Transition Into Writing With Dictation – The Dreaded Learning Curve

There’s a lot of conflicting opinions surrounding dictation – some absolutely love it and others couldn’t hate it more if they tried.

You probably gathered that I fall in the former category, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this post. But it wasn’t always sunshine and butterflies.

There’s a learning curve to dictation that stops most people from utilizing it to its full potential. Today I’m going to break down a survival guide of sorts, so that you can come out on the other side of that learning curve with a skill that could change the way you write forever.

Big claim, right? Well it’s true.

Previously I went over an introduction to dictation. In it, I briefly talked about my success with it. My words per hour (WPH) count went up drastically.

Why does this matter?

Because getting that first draft out there is a huge undertaking. Since I’m an outliner, I already know what I want to say – what’s slowing me down the most is my physical ability to get the words on the page as fast as I can.

Dictation solved that for me. Now if I could just find a way to increase my editing speed…

Here’s the setup that I use: AT2020 USB Microphone and Dragon NaturallySpeaking dictation software.

dictation 1

We’ve been doing it for thousands of years. Before the written language ever existed, storytellers used their voice to tell of legends, stories on morality and how the world was created. It was a vital part of society and allowed people to better understand how to thrive in life through the mistakes and successes of others.

In modern times, verbal storytelling via audiobooks is on the rise. But this isn’t the type of storytelling we’re talking about. Reading an already written story is entirely different than verbally writing a story fresh from your imagination.

And this is the biggest issue most people have with dictation.

How long have you been writing at a computer? For me, it’s been about 20 years. That’s a long time, and many of you reading this right now have been typing even longer than I have.

Let’s go over the process behind writing via keyboard:

  1. Idea for what you want to say
  2. Figuring out how to spell it, including spaces, punctuation, and formatting
  3. Actually typing it

This process has become second nature for many of us, and steps 2 & 3 have integrated together. Better yet, step 1 It’s seamless and fast for me because, well, I’ve been doing it for 20 years. I certainly hope it would be seamless by this point!

Now let’s go over the process behind dictating:

  1. Idea for what you want to say
  2. Figuring out how you want to say it, including punctuation (notice there’s no need for spaces or formatting)
  3. Actually saying it

Notice anything? They’re practically the same. The argument that many people have is that now you have to include punctuation with dictation. But don’t you always include punctuation when you type? It’s not really fair to point out that flaw with dictation when you already have to do it when you use a keyboard.

dictation 2

“But it takes longer to speak that punctuation than it does to type it.”

That may be true in some cases, but in some it isn’t. Just like how everyone types at different speeds, everyone speaks at different speeds. It can take some people the same amount of time to speak punctuation as it does to type it.

Even if this is the case for you, dictation makes up for it in the speed at which it transcribes larger chunks of text. I’m currently writing this post with my keyboard because I’m not at home – if I were to use my microphone, this post wouldn’t be taking me nearly as long – even with the above lists included.

The issue that people have with dictation really boils down to the transition between what I call type-thinking and talk-thinking.

Type-thinking – the thought process behind writing via a keyboard

Talk-thinking – the thought process behind storytelling via a microphone

We’ve seen above that the process behind storytelling with a keyboard vs. a mic is practically one and the same. But learning that process is where the challenge of talk-thinking comes in.

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Just keep swimming.

The best way to learn how to dictate is to keep trying. You have to rewire the way that you think about storytelling, so it’s important to be consistent and not give up too early.

You probably hate that answer, but practice is the only way to really get over it.

Think back to when you first learned to type. You probably struggled with it then as well, right? Well now you’re struggling with the exact same issue: learning how to put words onto paper.

And the frustrating part: there’s no shortcut. The only way to get better is to practice a lot. Some writers are worried their voice (writing-voice, not speaking-voice) will change once they start dictation. This isn’t the case at all. It may be harder to get into your writing groove in the beginning, but think about this next analogy.

Like sports? If you don’t, then just play along! Try to play any sport with your non-dominant and see how you fare. It’s the same mechanics as your dominant hand but now you’re using something untrained for that sort of task.

Dictation is the same way.

Any muscular or mental training takes time – do as Dory advises and just keep swimming!

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Think about what you’re going to say before you start to speak.

 You’re going to have to start slow, which is going to frustrate a lot of you, but just keep in mind the struggle you had when first learning to type. It took me about a month (of near daily use) to get over this step with my dragon.

 When dictating, it’s best not to start and stop multiple times. “And then sh-Bu” Because 1) you’re going to have to go back and edit that out, or take the time to say “delete that” and 2) it’ll slow you down in the long run. Your goal is to have your ideas roll off your tongue as quickly as you have the thoughts.

So take your time and think before you speak!

Focus less on how weird it feels and more on your story.

You’re going to be excited about dictation. You’re going to want to see immediate results and write your novel in record time. While I’m not saying this won’t happen, just make sure you don’t focus too much on the mechanics of storytelling rather than the actual story you’re trying to tell.

This might feel like climbing a mountain in the beginning. Soldier on! This is the Everest of summits and trust me, you’re going to want these skills when you get on the other side! Once you get there, you’ll realize you’ve transitioned your energy from stumbling through dictation to immersing yourself back in your story.

You want this! Celebrate it when you get there! This means that dictation is becoming just as natural to you as typing is. So strive toward this from the get go and make sure that the story is number one!

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Don’t pause after punctuation.

I find I have to give a brief pause before punctuation such as “New line,” because Dragon will think I actually want that in my story rather than making a new line for me.

But don’t feel like you have to pause after you speak the punctuation. This will save you a lot of time once you get the hang of it. Roll your punctuation together with your new sentence. “New line, open quote, He ran to the door, period, end quote.”

Consciously try to hasten this step while you’re dictating. It’ll take some practice but you’ll find a natural rhythm that will go a long way in the future!

Speak those words clearly and confidently.

If you have a good microphone (I love mine – it can understand Steven perfectly when he tries to interrupt my dictating) you won’t have to yell at all. But you should still attempt to speak clearly. I tend to slur or lisp some sentences together. I definitely never knew that about myself before creating my YouTube channel and using dictation. So there are times when my dragon doesn’t give the proper transcription but it’s my own fault.

Your voice is now your instrument, so if you feel it wavering, getting scratchy or rough, pause and drink some water. If you’re regularly dictating, make sure to drink warm tea before each session and try to avoid dairy immediately before. Take breaks while dictating and make sure you hydrate your vocal chords (I do this with every break I get using the Pomodoro technique).

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Only watch the screen when you first start out.

