It is commonly said, “You cannot please everyone.” Writers know this too. We know that no matter the quality of something, someone will pick it apart. Someone will think the product is trash and does not deserve to be published.Sometimes this attitude comes from genuine critiques. The truth is, we are imperfect people that create imperfect works. The hope for a writer is to produce something that is as close to perfect as possible. Human bias also plays a big role. I do not understand book reviews from people who admit “I typically do not read this genre, and I did not like this book.” Or something along those lines. If you do not like a genre (and subsequently the book), then why bother writing a review?
I intellectually knew that there would be people that are impossible to please when I released my stuff to the world. There are going to be people who do not understand why I include certain elements and exclude others. A great example would be including a modern-like dialect in Goandria that uses medieval technology. I have talked about this here in great depth. Often people assume that fantasy has to include certain things, one of which is more formal dialogue. Why is that? If a book in a certain genre does not fit the clichés for that genre, it is called out. If the book follows the clichés of that genre, it is called out for being too cliché. I find it fascinating that people cry out for something different, but when they get it, they complain. This goes back to my original thought. You cannot please everyone because people are often difficult to please.
I am finding that since I cannot please everyone, I take constructive criticism very seriously, but I leave the rest be, and I suggest that other aspiring writers do the same.
As a writer, and one whose native language is English, I have found the hashtag movement on social media to be about as pleasant as listening to nails scratch on a chalkboard over and over. In a world where text messaging has degraded the English language and cursive is no longer taught in schools, the use of hashtags on social media just compounds the annoyance for me. Yet, in order for my posts and my works to continue to be seen by a growing audience, I have caved in to the abhorrent hashtags and hopped on the bandwagon.
I tried really hard not to give in. I really did. Every fiber of my being screamed out at me, “DON’T DO IT!” Because hashtags do not use spaces or punctuation, they seem silly and difficult to read, especially the long ones. Part of my problem is that I already struggle with using proper grammar. Yes, I am a writer, and grammar does not come easy for me, but I see the value in it, and intentionally abusing the English language on social media is a step backward in my opinion. However, getting my posts seen on Twitter or Facebook is a whole lot more difficult without using the hashtag system. I caved in the end. Much like blogging, even though I do not like it much, hashtags are pretty important as an author, even if I do find them ridiculous.
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I have written a little about this topic before. In the previous posts, I explain what I like to see in fantasy races and how I try to make mine different from others. This time I would like to explore the creative process of developing a new race of beings for Goandria.
The challenge I find is that a new race needs to be both familiar and fresh at the same time. If people cannot relate to a new race or are not captivated by the societies, they will not care. It is important to forge race groups to have special characteristics, but not all the same. Most would agree that humans have similar characteristics, but each person has his or her own worldview and personality that brings something unique to that individual.
Here is an example from Goandria: The ferrorian people are quirky and odd with an overall immaturity. They are much like children. However, a few (such as their leader) are calm, wise, and very intelligent.
In Visions of War (the novel that follows The Schism) I add more beings, such as the katzians and sala. Good fiction creates well-rounded races, and sometimes these new peoples only appear for a short amount of time. The trick is for the author to imply a depth and richness within the race without having to go into great detail on each one. Of course, this method can only work so much, and some people groups will naturally be better-rounded than others. When writing, everything must have a purpose, and determining the purpose of new fantasy creatures can be problematic.
I often have exciting new ideas about different creatures, but characters often lead the story more than the writer does, and more often than not, I cannot show a new creature or civilization in-depth at all. I aim to have character-driven fantasy, but sometimes that makes it difficult to show just how large and rich Goandria really is because doing so will not fit well into the character’s lives. Someday, perhaps after a couple novels, the scope and diversity of Goandria will be revealed in more depth than it is today.
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Have you ever written a paper in High School or College that you feel was excellent, but the title was an elusive monster that just would not reveal itself? I have, especially on those assignments that allowed me to pick my own topic. Worse yet, when I was required to do a creative assignment, it had to have an engaging title. What is an engaging title? That seems rather subjective … well sort of.
Obviously, being a novelist, I love creative writing. Writing is in my very soul, but titles on the other hand … titles are hard. I’m not here to say that I have become an expert at it either. Just know that if you struggle in this area, you are not alone.
As an author, it is my responsibility to grab a reader’s attention. The first things a person sees on a book are the cover and the title. These are two of the most important elements of a book. If a cover or title is not attracting attention, no one will care to read the summary. If the summary isn’t read, the book probably won’t be read either. There is a lot of pressure to get the titles just right, and that is something I am still trying to figure out.
One thing I have found helpful is to bounce ideas off a friend or family member. Often, they help me come up with ideas I had never thought about.
I have written previous blogs on inspiration, and in some ways this is a continuation of that thought. One of the most powerful sources of inspiration for me is nature. The inherent beauty of forests or grasslands, the night sky, and a beautiful sunny day are inspiring in and of themselves.
Nature is pure and raw beauty, and a glimpse of an even greater beauty, one that is not fathomable. One of the richest experiences for me is walking through the woods at night. There is such awe and wonder in this that it fuels my creativity in ways movies, television, and even books cannot. If I am in an area where I can get a good look at the night sky, I like to ponder the vastness of not only our galaxy but of the universe itself and all the mysteries we have yet to discover or will never know.
It is this wonder and awe that I find so easy to translate into speculative fiction. There is always something more for humanity to learn, and nature reminds me of that every day.