How To Plan Out A Series

One of the most popular ways to write fantasy is through a series. Readers enjoy series because it offers them a chance to stick with the same characters over an extended period of time. They get to watch them evolve through a series of events and become very attached to their survival and happiness. Series keep us on edge every moment, waiting for the next book to come out or waiting for the final conclusion. If you’re thinking about writing a series of your own, here are a few tips to help you out.

Step One: Map Out Your Plot

One of the most important things about writing a great series is making sure that your story can be carried over several books. Now if you’re just starting out with an idea, it can seem like a lot to think about right off the bat. But if you’re looking to plan a series, I imagine you have at least some basic idea of what major events happen when. Use those to understand whether you’ve got enough story.

Think about how many books you want to write. There’s no magic number (although three is quite popular); each story idea is unique. Remember, each book needs to have its own plot arc: a clear purpose that is worked towards over the course of the novel definitively fulfilled at the end. Then on top of that, each book needs to contribute to the overall series arc. The series arc itself also has its own purpose that must be worked towards at each stage. If you can see all of these main elements, congratulations! Your idea has enough substance to write a series.

Step Two: Get To Know Your Characters

I talk all the time about getting to know your characters on an intimate level. I’ve suggested creating character profiles and conducting an in depth interview with your character. When writing a series, this is especially crucial.

Over the course of your books, you’re going to be playing around with multiple important characters and multiple big character arcs. Outside of your main character, several secondary characters are going to have significant arcs that will influence the story. In each book, your main character will go through a change. You have to clearly see that change each time you pick up the next book and introduce a new change that will begin to play out. Your secondary characters will evolve over the course of the series, and each book doesn’t have to have a specific change for them.

In order to accomplish this, you need to absorb your characters’ personalities, motivations, and goals. You need to know them better than you know yourself. Using the tools I’ve linked above will assist you.

Step Three: Consider your world.

Your worldbuilding will need to be detailed enough for your readers to learn new places and new details each time they pick up an installment. Think about the Harry Potter universe and how expansive it is, how J.K. Rowling introduced us to new places and magical aspects every time we picked up one of her books. Take the time to ask questions about your world and dive deep into everything from geography down to individual family life. Your magic system will also need to be built to last as it will be a crucial backbone as your characters move throughout your fantastical universe. Dream as big as you want.

Are you ready to start? Happy writing!

Creating Subplots

A great fantasy story must always incorporate more than just a main plotline. Smaller stories and adventures should be included to give more insight into the characters and build up to the climax of the main story. Subplots tend to show progress and growth in a character without necessarily being part of their main journey or goal. These subplots can focus on the main character and their secondary goals or a secondary character and their own storyline. All subplots should relate back to the main plot and intersect the story in some way. That could mean relating back to the main themes or showing progress in the characters that are essential to the main journey.

Types of Subplots

There is a wide variety of subplots to choose from when looking at your own novel. Here are a few useful ones to recognize:

  • One of the most common and most recognizable subplots are romantic subplots. The main character falls in love with a secondary character who in turn reveals a lot of intimate information about the former character’s motivations, dreams, and personality traits. Romantic subplots are often the easiest to incorporate into most genres; with fantasy, they tend to walk hand in hand.
  • Another solid subplot idea for fantasy is something brewing in the political world. My own book explores this in the way of political tension, subverting alliances, and the constant presence of impending war. This subplot is often a great way to bring in detailed worldbuilding and historical background into your story.
  • It is always a great idea to show conflict between main and secondary characters. This can include a conflict with a villain that perhaps exists on the fringes of your main plot or an argument with a friend or lover that changes the main character’s course. These subplots add depth to your characters and often can have a transformative effect on a character’s psyche.
  • Anything that showcases a character’s strengths, flaws, and motivations can be incorporated into the story as a subplot. You’re not limited to the types of ideas I’ve listed above.