This is a habit that you’ll end up breaking once you gain confidence with the abilities of your speech recognition software. Now that I’ve grown accustomed to using dictation, I pace around the room while I talk and only briefly check in to make sure it’s still working (not so much that all the words are correct).

In the beginning, though, it’s important to help improve the speech recognition software (called training your dragon with Dragon NaturallySpeaking). If your dragon makes any mistakes in the beginning, it’s important to stop and “correct that” so your dragon will better learn your voice. I only did this for the first couple of weeks and now I only rarely do it.

Be patient!

There will be times when you want to shove your computer off your desk or test your strength at crushing your microphone. Dragon will fail you sometimes. I remember reading somewhere (but can’t remember where) that your dragon is much like a pet. Sometimes you love it and it loves you back, and other times you walk in to find your dragon has courteously peed all over your area rug.

Or worse.

This will happen to you. It’s simply guaranteed.

My dragon still thinks “already” is “Artie,” which I’ve read on other forums is apparently a common thing.

Other times, your Dragon might pick up some background noise while you’re dictating and the resulting output looks like a sentence ran forward and backward through Google translate.

Just take a deep breath and “correct that.”


Dictation isn’t easy, but it’s improved a lot in recent years. If you tried dictation with Dragon (or any software) even two years ago and didn’t like it, think about giving it another shot. The advancements in the speech recognition capabilities means the software you tried years ago isn’t the same animal that it is today.

I honestly can’t wait to see how it improves in the future, because I’m already a fan of how it is right now!

I hope this post was very informative and answered any dictation-related questions that you had! If not, feel free to drop a line and I’ll be more than happy to answer those questions.

Be sure to check out these sneak peaks to my YA novel, The Elysian Prophecy, coming out Winter 2016.

Happy writing!

The Only World-Building Guide You’ll Ever Need (plus a free worksheet!)

Fantasy. Historical fiction. Sci-fi. Space opera. Time travel.

All of these genres have one major thing in common: they require some kind of world building.

So let’s start this week’s topic off by defining what exactly world building is. This element of storytelling is used by writers to develop a unique place where a particular story occurs. It can be simple, like a modern fantasy with unique animals, or extremely detailed, developing an entire ecology, drafting maps, constructing religions, or creating a history for that world’s people.

Creating a world is a huge undertaking. There’s many, many things to consider when doing so, and I’m going to tell you all some things you should definitely consider when developing in your world, and then some do’s and don’ts of world building.

First off, let me state that this is not a process post. I’m a firm believer that it is impossible for every writer to use the same process to build a world. Each world is inspired by one unique idea, so it makes sense that this process would be very different from person to person. If the animals of your world were what inspired you to create that world, then your process might start more with ecology. If the politics were your inspiration, you might start with the government.

To allow you to be completely thorough with your world-building, I’ve constructed an extensive world-building guide.

World-Building Workbook – A Brainstorming Guide Any Writer Can Use

To be honest, it’s too extensive. Most people won’t use all of these points and that’s okay. If you need extra room, there’s a blank sheet at the end you can print and customize!

Just like character profile sheets, you might know how officers are elected in your world, but you don’t need to write it down. If it’s something that you’ll remember 5 years from now, then don’t write it down.

If it’s something that might be used in later novels, after you’ve worked on other series, then you should probably jot it down for your own sake.

Major elements

Let’s go over the big items nearly everyone should consider:

The people. What are they like in each region of your world? Do they all have similar physical traits? If you’re writing an urban fantasy, they might all look different and be from all over the world. Is there a signature style of clothing everyone wears? Are there specific words or jargon they use from region to region?

If your world is an actual world, then you’d have to consider the climate that each race is from. Those from hot, tropical climates might be more tanned while those from the thick forest region might be thinner and limber so they can scale trees. You’re already starting to see how quickly this branches out!

Language. Yes, this should fall under the previous category, but it’s such a fun topic and an excellent way of adding a unique flare to your novel.

We can all agree that the king of this is the wonderful J.R.R. Tolkien, whose apparent inspiration for Middle earth stemmed from developing a unique elvish language.

Making up your own language can be a huge undertaking, but you don’t need a word for word translation into your imaginary language. A region in your world might use harsh letter combinations (think Norse…just because I’m knee-deep in the Vikings show right now) or very fluid like French.

Study these languages and the letter combinations that make them so unique. Use one or two “rules” for each region and keep them consistent.

I know you guys love examples for coming up with languages, so here you go! One of your cultures could use double letters “aa” or “uu” in their words more frequently. Take a favorite word of yours and tweak the letters until you come up with a unique version you can use in your book. I like the word “unique,” so what about Ubiiq for a city name?

More information on this topic is coming up in another video, so let me know if there’s any particular concerns you might have. You can comment down below or contact me here

Environment and Ecology. If you haven’t been able to

Workbook1

Sneak-peak of my workbook! Go get it!

tell, I like that word. I’m probably going to use it for some language inspiration somewhere down the line but I digress!

This part of your world is all about the ecosystems, animals, plants, geography and the life cycle of your world. Ecology is directly impacted by the environment, so make sure your spiked and fire-retardant creatures became that way from the harsh environment that they lived in.

The same is said for plants – if an environment is particularly harsh, then the plants might not be edible, or might be bitter or difficult to harvest.

Think of how these things could affect your story, and if it’s useful, then  definitely include it!

Cities and landmarks. The seven wonders of the world. Those are important landmarks, right? Give your world some! There doesn’t have to be seven, although there’s some interesting importance in various cultures with the number seven (hello inspiration).

Come up with stories for these places and consider why they’re of importance. Did a great battle occur there? Is it a holy site?

And what about the cities? Most major cities develop close to some form of water. What are the buildings made of? Seek inspiration from history on what each city’s purpose is and why it developed.

workbook2

Yet another sneak-peak. What are you waiting for!

Societal concerns. What kind of government does your world have? Has it always been the same form of government or have there been quite a few? What social classes are there? What professions are there, and which are considered more respectable?

What about every day social things? Where do people go to have a drink at night? What do people eat from each region?

Religion has played a huge role in the history of people on Earth, so what religious concerns does your world have? Is there a predominant religion(s)?

Sorry for the twenty questions game, but there’s just soooo much to cover!

Magic. This is the last big item I wanted to discuss because it’s muy importante. Nailing the magic element in your novel can make or break its popularity.

Your magic system has to make sense. How did this magic develop in the first place? What are its limits and boundaries? What weaknesses does this magic system have?

Even if you don’t end up spelling it all out in your novel, as a writer, you need to know this information.

