War Never Changes: What Bethesda Taught Me About Writing

And considering how much I enjoyed their previous project, Skyrim, I’m beginning to actually apply what I enjoy about their games and have attempted putting it into my own writing. So while yes, reading is important to writing, maybe games, or at least, the skills of game designers, are going to be the new wave of writing influences.

As a 30 single dude with no kids and/or love interest, I get to enjoy playing video games sans nagging. And as much as I gripe about being single, it’s pretty great to just be able to kick back and play as much as I want at night, which is how I like to unwind. And honestly, I’ve been playing video games since I was two, so it’s something I’ve long enjoyed doing and it’s something I plan to do at least for the foreseeable future.

Any writer worth their salt will tell you that in addition to practicing writing, it’s just as important to read as it will help guide you towards techniques and styles you may have not thought of before; sort of a passive learning by doing scenario.

Unfortunately, it’s 2017 and it’s harder than ever to split your attention between things that you love doing that are engaging versus taking the chance on something that may be interesting, or maybe it’ll leave you going “man, I wish I spent this past hour completing that level”.

As a result, it’s pretty frustrating to get involved in a game, only to be let down by repetitive action, bland story lines, and worse yet, technical bugs. So when I bought Fallout 4, I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging it was, as well as all of the subtle details that are easily missed.

And considering how much I enjoyed their previous project, Skyrim, I’m beginning to actually apply what I enjoy about their games and have attempted putting it into my own writing. So while yes, reading is important to writing, maybe games, or at least, the skills of game designers, are going to be the new wave of writing influences.

World Building

One of the obvious strengths of Bethesda is their ability to craft a world. The game rarely feels like playing a game, but truly assuming the role of someone wandering a post apocalyptic wasteland, or a lone wizard traversing the countryside on their own hunting dragons. And this is reinforced through subtle nods and background stories that pop up everywhere.

Skyrim had in-game books your character (and you) could leaf through that described the history and lore of the land, while in Fallout you can find computer entries and scribbled notes that describe the rise and fall of civilization. It’s the extra effort that truly makes you feel like you’re living the story rather than just playing through a level.

Details Make or Break It

As is the case with anything, too much world building can be a curse. Back to the world of Skyrim, some of the books you find are just a few paragraphs in length and offer a welcome reprieve from the constant random battles. On the other hand, there are some that feel as long as real books, and I find myself bogged down with too many details that don’t impact my life in the slightest.

However, in Fallout 4, there are tiny little stories of a world gone by; you just have to know where to look. For instance, the nuclear bomb that decimated the country happened in the month of October. As you start making your way through the ruins of Boston, you can find small phone booth-like safe spaces, like public safe rooms.

In one I found the other night, there was a small plastic jack-o-lantern with candy at the bottom. Within two seconds this went from a novel discovery to my mind running wild with the heartbreaking story of a child’s last trick-or-treating.

Make the Scary Parts Scary

Neither Skyrim nor Fallout are horror survival games. That said, there are plenty of spooky parts, and a plethora of monsters, demons, zombies, and other creatures you’d rather not tangle with. However, tangle you must, and usually in a setting that is just plain unsettling.

Despite the games not falling into the horror genre, and in fact, finding plenty of lush naturally beautiful areas, they don’t shy away from ratcheting the suspense. And it works – it forces you to be on your guard, and it makes you appreciate the safe areas all the more. And it’s something that I’ve tried incorporating as well. After all, life isn’t always roses and sunshine; sometimes it’s being in a dark sewer full of flesh eating zombies.

Live in the Gray

What has become Bethesda’s bread and butter is their lack of forcing you to be a fully “good” character or a fully evil character. Each and every situation, conversation, and interaction has an option to be a hero, a villain, or someone in between. And this is refreshing; life isn’t always so black and white.

Having the ability to not only be in the gray, but stay there, is more human. And in today’s jaded society, it’s nice to have something that influences your own characters to strive to be more realistic.

Be the Person You Want to Be

Bethesda does a great job of giving you plenty of freedom to not only design your own character, but essentially have a virtual Dungeons and Dragons character sheet. You control their physical appearance, their name, and as you progress, you get to choose what their strengths, weaknesses, and aptitudes are. As a result, you can play almost any type of character you want.

If you want to make a psychotic villain that looks, and acts, like Negan, the main baddie in The Walking Dead, you can. If you want to make a goody two shoes quasi-super hero (like my affectionately nicknamed Trashcan America), you can. If you want to just make an Average Joe trying to complete his own personal quest, you can. There’s no right or wrong answer; there’s nothing the game really tries to force on you. And as a writer, I am constantly thinking of new characters I’d love to design and try on my next play through as a result.

 

Have you found any non-book entertainment offerings that influence your writing? I’d love to hear about them. And if you need any assistance with your next project, I’d love to help out!

Write with a Green Thumb: Cultivate Your Story

Like growing a houseplant, writing a story isn’t difficult per se, but it does require dedication, continuing education, and giving it the best growing conditions possible. And while some days you may find yourself simply wishing it would grow itself, it can also instill a ton of pride seeing it growing from just a seed (an idea) to a mature plant (or finished book). It’s also easy to draw landscaping parallels between the two ideas. And since once upon a time I used to do a little landscaping myself, it’s easy to apply similar principals.

