About Writing

Thoughts on creative writing

I took my first creative writing class 18 years ago.

Technically, I guess I did three years of creative writing as a teenager, then majored in the subject for two years in University before dropping out.


It rather leaves me speechless at how creative writing has “modernized” since then. Absolutely no one talks about literary devices, story organization, or how to utilize punctuation. Instead you get an onslaught of articles promising to teach you, “How to write an emotionally manipulative villain”, or, “The best way to avoid burnout” — not to mention, the standard attacks on adjectives, and the word, “said.”

(That’s like painting a picture without using any shades of green and blue. Yes, it can be done, but it’s pointlessly limiting. If the words exist, don’t be afraid to use them.)

The other day it occurred to me that I’ve developed my own style of writing to the point that I could publish a how-to book on it. Then you, too, could be a famous author like me!

Except not really.

Because if there’s one thing I’m really bad at, it’s marketing — which has more to do with popularity than quality does.

And, well, it’s my writing style. Even if I listed everything I do out with bullet points and detailed explanations, you would still never write like I do. Could I even reduce it down succinctly? Is it possible to teach others how to talk to people who aren’t real?

Not to mention, some of my most poignant lessons happened while my husband and I were living out of a car, and that has been a major influence on what I write. You can’t teach that through a book.

I’d much rather encourage people to develop their own process that makes them happy. Ultimately, that’s what writing should be about.

But I’m really starting to think that literary devices need to make a comeback, and someone ought to give that push.

About Me

Too Late?

Sometimes I worry that I decided to jump into the whole ‘author’ thing a bit too late. Blogs are, like, totally old hat by now, and everyone has literally switched over to YouTube. Most of ’em haven’t read anything since Fifty Shades of Grey anyway.

The funny thing is, I was planning on retreating for the first half of this year, given that I’m expecting our fifth baby (omg that’s a lot of kids). Instead, the characters in my head have gotten louder, to the point that it’s meaningless to argue that I’ve got my own major life events going on. So, here I am, writing another story.

And I wonder: is there going to be an audience for novelettes posted on some random person’s blog? Even if I put tons of effort into marketing in my own way, will it ever amount to anything? It’s been ages since blogs were the hot new shiny item, and as much as I love fantasizing about being a crazy trend-breaker, I’m not sure if anyone else wants to go along with it.

Am I too late?

In a way, it’s also exciting to discover who’s still out there.

Hello, we’re the weirdos who stubbornly do our own thing, irregardless of where the masses have gone.

The Black Magus

Real Love

I’m a hopeless romantic, through and through.

This was perhaps a bit silly of me, but after “The Scion Suit” gained a smidgen of attention on Reddit, I wondered if I should downplay the romance aspect of The Black Magus to make it sound more appealing to the sort of people who would actually read it — after all, I don’t think that I’d gain much traction with Twilight fans. But, I decided that would be rather disingenuous, considering that it’s right there in the very first chapter.

So there you have it: The Black Magus is the ultimate Mary-Sue fanfic, where the main character is a shy nobody who through sheer coincidence gains the attention of the most powerful magus on the planet. He competes against another magus to win her affection in a saucy love triangle, and ultimately pulls ahead by gifting her the most expensive car ever built. The girl, on the other hand, maintains an emotional affair with the other guy, just to prove how strong and independent she is after she’s married …


I’m totally not awesome enough to write that.

It’s not the sort of crap that’s always portrayed in popular romance novels. It’s also not the sort of “singles together” crap that we’re told to settle for because “romance doesn’t exist”. You won’t find any Taylor Swift songs that fit it.

It’s about devotion and compassion. It’s about two people joining together to become a family, and learning how to be there for each other. It’s about real love.

There’s also some stuff about magic and the world they live in, and a few other characters who have some dialogue and whatnot. You know, that necessary story-type stuff, to flesh it out into an actual novel and set up the sequel.

So, I have decided against downplaying the romance aspect of The Black Magus, because it is the entire foundation and structure of the novel. Please, don’t dismiss it because of a few bad stereotypes — I assure you that this story is different.

The Black Magus

The Black Magus characters


I know.

I spent over a year working on the first draft for this novel, and these are the only notes I made on the two main characters.