Want your magic to be believable? Then don’t spontaneously give a character the ability to shoot laser beams out of their kneecaps so they’ll get out of a sticky situation.

Your reader needs to know those elements before your main character uses them, or at least knows of its possibility.

Magic is fun, but it can also be dangerous (to your story). Tread carefully!

LISTEN UP

Now that we’ve gone over some broad strokes of world-building, let me give you my single biggest tip!

Do not make your world the focus of the story. Your world should be where the story takes place, but it shouldn’t be your entire story (at least at first…if you have a lot of interest in the world you create, then people might be interested in an encyclopedia of the world – but they certainly won’t at the onslaught!).

In other words, world-building supports the evolution of your story. Please don’t think I’m crazy for this next part: there’s no difference between a historical fiction novel following the rise and fall of a kingdom and Game of Thrones. Oh yeah, except of the world building.

They’re the same story! Someone wants a crown, and has to murder everyone to get it. Someone’s pissed off their family was murdered, and wants revenge. The plot is simple. The world is where GoT makes us binge watch it until our eyes bleed. So take a hint from Mr. Martin!

Do's

Next up are some tips for our “do” category:

Have fun! It might seem silly to mention this, but if you don’t enjoy your world, then chances are your readers won’t either. This can be a long process, but it should mostly be a fun one.  Don’t stress out too much over getting everything just right. Let your imagination wander. Think of every “what if” that you can!

Does your story have unicorns? What if they also have magic healing properties and there’s a whole health system developed around the safe procurement of this property? What if there’s a police agency that exists to protect the wild unicorns? What if there’s a secret group of scientists researching biological unicorn warfare? What if that goes terribly wrong?

I got carried away there, but you get the idea. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm! And don’t forget to have some fun with it J

Leave mystery. You want to give your readers just enough where they’re interested, not too much that they’re bored, and leave out enough so that the readers are intrigued. It’s a balance act – one that I would normally say is a juggling act but I can’t juggle. Literally, I can’t. So balance is a better word!

If you create a map of your territory, don’t map out the entire thing. Especially if your character has to take a journey through that region.

Does the King of your land disappear every fourth night and return with specs of blood on his shoes or the back of his cloak? This could be revealed as an ancient ritual to revive one’s long lost dead wife, which turns into a huge problem for the protagonist when they have to defeat this undead crazy woman. This is related to your world’s magic system, so don’t explain every aspect of it right away! If the writer already divulges everything about the magic to the main character, then there’s no surprise when the King walks in with his dead wife. Opportunity missed!

Weave in the history of your world. When you first set out with the task of creating a world or universe, you’re creating a living, breathing thing. How was it created? How do the people think it was created? This could very well affect their behavior in life. Think of the Vikings. If they died honorably in battle, then they were welcoming into the gates of Valhalla. So they lived like they weren’t afraid to die in battle.

The world that you create (probably) doesn’t start at the beginning of your story. It’s been there for a long time. The technology there now wasn’t there before. Legends used to be passed down from one generation to the next – create those! Weave those into your story, because history brings depth. It takes your story from two dimensional to three dimensional (or rather three dimensional to four dimensional because now we’re talking about time…wait, what?).

You want your world to be rich, and history is a great way to do that.

Don'ts

World-building has it’s own plotters and pantsers. Some writers have great success with creating the world as they go, and others (me) have fun creating the world ahead of time.

No one method is right, but here are some things you shouldn’t do:

Don’t make everyone the same. I’m not talking about goblins or elves here, I’m talking about opinions. So your world is based on serving others. PLOT TWIST: someone isn’t about serving others. They hate it! And guess what? This can create tension, which helps keep readers from getting bored.

Take a common theme out of your world and create a people who are opposed to it.

This could just so happen to already be your “bad” guys, but now there’s something that links the unique world to their story.

Don’t skimp on describing technology. Your world is never the focus of your novel, but readers don’t like when things sound made up. The ultimate goal here to make sure your technology makes sense. It doesn’t matter if it’s science fiction and will likely never occur, it’s your job to make your world realistic.

Does your space novel have its own ecosystem complete with rain? Tell us why this is needed and/or how it’s accomplished. Something as brief as “scientists found that a naturally occurring water cycle produces a better environment for plant growth,” would be sufficient. Except actually research it…because I didn’t. That could be totally false.

This doesn’t mean that you should explain every piece of technology in your novel, just explain the things that a reader wouldn’t be able to figure out on his/her own. A film that acts a lot like a cell phone doesn’t really need to be explained!

Avoid info dumps. Sometimes, these may be necessary. I don’t ever think they’re necessary for world-building purposes.

There’s two types of world-building introductions: when the world is new to the reader and the character, or when the character lives in the world, but it’s new to the reader.

The former story would end up explaining more about the world as the character experiences it, so this description would be unfolded over the length of the novel.

If your character already lives in this world that you created, then it wouldn’t make sense for that character to sit and awe at the tunnels of light used as transportation between worlds. If a character is new to this, someone would have to explain this process to the character and it would happen organically. If the character is used to this, then no explanation would occur. The character would step into the light, you could describe the familiar sensation of traveling this way, and your character would arrive at their destination.

Do not explain the world in paragraphs of exposition. Your reader will either not be able to follow (if it gets too complicated), not care to follow (there’s no connection to what it means to the story), or just be put to sleep. Don’t do it!

Don’t spare the research. Just don’t do it. If I know that a good bow can’t be made out of a pine tree, then don’t make that the signature tree in an archery-driven race. I know that’s very specific, but when in doubt, it’s very important to do your research.

You’ll never know who exactly your readers are going to be, but this is guaranteed: someone will be an expert in something you write about. And if you get it wrong? You’ll be discrediting yourself in one swift move, all because you were too lazy to do a little research.

Yes, this might get out of hand sometimes, and your research history will start to raise some flags, but it’s required. Your readers are intelligent, so watch your step when you’re treading in unknown (to you) territory. They’ll appreciate it so much if you nail it!

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It takes a lot to build an entire world, but isn’t this what we’ve been doing our entire lives? We didn’t just stare at our dolls and action figures, we made them move! We gave them names and princesses they had to save and dragons they had to fight.

Channel that inner kid and let yourself have fun with this. As a writer, I already know you have an imagination – now use it!


As always, I hope this week’s post was helpful! Since this actually covered two weeks of posts, it was a wee bit longer than my norm.

If you made it all the way down to this part of the post, don’t forget to go check out my world-building worksheet!