I have been known, on occasion, to dabble with growing a houseplant. And now that I’m between growing anything (I plan to again soon, with all of that free time I have) I see certain parallels between making sure something grows and blossoms, and crafting a story.

Just a couple of nights ago I found out that a former coworker of mine, Kimmy Pagnotta, is self publishing her own comic book. Which is incredible! And it also got me thinking about my own struggles with my story, The Autumn Mage.

Like growing a houseplant, writing a story isn’t difficult per se, but it does require dedication, continuing education, and giving it the best growing conditions possible. And while some days you may find yourself simply wishing it would grow itself, it can also instill a ton of pride seeing it growing from just a seed (an idea) to a mature plant (or finished book). It’s also easy to draw landscaping parallels between the two ideas. And since once upon a time I used to do a little landscaping myself, it’s easy to apply similar principals.

Trim the Dead Growth

This one is always intimidating at first, because anyone who starts a new project has that feeling that whatever they write is perfect. It’s not. Whether you’re on your second draft or your 20th, if something isn’t advancing the story, it’s gotta go.

But it’s my favorite part of the story!

While I’m sure your creative genius is without rival, cut it. You can always recycle an idea later, but if it doesn’t help the story, it hurts it. When a plant has a dead limb, you have to hack it off with a nice, clean trim. Doing so allows new growth to take place, as well as reallocates resources allowing the plant to grow healthier. Same rule of (green) thumb applies here.

Prune the Overgrowth

This is similar to the first tip in both regards. With landscaping, trimming is more cutting off the bigger stuff that has to go, which in writing may be whole subplots, paragraphs, scenes, even characters. Pruning, on the other hand, is more of a pinpointed removal of smaller problems.

Pruning is done to plants to help aid its overall shape, like with bushes and shrubs, and to allow better growth with trees and the like. When too much growth is allowed to take place, branches and leaves can start blocking out the sun, which leads to a vicious cycle of the healthier overgrowth on top stealing away food from the rest of the plant. By cutting it away it allows the tree as a whole to grow better.

In the same vein, if your have unnecessary portions of a story, it’s only going to bore readers. It may be well written, but it only takes away from the meat and potatoes of the story. No matter how well you crafted it, taking it out will lead to a healthier body.

 Feed the Roots

Many amateur gardeners think that growing a plant is literally a Just Add Water! scenario. Unfortunately, like any living thing, that’s not enough. Sunlight acts as plant food, but more often than not they need a little help with fertilizer or other added nourishment.

Doing this feeds the roots, not the plant directly. Feeding the roots allows it to distribute the vitamins throughout the body, strengthening it as a whole. This is akin to having someone else edit your story. They’ll show you where you can improve, what works, and what doesn’t.

Find Your Own Way

When you go online for tips on a subject, you’ll always find a message board where Expert 1 is arguing with Expert 2. The Internet is great for sharing information, but sometimes people confuse opinions for facts. While a little bit of the right advice goes a long way, you should also find techniques that work best for you.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Everyone starts somewhere, and everyone needs a little extra help or mentoring. Whether it be the employee working the garden center or a club or group online, it’s always a good idea to find something with helpful tips.

I am always available with writing and editing services! And if you’re working on a project and you’d like to feature it, just ask!

If you have any other writing (or gardening) tips to share, sound off in the comments below! I love hearing what works for others in their creative process.

Trust No One, Not Even Yourself: Rewriting my Work In Progress

So, now that we’re into the New Year, New Me season in full force, I already have a confession; I am dreading rewriting the second half of the Autumn Mage. And it’s not that rewriting the same story that I’ve been working on in one form or another for the past five years isn’t fun anymore (it isn’t), it’s that I know it’s the weaker half.

So, now that we’re into the New Year, New Me season in full force, I already have a confession; I am dreading rewriting the second half of the Autumn Mage. And it’s not that rewriting the same story that I’ve been working on in one form or another for the past  five years isn’t fun anymore (it isn’t), it’s that I know it’s the weaker half.

It isn’t weaker in terms of story; I made sure to slowly build one chapter on top of the other. My biggest weakness when I first started down this rabbit hole is the thoughts in my mind play out in a way that makes sense to me, but when read, does little more than enrage my editor.

No; what I’m worried about is the simple notion that I am more than likely going to have to completely gut not only entire chapters, but entire plot lines. And I know it’s coming. For me, the closest thing I can equate this feeling to is when you walked into class on Friday morning, forget you had a quiz, were forced to attempt it, and then had to spend all weekend with that awful, terrible grade gnawing away at the pit of your stomach. By Saturday afternoon you just want to go see how bad it was to get it over with.

My final act was ambitious to say the least. And while ambition is good, there’s always the risk of having too much going on at once. I blended government secrets, espionage, Greek mythology, and traditional fantasy. It’s a fiction smoothie, and I’m sure my accomplished writing friend choked on quite a bit of it.

I understand fully the benefit of rewriting and editing your story. I know that in its current stage it isn’t ready yet. And I do want it ready. This is the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken for myself, and it excites and terrifies me all at once. Self doubt has always been one of my biggest weaknesses, and I’m afraid of flying close to the sun and allowing myself to crash and burn.