I confess, I’m terrible with notes, so I often find it easier and more organized to keep all of the information in my head. I don’t create character charts, or worksheets, or blah blah blah, because I make a point of locking everything in my mind.

Which is probably one of the reasons why I don’t fit in with writing communities.

Besides. Most of the time, I just listen to what they have to say anyway.

So, here we are: introducing the two main characters from The Black Magus, my upcoming fantasy romance novel.

Are you as excited as I am?

About Writing

Learning how to write from Bob Ross

Sometimes I like to turn on Bob Ross to absorb how calm and mellow he is, and I find it relaxing to sit and watch him paint for a bit. Children are highly chaotic entities, so I know how to appreciate the change in pace that comes with everyone sitting together watching a show that we can all enjoy.

It occurred to me that one could also learn how to write from Bob Ross, as long as you think metaphorically.

He doesn’t simply slap down blobs of color and call it done. He blends the paint, adds shadows and highlights, and is mindful of the details. He also doesn’t overwork the paint or try to control every single aspect of the picture, instead working with the textures of the brush strokes and allowing elements to evolve naturally.

And, as everyone knows, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.”

A lot of writers stop at the blobs of color phase. They’ll free write whatever passes through their minds then hit ‘publish’ without any more thought about the story. These sorts of writers can produce a lot of content in a short amount of time, but it will all feel unpolished and unsatisfying. Often, when I have tried to explain how these writers have good potential but they need to dedicate more attention to reworking their story, they get upset rather than accepting the advice (even when I’m responding to their request for criticism). So, remember, blobs of color are your foundation, but they are not your finished story. The first draft should not be your last. And no, your blobs of color are not more genius than anyone else’s. They all pretty much look the same.

Others will overwork the story to death. They’ll edit out the spontaneity of adventure, and reduce their characters to props who serve rigid roles, instead of letting them shine as quirky individuals. These writers don’t let the overall picture evolve naturally, and their stories feel formulaic. While they are often well intentioned, they don’t know how to let the story flow on its own.

There are also writers who put in too much detail, and create overly-busy stories with no clear focus. They forget to leave the background in the background. They throw too much information at the reader all at one, or create more characters than there’s room for. They describe the condiments instead of the picnic.

When you are in the process of editing, take a step back and try to visualize the story as a painting. Is there enough detail without being overdone? Did you let elements evolve naturally and follow the flow? Did you flesh out the foreground and leave the background appropriately hazy? Is it something that you would hang on *your* wall? Remember, you can always fix it.

And the next time you watch Bob Ross, just imagine that he’s speaking in metaphor and soak in all of his encouragement.

About Writing

Be You

I often think that the problem with contemporary fiction writing is that there are too many rules to contend with. Writing communities are stiff with them. People constantly ask for help with them and enforce them on others. Most of the time, whenever someone asks for a critique, it boils down to, “Am I following the rules properly?”

What about creative passion? Idealism? Soul expression? Where do those fit in?

Why do people ask, “Is this something that others would read?” instead of, “Is this something I care deeply about?”

When it comes to writing, the single most important thing is to have fun. Enjoy it. Randomly burst into laughter because you thought of something funny to write while waiting in line at the grocery store. Cry when your characters are sad. Ride the roller coaster of emotion that comes from being a writer, and revel in the intensity of life. It can be so blissfully wonderful.

Tell as much as you want instead of showing it. Use the word ‘said’ exclusively. Describe everything with adverbs. Neglect world building. Write only subplots. Use your favorite cliches. Include funky colloquialisms.

Just be you.

Don’t copy someone else. Don’t seek out everyone else’s approval. Don’t slavishly follow rules and formulas because someone wrote an article about it. Don’t follow bad advice from the internet.

Figure out what you like, and do it. Perfect it. Develop a strong voice and your own unique style.

I believe that there’s an empathic transfer that happens between author and reader. If you aren’t madly head over heels in love with your own story to begin with, then no one else will feel that way either. If you don’t care, then no one else will care.

And besides,

You can’t please everyone.

But you can certainly please yourself. So isn’t that where you ought to start?

(And yes, I know I’ve written a similar post before, but exposure to writing communities always puts me on this train of thought)

About Writing

Writing for readers

At some point during the writing process, you have to start thinking about your readers.

