It’s nearly time for NaNoWriMo!

After a long few months of prep, I’m ready to start writing! My—as of yet unnamed—project this time around is a cultivation novel with a bit of western fantasy thrown in. As of November 1st, I will be publishing chapters here and over on Royal Road at least twice a week. Hopefully, this way I stay on track and can reach my goal of 50,000 words!

Here’s a sneak peak, a short snippet from my rough draft (it’s a work in progress, so bear with me—this is raw, mostly unedited text):

NANO SNIPPET:

“Hurry! The first test begins in a few minutes!”

The young man yelled, brushing past MC, who was crouched on the ground. Both wore the pale robes of first year exam participants.

MC ignored him, deft fingers wrapping a strip of cloth around an injured dog’s leg. The animal whined, licking his hand.

“There. You’re all set. Careful around those THINGS, okay?” MC stood, brushing the dirt off his robes. He ruffled the dog’s fur for a moment, before rushing to the exam site. Weaving through the crowd, he found himself lost, until a cheerful shout drew his attention.

“Hey, MC there you are! What happened, you were right behind me, then all of a sudden you were gone?”

SC1 shoved past a young man with long, blond hair, who cast him a disdainful look before moving aside.

“Sorry, SC1. I was preoccupied.”

His friend laughed, clapping MC on a shoulder.

“Again? You haven’t changed a bit, have you? I thought after reaching the third stage of Body Strengthening, you might focus more on impressing the sect leaders during the exam, instead of patching up strays.”

MC shook his head, smiling softly. He had no burning desire to grow stronger nor seek glory in the cultivation world. But his parents wanted him to do well, and as a filial son, he would oblige to the best of his abilities.

The “Bread” and “Meat” of Writing

A Writer's Path

It has taken me years and years of writing my own novels, stories and nonfiction, not to mention editing countless others’ manuscripts, to finally over time realize that there is such a thing as bread and meat in writing.

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Recommendations

As someone who is always in search of a new book to read, I thought I would share with you some of my favorites.

So, here it is—in no particular order, because honestly, I could never rank them and be satisfied:

Fantasy

  1. ANY of Tamora Pierce’s books: They feature strong female characters, a diverse cast, and amazing creatures. If they were adapted for film, I think I might cry.
  2. The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang
  3. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
  4. Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  5. The Last Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Chinese Webnovel

  • Mo Dao Zu Shi – Also known as: The Untamed/Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation
  • Tian Guan Ci Fu – Also known as: Heaven Official’s Blessing

Science Fiction

  • Dragon Riders of Pern

Weekly Writing Advice: Tips for Newbie Writers – Part 1

Your Readers Don’t Need to Know Everything.

I’ve written hundreds, if not thousands of words, that will never see the light of day. Character outlines. Plot ideas. World building. Random thoughts. These are essential to creating a good story, but your reader doesn’t need to know them. You might think, “It develops character,” or “It’s necessary for world-building,” but most of the time, these details just bog down your story with extra words.

In your rough draft, you don’t need to worry about it. Just write everything that comes to mind. If a three-page scene detailing a dozen different outfits that your character changes into keeps you writing, so be it. Writing a ton of words in one session makes me feel productive, even if I end up deleting them later.

When I DO edit, my process is simple: Cross it out or use strike-through text, then ask yourself two simple questions.

“Does this change the story?”

“Does another scene rely on this one?”

These two questions will help you determine what your readers actually NEED to know. If that three-page scene draws on an earlier scene, or is foreshadowing a later plot point, keep it. If not, scrap it or shorten it. A sentence or two will serve the same purpose. If you do scrap a scene, don’t chuck it into the void. Keep a folder just for those deleted scenes. Ideas don’t always come easily, so recycle them when you can. It might make the difference between a productive writing session and the dreaded writer’s block.

Here’s a few examples:

In a Scrap It example, the same scene could be replaced with:

CharacterA rummaged through their clothes for an hour, changing slacks for leggings, a tee shirt for a blouse. Finally, they settled on faded black jeans and a shirt they bought at a band concert.

This still shows the character’s indecisiveness on what to wear, without going into detail about Every. Single. Outfit.

In a Keep It example, the scene ties into the story deeper than just what the character is wearing. You might use the scene to show your character is nervous, because of an upcoming date or a test. Maybe it’s their first day at work, and they want to impress their boss. On the darker side, maybe they are picking the best outfit to hide bruises, because they don’t want their family to know they are being bullied, or they’re getting into fights.

In each of these scenarios, the scene furthers the plot AND develops the character. I believe the difference between a good story and a great one sometimes boils down to how an author weaves in the tiny details, the snippets of world-building that make the story truly come alive.

Writing Advice Ch. 1

Avoiding Burnout:

No matter how much we try to avoid it, everyone will experience burnout at some point. All we can do is accept it, and take a break.

The words won’t write themselves, but nor will the story disappear.

It may lie waiting on the back burner for a while, but I promise you, the story will come back—most often, with a vengeance.

So take your time, let your story simmer, and have fun! You, and your story, will be better for the wait.