A Tip On Identifying and Incorporating Subplots

When I finished the first draft of Chasing Fae, one of things I did was take several sheets of paper and draw out several large arcs. I then went through my book and labeled each event of the main plot on one arc. On the next few, I took some time to pick out the events in my novel that didn’t connect directly to the main storyline. Those, I then was able to sort and begin to create some subplot arcs. Wherever I saw gaps, I made notes on what to write to fill them in to make my subplots complete. The final arc I used to create a character arc so I could definitively see how Grace changed and grew over the course of the entire novel. If there wasn’t a logical jump between one point and another, I created a new event to add in my second draft and create a new subplot off of that.

I would highly recommend this method if you’re having trouble identifying what kind of subplots you want to incorporate or what subplots you already have brewing. It also serves as a great tool to break your story down and really gain a deep understanding of your characters and your plot.

I hope this has been helpful. Happy writing!

Writer’s Review: AutoCrit

When in search of great writing software, I happened across AutoCrit during NaNoWriMo 2018. This website was running a contest that offered three months free membership to any NaNoWriMo contestant that signed up for their newsletter. While I didn’t win, an opportunity to purchase a lifetime membership for a reasonable price popped up unexpectedly. I snapped it up, and today, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about this revision software.

First Things First, what does AutoCrit do?

AutoCrit is an editing software that helps to edit your novel in a multitude of ways. Through its unique analysis process, you can instantly get editing suggestions about everything from word choice, to active vs. passive words, and even pacing. It takes into account all of the most popular books of a particular genre and their writing styles and uses those to evaluate where your story falls stylistically within that genre. You can even compare your book directly to the writing style of a particular author. For fantasy, I know J.K Rowling is an option as well as Sarah J. Maas, my favorite author of all time. The suggestions that AutoCrit churns out are really genre-specific, something that I don’t think any other editing software can give.

Best Features

Pacing and Momentum Report – I love this one immensely because of how accurate it is. You can see very clearly where your slow paragraphs are in your story, and you can see whether you’re actively moving the story along with what you’re writing.

Adverbs Report: Do you feel like you’re using too many adverbs in your writing? If yes, this is going to change your life. It shows you graphs of your most frequently used adverbs and how many per chapter. The software also shows you if your use of adverbs is average or above average or below average for your genre. It’s a really great indicator of where your writing stands in its current state. It will even show you the exact number to get rid f to make it fall into traditional bestseller standards.

If you don’t think you’re using too many adverbs…. trust me. You are.

Clichés Report – Are you worried that your book may contain too many cliché phrases? AutoCrit will weed them out for you and mark where they are in your story. Super useful for a second and third draft.

When should I use this?

I used AutoCrit primarily for my third and fourth drafts after I had gotten feedback from a few beta readers. While I was implementing their suggestions, I began to focus on word choice more heavily than I had in the past edits. AutoCrit was the best tool for identifying the weaknesses in my writing that I, myself, as a new writer was unfamiliar with what to even look for. It pointed out clear successes and clear failures that I could then adjust to until it was where I wanted it to be.

This software does not edit for you. Every change you want to make, you make yourself. It does not implement anything for you. What it does is point out specific areas for you to improve on and make specific suggestions to improve your writing. I couldn’t be happier with it.

Pricing

The plan that I personally use and would recommend is the Professional Plan. This grants you unlimited word count and access to all of the features I mentioned above, plus a lot more. This is the plan that’s going to best suit the author. Going with the basic plan leaves you only working with 1000 words at a time (which could not work). Going with the elite offers you weekly lessons, tips and tricks from industry professionals, and marketing help once you publish. But until you’re ready for that stage or you really want some more professional assistance, I would suggest the Professional Plan. It currently runs for $30 per month. But AutoCrit is often running discounts, so be on the lookout.

As always, happy writing!

Writing Sex Scenes

When you’re working with a romance subplot in a fantastical universe, it is entirely probable that you will run into the questions that many writers face when creating a believable relationship.

Should I incorporate a sex scene? Where is it appropriate and where is it not? How do I create something that’s going to flow well and not sound absolutely ridiculous?

