Tag Archive: writing tips


I’m currently working on book three of my first trilogy and I’ve discovered some interesting things. There are definitely positive aspects to writing a trilogy or a series, but yes, there are also some downsides. I wondered if anyone else had similar observations, but I couldn’t really find any other articles at all about writing trilogies. So, I decided to do this blog post for anyone else out there planning to tackle writing a trilogy, or for people who are interested in learning more about the process behind the scenes.

I’d like to end this article on a positive note, so let’s begin with the bad stuff, shall we?

The Bad Part about Writing a Trilogy

The first book in my Darkness Trilogy has been out for over a year now, and the second book’s release was almost three months ago, so I’ve received a good number of ratings and reviews. Overall, readers seem to enjoy my books, but of course, you can’t please everyone and there has been negative feedback as well. So here’s the biggest problem: there are a couple of things in particular that people didn’t like, but I can’t change those things without losing consistency throughout the series.

For example, I wrote the story from three alternating points of view, which many people liked, but others hated. I got the idea from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series because I loved how she did it. I thought, “If I ever write a book, I’m doing that!” So, I did, not realizing how many people would be turned off by it. But it wouldn’t make any sense to write book three from a completely different point of view, would it? So I’m stuck with it.

Also, people seem to have a huge problem with the “giant” three and a half year age gap between my two main characters. Well, I can’t exactly make them magically the same age in book three now, can I?

So what’s the solution? I think you can avoid some problems by playing it safe, for example, I’ve made the two characters in my next series that become romantically involved the exact same age. However, if you play everything safe, your book will probably end up being unoriginal and boring. I’ve decided to write my next book in a first person, present tense point of view, despite knowing some people don’t like that writing style. It’s what I want to do though, and I accept that I will be criticized for it. Receiving criticism is an unfortunate part of being an author.

The Good Part about Writing a Trilogy

Okay, it’s not all bad, but I feel better having vented a little bit, ahhhh. On to the positives!

I’m not a professional cover artist, but I have done some graphic design, and creating the cover for books two and three in a trilogy has to be easier than for book one. You already have your basic colour scheme and fonts chosen, and in keeping the look consistent, you don’t have to come up with too many new ideas.

Speaking of consistency, you already have your basic cast of characters and you’ve defined the world within your book. It feels good slipping into the universe you’ve created, like snuggling under a familiar blanket. Writing about your tried and true characters feels like visiting old friends.

Here’s a big plus side to writing a trilogy: people like reading trilogies! They enjoy reacquainting themselves with your world and its characters too. It can be tough to keep a series of several books interesting and new, but a trilogy is the perfect length for a balance between familiarity and freshness.

The Coolest Part of All

I know quite a few people who say they’d like to write a book, and they’ve written some stuff, but never finished an entire book. Well, when I finish writing book three of my trilogy, I’ll be able to say, “I wrote a trilogy!” Not everyone will like my trilogy, but I’m okay with that. I’m driven to write, and if you are too, then don’t let anything stop you. Overall, writing a trilogy has been a great experience for me. I only ask one thing: if you read my books and hate the three and a half year age gap between my characters, can you just…not mention it to me? ;)

In my continuing quest to share things I’ve learned about how to improve my writing, I’d like to address the issue of showing versus telling.

First of all, what does “show vs. tell” mean? Let’s consider the photo below. You can see the man is angry. In a novel without any pictures however, the only way the reader will know the man is angry is if you tell them or show them.

Angry_Man

Telling:

Example #1: He was angry.
Example #2: “This is the worst customer service ever,” he said angrily.

Showing:

Example #1: His eyebrows furrowed and a vein pulsed in his neck.
Example #2: He clenched the phone so hard his knuckles turned white. “This is the worst customer service ever.”

Telling the reader something isn’t wrong, but you can add flair to your writing and increase the emotional factor by showing things instead. Describe how things affect the senses – how things look, feel, sound, etc. – to paint an image in the reader’s mind.

