Gearing up for another #AtoZChallenge

The A to Z blogging challenge is right around the corner.

For those of you, who haven’t heard about it, the A to Z challenge is a challenge for bloggers to post every day in April (except Sundays). Every day (Monday through Saturday) is matched with a letter of the alphabet. On the first day, you write about a topic that begins with A, the next day B and so on.

Now the organizers suggest you come up with a theme to help you get through the challenge. My first year (2014), I didn’t pick a theme. The next year, I did a theme of TV shows followed by characters in 2016, antagonists in 2017, songs about magic in 2018, character flaws in 2019, comic strips in 2020 and finally cat characters in 2021.

The key is to pick something that you will be able to find something for each letter. There are some hard letters – Q, X and Z in particular.

As a fantasy author, I like to connect my topics to something related to writing (characters/antagonists) or fantasy or magic. Every book I’ve written has had at least one dragon character. I’m not talking about just a dragon in the background the same way you might mention a deer or a horse. These are sentient beings that impact the story. And those are the types of dragon characters I hope to highlight during this challenge though whether I can find 26 examples is yet to be seen.

Those of you who want to know more about the challenge, click here. And you can look for my A to Z challenge posts about dragon characters beginning April 1st.

Pros and Cons of Taking a Writing Break

Sometimes you need to take a break from writing or sometimes life happens and you end up taking a break whether you planned or event wanted one. Or maybe you think breaks are for losers and are dedicated to spend all your time writing. And some simply refuse a break so they don’t lose their momentum. But taking a break can be good for you and for your writing.

Pros of taking a break

1,) Sometimes taking a break allows you to come back and read your writing with “fresh eyes.” You now can spot grammatical or plot errors that you didn’t catch before.

2.) This one kind of goes along with #1. Sometimes you are just stuck. You can’t get a scene to work or can’t figure out how to fix a plot hole. Stepping away from your writing may just let you subconscious work on the problem and then you are able to fix it when you return to writing.

3.) Sometimes your mind just needs a break. You can’t expect to go all out writing non-stop every day. You simply need to rest your mind. You don’t want to get writer burn out.

Cons of taking a break

1,) You take too long of a break. Now instead of feeling rejuvenated, you start to wonder if you should even go back. Your life is now filled with other things so maybe you feel too busy to focus on writing.

2.) Taking a break means you get out of any good habits you had with your writing. If you were easily dedicating two hours or cranking out so many words per day, it may take time to get back into the swing of things.

How to take a short break

The best thing is to set a time limit – a few hours, a few days or perhaps even a week or two. If you need to go longer, you may need to take a few months off. But you have to find a way to return to your writing. Write on your calendar “Get back to writing” and then do it!

For those short breaks of a few hours or days, you need to get your mind off your writing. Go meditate, read a book, watch a movie, workout or just hang out with some friends. If you are taking a little bit longer of a break you can take a vacation, visit the beach or visit family in another state. If you want to stay connected to your writing, go visit a place related to your book or interview someone or do some research reading.

The beauty of taking a short break is that your mind is still working on the problems while you are focusing on other things. This is why sometimes it helps to write down your issues or questions before you take your break.

And a writing break doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take a break from all writing. You can stop working on your current project to blog or even start brainstorming on a new project.

Now you may be wondering, how long of a break should you take. There is no one right answer. You may need only a few days while someone else may need a few weeks or even a month. And there are still others who can recharge with only an afternoon away from their computer.

So when you are stuck or feeling burned out, don’t be afraid to take a break. We all need one at one time or another. We need time away to process everything and come back refreshed. You will be better for it and so will your writing.

Top Writing posts from 2021

At the beginning of each year, I usually make a list of my top posts from the past year. But last year was not a good one for me with keeping up with my blog. So instead of having a top 10 posts from last year, you get just 3. I’ll try to do better this year with posting so next year I can make it a full 10 posts on my list.

Creating a dedication or acknowledgment page for your novel

In a past post, I wrote about front matter – all the stuff that goes before your story begins. With the passing of my mother recently, my mind has been on dedications. (Click here to read more.)

Creating a Character Arc

I’ve written numerous times about characters – developing them, naming them and pretty much every aspect about developing what typically drives your story. But I realized I had forgotten one thing – the character arc. (Click here to read more.)

Using an emotion wheel to improve your writing

Creating strong characters depends on putting feelings and emotions into words on the page. Physical traits and character backstory can help create a vivid character, but it is how they behave to a situation that really makes them come alive. (Click here to read more.)

Creating a dedication or acknowledgment page for your novel

In a past post, I wrote about front matter – all the stuff that goes before your story begins. With the passing of my mother recently, my mind has been on dedications.