I don’t mean you should sellout and introduce a teenage vampire who spends all day angsting about how much he hates himself, and all night getting spanked in the local underground BDSM scene, before being chosen to participate in a deadly game of wits and survival. Yuck. No.

When you chat with someone face-to-face, it’s considered polite to speak clearly and audibly, and to continually read the other person’s cues to make sure they aren’t growing bored by your rambling. When you’re done, you say goodbye instead of just walking away.

Writing should be approached with the same considerations. While it’s much harder to work without a present audience yawning and glancing at their cell phones, it’s good to empathize with imaginary readers and place yourself in their shoes, so to speak.

Continually ask yourself questions like:

“Is this sentence clear or do I need to reword it?”

“Is this part boring?”

“Are my transitions smooth or jarring?”

“Does this paragraph flow when I read it out loud, or is it choppy?”

“Is the end too abrupt?”

Etc, etc, etc.

Your readers are your best friends; they’re the ones who appreciate a part of you that even your parents don’t know about (at least for many of us writers, lol). Don’t take them for granted. Be a gracious host and make sure that they’re having a good time.

If you know someone you trust who fits your target audience, go ahead and use them as a beta reader. Watch them read. Pay attention to their facial expressions and body language. While they may say that something is good, a wrinkled brow and down turned mouth will tell you that there was something unsatisfying, but they might not be able to articulate it. Don’t take it personally, just think about how to make it better. I promise you that it’s a good feeling to come back with the improved version and watch someone gush over something they were previously “meh” about.

While it’s good practice to write the first draft for yourself, be in the habit of rewriting the last one for your readers. They have the power to set you down and dismiss you forever, so don’t lord your ego over them. Be nice and considerate, and show some appreciation.

About Writing

Why I don’t read contemporary books

I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t read anything that was published this decade, because I’m a cranky bitch who hates everything about modern living … and all that. Hur hur.

I’m not doing this to be an irrational hater, but rather to analytically illustrate what I think is wrong with contemporary literature. At random, I have selected a paragraph out of a book titled, Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, because another blogger linked to it recently (hello!), and I think it serves as a good example of why I have dismissed this decade’s literature all together.

Disclaimer: I have not read this book, cannot review the quality of the story itself, and haven’t the slightest idea of what the writing is like outside of the preview available on Amazon. I have absolutely no opinion on the book itself; my complaint is with contemporary writing practices.

From the sample:

They both turned to look out of the window of the assisted living facility in north London. Issy had installed Joe there when it became clear he was getting too absentminded to live on his own. Issy had hated moving him down south after he’d spent his life in the north, but she needed him close to visit. Joe had grumbled of course but he was going to grumble anyway, moving out of his home to anywhere that wouldn’t let him rise at 5:00 a.m. and start pounding bread dough. So he might as well be grumpy close by, where she could keep an eye on him. After all, it wasn’t as if anyone else was around to do it. And the three bakeries, with their proud, shiny brass handles and old signs proclaiming them to be “electric bakers,” were gone now; fallen prey to the supermarkets and chains that favored cheap white pulp over handcrafted but slightly more expensive loaves.

First, for some unfathomable reason, authors have all decided that they have a raging allergy to commas. Maybe they think it’s more conversational, that commas are outdated and useless, or they simply never learned how to organize a sentence during their schooling; whatever the case, reading feels more like delving into an overgrown forest where one is expected to hack their way through alone. It also makes it significantly harder to read out loud, since being expected to run on and on without any pauses in one long unbroken sentence gives a monotone effect that can be really quite hypnotic … Woah, sorry, got sucked into the wrong dimension there for a moment.

The worst, in my opinion, is something that I think of as “THE TWITTER EFFECT.” You never, ever, not in a million years, see sentences longer than 280 characters (most will stay under 140, which was Twitter’s original cut off point), even in novels. Yes, I know that Moby-Dick was ridiculous for having sentences that spanned more than one page, but that doesn’t mean the answer is to only write short, choppy, status updates in lieu of actual paragraphs. I blame social media.

The longest sentence in the quoted paragraph is 258 characters, including the improperly used semicolon. Four of them are shorter than 100 characters, which accounts for more than half of the sentences in the paragraph.