World-Building Workbook – A Brainstorming Guide Any Author Can Use

If you print it as “fit” to the page, it should print without added margins, giving you more room to write!

If you like worksheets like this one, let me know if you’d want other writer-related worksheets and I’ll certainly cook some up!

Don’t forget to check out an excerpt of my debut novel The Elysian Prophecy, coming out Winter 2016, by clicking here.

Happy writing lovelies!

Why I Decided to Self-Publish My Novel, The Elysian Prophecy

You’ve heard it before, but I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life. From that fateful day when I realized that writing was an actual profession, I’ve dreamed of making a living telling stories.

But something was holding me back.

Publishing your novel was difficult. Instead of being a great challenge I wanted to overcome, I focused on my other passions – ones that were easier to attain. Querying, seeking an agent, trying to land a deal with a publisher, all of these things were too daunting for me.

So I labeled my passion for writing as a hobby and dreamed of the day I would get lucky and publish a novel.

I felt this way until a couple of years ago when I learned what exactly self-publishing was. I had heard of it before but still dreamed of landing a huge contract with a big publishing firm. I still read books on how to improve my writing, but never considered self-publishing as a comparable method of getting my book out there.

But the topic kept popping up. I was reading of more and more writers who were making a living off of self-publishing their books, and earning a higher royalty than they would with traditional publishing.

This piqued my interest until a year ago, when I realized that I really could publish my own novel. I didn’t have to wait to get lucky in the publishing world. I could do it right now and say that I’m an author.

Fast-forward a year and I’m well on my way to not just publishing my own novel, but publishing it well. For an incredibly impatient person, I’ve done well at putting on the brakes. I’ve stopped to take the time to market myself as a writer and get the word out about my book. I’m making sure that my book is the best it can be before I put it out there – cover, editing, layout.

Since I aim to do this for a living one day, I took the bull by the horns and forced myself to do what I needed to be successful (including making my YouTube channel, something I was very nervous about). I’ve learned so much in the last year and can’t wait to learn more about the industry!

Which finally brings me to my topic for this week: reasons why self-publishing finally decided I was right for it (not the other way around).

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I’m a control freak. There, I said it. And I’d bet money that a lot of successful self-publishers are as well. It’s both a blessing and a curse, and it’s a switch I can’t turn off.

Before, I thought that putting your novel into someone else’s hands was the only way to go. I neither hated that fact, nor liked it. Having someone else highly recommend you change something in your novel, or deciding what cover was right for it, was something that just had to be done if you wanted to get published.

They were the experts. They had done this before and I would just have to suck it up to get to where I wanted in life.

And then the hallelujah chorus started. *cue music*

Once I realized that self-publishing put all of this back into my hands, I fell in love with the idea.

If my writing doesn’t exactly fit what’s trending right now, or crosses genres a little too much, it’s up to me if I want to keep it that way. If I’m passionate about the story, then chances are that someone else is as well. Just because leopard print isn’t as popular as it once was doesn’t mean people don’t like it at all. Yes…I really did just use leopard print to make my point.

Something else that fascinated me: the cover. I’m so freaking excited to be able to design my own cover. No, I’m not doing it myself – A.M. Ruggirello is actually taking on that task, but I get to decide what I want it to look like. Yeah, it’s kind of scary at times but it makes me feel like the sky is the limit. I have more creative freedom with every aspect of my novel, so it makes me more creative when I’m actually writing it.

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Just kidding. It is if you want to earn a full-time living off of it. No, I’m not doing it all for the money, but if I can live off of something I’m passionate about, then I’m all for it!

Is it really hard to earn a living as a writer? Yup. Do a Google search online for how many copies the average book sells and you’ll get answers ranging from 100 to 1,000. Not in one month, ever. The truth is that no one really knows an exact number, but it’s pretty bleak.

That means it’s bleak for traditionally published novels and bleak for self-published ones as well.

So all things even (and that’s a big assumption), let’s talk numbers.

The average royalty from a big publisher seems to be in the 8-15% range depending on how well they think your novel will do.

If you publish an eBook through Amazon at the 70% option, that royalty rate is really about 65% when accounting for delivery charges.

So if a big publisher sells one of your eBooks for $9.99, with a 10% royalty, you’ll get about $0.99.

If you sell your eBook through Amazon for $3.99, you’ll get about $2.59.

Even if you earn a high royalty rate from the publisher, say 15%, you’ll still only get $1.49.

Note: if you have more accurate numbers from traditional publishers, let me know and I’ll update my example! Unfortunately sharing profit numbers isn’t something most people can or will do.

That’s not a lot. Sure, the publisher might have a farther reach than you when it comes to marketing, but I don’t like those numbers very much. A traditional publisher, at this time anyway, charges more for your eBook than you would with Amazon, and you still get a smaller cut.

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This goes hand-in-hand with being in control, but I think it’s a topic that should be given due justice. A lot hinges on the marketing of not just your book, but of yourself.

You are allowed to set, adjust, modify your pricing whenever you like.

Something that I read about but really saw in practice when I started my YouTube channel, is the power of a back log. If you read a book by an unknown-to-you author and really enjoy it, you might go online to check out their other novels. If they have no other novels, then that’s a missed opportunity for a sale. If they do have other novels, then there’s a slight chance you will buy another one of their books. It’s not always 100%, but there’s a trickle down to the other novels that the author has written.

I saw this with my YouTube channel when I got over about 20 videos published. Suddenly my views were spiking and my subscriber rate increased dramatically. And it’s all because I have a backlog now.

A trick that some self-published authors employ to help this process along is using promotional pricing. Sure, this is effective even when you only have one novel, but it’s even more effective when you have other novels in your back log.

A reader might purchase your novel when it’s on sale because it’s less of a risk for them. If they don’t know you, they won’t know if they like your writing. But if you reel them in with that sale, there’s a chance that they’ll purchase more of your novels if they like the promo novel.

And having the ability to adjust your own price allows you to do this.

(Bookbub, I’m coming for you one day!)

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That’s right, everything. If I want to have an audiobook made, I can make it. If I want that audiobook to be performed by a male or a female, a young adult or a senior citizen, I can.

If I want my novel translated into Spanish, I have the right to do that.

If I want to sell movie rights, I can! That is, if any fish are biting (wouldn’t that be awesome?!).

I’m very much like Veruca Salt sometimes, and this is one of the things her and I have in common. I want it all, especially since I’m the one that created it.

Along with these lines, I also own the right to not sell my book. By that, I mean that it’s up to me to market properly and ensure that it does sell. While my entire post up until now might sound like I would never consider traditional publishing, that’s just not true.