It’s harder to get motivated to edit, too. I took November off and worked on some short stories, which I will finish probably around 201whenever, and I honestly don’t care if it becomes anything or not. It was simply a way to get my creative juices flowing. But now I have fear creeping back in, and it’s like that big final project that you’ve had all semester to do; it needs to be finished yesterday, and you’re petrified to fail at it.

And so I will press on. It’s tough, and honestly, for me, this has been the most difficult part of the process. I know others will find it easier, and other still will struggle with it more than I am. But you have to burn the woods down to fertilize the soil again, and I do enjoy a good fire.

If any other writer pals have any tips for kicking your own butt back in gear for rewriting, please let me know with a comment below. I’m still very new at all of this and I love hearing more experienced people’s advice! And if you need help with your writing projects, just drop me a line and I’m more than happy to assist you.

The Needs of the Few: Using the Pareto Principle

So a few weeks ago, I was jam-packing my schedule, which is preferred considering I’m a freelance writer and editor. I would rather have too much work than twiddling my thumbs. However, I went almost three weeks solid without a break. I was burning myself out and wasn’t necessarily getting any further ahead.

It wasn’t just work, either. I was taking a look at my day and just kept muttering about how there wasn’t enough time. Something had to change.

So a few weeks ago, I was jam-packing my schedule, which is preferred considering I’m a freelance writer and editor. I would rather have too much work than twiddling my thumbs. However, I went almost three weeks solid without a break. I was burning myself out and wasn’t necessarily getting any further ahead.

It wasn’t just work, either. I was taking a look at my day and just kept muttering about how there wasn’t enough time. Something had to change.

I picked up one gig summarizing books, and one of which brought up the Pareto Principle. It’s been around for several hundred years, but it goes mostly unnoticed by most people. What the Pareto Principle states is, in general, 20% of whatever you put effort in to gives you 80% of your results. This isn’t a hard rule, but I bet if you take a look at some things in your life, you can see the Pareto Principle at work.

It sounds weird, but it seems to be everywhere. If you go and and get a Big Mac, that’s the majority of your daily calorie intake from one sandwich. You probably get most of your daily caffeine from your morning coffee. Your smartphone probably hogs most of your daily attention.

If you have clients, like I do, chances are that about 80% of your income comes from around 20% of your clients. Your repeat customers are the ones doing most of the hiring. That means only 20%, roughly, is coming in from all your other efforts. By finding the areas that you excel in, and the customers that keep coming back, you can really maximize your potential.

In order to apply this, I’m taking less time at the gym. I gut my cardio time from 30 minutes with a 5 minute cool down to 20 minutes with a 4 minute cool down. I also started doing fewer repetitions with more weight. This way, I’ve cut my time at the gym from an hour-hour and a half to about 40 minutes. I’m still working up a sweat and I’m getting more time back to my day.

It also helps you take a look at leisure time. I love playing video games. However, I would rather play for an hour than stay up all night playing. The joy and fun that I get tends to wear off, but by limiting my play time I can still get some goofing off time and enjoy it.

I’m also focusing on repeat customers more than before. I still actively pursue new leads, but I understand now where my focus needs to be. Studies have shown that companies spend more money pursuing new leads than if they spend money retaining old ones.

I’ve also tried my best to reign in my work hours. I’m writing for me and my Work in Progress for the first hour before I do work. I was trying to do it after I had finished working on my client’s projects for the day, and it was leading to fewer amount of time spent on writing and generally just being shoddy at it.

So in short, saving time and working smarter is going to make you a much happier camper. A great way to save time is by letting a freelancer take on your writing and editing projects. I am available to schedule your needs today! Visit Write Now to contact me for your academic, creative, or business writing needs.

Be Phenomenal: 5 Things Pokemon GO Taught Me About Freelance Writing

It’s okay if something you write is bare bones. People think that all writing has to mimic Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. In fact, I’ve read numerous articles stating that reader’s attention spans are so bad, traditional publishing doesn’t love taking anything over 80,000 words anymore. So less is more, BUT you have to be captivating. In Soviet Russia, Pokemon captures YOU!

So, unless you have absolutely no access to the Internet and no contact with any other living being, you’ve no doubt seen Pokemon GO blow up. Nintendo’s adorable pocket monsters have once again captivated the world, and I, for one, welcome our new cute overlords.

For the handful of people who don’t know, Pokemon GO is a new smartphone AR game that superimposes Pokemon onto real life Google Maps. Using the game’s classic Pokeballs with non-traditional game play has lured millions of rabid trainers outside, socialization, and actually making people healthier. Is Pokemon GO going to be a fad? Abso-freaking-lutely. Don’t get me wrong; the game is a lot of fun. But something that comes in this fast often leaves just as quickly.

That said, inspiration can strike anywhere and from anything, and this week throwing imaginary balls at cartoon rodents actually taught me something about being a freelance writer and editor. In fact, it taught me 5 somethings:

 

Lack of Story Doesn’t Mean Lack of Quality

The Pokemon franchise has historically had very little story or plot. It’s always been “Hey, kid? Wanna Pikachu?” The game quickly gives you a rundown of the basics and then sends you on your merry way. Whether you finish the game or not is up to you. Whether you complete your Pokedex is up to you. The game really doesn’t care. They already have your money.

The app has even less of a story. You have one single human character who tells you what is happening (sort of) and then the rest of the time is spent frantically spending your monthly cell data chasing after Pokemon. But just because there isn’t a story doesn’t mean it doesn’t enthrall people.