Dedications

After the grueling process of writing and publishing a book, there may be someone special you want to thank. Now, nothing says you need to say thank you to anyone. In fact, I’ve only done two dedications out of five books.

Your dedication can be to a spouse (as was my first one), parent, sibling, another family member, friend, supervisor, colleague, or even your pet. This is a personal choice and you know what, there is no wrong answer.

Dedications should be short and to the point.

My dedication from my first book Summoned:

To my husband,

Without you, this book would not exist.

A couple simple dedications:

For my wife and children – Janie and Johnny

For Marla who made me include her cat.

I dedicate this book to my parents who raised me to love reading.

You can start it with “I dedicate this book…”, “This book is dedicated to…”, “To….”, “For…” or simply write a few lines without a formal address. Another type of dedication is the “In memory of…”

My dedication from my book The Heir to Alexandria:

In Memory of my friend Trish,

Wife, mother and friend

You are missed beyond words

If you have a lot of people to thank or acknowledge that would be for the acknowledgement section.

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgments are to thank all the people who have helped in the creation of your novel – the police officer you interviewed, your editor, your spouse for their support and so on. It is your way to show them your appreciation in a public (and permanent) form.

You can thank family members, friends, agents, editors, publisher, co-workers, contributors, advisors, teachers, and mentors. This section is all about them – not you.

To write your acknowledgements, first write down all the people you need to acknowledge. You can group them by category to ensure you don’t forget anyone. And make your thanks specifc.

Sample acknowledgement:

Thank you to Officer Frank D. Smith of the Littleton Police Department for answering my endless list of questions on how a small town police office runs. A big thank you to doctors Marshall Smith and Mindy Waters for pointing me the right way in my research and also answering all my questions.

I also want to thank my agent Scott Henderson and my editor Claudia Miller for keeping me on task and helping me hone this work. And last to my husband Jerry and my children, little Martha and Johnny, for your endless encouragement and support. I couldn’t have done this without you.

Another example:

Thanks to everyone on the publishing team who helped me so much. Special thanks to Mary, my ever patient editor and Randy, the greatest cover designer I could ever imagine.

And a very special thank you to Mrs. Smith, my fourth grade teacher, for encouraging me to write and for always believing in me. Finally, to all my friends and family who supported me along this journey: my mother Mary, my sister Sarah, my Uncle Bill, my best friends Kathryn and Joanne, thank you. I could never have done this without you.

Don’t worry about length. This is your time to thank everyone. Use as much space as you want but if you have a very long acknowledgement, you may want to include it in the back matter rather than the front matter. But a word of warning, if you go on and on, you risk watering down the gratitude. If you make your acknowledgment short, you risk leaving someone important out.

In the end, many readers will not care about the book dedication or acknowledgment. Many won’t read them or even later remember what was said. But to those that are mentioned, this is a great way to show that you appreciate their support and help.

Creating a character arc

I’ve written numerous times about characters – developing them, naming them and pretty much every aspect about developing what typically drives your story. But I realized I had forgotten one thing – the character arc.

Oh, I’ve written about the story arc which is what happens overall to all the characters in your novel. Now don’t confuse this with the plot which is individual events that make up your story. The story arc is the sequence of those events. You can read my post on story arcs here.

The story arc is what happens to all characters while the character arc is an internal journey of just one person. It usually involves a character overcoming an obstacle and changing the way they see the world. Due to developments in the story, they change into a different sort of person. While you only have one story arc, you can have multiple character arcs per book. In fact, every character in your book could have an arc though readers may never see the arc of minor characters.

Here are some of the steps that typically show up in the character arc.

  1. Introduction – This is where your reader first meets the character and finds out about their normal life.
  2. Inciting Incident – This is the event that happens to alter your character’s life. Someone could enter their life and disrupts the status quo. Or perhaps they are forced to flee their home. This incident is the beginning of what will change them.
  3. Challenges – Incidents in the story will test the character. It will show their strengths and weakness. The character may start to change his beliefs and actions. He or she may already be changing but not realize it.
  4. Realization – At some point, your character may realize he has changed and realize he needs to embrace the change. He may have to face the truths he hasn’t been able to face.
  5. Moment of Arrival – This where the character must be honest and embrace that change. This is the final push where they have “arrived”.  
  6. Resolution – The character has transformed. They see the world differently now.

Now your character’s arc may not go exactly like this. It may speed through sections or stay longer in others. They may not have a big revelation of their change. It could all be subtle and internal. But the main thing is that your character must change. They must grow and be different than they were at the beginning of your story.

You can check out some compelling character arcs on this blog.