Traditional publishers have something I don’t: connections and massive amounts of money and manpower. They can spend thousands promoting a book and that’s just not something I can do. Collectively, one publishing firm has more reach and knowledge in marketing than I can dream of having by myself.

For those reasons alone, I would consider traditional publishing. But for me, I like all the reasons for self-publishing more than I like those for going the traditional route. Yes, I’ll miss the marketing advantage, but I’m doing it all by myself. If I hit it big, then I’ll know it was all me. If I don’t, well then I hope I learned something along the way!

self 5

This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. For the majority of the time, it’s a good thing for me.

I’m one of those that works best with a deadline – I’m an engineer after all. If you give me three months to do something, I’m going to wait to the last week to do it. My work is better during that time and I’m far more productive.

But things get in the way. Since my deadlines aren’t hard deadlines, I don’t have to stress out about not making them. I still work toward them, but if I’m out sick for a week or have to pull overtime at my job, it’s not the end of the world.

In other words, I don’t want to stress myself out about something I enjoy doing. Writing a book can be inherently stressful. But pulling out your hair just isn’t necessary.

If I had a hard deadline given to me by my publisher, I’d probably be an itchy and angry mess (I break out in hives when I’m really stressed).

I’ve had to learn to progressively chip away at my goals, instead of waiting to the last minute. This has been an exercise for me, but one that’s benefitting other aspects of my life. I’m more productive at work because I don’t wait to the last minute. The thrill of the deadline is starting to ebb, because I’ve learned it’s far better to eliminate the stress of writing than procrastinate about it.

Even though I work best with deadlines, I’ve chosen to avoid the stress and do it my own way. Does this mean I might not get my novel published as fast? Maybe. But I’m always marketing myself, so there’s really no rush!


There’s obvious negatives to going the self-publishing route, and I can go into those a little more if desired. It’s important to always do your own research, though!! These were the reasons self-publishing was a good fit for me, but your situation might be different.

I’ve done so much reading on this topic and I recommend you do the same before choosing one over the other. Or one before the other. Or going hybrid. There’s so many options!

If you decided to go the self-publishing route, let me know why you did! If you went traditional, how has it worked out for you? I’d love to hear from you!


My debut novel, The Elysian Prophecy, is out Winter 2016. To get a sneak-peak at the first chapters, click here. You know you want to!

The Ultimate Guide to Beta Readers (five commonly asked questions about using betas)

Two years ago, I had no idea what a beta reader was. Years before that, most people didn’t know what they were. The huge shift from traditional publishing to self publishing required the responsibility of editing a novel to perfection to shift to the writer.

Want to know how to survive the beta reading process and come out on the other side with a better novel? Then read on, writing warrior! (holy tongue twister!)

Typically, there’s a team of individuals who are responsible for making a traditionally published novel shine like the tip of a boot camp instructor’s boot.

But self published authors don’t typically have a team in place to accomplish that. Instead of the publishing firm hiring out editors for this, it all falls to the writer. And on the way to polishing your manuscript, you should always stop off at the beta reading station for refueling.

Typically, writers go through their manuscript and make it as perfect as they can by themselves. It’s never ever a good idea to send a first draft to your betas or any editors. Comb through it and ensure it’s something not riddled with huge plot holes, because you can’t polish a turd. Spare your beta readers and don’t subject them to that expectation.

So after you’ve made as many edits as you can, your novel typically gets sent to a team of beta readers, you incorporate those edits, and then you send your MS to a professional editor. It’s best to send it to the professional editor last as you want most of your big issues dealt with already. You don’t want to blind your editor by those horrible mistakes. The editor’s focus should be more on giving your novel a final polish because, as a professional, they have tons of insight into how to shape a novel!

If you give them an awesome foundation, they’re going to make it even better. If you give them a mediocre starting point, your novel might be able to reach the “awesome” level. You’re much more likely to reach ultra-mega-mega-awesome level, though, if you give that professional an awesome draft of your novel to start with.

Betas who needs

A lot of people use beta readers even if they don’t know it. A parent, significant other, or best friend who reads your work and gives you critiques is technically beta reading. And to be honest, most of us need that person to tell us whether or not we’re crazy for taking our story in a specific direction.

Even if you’re considering not using beta readers, hear me out! If you’re reading this post, then you’re in the market to have your story published so thousands (may we hope millions!) of people enjoy your work. You’re not going to be able to please every one of them, but you want to be able to please most of them, specifically your target audience.

What if you have a main character that doesn’t come across as relatable as you thought they were? You and your go-to critique friend are biased on this matter – you hopefully know more about your character than what you’re writing down. You know the back story but unless you convey that in your novel, your reader won’t. An element is lost in translation and it’s something you’ll be blind to.

This is what you need beta readers for.

Everyone can benefit from a beta reader. They can catch things you’ve overlooked twenty times, even if it’s a small thing like someone sprinting after they sprained their ankle or a car that changed into a truck. They can catch big things like a protagonist being inconsistent or a giant plot hole that you never considered. They’re there to improve your writing, and it’s valuable feedback you need on the way to publication.

Betas how where

Let’s talk first about what to include in your request for beta readers.

Your request should include basic details about your novel so that beta-potentials can decide if they want to invest their time in your story. List things like genre, word count, and synopsis. Yes, this is basic information, but it could save you a lot of headaches with repetitive questions. Also – and this is very important – let your beta-potentials know ahead of time if there are any mature or graphic scenes in your story. That’s a definite way for you to make them hate your story!

Decide what type of feedback you need and then ask your betas if that works well for them. If you want them to ignore grammar, make sure this is stated in your request. If that’s the main reason someone wanted to beta, then you’ve wasted their time and yours by not being up front about it.

Determine how you want your feedback given to you – do you want to be able to text them? Message on FB? E-mail? Make sure this is included in your request, as some people may not be okay with your preferred method.

Also include a list of questions for potential betas. What genre do you usually read in? Have you ever beta read before? What’s your typical turn around, or how free is your schedule in the coming weeks? How old are you? Why do you want to be a beta reader? Are you a writer yourself?

You want to get to know your betas because you’re going to have to get very vulnerable with them soon. The more you’re able to converse with them, the better!

Now to something that most people wonder: where do I find beta readers?

The internet of course! Reach out to every social media platform that you’re on and post a message saying you’re looking for beta readers. Point them to a specific site or form if they’re interested and voila!

Some ideas for this could be Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace (just kidding…who uses that anymore?). Both Goodreads and Facebook have groups specifically dedicated to finding free beta readers, so dig deep on those platforms!