Despite my age, I’ve had a decent amount of run-ins with sex in literature, and I can absolutely tell when something sounds good and when it sounds like the author is trying way too hard. Or sometimes not enough. If done right, it can add a fiery or finessed detail to your character relationships that can allow one or more to develop and change. Sex means a great many things to a lot of different people. Just as people navigate those meanings in reality, your characters can have the opportunity to explore them on the pages of your novel. Here are some tips and tricks to help you create the perfect sensual moment.

Tip #1: Make sure your scene fits your audience.

Sex in middle grade novels is never acceptable. Let’s get that tidbit out of the way first. Easy enough to remember. When it comes to young adult vs. adult, the lines begin to blur a bit. Some prefer YA books to have more sublte sex scenes that consist of maybe a few lines to get the point across or enough language in a longer scene that it’s not incredibly explicit. Others don’t care if YA has more explicit sex scenes. Adult books can usually run the gamut including tipping into the heavier, way too much for YA kind of explicit.

Tip #2: Keep it real.

Please please please. Keep your sex scenes real. Don’t come up with ridiculous positions that would put obvious physical strain on any characters. Keep your timeline of initiation to foreplay to penetration realistic. But at the same time, don’t feel like you have to be stereotypical. Every couple has their own process and their own style of having sex, even if they have just met and it’s a quick hookup.

If you’ve got a spouse or are in a long-term relationship, try out your scene in the bedroom! Draw inspiration from your sex life. If this isn’t your thing, fanfiction is your friend. Searching your favorite pairings from books, TV shows, or movies in some of the most popular fanfiction platforms (fanfiction.net, archiveofourown.org, etc.) can yield some fantastic steamy stories. You can find one-shots to short chaptered stories to full length manuscripts. Trust me, you can INSTANTLY tell the difference between well written scenes with any kink you can imagine and absolutely horrible prose. And I mean, horrible. Scar you for life kind of horrible writing.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Tip #3: Use the right langague.

“His engorged member” is not the right language to use.

Why, why do writers choose to embellish body anatomy and sexual acts with ridiculous words that when put together, conjure some very weird mental images?

Just tell it like it is. Don’t excessively embellish your descriptions. Point A to Point B can be communicated with detail without being flowery and ultimately, unrealistic.

Have fun with it!

Happy writing!

Reference List of Writing Resources

This list will expand as I encounter new programs and websites.

Character Building

Epiguide’s Character Chart for Fiction Writers: A detailed chart that allows a writer to dive into a character’s appearance, personality, and daily life.

Labotomy of A Writer – Epic Character Questionnaire: A comprehensive interview to conduct with your character. Highly recommended.

Worldbuilding

SFWA Worldbuilding Questions: A comprehensive set of worldbuilding questions that cover a wide range of categories to fully immerse a writer in the world they want to create.

World Anvil: A place to create an encyclopedia of your world through articles, profiles, and other posts. Both a free and a paid service.

Outlining

Iulian Ionescu – Master Outlining and Tracking Tool: A high powered outlining tool that allows a writer to summarize their book and split that summary into 81 scenes to aid in the plotting process.

Drafting

Marissa Meyer’s blog post series From Idea to Finished: An article series that walks a writer through the process of writing from the idea all the way through the publication process.

Scrivener: A word-processing program designed specifically for the writer. Combines a research binder, an outlining board, and a typewriter.

Google Docs: My preferred word processor.

Revisions

How To Edit Your Novel – The Ultimate Crash Course: A crucial guide for understanding the editing process and how to tackle it.

Autocrit: An online book editor for fiction writers that analyzes your writing in the context of your genre and gives you specific tips to improve your prose.

Grammarly: An online grammar and spell checker perfect for writers of any profession.

The Revision Process

The revision process, for me, was actually more fun to me than writing your first draft.

Now hear me out.

During your first draft, it’s all chaos. You’re writing to get the story on the page. Of course your work is creative and a beautiful story, but it is in its rawest form. It’s at the worst it’s ever gonna be. So, the revision process allows you to truly create, to embellish and to detail every element of your novel. From the plot, to the characters, and the world, not a single detail remains untouched.