I think the showing vs. telling advice goes hand-in-hand with the use (or overuse) of adverbs. In my Telling example #2 above, the adverb is “angrily.” Basically, you can get rid of an adverb and show what the adverb described instead. Again, it’s not wrong to use adverbs, but the excessive use of adverbs doesn’t involve the reader in your writing as effectively.

Interested in reading more about Showing vs. Telling? Here’s a few articles I liked, and there’s tons more out there. Good luck with your writing, and don’t worry too much about it being perfect; there’s no such thing!

Show Vs. Tell, by Maria V. Snyder
Show vs. Tell – My Take, by E. A. Hill
Show Versus Tell – The Small Details, by Melanie Card
“Show v. Tell” is a Good Rule to Follow, by Mike Duran

When I joined my writers’ group just over a year ago, one of the first things they constructively criticized me for was my use of the passive voice (versus active). The thing is, I had NO CLUE what the heck active or passive voice meant.

I believe in sharing what I’ve learned to help other people, so here’s my explanation of the difference between the two voices, and how to find and fix the problem.

Passive Voice

washitbyball

Example sentence: I was hit by a ball.

Look at this poor guy. Something bad happened to him. Oh yeah, he was hit by a ball. But do you feel like an immediate part of the action? Can a subtle change in sentence structure give the action more impact?

Active Voice

ballhitme
Example sentence: A ball hit me.

Holy cow, a ball hit him! Now do you feel like part of the action? Sure, the photo helps, but the active voice can give your writing more punch. It’s shorter and clearer. There’s nothing wrong with using the passive voice, but generally speaking, the active voice is better.


How to find passive sentences in your writing

  • Use your word-processor’s grammar checker. I’m using Microsoft Word, and there are a ton of things you can choose to include in its grammar check. It will suggest fixing sentences that might be passive.
  • Search for various forms of the verb “to be.” For example, being, was, and were. When those words precede another verb in past tense (past participle) like hit or walked, there’s your passive sentence. He was hit by a ball.

How to fix passive sentences

Once you find a passive sentence, all you have to do is reword it to get rid of the “to be” verb.

Passive: We were given an invitation by Sam.
Active: Sam gave us an invitation.

Passive: Her car was sold.
Active: She sold her car.

You’ll probably get used to writing in the active voice, hopefully to the point where you don’t have to search for it any more. I know I still use the passive voice in my writing sometimes, but I also know my writing is a lot cleaner than it used to be. There’s always room for improvement; all we can do is try our best!

So you’ve started submitting queries to agents and/or publishers – congratulations! You’re ready for the next step. Unfortunately, I know what comes next . . . that’s right, the dreaded “R” word. Rejections.

Okay, you were probably expecting a few rejections, in fact, maybe you feel like a “real” writer now that you have a few official rejections under your belt. No big deal, everyone knows all of the world’s most famous and successful authors received loads of rejections too.

Wait a minute, now you’ve received more than just a small handful of rejections and not one little nibble of interest. The rejection letters are piling up and it’s starting to hurt. Your dream of getting your book published is going down the toilet. Now what?

snoopy

I’m afraid there’s no magic answer – rejection is a part of life, not just in trying to get a book published. There are some things I’ve learned to help deal with the feelings of disappointment though, so I thought I’d share them with you.

  1. Know that you are definitely not alone. You can talk to any writer who’s ever submitted anything because they’ll understand exactly what you’re going through.
  2. The proof you’re not alone: there are a ton of other articles and blog posts out there dealing with the issue of rejection because it IS such a common thing. Here are three posts I read and appreciated:
  3. It’s okay to feel disappointed – you don’t have to hide it. Allow yourself to feel disappointed for a while, then move on. Come up with a Plan B. Self-publishing, for example, is an excellent Plan B. It’s such a great option these days it’s often an author’s Plan A.
  4.  Instead of crawling into a corner to wallow in self-pity while listening to Adele’s “Someone Like You,” listen to some high-energy, uplifting music! Try Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” or “Catch My Breath.”
  5. Don’t forget, it’s not personal – agents and publishers are not rejecting YOU the person. They need to feel pretty confident they’ll be able to sell millions of copies of your book, and they’re just guessing – they don’t KNOW for sure if your book will be the next big thing or not.
  6. Remember, the only way to guarantee your book won’t get published is to not even bother trying. Sure, you risk rejection by trying, but isn’t it worth fighting for?

positive

Best of luck to all you writers out there. Try to stay positive and continue following your dreams!