Betas selecting

Once you submit a request for betas, you might get an onslaught of volunteers or you may just get a few. Even if you only get two, that doesn’t mean you should use both of them. How do you narrow down the pool, or decide whether or not you want to use that beta?

The questions that you came up with earlier should help you with this!

As a rule of thumb, I think most of your beta readers should also be part of your target audience. If you’re writing a political thriller, then make sure most of your beta readers read primarily in that genre.

Note: Age doesn’t necessarily mean target audience here. A majority of Young Adult readers are actually in the 30-44 age range (that’ll be me one day!). Your target audience is whoever would like your genre, so make sure you don’t put forth any age limits on your beta request!

Most of your beta readers should be in your target audience, but not all of them. You want a wide range of opinions on your work, including those that may think differently – they may have some critiques that your target audience would miss. Do you write high fantasy? Do you have a hint of romance in your novel? Enlist someone who typically reads romance but isn’t against reading high fantasy. They can tell you whether or not your budding romance is a dud or the bomb, perhaps with more specificity than your other betas!

Their turnaround rate might be a huge deciding factor as well as their history with giving critiques to writers. It’s super helpful if they can name a specific novel that they beta read for, although I don’t require that in my requests! Go through your list of potentials and narrow them down based on how well you think they would fit for your story and the type of feedback that you need.

Betas process.jpg

This is something you’re probably going to have to develop on your own a little bit. Most people have a list of questions they want the beta reader to answer and I highly encourage you do this!

I also think it’s a good idea to only send one chapter out at a time, or make sure that they answer your specific questions at the end of each chapter before moving on. This ensures that each chapter is given equal attention and the reader doesn’t forget something because they read on too quickly.

Some good questions to ask can be: what’s your overall opinion of this chapter? Did you like it or did you hate it? What do you think of the characters? Is there anything you found confusing? Was there any part that you didn’t think was necessary? Do you have any predictions?

Each chapter could have more specific questions tied to them. If you’re at the climax of the novel, ask the reader if it feels climactic. If a lot of your readers think that it doesn’t, then you have some editing ahead of you! If the beta just read a chapter that has a steamy scene in it, make sure it wasn’t cheesy for them. Is there a heartbreaking scene? Ask if it evoked any emotions in the reader.

I’ve had a

Betas tradtionally

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use beta readers. Do you want your story to be the best that it can be before submitting it? This isn’t always a requirement, as some agents and/or publishers can be landed with just the first draft. But this isn’t the norm. By any means.

Most of us want to ease into the rejection process by iron cladding our novel before we send it off to the professionals. Betas can help you with this.

If you find a good set of betas, they’ll also make you feel great about your writing. A good beta can highlight the things that need to be improved upon while also telling you what they really liked about a specific chapter.

Since you’re already bracing yourself to receive the critiques, it comes as a pleasant surprise when someone says something nice about your work! You can keep these niceties in a folder on your computer and look back at them if you ever get a rejection letter (hurray if you don’t!…and how did you do it?!). Just remember, the best authors were rejected many times before their first work was ever published!

In the end, beta readers are used to improve your writing. It doesn’t matter whether you plan to post your novel for free on your website or seek out a multi-million dollar deal – beta readers can help anyone!

Betas plagiarism

This is probably the number one reason why people are so hesitant about seeking beta reader – above the fear of receiving negative feedback!

This part is pretty simple: in the US, “Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” (Source)

If it makes you feel better, you can add a paragraph explaining the legal ramifications if someone were to steal your story. They may be forced to pay you for the earnings you lost from their plagiarism in addition to covering attorney fees. You can also keep copies of your beta correspondence to prove that they saw the early workings of your novel.

Most people don’t fish for stories requiring beta-reads as a source for plagiarizing content, because it’s just as protected as a published novel is. Most people want to be beta readers for you because they’re either a fan of your work, or they love to read new stories and help authors out.

Most beta readers tend to be nice people in that way. Does that mean they won’t be mean sometimes? Absolutely not. You can find yourself going through quite a few of these meanies, but that’s part of the process! Hopefully you have more good than bad and if you don’t, then keep searching for those good betas!

Your story is yours from the moment you wrote it. But that doesn’t forever copyright the use of vampires to just your story. If you ever find anything blatantly copied from your novel, then go to http://www.copyright.gov to find out what you need to do! Just know, you are protected!


The beta reading process doesn’t have to be a scary one. If you’re more afraid of receiving critiques than anything else, then remember that they’re there to improve your novel. If someone is particularly harsh to you and isn’t being helpful, then by all means, cut them loose! No matter what any beta says about your work, take it with a smile on your face and try to remove your emotions from the equation (easier said than done, I know).

You’re trying to improve your story, and you need the help of others to do that!

Have you used beta readers before? If so, what was your experience like? If you haven’t, is there anything that’s holding you back?

How to Stay Motivated With Your Writing (and get out of that writing slump!)

I recently listened to a podcast by Marketing Science Fiction and Fantasy who interviewed Elle Casey. For those of you that don’t know, she’s an extremely prolific writer, churning out about one 85k word novel a month. This got me thinking – our motivations (or lack thereof) can determine how much, if at all, we end up writing.

While I don’t want to produce a novel a month, partially because mine tend to be longer than 85k words, I’ve recently required a bit of a reality check with my writing.

I’ll get into that in a minute.

I wanted to pose a question: how many books will you turn out in a year if you write 0 words a day?

*hushed gasping and dramatic fainting*

Yup. None.

I got a little away from my writing in the last couple months and had a serious sit down (well, a couple…let’s be honest here) to motivate myself to get back on the writing horse.

So I’m here today to help you, in case you find yourself in the same boat that I was in.

Readers beware: this post might seem like an overexcited cheerleader cross trained to become a boot camp instructor. Consider yourself warned.

First up: everyone’s favorite, the analysis!

Motivated - Cause

Are you not feeling your novel anymore? Do the characters not speak to you like they once did? Are you too exhausted to sit at your computer and write?

The first step to remedying this is to figure out why you’re in a writing slump.

For me, this was a switch in concentration from writing to wedding planning. Any available time I had in the day went toward venue hunting and wedding décor Pinterest boards. I’m particularly bad at obsessively concentrating on one thing and letting everything else fall behind. I know this about myself, but it’s going to be an obstacle in the coming year as I try to obsess over more than one thing at a time.

Getting too far away from your characters and your plotline breeds an unfamiliarity that makes writing that much harder to get back to. Know anyone who’s lost weight recently? Everyone says that starting to workout is harder than maintaining, because you have no energy in the beginning. Working out expends energy but after a while it gives you more energy rather than sapping it all.