It’s okay if something you write is bare bones. People think that all writing has to mimic Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. In fact, I’ve read numerous articles stating that reader’s attention spans are so bad, traditional publishing doesn’t love taking anything over 80,000 words anymore. So less is more, BUT you have to be captivating. In Soviet Russia, Pokemon captures YOU!

People Will Freelance Anything

I love what I do. I get to work from home, and I use God-given skills to help people, and in exchange I earn a little money. But some days I look at myself in the mirror and go “Is this my life? Proofreading final exam essays for college kids? Is this a thing?”

I know other freelancers have similar thoughts. And you know what? This week I was officially able to stop being hard on myself for my career choice. You know why? Because out of the Google and Facebook machines came numerous articles of Uber drivers and Craigslist ads of people offering to drive you around town and/or use your device or login credentials to assist you in catching Pokemon.

That is people use really real money to pay people to help them play a smartphone game that has no ending. It became abundantly clear that people will hire a freelancer to do absolutely anything.

Play to People’s Nostalgia

Every time I see a “only 90’s kids will remember!” post I want to punch someone. And yet, there’s a reason these stupid posts keep blowing up my newsfeeds: people love nostalgia. This is not a new concept. Hollywood has been forcing unnecessary reboots for years hoping people will be nostalgic enough to spend $10-$20 on a crappy movie because it involves the name of a beloved childhood franchise. And no matter how bad these movies are, they just keep making more because people can’t refuse nostalgia.

Pokemon GO does this. Every kid who had a Gameboy has dreamed of catching Pokemon in real life, and until scientists decide to find a way to electrify mice, this is as good as it gets. Grown adults are gleefully running around capturing Pokemon because it makes them feel like a kid again.

Am I telling you to rip off an existing franchise? Absolutely not. I can guarantee Michael Bay will not be happy about you doing a better job than he ever could with a fraction of the budget. What I am saying is take a moment to reflect on why you keep going back to certain childhood franchises. What makes you love them eternally, and what can you apply from that to your own work?

Find the Right Business Partner

Augmented Realty has been around for years, and it just never seemed to quite take off. Which is ironic, considering how AR-heavy futuristic movies and video games are. Unlike Virtual Realty where the user takes on a peripheral to enter a virtual world, Augmented Realty does the opposite, bringing the virtual to life in our world. The developer of Pokemon Go, Niantic, was originally a startup owned by Google. Google released them into the wild, and Niantic developed the popular AR game Ingress. Chances are you haven’t heard of Ingress, but it’s their predecessor multiplayer AR game sending people running around real towns to collect and interact with other players.

So why is Pokemon GO so much more popular? Besides nostalgia, Niantic teamed back up with Google and video game powerhouse Nintendo. Together the three companies have created an immersive AR experience, and chances are we’re going to see a lot more AR apps pop back up. Sometimes when you can’t pull something off yourself, you just need to find the right partners in crime.

Make Sure Your Product is Market-Ready Before Launch

Dear sweet Lord is Pokemon GO riddled with technical problems. Server crashes. Hours upon hours in which you cannot play. App crashes. GPS not working right. Pokemon not showing up anywhere.

I have never heard of another game on any system that has been so flawed that still has such a positive fan base. Any other game would have been ripped to shreds. They’re lucky people are so crazy for Pokemon because otherwise this would be their Titanic.

You have to make sure, whatever you are selling, is ready to be purchased. If reviews start rolling in that your product is only halfway finished, you’re going to be labeled a scam artist and laughed off from Amazon.

Your story might be good, but I can guarantee it isn’t Pokemon-level good. If your story has typos or plot holes or other mistakes, people are not going to be happy that they spent money on your product.

That’s why I offer a full range of freelance writing services including editing, rewriting, ghostwriting, and content writing. From professional needs to creative writing solutions, you can hire me for any need. Visit Write Now today to schedule me!

Happy hunting, all you Pokemon Masters!

Make Your Readers Give a Damn: 7 Steps to Winning Over Your Readers

I’ve recently found myself in talks to do so affiliate editing, which means I don’t get any money upfront, but I do get 8% on the back end when the book sells. Kind of sucks in the short term because bills don’t wait for book sales, but I actually love the idea. And as you know I’m frothing at the mouth to do more editing lately.

It’s not a sure thing, but they seem pretty pleased with my style. They sent me the first two chapters of a story just to see if I was interested and I was so thrilled I just tore into it. I was excited at the premise of a story; a gritty female ex-cop-turned-bounty hunter taking on the corrupt police force she used to work for. However, it was less Gerard Butler blockbuster and more Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

I’ve recently found myself in talks to do some affiliate editing, which means I don’t get any money upfront, but I do get 8% on the back end when the book sells. Kind of sucks in the short term because bills don’t wait for book sales, but I actually love the idea. And as you know I’m frothing at the mouth to do more editing lately.

It’s not a sure thing, but they seem pretty pleased with my style. They sent me the first two chapters of a story just to see if I was interested and I was so thrilled I just tore into it. I was excited at the premise of a story; a gritty female ex-cop-turned-bounty hunter taking on the corrupt police force she used to work for. However, it was less Gerard Butler blockbuster and more Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Do I mean that 1) it revolved around the officer’s bodily fluids? or 2) that Judy Blume’s classic coming-of-age book is way more action packed than you originally thought? No to both. Here’s what I mean.

