know those times when you’re stuck on a scene and don’t know where to go? The TAPS can often help me get through those rough spots. It also helps keep up enthusiasm for writing rather than just pouring enthusiasm into three chapters before losing interest.

Three: Flesh out the character. It can be rather tempting to start writing as soon as your plot is ready, but you need to know as much as you can about the characters first. (Just to clarify, I’ll often be working on 2&3 at the same time, depending on which I’m inspired to invest creativity in. This can add some continuity to the story flow.) You need to know what your characters’ biggest wants, fears, and desires. The most non-spoiler-y thing in one of my books that I can think of comes from Flinn Waters, Em’s love interest. Throughout the book, he’s looking for something to live for– initially striving for other people’s approval. By the end of the book, however, he’s found something– *cough* someone *cough*– worth risking his life for.

Four: Write that freakin’ first draft. Just get it all down on paper. One thing I’ve noticed is that my first drafts are often about half the size that they become. It’s almost like a really heavy plotting. With my secret project, I’m striving for it to be 45k. After I work on editing/rewrites, it will hopefully end up between 80k-90k, which is a good length for a YA novel.

Five: Wait. Patience is difficult, I know. So… write something else. Write that plot bunny you procrastinated on. I love having multiple projects going at one time because it helps me be able to put that one project aside and work on another one. (E.g. for the first draft of The Reflections, I wrote the first drafts of The Recalling and The Rebellion before picking the first book up again.)

Six: This can actually happen while you’re waiting– get alpha readers. I KNOW THAT PEOPLE SAY NOT TO HAVE OTHERS READ YOUR NOVEL UNTIL YOU’VE EDITED IT. And you can follow those rules if you want, but I find it really helpful to have a close writer friend or two to read over it. Have them look for weak plot points, lacking character development, and other content editing. And towards the end of your wait, you can print out your novel and you can read it. If you’ve gotten their notes back, you can read your work and brainstorm ways to fix problems while also noting where there are problems they missed. (For example, if I wanted a character to turn out more [your adverb here] I can look through the book and find scenes where I can display that trait better in them.

Seven: Rewrite. It’s exhausting, I know. You won’t have to rewrite every single little tiny scene, but you will have to rewrite a lot. Kill your darlings. Create new ones. Take the vivid world you’ve created and enhance it. Make the characters shine. Use this to up your word count, your foreshadowing, your description. You might be writing the first draft mostly for you, but this draft is for your readers. Make it beautiful.

Eight: Beta readers!! They’re mutually the most exciting and discouraging thing out there– especially if you get good ones. (Thanks Gracie. 🙂 ) It’s exciting because you’re putting your work out there! Humans! Get! To! See! It! And your really good beta readers will tell you all the wonderful and amazing things about your book. However, good beta readers will also tell you the weak spots still existent in your book. If you give your betas a deadline, it gives you a bit more time to take a break from your rewrite and come back with fresh eyes.

Nine: I next read over the beta readers’ comments. Whether grammatical errors, characterization problems, or something else (Em kept switching the type of clothing she was wearing throughout a set of scenes, which I didn’t catch), you’ll almost always have something to fix. Fix those comments. Set your book down for a little while longer.

[insert any number of editing/rewriting/beta reading here, depending on book]

Ten: About two weeks later, I come back to my book. I read over it one more time. I fix anything I haven’t seen before, polishing it up for one final check. My book has been written, edited, and polished to the absolutely most perfect-est it can be. 😛

For The Reflections I started querying here.

For my secret project, I’ll probably be hiring a pro-editor, as there’s a decent chance that I will not be pursing traditional publishing. (There are a lot of factors at play here, though, so I may have to take that statement back at a future time.)

How about you? Do you have a consistent strategy to write and edit your books? Do you disagree with any of my steps that I take?

Guest Post: K. Phelps

writing

From Emily— I’d like to introduce all of you to my lovely friend, K. Phelps. I met her a couple of years ago in school, and we bonded over our shared love of writing. K is now in her freshman year of college, studying psychology. She writes mostly fiction—specifically dystopian and dark fantasy, though she’s dabbled in horror. She’s a stellar multitasker– working on both short stories and novels, though she has a couple of novels that she’s focusing on right now. I’ll not bore you anymore. Take it away, K!

What I Write

Writing has been a rather long journey for me. I’ve always done things related to writing, and I’ve tried my hand at writing throughout my life, but it wasn’t until high school that I decided writing was something I wanted to pursue. And now, I’m here today to share a bit about my writing process. 