Writing does the same thing. Once I started to get back into my character’s heads and telling their stories, my energy for the novel came back.

Are there other things distracting you? See if you can eliminate those tasks or figure out a better way to balance your writing time with your other responsibilities.

Motivated - WIP

You have two options: write something else, or fix it.

Most of us will feel too far invested in a WIP to quit it and start on something else. I would opt for fixing it if you (and others) think your story has potential. You’ve probably invested a lot of time and effort into that novel, so it’s a big decision if you decide to abandon it.

If your novel just doesn’t seem spectacular, what would improve it? Look at your characters – are they living, breathing human beings? Do their decisions in the novel align with their past experiences? A lot of new writers or first-time self-published authors make the mistake of neglecting their characters. It takes a lot of time to get to know those characters, but it’s important that you do. No one likes phony or stereotypical characters in a novel.

Conflict is something that can be boosted simply by adding subplots. You add subplots based on who your characters are and the problems that they face. One of my characters, Myra, has a love interest in a boy who doesn’t see her that way. She’s secretly in love with him but then something bad happens to him (I’m not saying what, for obvious reasons). This is intrigue related to the plot, but that doesn’t directly concern my protagonist.

Look for opportunities to boost not just your main characters, but the supporting characters as well. Think of your favorite book, movie or TV show and consider how many subplot points center around the supporting characters. If you didn’t have those subplots, you wouldn’t care as much for those characters, would you?

Motivated - Need

Part of me is glad for my two-month break from writing because it taught me something.

Writing is almost cathartic for me.

I already knew I loved to write, but doing something that you love doesn’t always mean it relieves your stress. (I used to love riding horses…then I got thrown twenty feet through the air).

In many ways, I just assumed that writing made me happy. It wasn’t until I took a break, though, and then came back that I realized that it actually makes me feel better.

In the weeks prior to this one, I had been feeling a little down. I was frazzled from my job, from traveling, from the wedding planning, from the house-hunting. I was stressed.

And then I motivated myself to sit down and write again even though all I wanted to do was watch a scary movie.

By the end of the writing session, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It literally made me feel more confident and capable to handle the tasks I needed to handle.

What’s my take-away from this story?

You need to realize why you need writing in your life. This part isn’t just about wants. For me, it provides much needed stress relief.

Figure out what your need is!

Motivated - Goals

There’s certain luxuries that I desire that full-time writing brings. I want to be able to set my own schedule and be my own boss. I don’t want to wake up at 5 a.m. anymore (I honestly don’t think it’s natural but that’s a whole other topic altogether). I want to spend time with my family and be with them, because I’ve come to realize they’re more important to me than anything else.

Will I have to hole myself up in a room until I get my writing done, or force myself to maintain a schedule so I’m still productive?

Yes.

But I’m doing that all for another reason. So I can spend more time with my family.

Since this post is all about it me, it seems, I’ll continue the trend. I want children one day. I can’t fathom the idea of only taking 3 months off of work for maternity leave. I don’t want to leave my infant child at daycare so I can go to work to pay for said daycare. I don’t want to miss my child’s first steps or his first funny cuss word (cause that’s soo important!).

I want to be able to juggle a writing career and my future children so that I can be a part of their learning and development from day one. You only have one chance to raise your children, and that’s a large part of my motivation to be a full time writer.

Yes, I know that a lot of my writing time now will be taken over by screaming infants and dirty diapers, but if I can write to support our family and be there for my children, then it’s a win for me.

What would you consider a win for your long term goals? Think realistically about what you want in life and pursue those things like a madman/woman!

Tip: If you already don’t, consider making monthly or quarterly goals! It’s easier to push yourself if you lay down a specific plan to get something done. Break it down and get it crossed off your to-do list!

Motivated - Force

This might be TMI, but I have to force myself to brush my teeth. It’s not something I’ve ever wanted to do, but I do it because I don’t want my teeth to fall out when I’m 40.

I do it for a reason.

I write for a reason as well, and it’s as simple as the above example: I want to be a full-time writer one day.

Is writing easy? No, because it takes a lot of time to write a novel and develop the skills necessary to write well.

I brush my teeth so they don’t fall out when I’m 40. I invest my time in writing so I can be a full-time writer one day.

In many cases, the best way to get out of a writing slump is to force yourself to write. There are days (like today for me) when you’re chomping at the bit to write. But there are others when all you’d rather do is watch Netflix or play a video game (or look at wedding stuff).

You might not want to hear it, but you have to force yourself through these moments.

Do you really like writing fight scenes? Do you feel that explaining your setting is just a drone?

You have to get through the parts you don’t love to get to the parts that you do. And the faster you get through those parts, the faster you get to the parts you really enjoy writing.

Plus, there’s an added bonus: the more you do something, the more you understand it, and the easier it is to do and/or like it. A lot of times, we don’t like the things that we don’t understand. While this doesn’t go the other way exactly, we might be a little more likely to not hate describing a setting if we master everything there is about it.


This isn’t a guideline or strict rules you need to follow to stay motivated. They’re different for each person, but the gist is this: figure out why you want to write and then tell yourself that over and over.

I don’t want to wake up at 5 a.m. so it’s easy for me to think about that motivation when I’m groggily taking the dogs outside.

When I get home and want to relax all evening? I think about how miserable I feel getting up that early and suddenly I’m a lot more adamant about writing that day.

You’ve heard this before, but I feel like it’s my mantra at this point. If you want to be a writer, all you have to do is write.


Please share your realizations and/or tips for fellow readers! Have you ever pulled yourself out of a big writing slump? How did you do it?

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out some sneak peaks to my novel The Elysian Prophecy, out Winter 2016. It’s a YA Fantasy novel about two siblings thrust into an ancient war between two secret societies.  Mystery? Check. Thrills and romance? Check. A bit of a dark side? Yup. It’s cliché to say, but it’s got something for everyone! I’ve gotten some great responses to it and I’d love to hear what you think!

How To Develop Your Story Idea Into a Novel (even if you get stuck)

Got an idea for your novel, but not sure where to take it?

I’ve got the solution for you!

Well…a few. More like a few tips, but yeah…

Watch this video! Do it now!

I had a few folks (you know who you are) ask me to go in depth on how to develop your budding storyline, and I can’t believe it hasn’t occurred to me to do this post already. I’ve got a huge list of video ideas and somehow this one wasn’t on there.