All new authors are going to struggle with the basics. Lord knows I still do. New authors also flounder around on the page trying to find their footing. Fine. Yes, this is part of the process. But what shattered my very soul was the way in which the story was presented. There was no conflict, and the whole thing read like a journal entry.

The main protagonist was revealed to be female, but like ten pages later. Note: I have zero problems with female protagonists. In fact, I’m currently working on a story with two female protagonists. My issue here is it took forever to know who I was reading about. My second problem was the sheer amount of details given about everyone’s past. And finally third, after diving through the first two chapters NOTHING HAPPENED.

I tore it to shreds. Absolutely took a metaphorical machete to it and then sent it through a metaphorical wood chipper. I wanted a literal one but I want to keep my laptop. After finishing up I sat back and thought how many more of these are out there? Is my stuff like this? I thought hard about what was the one core problem with the story and it finally hit me: I just didn’t care about any aspect of it.

Maybe that’s the problem with your writing. You may have completely finished the story and it’s done to what you believe to be the best of your ability, but the reader just shrugs off all 80,000 words. Your audience needs to care. You have to light a fire under your reader. They need to stay glued to the page and that isn’t going to happen if you fill them with apathy. Here’s seven tips to make them care about your story.

 

The Narrator’s Burden

Whether your narrator is an omniscient third party or the main character themselves, the narrator has the misfortune of knowing more or less everything. Because of this the temptation becomes the narrator sharing this god-like wisdom with everyone. Don’t. I don’t need to know what the character did ten years ago. I need to know what is happening now. I don’t need names for the gas station clerk who is never going to make another appearance. I don’t need to know what brand of the shirt a background character that was only barely mentioned is wearing. Flesh out the world, but make sure to do it the same way you see the real world. Do you try to remember the names of cashiers when you know you’ll be back at that store? Do you ask strangers about their past? Do you try to figure out who the old woman feeding ducks is wearing? No. You don’t, and neither should your readers.

The Devil’s in the Details

I didn’t even know who I was reading about until much later in the first chapter. This was disorienting to me. It was like being shoved into a dark room where a lit flashlight was lying on the ground at the back wall. I knew I would eventually be able to see what was going on, but I felt lost for a while. And then when I did finally find out who my protagonist was I was hit with ALL the details. Reveal them slowly. I don’t need a full list of a character’s stats when I meet them. Peel the onion layers back one at a time, don’t just cram it all into my face. Otherwise it comes off like a trading card.

Encyclopedias Aren’t Chapters

This was not the first time I’ve seen a piece of writing where I had paragraphs upon paragraphs and pages upon pages of information that I neither wanted nor needed nor cared about. Yes, information is necessary. You are painting a picture without paints. You have to get inside the reader’s head and show them an entire universe with only text. I get it. But there is such a thing as too much.

One thing I’ve recommended to someone struggling with not cutting enough detail was this: create a set of notes about background information for you characters. Make those notes just for you. The reader never sees them; they never know that the main character’s best friend’s cat died in 3rd grade. But as long as they see how protective she is over her current pet they’ll know something’s up. Hint at the details. Show why the characters are what they are. But don’t cram 10,000 words into a backstory about a character we aren’t even going to see again.

Build the Tension

I have a feeling that later on in the story there was some tension/conflict. But there was none in what I was handed. Books can pretty much be split up into two different types of chapters: dialogue/exposition heavy chapters and action heavy chapters. Both are necessary. If you have a book of all dialogue or all exposition it’s going to read like a Jane Austen novel. Which was entertaining like 300 years ago but not to our smartphone-addicted audiences of today. Likewise, if you have only action you have a book adaptation of a Michael Bay film. You need to find the right balance, or else your book is going to be boring. And boring books don’t have readers.

Where’s the Action?

This story I read was about a bounty hunter fighting corrupted police. In two entire chapters not a single bounty was hunted. If you hand me a book as a friend and say “Oh hey this is a real cool book about a bounty hunter” I’m expecting COPS-level action. I’m expecting Boba Fett-level antics. I want scumbags busted. And I was left pleading for action. Which is the story of my life, but that’s a whole other ordeal.

Barbie is a Toy, Not a Character

Yes, I am aware that after all these years she does have her own films, cartoons, games, etc. What I mean here is that Barbie has represented the “perfect”/”ideal” woman, for better or for worse. Do I necessarily agree with them? No. But that’s what she is. And this is what I mean but not having a Barbie character: your character cannot be perfect. None of your characters can be perfect. If you insist on making one perfect then they need to be imperfectly perfect.

In order for characters to be realistic they have to be like real people. They need to have flaws, even your protagonist. They need to have flawed morals or philosophies. They need to royally screw up. They can’t be anywhere near close to perfect. When characters are perfect no one cares because nothing bad can happen, thus all conflict and tension gets sucked out the window.

Split Personalities are a No Go

Unless your character is supposed to have multiple personalities, this needs to be avoided. In this particular story the protagonist was this gritty hardened female who had tired of corruption and who felt a strong sense of justice. And other times, usually with dialogue, she was a preteen. Not literally, of course, but the way she spoke and carried herself. You can’t have a character not commit to one character. It doesn’t work having them try to straddle the line like this. Can you have an immature character? Sure. But they have to be believable. A woman in her mid-to-late 20s, especially a law enforcement officer, is not going to speak like a 6th grader.