My favorite thing about writing, and thus what I tend to spend the most time on, is the characters. I don’t start writing with the characters, but it’s usually the first thing that I work on when I have the beginnings of a plot. Characters are the lifeblood of my writing process because, frequently, my settings, my themes, and even my plot will revolve around them to a certain extent. 

My biggest struggle when it comes to writing has to be plot. I typically have a pretty clear image of how I want the story to end, and I have clear scenes that I want to include; I often even know how I want the story to start. But the middle of the story, connecting all the dots and adding in material in between scenes that isn’t fluff is the hardest aspect of writing for me. The most effective way for me to combat this is to just write it all the way through however it comes to mind when I’m writing until I get to that ending. Then I rewrite from the beginning, cutting the fluff bit by bit and replacing it with stronger material, as I now have a clear image of where the story should go. 

My Writing Process

My writing process starts with brainstorming and imagining bits and pieces of stories in my head (usually with dramatic music to accompany them). For my brainstorming, I employ a stream of consciousness method, where I start out with a question or a concept I’d like to dig into, then  write anything and everything that comes to mind about the subject. 

Once the idea is secured, I spend a lot of “prep work,” which is usually made up of imagining scenes until I have a sort of loosely sketched out plan for the overall plot, writing scenes to get a better sense of the characters and finding music I associate with the story (one of my favorite parts of prep work; there’s rarely a moment of the day that I don’t have my earbuds in my ears). The vast majority of my prep work involves character development. I like to make my characters feel as real to me as possible before I start formally writing; I like to have detailed backstories, their weaknesses, strengths, fears and insecurities; even something as insignificant as their favorite food or style of music is important to me because it’s a minor detail I can incorporate that helps them feel more real. More than anything, I want my characters to have struggles. I want them each to have their own personal arcs that are interwoven throughout the overarching plot. Using the MC’s from my current project, New Paradise, as an example, Korrina spends the trilogy finding her place and her confidence, while Graham tries to figure out who he should trust, if he should trust anyone, and Sai comes to terms with his traumatic past, but they’re all still working together to achieve their goals. 

Next comes the plot. I tend to find my plot along the way, but I try to write with an ending in mind. Now, this strategy gets me into trouble from time to time, as I can run on a little long, but I like to just sit down and write whatever comes to mind. Then, I rewrite and give more structure to the plot of the second draft forward. 

I try not to let people read my writing until the first draft is done, but I’ve grown to really appreciate getting comments along and along; it gives me an idea of what I can continue improving throughout the first draft and tells me what I want to emphasize more in the second. 

How I Get Inspired

I have a few methods to get inspired, depending on the day. One of the best gateways of inspiration for me is to read. I’ll keep a book handy at my desk and read a chapter or two before I settle in to start writing, and it seems to help my brain get over that initial bout of “what are WORDS?” I seem to suffer from so often. It helps me focus by reminding me exactly what I’m doing, and what I’m aiming for. 

I also try to find music that I can play in the background while I’m writing to keep me from getting distracted by extraneous noises. I have playlists dedicated to my different projects that remind me of the themes or the characters, but often, I’ve found it’s better to simply pick some music that plays in the background. Recently, that’s been the bands Rise Against and Elephant Revival, as well as video game or movie soundtracks like Little Nightmares and Coraline. 

I’ll also spend time just walking and listening to music and seeing what ideas it brings to mind. This helps me focus on my projects, helping me develop them in a different way. Taking walks  gives me time to think, and thinking helps me imagine. 

I’m a firm believer that when it comes to writing, do what feels right. My way of writing works for me because it makes me happy, and when I’m happy, I feel more comfortable with what I’m writing, which shows in the quality. I didn’t focus much on advice in this post, so here’s some now: find what about writing makes you happy. If there ever comes a day when you have trouble picking up the pen or opening the computer, work on what makes you happiest. I have a couple practice projects I keep around for that sole purpose, so that I still have something I can write when I really just don’t feel like it. Find your style. Find what works for you. And most importantly, write the story you want to tell. This is my way, and my way is still evolving as I find better ways to go about this whole writing thing. And hopefully, it can give you some ideas if you’re looking for them, or some encouragement to go write if you aren’t! 