Everyone revises differently. Some people like to do three drafts; some want to do at least six. I couldn’t find a lot of really solid information out there about how to revise most effectively. Until I found this guide. I would highly reccomend most of the materials on this website. Writers Edit walks through a lot of writing concepts and practices similarly to what I do. This guide got me through the revision process. My article today is going to take it down to its bare bones and some of the modifications that I made to it to fit me best. Read their article if you’re looking for more in depth details.

Distance

Your first job as a writer is to separate yourself from your work for a period of time. This allows you to approach the work from a fresh perspective. Many sources reccomend a month to six weeks; if you’re an eager writer like me, I managed to make it two and a half weeks before jumping in. And that worked well for me. Make sure you give at least two weeks at the bare minimum. Trust me. It really helps.

First Readthrough

Sit down with your first draft and read it in its entirety. It’s best to do this in one sitting if you can, but never more than two. You want to see the novel’s arc and how events fit together, and it can be hard to do that if your reading is too fragmented. While you’re reading, take notes on each scene or chapter. Make notes about what each section is about, the characters that play a major role, and what the main goal of that scene or chapter is. Also note any changes that you’d like to make. Focus on major or medium-sized changes, but if you see something small that will bug you if it’s not fixed, write that down too.

When you finish reading, analyze the notes you’ve made about each scene. Do some seem out of place? Could some be rearranged or even eliminated entirely?

Second Draft

Take the time to make all of the changes that you want to make. Go down your list. Personally, I like to work chronologically starting from the first chapter through to the end. Your second draft should take you a decent amount of time to finish. Take your time to get the core elements right. Your draft should absolutely transform.

Beta Reader #1

Once your second draft is finished, I would reccomend sending your draft to a first beta reader. Pick someone that you can trust with your work, whether that’s someone you know personally or someone you meet through a writing group or the Twitter #WritingCommunity. A note: if you pick someone close to you, make sure they have the guts to give you real harsh criticism. Beta readers need to give you honest feedback, and family and friends can sometimes sugarcoat the truth in order not to hurt your feelings. Remember, criticism only gives you the opportunity to grow. I was lucky enough that my boyfriend is one of those people who gives honest criticism and feedback. I couldn’t have been happier for him to be the first person to see my work.

Also, set a time limit in which to have it back to you. Two weeks is usually a good time frame. Also be prepared to be flexible if needed.

Third Draft

The third draft is the best time to make edits that your beta reader has suggested as well as to hone in on the details. If your beta reader suggests major changes, insert another draft before this one where you focus on making those edits. Sometimes separating major from minor helps writers to focus on what matters most in their own time. If most of their suggestions are medium to minor sized changes, all you need is this third draft. While you’re at it, think about bringing out key moments in the story to the forefront, particularly in your worldbuilding. If details that you’ve created have gotten lost in the shuffle, add them back into your story. If a character is missing a key trait, incorporate it back in. This is another chance to enhance and embellish. Don’t waste it.

Second Readthrough

Read through your new draft a second time, making notes similar to your first readthrough.  A lot may have changed, so don’t half-ass it.

Fourth Draft

Make the changes you thought of in your second readthrough. Very simple.

Beta Reader #2 (Or maybe even #3)

Time to hand over your work to a second beta reader. My suggestion is to pick someone who has an entirely different reading or editing style than your previous beta reader. Branch out within your genre’s readers. You want to make sure your book appeals to a wide range of people. That’s why I would also reccomend even selecting a third beta reader to read simultaneously.

Fifth Draft

Make the changes your beta reader or readers suggested.

Final Readthrough/Grammar Check

Make one final readthrough on your computer. You can make any small changes that you want to regarding word choice and grammar as you read along. Consider having a grammar editor running as you do so you can catch mistakes easier. BUT DO NOT RELY ON IT FULLY. It does not catch everything, as I discovered. Force yourself to go slowly and steadily, reading every word and every comma and period. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself when you’re submitting to literary agents.

And there you have it! You’ve made it through the full revision process. Congratulations! Pat yourself on the back and get to querying!