Writing is difficult; it’s an art that you have to perfect. And this is tough, especially when you’re just starting out. That’s why I offer my writing and editing services. I can assist in the creation process, edit your finished story, and more. For more information or to book your project with me visit Write Now today!

What is an Editor?

As I’m trying to build up my client list for my freelance business Write Now I’m coming across a lot of confusion in regards to what editing is. At first it catches me off guard; what do you mean you don’t know what an editor is? But the more I think about it, the more I understand. So today I want to clear up some confusion.

The snarky answer is an editor edits. But the term “editor” is thrown around a lot and encompasses several different areas of editing. There’s audio editing. Sound editing (which is different from “audio editing”). Film editing. Journalistic editors. But with story/book/manuscript editing, that’s a whole different animal.

As I’m trying to build up my client list for my freelance business Write Now I’m coming across a lot of confusion in regards to what editing is. At first it catches me off guard; what do you mean you don’t know what an editor is? But the more I think about it, the more I understand. So today I want to clear up some confusion.

The snarky answer is an editor edits. But the term “editor” is thrown around a lot and encompasses several different areas of editing. There’s audio editing. Sound editing (which is different from “audio editing”). Film editing. Journalistic editors.  But with story/book/manuscript editing, that’s a whole different animal.

In short, all of these types of editing have similarities. They all take an original work, fiction or non, and help make it better. They remove the parts the audience doesn’t need. They improve the flow of the story, or reword it (scene or text or track list), and they make the project as a whole stronger. And just like with film or music or sound or even news articles an editor take an author’s story and makes it better.

This always puts the first-time writers into a weird situation. They either think that an editor isn’t necessary because, hey, I’m such a good writer and this book is going to be amazing! I don’t need anyone to edit for me! Or they think that they don’t need to do any editing at all, and that it’s 100% the editor’s job to do so.

First off, you do need to put your work through at least two rounds of your own editing. This does two things: finds the “dumb” mistakes (missing words, missing periods, misspellings, etc.) and allows you to see what mistakes you as a writer consistently make which helps you be more aware of them in the future.

A lot of new writers feel that writers write and editors edit. Shipping off an unedited copy of your work to an editor is going to do two things: enrage them and have them charge you more for the additional amount of work they need to do. The expectation of a good editor is that you’ve already, at minimum, proofread your piece. If they are handed a project that is nigh unreadable they are going to drop you.

So what specifically does an editor do? That’s really up to what you need and their skills. There’s three sort of “main” types of editing, although different kinds exist as well. There’s developmental editing, where the editor advises on how the story/book should be changed, often with rewrites. Line editing, which is what most people think of with editing, which is proofreading and fixing grammar, mechanical, and spelling errors. And finally copyediting reviews the project for incorrect information, consistency with word choice and hyphens, etc., and also makes sure that your characters and story are consistent chapter to chapter (did the main character have red hair in chapter 4 but now in chapter 10 has blonde hair that we never saw her dye?).

Editing is a huge undertaking and is often intimidating for the writer. You’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears (so many tears) into your story and now you’re shipping it off to an editor like it’s summer camp. That’s why when choosing an editor you need to make sure that they respect you as a writer and that they will treat your project as if it were their own.

As a writer myself I understand how important your story is to you. And when I edit, I edit as if it were my own writing. I take your story seriously and make sure it becomes as strong as possible. I am currently accepting submissions for editing stories and manuscripts. For more information please visit my site Write Now. I offer prompt quality service you can trust!

4 Things to Know About Freelancers (Like Me)

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Image from Infoaedia

As you know recently I’ve really been pursuing freelance writing through my company Write Now (and I love every minute of it). But looking around I feel like there’s still a lot of misconceptions about freelancing and freelancers, especially in regards to the writing field. I know it’s a little weird to read a job post where someone like myself is offering to proofread for you. The knee jerk reaction there is “it’s just looking for typos. I can do that myself”. Yes. Yes you can. But you know what? You will never see things as objectively as a second set of eyes. So today I want to tell you about four things involving the freelance process.

1) There’s a lot of competition.

  It seems everyone and their brother is a freelancer nowadays. And it’s honestly refreshing; in a way it’s like the good ol’ days where everyone used a local service provider rather than a major company for everything. It keeps prices competitive and it gives you the client a better variety than hiring someone in-house and being stuck with them if they aren’t quite what you were looking for.

I recently found a client who asked if I was willing to provide a little further revision even though we’re past the due date, as well as do more work for her. I told her I would be thrilled to because I prefer to find a client that I like and keep them happy rather than hunt down a new lead. She loved my honesty and she can’t wait to send more work my way Wednesday.

2) You get what you pay for.

The downside of a bustling online freelance market is many clients want to pay the cheapest possible price. I understand that; working online there’s no travel costs. There’s no discussing things over a lunch or a cup of coffee. There are no physical inventory items being chewed up as it’s all typed out on a laptop. There are plenty of ways we cut costs doing what we do.