So, let’s rewrite it. After all, if I’m going to claim that I can do better, I might as well back it up!

They both turned to look out of the window of the assisted living facility in north London, where Issy had installed her grampa Joe after it had become clear that he was getting too absentminded to live on his own. Issy had hated moving him so far from his home, but she had wanted him close by for her to visit, and they had no other family members who were willing to help take care of him. Joe had grumbled, of course, but he was sure to be grouchy anywhere that wouldn’t let him rise at 5:00 a.m. to start pounding dough, so he might as well be grouchy where she could keep an eye on him. The three bakeries of his past, with their proud, shiny, brass handles, and old signs proclaiming them to be “electric bakers”, were gone now, fallen prey to the supermarkets and chains that favored cheap, white pulp over handcrafted, yet slightly more expensive, loaves.

The length is the same, but I combined the seven sentences into four to decrease the choppy effect of countless periods, and enhance the overall flow of the story itself. I used a lot more commas for clear organization, and with any luck, you should be able to read that sucker out loud without stumbling. Give it a shot, and tell me if I’m wrong.

Thusly we have learned: Use commas and think longer thoughts, ’cause I ain’t got nothin’ to read.

I need a rest after writing this post. Whew.

About Writing

My hope

I haven’t read more than a few pages of fiction novels published after 2010. That was the year the world became untenable for me, beginning with my inability to accept the popularity of skinny jeans and yoga pants. I cannot believe that anyone with functioning eyes can put on a pair of leggings, look in the mirror, and genuinely feel good about themselves. C’mon, you deserve better than that. You don’t have to treat yourself like crap just because everyone else is doing it.

As a Millennial, I keep my hopes up that one day we’ll explode on the scene and break all the molds. We’ll tell the publishing world in no uncertain terms that we demand better than 50 Shades of Grey, and crappy literature will vanish along with microwave dinners and Styrofoam cups. We can achieve so much more out of life than what the previous generations handed down to us.

I know what Millennials are capable of. I’ve seen plenty of brilliant short stories and creative ideas posted around the internet, but I have yet to find the officially published full length novels that are of the same quality. Maybe my peers have yet to realize the value of what they have to offer, and never work up the nerve to really throw it out there.

I know I’m not alone. I know you’re there.

Write with unhindered creativity, pour your love of English into every sentence, and do your best to hone your talent. Be artistic. Be real. Be different. Be you. Don’t rewrite Harry Potter and Twilight because they were popular, write the weird and quirky stories that you secretly post on Reddit. Just make them longer. A lot longer.

Self-publishing has become readily accessible to everyone, so you don’t have to follow the old channels of appeasement and rejection anymore — you can reach your readers directly. Don’t be afraid.

Join me, and we can change the literary world.

About Me


My personality type is INTP, which accounts for less than 6% of the female population. So when I say that I’m not a typical woman, I mean it; I’m not just trying to seem more interesting. Most women are ESFJ’s, making me the exact opposite of what everyone expects.

It’s the NT part that really makes me weird; intuitive yet detached. I firmly believe that there are at least three solutions to every problem, and if you can’t find the third one then you aren’t even trying. Self-sacrifice? Ha! I can find a way that will make everyone happy without any martyrs. Just watch me. Phishing for compassion is a waste of time, and I don’t care if you feel bad for me.

It freaks people out, because most of them have never met a woman like me. They want to stereotype and pigeonhole me, yet I never respond the way they expect me to. I am unpredictable and terrifying.

My personality type has frequently made me the target of bullying, and the general feeling of “I don’t belong with anyone, anywhere”, but despite that I’m enormously fond of it. I get a kick out of INTP memes, and I openly joke about my own “cold-hearted” nature. I have always prioritized being the sort of person *I* admire over pleasing anyone else, so at the end of the day I am satisfied with who I am without external approval. That’s what happens when you combine introverted with intuitive, thinking, and perceiving.

It is the reason why I write. I enjoy observation and introspection, and I see the philosophical value in every day life. I love the depth and complexity of human emotion, but I often approach it as something to be analyzed rather than swept away by.  I am, in many ways, a narrator rather than a character.

Who can tell a story better than a narrator?