Prologue or No Prologue: The Debate

One of the biggest debates in fantasy writing is whether or not to include a prologue. While prologues are popular in certain subgenres, nowadays we are starting to see less and less of them. This stems from a large shift in opinion in the eyes of both authors and literary agents. Today’s post is going to summarize this debate and hopefully offer a few pointers no matter what decision you ultimately make.

The Argument For Prologues

  1. If the prologue adds to the story, it can be incredibly useful. – Make sure that if you do use a prologue, it is going to add to your story. Introduce characters that are directly relevant to your story, and make it unique. Lead your readers into the main story.
  2. Keep it short and sweet, and your prologue will stand out. A short prologue (typically under 1000 words) can be a great tone setter for the rest of the story. Are you going to set up high intensity action or a tragic event?  Make it match.
  3. Prologues are great for switching point of view. – Sometimes you may want to introduce a character in first person or third person and then switch to the opposite point of view for the rest of the story. This can be great to get inside one character’s head and see what they are thinking before leaping into the story. Conversely, you may want to observe a character or event from an outside perspective before diving into the story.

The Argument Against Prologues

  1. Authors often use prologues as an infodump. – If you’re using your prologue to get across vital information that you feel like the reader has to know before reading your story, nine times out of ten you can get rid of it. Part of being a great writer is the ability to weave vital information into your story seamlessly without sending up a blatant flare for your readers.
  2. Sometimes your prologue will make a much better first chapter – If you’re introducing action in the prologue and then continuing on (even if there is a time skip), think about if your prologue can actually become the first chapter. You may find that it’s a lot better to start right away. People who may read the first few pages of your book (especially literary agents!) will want to know everything they need to know about if they want to keep reading your story without the prologue in the way to muddle things.
  3. Readers often skip prologues. – Enough said. Why write them if readers might skip them anyway?

So which one is best? Well, I believe that’s entirely up to the writer. Do what you feel comfortable doing. Remember, during revisions, you can always change your mind. Writing is never set in stone. You can always build off of it or from it in different ways (just look at the popularity of fanfiction!).

Happy writing!

How To Know If Your Idea Is Writable

Hello friends! Today, I really want to get back to talking about the writing process. And I want to take you aaaaalll the way back to the very beginning: the idea stage. I had an interesting conversation with a fellow intern today about building novel ideas, and I thought it would be a perfect topic to bring up on the blog.

Coming Up With An Idea

So you want to write a fantasy novel, right? But you have no idea where to start. You’ve got pieces of an idea, little inklings that swirl around in your head with little connection. Or maybe you’re looking to come up with something entirely from scratch. Either way, before you start writing, you want to have something concrete to work with.

The best advice that I can give is to read. Read the fantasy genre. Read the subgenres that you’re interested in the most. This can help you narrow down what type of story you want to write, what kind of characters excite you the most, and what tropes make your heart dance. The more you read, the more familiar you will become with the genre. Don’t think that only one or two books will cut it. If you’re looking for a good place to start, I would recommend this article for a basic list of several books in different subgenres.

Is Your Idea Writable?

So you’ve got an idea. Yay! Fantastic. Now, can you write a book from it?

Depending on if you’re an outliner or a pantser, what I’m about to say next may not be the best strategy for you to figure out if your idea can carry a whole book. Some people like to jump right in and figure everything out as they go along. But I recommend at least asking yourself a few basic questions before starting.

  1. Do you know enough about where you want to go to write the first few chapters? It doesn’t do you any good to start and realize you have nowhere to go. You don’t necessarily need to know how your story ends yet. Trust me, that will come along eventually.
  2. Are your characters interesting enough? Do they have motivations for doing what they are going to be doing?
  3. Do you have a basic idea of your setting?
  4. Can you see yourself committing to this idea for a full book? Are YOU excited enough to write this book?
  5. Finally, a question you should always ask yourself before writing a book: Can you commit a little time each day to write? This is especially important. Writing everyday helps to perfect your craft and will be key to finishing your story!

Keep these questions in your mind as you’re formulating your novel idea. Most important of all though, don’t forget to have fun! Writing is fun. Creating worlds and characters and plots entirely your own is fun. Don’t lose sight of that.