Searching

writing

Today is a day that I am not sure why I write. Today is a day where I’ve received more rejections. There have been thirty so far. One agent said that The Reflections sounded too much like two other books (neither that I’ve ever read.) It hurts. It hurts really badly to have your art, something you’ve cared so much about, something you’ve poured your heart and soul into be shattered into pieces and flung into the wind by people who are just doing their job.

They are doing their jobs.

Yeah, but their job hurts. And I know they might be right. My writing isn’t perfect but what if it’s a lot farther from perfection than I thought it was? What if there is no hope? What if there is no light at the end of the tunnel? I’ve filled myself with good books, quality art that brings me to tears.

I had two other stories I was going to work on. RF made me feel, made me understand. From the moment “I pull my honey-brown hair back into a ponytail as I stare at the letter sitting on the counter.” slipped from my fingers, I knew that this was a story I wanted to tell. Even though the first line has undergone a dozen rewrites since then, I knew it was the story I wanted to tell.

So what do you do when that story isn’t good enough?

I have a feeling deep inside of me that there is a story I want to tell. There is a story that God is calling me to write and it will serve and honor Him. It will be something hard but something that I love. It will be a story that helps change how people see the world. It will be something that points to Him.

I’ve been begging for Him to give me that story for weeks now. I’ve been wrestling through my ideas but I have nothing. Every story falls flat. Maybe I shouldn’t base it so much on feelings but nothing feels right. I think I’ll know the story when I have it. I don’t want something else that I get two thousand words in and quit.

No they’re– we’re not.” The answer leaps off my tongue. “We have everything we need. The royal family provides for us. We love our nation.”
She chuckles. “If someone heard us talking, they’d think you were the foreigner, Lore.”
Panic seeps into my veins. “I– I don’t go out much.”
“Apparently.” She snorts, then points to a large but shabby looking ship. The fog is still so thick that I didn’t notice the boat until we were up on top of it. “There she is, the Ballaway.”
It almost looks like a pirate’s ship, as the whole bow is coated with dark, peeling paint. I can’t see high enough to see the crest flag. Where would they claim to be from?
“Elsa– Captain Jennings to you– will be happy to have you on board.” With a shrug of her shoulders, she walks up the gangway onto the ship.
Well that was weird. I frown and follow her.
Unlike the other ships, this one is still and almost ghostly. I frown at the peeling paint. This was certainly not the boat I was hoping for a ride on.
“Oh, just warning you, Captain is half banshee. So she can be a little loud sometimes.”
I blink. “Pardon?”
“Banshee.” Ayra looks at me like I’m stupid. “Her mum was a banshee. Her dad… eh, mated with the mum when the banshee came foretelling his own death.”
I shake my head. “But– Banshees are just foreign lore.”
“No, you’re Foreign Lore.” She winks, quickly realizes that I don’t find the pun amusing, and shakes her head. “They’re not just legend. They exist in Entheme, constantly foretelling death and destruction.”
“Is–” I lower my voice and my gaze. “Isn’t she bad luck to have on the ship?”
Ayra actually laughs out loud. “Most boats are surprised we haven’t sank yet because there’re so many women on board. I don’t think having one of them be half-banshee is going to change any of that.” She grins. “And it also makes the men more afraid of her, though knowing her, she could do it without banshee blood in her veins.”

This is Lorelei (stuck at 4213 words). This is a story I was excited to tell, a swashbuckling adventure filled with romance and sirens and battles. But it was crushed to smithereens when I realized how stereotyped the adventure was and I couldn’t go on.

The world turns pretty fast. I should know. I live on it. Yet somehow in my eleven years of being homeschooled (I’m graduating early) and traveling around the globe, I never exactly learned how fast the world turns. You know, it must go rather fast for gravity to keep working.
I chew on the end of my pencil and stare at the test in front of me. I look at the paper in front of me. I highly doubt Mom would accept ‘rather fast’ as an answer to the exact speed of the earth. And that’s my problem, she often reminds me– I’m too focused on the big things to bother about the details. Who cares how fast the world turns? Is that going to help me defeat the Aeellos?
(No, it will not.)
So exactly how fast is it turning? There’s a lot of miles around the sun and so if I could find the distance from the earth to the sun and then multiply it by two and pi and– wait, no. That won’t work, either. My goodness, why is this so relevant anyway? If they asked me what the Aeellos were, I could answer the exact wording of the textbook. The Aeellos are a rare species of humans who have the ability to succeed in absolutely everything they do. No more than four to six Aeellos may exist at a time, and no more are born until the last of the previous grouping of Aeellos have passed away. Aeellos are a terrible danger to regular humans and have often been the causes of wars and bloodshed.
I tap my pencil on the paper and glance up at the stopwatch Mom placed at the front of the classroom. Or the room. Whatever you’d like to call it. Three minutes and forty-three– forty-two– forty-one– seconds left to answer the last question.
I hear Mom’s cell phone vibrating in the other room. Come to think of it, my phone’s in the other bedroom. I could probably search how fast the world is turning. Mom’s phone buzzes again. I shiver, even though the hot South African sun shines through the windows onto my skin.
“Hello?” Mom’s voice drifts from the kitchen. “This is she.”
Grunting, I turn my attention back to the page. Three minutes and fifteen-fourteen-thirteen. Why in the world did people think these types of tests were ever a good idea?
“Sereh,” Mom calls from the kitchen. “It’s for you.”
Sweet relief. I jump up from the table, letting the pencil clatter to the floor.