In my outlining video, I said the first step is to word-vomit your novel ideas into a document. But what if you don’t have very many ideas for your story, or you’re stuck with what else to do with it?

Here are those missing pieces to that step in my outlining video!

Develop Vomit.jpg

Say this wonderful story idea pops into your mind and it makes you super excited. You jot down a few quick things and then that’s it. Your engine sputters and you don’t know where else to go.

This initial phase doesn’t have to be too in-depth, so it’s okay if you only have a handful of bullet points – there’s plenty of opportunity to develop it further. Likely, it’s something you’ll be doing in the coming months or maybe even years.

But my tip for this is not to get discouraged. There are so many of us out there that have an idea for a novel, but we all get stuck on thinking our story is silly or it’s not good enough. Don’t fall into that trap. Every novel started out as one simple plot line and grew into a beauty of a world (hello Lord of the Rings).

Does it take time? Yes, and that’s usually why writing an entire novel is so impressive. But nothing will happen if you don’t take the time everyday to do something related to your story idea.

In other words, a seed won’t grow into a flower unless you water it. Your novel idea is worthy of your effort and I’m convinced that any story can be made into a great one.

How do you go about making it great?

Develop Analyze

Once you’ve got your initial brainstorming down, think about all the different elements that go into a story. It’s not just that one plot line beat to death for 300 pages. There’s diverse characters, action, drama, tension, emotion.

This is the very next thing I think about when brainstorming, and some authors call this the “what if” stage. What if your character has a deadbeat dad who shows up randomly at your character’s low point? What if the witches in your story are secretly rebelling against the Supreme witch, whom your main character is loyal to?

Don’t be afraid to branch out and write down some things that might be crazy. Usually you’ll end up throwing some of these ideas out, but others you’ll end up keeping and loving!

For those of you that don’t know, I’m an engineer. One of the big things I learned in Engineering school is that you don’t hold back in the brainstorming phase. If you’re in a team, everyone blurts out all possibilities and writes them down. No one argues why one would be stupid or why another would be awesome. Each person brainstorms until the entire team is satisfied.

Then you analyze each one. Why? Because even if one of your ideas isn’t right, it could spark the correct answer in another person or even yourself. Someone could have a part of the correct answer but if they’re fearful of being judged, they might not ever say it.

Worried some of your ideas might seem planted only to create a hurdle for your character? You can get around this by introducing the problem before it actually becomes a hurdle. The deadbeat dad example above? Introduce that backstory early in the novel and it’ll seem like a genuine issue when it comes up again. Don’t just have him show up out of nowhere! (Hint: you do the same as far as magic is concerned in fantasy novels…don’t suddenly make your character capable of blowing peoples heads up to get out of a bad situation. Your readers will think it’s a cop out!)

Develop Inspiration

This takes a long, long time because you’re passively developing your novel. I do this all the time, no matter what stage of my writing I’m in. Force yourself to put your novel on the back burner while you go about your day. Then keep a look out for material you can re-imagine in your novel.

See a funny person that sparks a comedian role in your novel? Use it!

While watching a movie, you might like the tension that a sibling rivalry gone deadly brings. Use it!

Keep a look out for things that pull on your heart-strings or get you angry. Those are things you want your readers to feel, so think about how you can recreate that for your story.

I have these ah-ha moments maybe once a week, so it’s not that often. But when you have one, boy is it a BIG ah-ha moment. I’m usually incoherent for a minute or two while I write my idea down. Yes, this can be embarrassing when you’re at a nice dinner and suddenly can’t say anything intelligible (Oh…I…Yeah, and then what if…) while you’re scrambling for your phone to jot it down.

That’s okay, we’re creative people! It’s normal for us to be weird, so just embrace it!

This tip is not about stealing ideas, though. Don’t make your antagonist’s name Woldemort and have him love snakes and killing innocent people. Using the general idea of something will keep you from getting too close to the source you’re taking inspiration from. Like Harry Potter? Keep the magic, but don’t keep the particulars (quidditch, muggles, etc).

It’s illegal to steal peoples ideas and none of your readers will like you for it. Trust me, they’ll be the first to throw you under the plagiarism bus.

Develop Hell

Note: this hint applies more to fantasy novels or science fiction novels.

One of the reasons readers love books/movies like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and any superhero movie comes down to two main things: characters and development of the world.

Because that’s what these novels are: they’re worlds. They each have very intricate lines, filled with things that don’t necessarily affect the story line.

Is it important that Thor comes from a shiny city? No, but it paints the fine details of your story.

What about the fact that hobbits eat all day? No, it’s just something unique and quirky that people will find interesting.

All of these things are normal and every day for the character, so it makes it more believable for the reader. Explain these elements of your story!

The Elysian Prophecy has an Island where new recruits go for training. Am I going to leave it at that? Nope! I’ve gone into what foods they eat, the futuristic technology they have, their library system, where the young kids go to hang out, their curriculum, what everything looks like, how their magic works. Not all of these things will be important in your novel, but they could definitely come up later if you decide to do a series.

Develop People

This last bit is super-ultra-mega important and should never be skipped. Sure, your plot line is important, but how your characters respond to that plot is equally important.

What if Malfoy was the one that survived Voldemort as a baby? It’s the same plot point so shouldn’t the story be the same? Uhh, no. Why? Because Malfoy is obviously nothing like Harry.

I’m all about stopping my story-line plotting in lieu of character development. Once I get through the main chunky ideas, I’ll switch to focusing on the people that will affect and be affected by the story line.

Back to the deadbeat dad example: what if he finds himself on a jury for a trial about a father abusing his son? He would react understandably different from the jury woman to his right, who had a perfect childhood. (I mean, I would hope they would both see the wrong in it but you get my point)

To get readers to connect with your novel, they need to connect with your characters. Making them diverse and intricate people emulates what we see in reality and allows the reader to believe in your protagonist.

Sure, there are main character types that most novels have: the mentor, the comedian, the best friend, the British villain (shoutout to Deadpool). But their backstories are different, hence their reactions are different. So don’t just peg one of your characters as the villain and be done with it. What made them evil? What horrible event took away their compassion? Plus, I mean, who doesn’t like developing their villain? It’s kind of the most fun.


I hope this was helpful in some way to those that wanted elaboration! The brainstorming and developing stages can be the best part of getting your novel all the way to publication if you let yourself be creative with it!

A lot of times, one specific idea will ring out ahead of all the rest and dictate where your novel goes from there. Let these ideas come, no matter how silly they may seem.

Remember, don’t make this stage such a serious thing because, really, it’s your world.

What do you want to see in it?