Thanks for reading! See you next week!

Calling All Readers!

Hey everybody! I hope you all have been having a fantastic week. I know I have. I’m getting prepared to attend my first writers’ conference, and I’m working on crafting Aphrodite for my other writing project, All in the Pantheon. I’m doing the best I can to build up my image as a writer as I move into the querying stage for Chasing Fae! It’s all so new and exciting, and I can’t wait to go on this journey together with you. I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to read posts as they come down the pipeline. I’ve been hearing good feedback so far, and I want to continue down that path. All of your support means so much to me.

That being said, I need your help! Readers and writers, both old hat and new to Fluff About Fantasy, I need input. What do you want to read more of? I’ve covered a lot of different topics from a young writer’s perspective as well as spent some time promoting my own novel. What do you want to hear from me in the coming weeks?

To name a few options for you:

  • Building An Author Platform series: I have two article ideas lined up to address tips for building a Facebook page as well as a Pinterest account.
  • Worldbuilding: The SFWA questionnaire series has just wrapped up, so there’s definitely a lot of content on this site. But I’m always happy to talk about worldbuilding. Comment below with specifics!
  • The Querying Process: Learn with me as I go along!
  • More information on Chasing Fae: If you’re interested, I’d love to share more information about my novel.
  • Anything! Anything is up for grabs, as long as it’s related to books or to writing.

I’d love to generate some ideas in order to keep turning out fresh content twice a week. I want to build up this website to be something that I and the writing community can be proud of. Whether you’re a seasoned writer with several published books or if you’re a young writer like me just starting out with a new idea, I want to hear your voice. Please, please, please, if you enjoy the content that you read on this website, please comment below.

Much love. <3

Happy writing!

Writing Romance

Today, I received a request to write a bit about romantic tendencies in fantasy stories. So, I am going to go over the basics of incorporating romance into your fantasy story. I feel that is what I am the most equipped to talk about. I hope that this is helpful!

Where does romance fit in?

Adding romance to your fantasy story is a fantastic concept. It is an element that is widely used in many of today’s most popular fantasy novels. Romance blends in with other genres more easily than others because it is all about character relationships, which every story should have anyway. However, it is important to take note that romance must play as a secondary element to your story. You cannot let it take over the main plotline, or you have created a different subgenre entirely. You begin to switch over into fantastical romance. Of course, if that’s the direction you want to go, by all means ignore the above note. But if you’re looking to have romance be a subplot, make sure it doesn’t encroach on the main plot.

Romance Builds

When writing romance, you have to understand that no matter how fast a relationship may develop, relationships all build. You can notice clear steps in how the relationship developed no matter what pace. From the meeting point to the first date or the first hookup to future dates and conversations, all points should be clearly defined and moving towards your eventual outcome. These events don’t all have to be physical events; they can be mental stages as well. For example, when a character first realizes they are in love or when they decide to tell their partner one of their darkest secrets. When writing romance, make sure you can see a clear progression of the relationship.

Relationships are not smooth.

If you have ever been in a relationship before, any relationship at all in any stage, you should know that they are not smooth. They are not easy. Things don’t always go to plan. Relationships shift and break and grow back together. People fight and cry and say things they don’t mean and then apologize profusely. DO NOT and I repeat, DO NOT let your characters off easy. No matter how compatible they are, your characters will have relationship problems. Give them something to fight over. Expose their character flaws through interactions with each other. It will help them grow as characters and as romantic partners.

Don’t be afraid to write something unexpected.

Love is an interesting thing. Everyone has different experiences with it. With all of the romantic clichés out there, it can be very easy to slip into writing something very simple and straightforward. Even with all of the problems and conflict, a romantic subplot can read very fake and disingenuous. Don’t be afraid to throw something out of the box at your characters. Don’t be afraid to confront something that is normally untouched in relationships. Don’t be afraid to explore the mental relationships between romantic partners as well as the physical ones. People fall in love in mysterious ways. Let yourself write that.