Mrs. Hudson; or, Make Everyone Matter

If one were to bring up Mrs. Hudson in conversation, what would you presume we were talking about?

I hope you’d think of Sherlock Holmes, since there are very view (perhaps no)  interpretations of Sherlock Holmes that fail to include Mrs. Hudson. Yet most of the time she is not vital to the plot. So what role does she play as a side character?

We’re going to look at Mrs. Hudson and other “famous” minor characters to find the reasons why side & minor characters are important to your story. Continue reading

Progress Report

Or: A Retrospective on My Writing Journey

Nearly a decade after starting my first “real” story (i.e. the first one I realized I wanted to finish, no matter what), I am still not finished with a complete draft. That might be depressing to some who aspire to finish their newest tale in under a year, but I knew when I started that I was undertaking a large task in attempting it: the story includes an enormous cast of characters, creating their world from the ground up, setting up a history of at least two hundred years, putting political systems in place (and the different monarchs use very different systems of ruling!!), learning about military campaigns…. The list never really ends, and the stories of minor characters have moved beyond my control, so that now when I mention it to friends in-the-know, I lovingly call it “The Epic.”

I didn’t set out to spend ten years trying to write the thing ( I probably would have balked at even starting if I’d known!) At the time, I wrote to keep myself awake through long midnight shifts at my job. The story grew out of an idea for fanfiction that quickly passed the bounds of those characters, and as I begin coming up with their names and feeling out their story, I realized that I had something unique, and for the first time started to consider myself a writer, and not just someone who liked to write. Continue reading

Becoming An Expert (The Writer’s Way)

How many times have you heard “write what you know”? It’s good advice – to a point. Because if everyone only wrote what they knew, we’d have no space odysseys, no dragons, no magical words, no elves or dwarves or krakens… and we’d be poorer for it.

So where does one draw the line between what you “should” write and what you can write? I’d say there isn’t a line, and if you’ve been limiting yourself, STOP! If you can make your readers want to enter the world you’ve written, no matter how unrealistic or crazy, then you’ve still succeeded in writing something good (i.e. interesting). You don’t need to be an expert in fighting to write a fight scene, or on trains to write about your characters taking a train ride. Same goes for flying on the back of a dinosaur, or piloting a ship through outer space – if you can make it interesting and immersive for your readers, only a few are going to nitpick the details. ♦  Continue reading

Marissa Meyer, the Renegades Series Tour, & Tips for the Writer

I know, I know; The Lunar Chronicles should probably be talked about first when it comes to Marissa Meyer’s books, but that series would need a whole set of posts to cover (which I am tempted to do!) But I got to attend an author event for Archenemies last month while she was on tour promoting it, so we’re taking tips from that talk instead!

First off, I must mention Archenemies, the 2nd book of the Renegades trilogy. How does her second series hold up to the first (The Lunar Chronicles)?   Continue reading

What To Do In That Post-Conference Glow

It’s Conference Season, Pen Friends! If you’ve ever been to a writer’s conference, you know the wonder and the crazy exhaustion and overwhelm that come as a result of being immersed in a gathering of a couple hundred (or more) writer friends.

I just got back from Realm Makers in St. Louis, and as I myself am feeling the end-of-conference feels, I thought I’d share this #throwback post for you in case anyone else is going to be conferencing soon (or if any of my fellow Realmies need a boost as they readjust to real life).

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My Favorite Villain: Making the Bad Guy

“We often find the hero and villain have the same goal, but are using different methods to reach it.”

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That quote was used in a panel of writers talking about anti-heroes and villains at the annual North Texas Teen Book Festival. All the authors had one thing in common: they’d written tales with the villain – an anti-hero – as the protagonist. They explored the reasons why they had chosen to write stories from the “bad guy’s” point of view, and went over their favorite villains and anti-heroes.

I have two favorite “villains” about whom the above quote happens to be true. One is from a book series, and one is from an anime. *spoilers ahead!* Not every villain has to share a goal or vision with the hero, but oftentimes adding comedic (or tragic) irony to the conflict in your story causes it to have greater depth and complexity.

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How to Lower Your Word Count

I recently took a 2-3 month break from my novel and wrote short stories. Why? For one, my novel needed to sit for a bit. But more importantly, writers should always expand their skillset. While I don’t claim to be a Poe or Hemmingway, I have learned a lot about the craft from my stint as a short story author. Not just about short stories, but about novels as well.

(NOTE: This was going to cover all the things I learned from short stories, but it turns out there is just too much to fit in one blog. So we’ll just cover one topic)

Brevity (being brief) is key to any good short story. Trying to fit an entire plot in the span of 500-5,000 words is quite a challenge, especially coming from a guy who wrote a 141k word first draft (that’s me if you haven’t guessed). Novelists just do that sometimes. We ramble.

This is a guide to cutting down your word count!

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What I’ve Learned from Querying so Far- A Guest Post by Jessica Jade

Pen Friends, welcome Jessica Jade, a fabulous addition to the Spinning Pen. She’ll be joining us for a few months, sharing her journey on becoming an author — tips on writing, querying, YA fantasy, rejection, success, book reviews, and more! You’ll want to connect with her on twitter (link below) and see her beautiful novel aesthetics on her YA fantasy that she’s querying at the moment!

~~Welcome Jessica~~

When I first started querying over two years ago, I thought I was ready—the manuscript, the query letter, everything.

Oh, I was wrong. Embarrassingly wrong.

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