Let me say right off the bat, these tips aren’t meant to help overcome writer’s block, although maybe they could be helpful in that respect. I’ve never had writer’s block, so I wouldn’t know. These tips are meant to help you out if you’re at that stage in the writing process where your self-confidence has hit rock bottom and you’re wondering if it’s worth writing at all anymore.

If you’re like me, you’re driven to write. Sneaking off for a few moments of peace to do some creative writing is the BEST. However, as I’ve discovered over the last year, polishing and perfecting your work so it doesn’t suck can be less enjoyable. Like, WAY less enjoyable. Then there’s trying to get your work out into the world and discovered by the masses. Welcome to having-your-confidence-stomped-all-over-and-ground-into-the-dirt.

Recently, I reached an all-time low, to the point where my feelings of rejection and disappointment with my writing had seeped into my everyday life. For example, instead of leaping to the rescue when my son slammed his finger in the car door, I melted into a sad puddle on the floor. The good news is: I figured out how to get my writing mojo back, and I hope you can use what I learned to overcome your own slump. So without further ado, here are:

6 Tips to Help You Get Your Writing Mojo Back:

  1. Take a break from all things writing related, including actual writing, editing and revising, reviewing anyone else’s writing, blogging, researching and querying agents, etc. Make the break long enough you feel like you’ve really enjoyed some well-earned time off, but not so long you get completely out of your writing routine. My self-imposed break was 2 weeks long.
  2. Carve out some “me” time on a regular basis to enjoy non-writing-related pastimes, like reading. Seriously, what writer doesn’t enjoy reading? What other interests do you have? Watching TV/movies, music, cooking, and so on. The best one: exercise! 99% of the time, I feel like a million bucks after going for a run.
  3. Be inspired by your past accomplishments to boost your confidence about future ones. Here’s the perfect example:  if you’ve been querying a book to agents, and so far all you’ve received are rejections, hey, at least you wrote a whole book from start to finish! How many other people do you know personally who have written a book from start to finish? I bet it’s not too many. You should be proud of yourself and know that you’ll probably continue to write (and finish) more books.
  4. Don’t take criticism too hard because writing is a very subjective business. If the criticism is constructive, use it to improve your work. If it’s not constructive, remember everyone has a right to their own opinion (and poo poo on them anyway). If someone doesn’t like your stuff, think about this: look up Amazon reviews for your favorite book of all time – I guarantee there are 1 star reviews from people who hated it. No really, go do it now, and marvel at all the crazy people who hated your favorite book.
  5. Try to put a positive spin on things, even if that seems impossible. For example, say you get a very short rejection letter, but you can tell it’s personalized (versus the standard form rejection). Pay really close attention to every word because I bet there’s a gem in there indicating what you need to do to improve your query and/or sample pages.
  6. Find a good support system. Hopefully you’ve got someone close who supports you and your writing, but sometimes you need to surround yourself with other writers; people that truly “get” you and understand the ups and downs of the writing process. If you don’t know where to find these people, take a writing course, join a writer’s group, or join a forum online (there’s plenty for every genre of writing on Goodreads.com).

It’s frustrating when mediocre (in my opinion) books like Fifty Shades of Grey make gazillions of dollars, but a big part of being successful in the writing world is dumb luck, so best of luck to you in your writing endeavours. If you’re feeling really adventurous, leave a comment on this blog post – I’d love to hear what you have to say! Unless of course it’s non-constructive criticism . . . in that case, sorry, but poo poo on you. ;-)