However, there are also a lot of freelancers from overseas who took an introductory English course and are offering to write your big academic research paper for $2. I’ve seen it time and time again where the client has already paid to have it written and then has to hire someone else like me to fix several pages worth of information. And the client is upset and angry because they are essentially paying twice to have the same paper written. Do yourself a favor, find someone professional who charges a fair price and use them. Someone like me who is a native English speaker with a Bachelor’s and lots of experience writing. You’ll save yourself a lot of headache later.

3) It’s a little intimidating at first.

You are discussing a job and pricing with a complete stranger via email. You are sending over documents/resumes/papers/manuscripts to someone you don’t even see, and I’m telling you how much it’s going to cost. Yeah, there’s a certain degree of anxiety on both sides that goes into discussing projects with potential clients.

It doesn’t have to be scary though. If you find someone who knows what they’re doing they will not only understand your needs but know approximately how long it will take to complete. I make sure both parties involved sign a dated agreement just to cover both of us. A good freelancer isn’t concerned with coming out on top, they’re concerned with developing a new business relationship.

4) Know what you want.

Nothing is more frustrating to both sides than when I give a price and begin work only to have the client tell me that they either got the project mixed up with another or the scope suddenly changed on them or they just simply felt like changing it. Prices were discussed, work was started, and now we’re both annoyed.

A good freelancer will keep his cool and roll with the punches. A good client will understand why they would need to adjust the price. Open and honest communication is key to making sure both sides get what they want.

I am now taking project submissions.

I have experience in writing academic research papers, proofreading and rewriting resumes, emails, and fliers, and rewriting training templates. I offer my services for academics, professionals, and creative writers. I am working on a novel of my own and I understand the writing and editing process. I am experienced in all three areas and I would love to write for you today! Visit www.writenowfl.com today and send me your projects. I offer fast professional work at competitive prices.

Part 2: 5 Things Your Good Guys Can Learn From Jedi

Welcome to Part 2 of my two part special on what your characters can learn from Star Wars! Part 1 was here, and it dealt with what your villains can learn from the Dark Side.

So first, what are the Jedi? The Jedi are the peaceful group of Force users in Star Wars who assist those in need. The recruit young and teach the ways of the Light Side of the Force. They are not controlled by any government but have a quasi-government themselves, with the most senior members forming a council that advises the rest of the Jedi Order on how to operate.

Welcome to Part 2 of my two part special on what your characters can learn from Star Wars! Part 1 was here, and it dealt with what your villains can learn from the Dark Side.

So first, what are the Jedi? The Jedi are the peaceful group of Force users in Star Wars who assist those in need. The recruit young and teach the ways of the Light Side of the Force. They are not controlled by any government but have a quasi-government themselves, with the most senior members forming a council that advises the rest of the Jedi Order on how to operate.

How are they similar and different from their evil counterparts, the Sith?

1) They surround themselves with people.

The Sith like to operate with only two members at a time, a Master and an Apprentice. This way they can stay hidden in a galaxy because it is like finding a needle in a haystack. The Jedi try to increase their numbers. Their headquarters in the prequel trilogy was on the busy planet Corusant, which is a singular giant city teeming with people and aliens. They are not necessarily outgoing people and are very reserved, but they do seem at home around others.

2) They resist negativity and the seduction of power.

As we learned last time the Dark Side is a pathway to achieve power faster through using anger and other passionate emotions, but it is not necessarily faster. True Jedi know this and resist the urge to fall to the Dark Side. This is why in Episode III we see Darth Sidious, who it is assumed that he has been trained in the Dark Side for a few decades, whose fight with Jedi Master Yoda, who is nearly 1,000, end in a stalemate. The Jedi prefer slow and steady to quicker and a corrupted body and mind.

3) The Jedi are spiritual.

As has been noted time after time, there are some very strong Buddhist overtures in Star Wars, or the very least the Jedi Order. In fact, this list points out 10 references in Episode I alone, and it’s easy to see that Yoda’s appearance was based on Master Buddhist Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche.

The Sith are more political; they want to enslave the galaxy and then put into place a military unit to keep them in power. The Jedi want to teach and protect. They do not use the Force as a weapon and they want to bring peace to the galaxy. They typically dress in simple beige or white robes, like a monk, and spend a great deal of time meditating and becoming one with the Force, which connects all life in the galaxy.

4) The Jedi are dogmatic in their belief.

The Jedi have a strict set of rules, and they do not tolerate deviation from them. They do not allow marriage or feelings of love or affection towards others. They do not allow anger or hate. They hold fast that they are the “good guys” even though much of the time they are seen as meddlers. They do not see that they can be viewed as a cult-like military that is not held accountable by any government entity. Basically, it would be like if the Church of Scientology had its own military force. Chances are they don’t want to start any trouble, but at the same time it would make a lot of folks nervous.

5) The Jedi are hypocritical.

The Jedi do a lot of great work for the galaxy. But they have a lot of rules that are frankly contradictory. Firstly, the statement that only a Sith deals in absolutes. This feels like a very firm line in the sand that could lead to paranoia in the group. Also, that statement feels very absolute. Not to mention that the Jedi have a lot of black and white rules that they love to pull.

The Jedi want balance, but wouldn’t balance include the Dark Side? Wouldn’t living in harmony with those who use the Dark Side be balance enough? No. They consider all Dark Side users evil, whether or not they truly are, and meet them to either convert them or kill them. Again, fairly absolute and not very peaceful.