This is That’s How Fast The World Is Turning (431 words as of now). I still like the idea. I’m still excited about the plot but I’m scared I’ll get it wrong. I don’t know the characters well enough. I won’t be able to do this beautiful creation swarming in my mind justice. It will be wrong. It will fail again. I can’t stand the thought and thus it stays bubbled up inside, trying to ripen in a sunless room.

His eyes were warm. His body was warm. All of him warmed her cold insides that ached like icicles piercing my body. “It’s okay, Ella, I’m not like her.”
“I know.” she pulled him tighter and let the tears stream down her cheeks. “You’re safe.”
“They might hurt you but I won’t.”
They’d already hurt her. she bit back the pain, buried her head into his chest. “I know.”
“El, I swear, I’ll never hurt you.”
Every inch of her body shook. The words and the actions of the others bite somewhere deep in her chest. The fears she’d neatly folded and packed in trunks came flying off the shelves and into her face. What if he does hurt her? The others swore they wouldn’t, either, but now there were invisible knives embedded into her chest by their own doing.
“I’m sorry.” She whispered. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
“No,” He hushes her apology. “It’s okay to be afraid.”
That was something no one else said to her. They always critiqued her fears, held them up to theirs like examining two bombs side by side. Their bomb was always smaller. But he told her it was okay to be afraid. And that made her feel safe. And once again she knew he was safe.
“What happened?” He pulled back from her, looking her up and down. “Did they–“
“I’m fine.” She leaned back into him, but he resisted her touch. “They can’t touch me right now.”
“Only in other times.” He nodded.
She nodded along. Only in times where death was rampant. Then the Umbris could grasp her. “What year is it?”
“1892, Washington.” He rubbed her shoulder and pulled away from her embrace.”There shouldn’t be too much violence. We’re post Civil War and Pre-World Wars.”
“What are we doing here?”
“Waiting for the decision on a supreme court case.”
Her eyebrows shot up. Decisions could lead to violence. Violence could lead to umbris. The still icy scars stung with cold. “Decision on what?”
“Whether the tomato is a fruit or not.”
Her eyes wandered the spring pathways of DC. She recalled being here before, with pink cherry blossoms sending their soft glow through the city streets. There were no velvet pink blossoms now. “You’re kidding.”
“Nope.” His lips curled into a smirk. “They needed to know for import taxes.”
“Ah, money.” It was always about money. Until it wasn’t. Because sometimes it was about being exhausted and making a dramatic exit. She didn’t want that anymore, though. Right? “And why can’t we just go into the future to find out the results of this… vital case?”
“Well, you’re Caucasian and I’m not dark enough to be discriminated against, and… well.” He sighed, running a hand through his hair. “The world is so much darker after the world wars. There are more Umbri in every single time– especially during the Soviet Union.I’m not sure you’re strong enough to pass through there.”

This is an unnamed time travel story (2419 words as of writing this post). Yet another thing I was excited about but– plot disappeared. I don’t know the characters or their goals or motivations and I have nowhere to begin. Somehow the story I want to tell isn’t tell-able at the moment so I’m stuck flailing in a sea of meaningless words and trying to figure out where to go next. What story God wants me to tell. The story that He’s woven in my veins and created me to write.

More than being accepted or making money or becoming famous, I really want to honor Him with my stories. So I will dip my toes in a dozen genres and a million characters’ lives until I find one to honor my King.

(Also this post is nearly as long as most of the story ideas I’ve begun)