Thirdly, they pick and choose when to become involved in the affairs of the galaxy, and it’s usually to their benefit. In Episode I we see Qui-Gon Jinn cheat his way to freeing Anakin from slavery, but does nothing to save his mother from the same fate all because Anakin would make a potentially good Jedi.

 

The Jedi are a group of protagonists who want the best for the galaxy but do have their flaws. And this makes them human. Take some of these notes and apply them where you can to your good guys, and thank the Maker later!

Happy writing and may the Force be with you!

Part 1: 6 Things the Dark Side Can Teach Your Villain

Right now with the opening of The Force Awakens Star Wars is everywhere. So since I touched on character development last week I figured I would do a two part series about lessons that can be applied to your “good guys” and your “bad guys”.

So if you don’t follow Star Wars, the Force is a god-like presence that exists that can be tapped into for super natural abilities. It is split into the Light Side and the Dark Side, which usually relates to a “good” and an “evil” use of it, although the Force itself is thought of as neutral.

Right now with the opening of The Force Awakens Star Wars is everywhere. So since I touched on character development last week I figured I would do a two part series about lessons that can be applied to your “good guys” and your “bad guys”.

So if you don’t follow Star Wars, the Force is a god-like presence that exists that can be tapped into for super natural abilities. It is split into the Light Side and the Dark Side, which usually relates to a “good” and an “evil” use of it, although the Force itself is thought of as neutral.

The bad guys, the Sith, are the anti-good guys, the polar opposite of the Jedi. Their Code is the opposite of the Jedi’s code:

Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.

As you can tell, they don’t play nice. Especially when they create an imperial fascist government that enslaves every man, woman, child, and creature in the galaxy. They are obsessed with power and they don’t care how they come to it. But they also go a little deeper than that.

  1. Dark Side users do not think of themselves as evil

Good is a point of view, Anakin.” The Sith honestly see the Jedi as evil. They don’t necessarily see themselves as good, but they don’t see the Jedi as a source of good in the galaxy. This is a good perspective for your big bad. Maybe he thinks he is a good guy. Maybe he thinks that the good guys are just like him, and thus need to be destroyed so that no one stands in his way. Or maybe they’re just obsessed with more power.

 2. The Dark Side is not more powerful, but they believe that it is

“Is the Dark Side stronger?”
“No. No. No. Quicker. Easier. More seductive.”

If your story involves powers, good and evil is going to come up. And honestly, evil powers have always been flashier. Heck, in Star Wars Force Lightning looks way cooler than Force Push. This is a bit of a trope. Even in Harry Potter the more sinister spells look cooler than spells used to levitate feathers or repair glasses or share memories in some weird messed up meta Facebook-like post of pulling them out of your skull and handing them to someone. Seriously, that’s sort of messed up if you think about it. So it’s up to you if you want to continue the trend of “bad” powers looking cooler than “good powers” or if you want to tweak that formula. But if you’re going to continue a trope, you need to have a reason. It can’t look cool just because. Justify it.

But underlying the nature of the Dark Side shows the traits of your villain. They crave power and they want it faster. The Dark Side is not stronger, *but* gaining power through it cuts out the pesky few decades of hard work and dedication to the Light Side for an equal amount of power. They want to fall to the seduction of evil. They want a means that leads to an end faster. In Episode III Anakin falls to the Dark Side to save his wife. But does he really, or is it just a matter of gaining power for selfish reasons, and that is a lie he tells himself? These sorts of questions, these self doubts, help grow your villain past just being bad.

3. The Dark Side corrupts its user

Palpatine states that he looks the way he does after becoming disfigured by an assassination attempt by the Jedi. But it is actually his true corrupted nature of giving his body and mind fully to the Dark Side of the Force. Using the Force for evil corrupts its user. This is seen time and time again in fiction; the one ring left Smeagol looking like a washed up naked mole rat when he himself used to be a Hobbit. Having the body and mind decay from the use of evil helps show just how far someone is willing to fall just to gain power. It also shows how dangerous the power they are using is, and how dangerous they have become.

 4. Fear is a major factor

“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

This could be the progression of an protagonist or an antagonist. How did they wind up being the person they are today? What series of events befell them to make them this way? Why are they so hurt and angry? Why are they obsessed with whatever it is that they are chasing after? It does not have to be explicitly stated, but having this backstory will help shape them.

5. They have a vendetta against the “good guys”

The Sith truly believe that the Jedi are the one enslaving the galaxy and they will stop at nothing to kill them all. Even the Younglings. They are driven by a constant fear of being overruled and losing all the power that they have gained. Will your hero be able to match their viciousness? How far are you willing to push your bad guys? What are the consequences of their actions, and do they care? Which brings me to my final point:

6. They do not value life

Usually being evil in Star Wars is a very dangerous job, usually leading to swapping out some, if not all, of your body parts for machinery. Going to the Dark Side ultimately means giving up all humanity. And not to mention how the Dark Side treats other living things. I mean, Vader blew up an entire planet just to call a bluff. If you needed any proof that Vader is Space Hitler, this is it.

The Dark Side provides some great character details and flaws for a villain, fallen hero, or antihero. They are evil with a purpose and have no qualms about corrupting their own body and giving up their humanity just to gain some cool flashy powers. Use these lessons well, but do not fall to the call yourself.

May the Force be with you. And if you enjoy these posts, please like, comment, and share!