Tips and Tricks, writing

Quick Tip #11

Writing a villain?

Within the first meeting, include these three things to make them terrifying but utterly compelling to readers.

  1. A dangerous or “evil” conviction they hold and why
  2. Something they have lost as a result
  3. Something/someone they love (not obsessed, that’s different) or care about deeply (people are generally best but it still works with objects)

 

prompts, writing

Story Prompt #17

Long ago, two kingdoms reigned. One was full of snow and ice, the other full of flowers and sunlight. The people were distant from one another. But, on the border of the two kingdoms, things were just a little bit different…

landscape nature night relaxation

Please use this story prompt and photo to inspire your own creative short story. Submit a copy of your story by emailing me at rachelsmithwriting@gmail.com for a chance to be published!

Tips and Tricks, writing

5 Tips for Making and Maintaining a Writing Schedule

Writing isn’t easy. I think most writers will agree with me. Some days, words seem to fly from your fingers and other times, you stare at the screen blankly. I get it. One of the best ways to combat that is to have some sort of writing schedule. Now, this should be extremely customizable to your lifestyle and schedule, but it needs to exist. Or else, you may find next week that you haven’t looked at your writing once in the past seven days.

Here are my five tips for making and then maintaining your schedule.

 

1. Put it on the calendar

This one may seem simple, but it can have a great impact. Sit down with your planner, google calendar, phone, whatever it is and find the times where you have free time. Whether it is for a half hour or three hours, put it in as an event. By making it something physically scheduled, you’ll be less likely to forget or ignore it.

 2. Tell others about it

One of the leading causes of distraction can be other people. And it may just be that they don’t realize what is going on. Make sure the people around you know what you’re doing and that it’s important to you. If they know that from 9-10 am, you’re writing, they won’t bother you (hopefully). But if you don’t tell them, they won’t know! Plus, it’ll create some great accountability on top of being distraction-free.

3. Be realistic

If you haven’t written in a long time, planning to write for five hours straight is probably not feasible. Know your limits. Schedule an hour or two and gauge from that. If you set your goals unrealistically in the beginning, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment which can lead to completely forgoing any schedule. Instead, set your goals conservatively and then you can expand from there as you see your capacity.

4. Outline your time

There should always be flexibility in your writing schedule, but it can be extremely helpful to have a general outline of what you want to do. Every week, I try to write a to-do list of things I want to accomplish. “Write four chapters of The Lightbringer”, “write a short story about Asena“, “journal twice”, “write a story from a prompt“. Things like that can help me have focus and allow me to check things off, which can be extremely motivational!

5. Don’t edit

This can be one of the most detrimental things to a writing schedule. If you are not to the editing stage (completely finished your first draft), editing simply is a rabbit trail that you can get lost down. You’ll spend hours fixing this one thing, that leads to the next and suddenly its been a month since you’ve written anything. Finish writing your first draft before you edit. Editing will be necessary then, but if you don’t have the bones to work with, you’re just rearranging things and not writing! Often times, editing prematurely can end with a half finished book that never sees the light of day or a final chapter.

 

I hope these helped. If you have any ideas, please share them in the comments below. If you’re looking for more Tips and Tricks, check out some of my other articles!

Original Work, WordSmith Musings, writing

Twisted Tales: Writing a Fairy Tale

The classic fairy tales we grew up with have a place inside my heart. I love them and I’ve really come to love the new renditions of them in twisted tales. Some of my favorites include The Lunar Chronicles, Beastly, Spinning Silver, and Ella Enchanted.

They each tell tales we have heard before, but they continue to surprise and delight despite us knowing a vague outline of the plot. That feels even more masterful to me sometimes than normal writing.

In light of this, I’ve recently begun to create my own twisted tale based off from the classic tale of Rapunzel and the less classic version, Tangled. I have a propensity for strong female leads in my stories and Flora, a sweet young girl with hair that grows as she wills, has a strong heart and will have to learn to be more than she ever dreamed possible if she wants to escape the palace holding her prisoner. Caught in an epic battle between two countries, a prophecy, and two cocky princes, Flora and that magical hair of hers will turn the tides of war.

I haven’t gotten too far into the story, just an outline and a few chapters, but already I’m loving Flora. She loves feeling beautiful and yet hates being stared at by the thuggish men of court. She is strong enough to stand up for herself but needs help to learn that she’s strong enough to believe in herself too.

I’m currently still working out who our handsome prince will be. Besides a few quick lines, he’s mostly a vague imprint right now as Flora has yet to meet him. I want him to be fitting for a young, overly-confident prince who rides into danger and wants to rescue the damsel. But he has no idea what rescuing actually entails and that the damsel is a strong woman who isn’t swooning at the thought of his help. I’m sure that will have many great character building moments for me to choose from.

So begins my very own twisted tale. I’ll post excerpts once I have a bit more and I’ll let you know my progress.

Are there any twisted fairy-tales you really love? Or are you writing one of your own? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday Story Segment, writing

Hero : Asena Ch. 13

Feel free to check out the earlier chapters of Asena first. 

 

“What are you doing here?” I asked. My eyes were wide and my hands balled into fists. This could not be happening. Not now. 

“Can’t I just stop by?” he asked, his charming grin that had let him pull a thousand cons sliding into place. He looked older but not by much. His hair was still full and wavy. The deep black color struck a handsome contrast to his pale skin. His eyes seemed even darker, but he looked healthy enough. He wore a button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up and his black pea coat was draped over his arm. 

“No, you can’t,” I retorted, crossing my arms and sitting down. 

“It’s good to see you too, princess,” he said and slid into the chair Marlene had just left. I flinched at the pet name and dug my fingernails into my palm. I didn’t want him to see any kind of reaction. 

“I thought you were out in New Hampshire?” I asked, trying to catch him off guard. 

Instead, he smiled broadly. “Checking up on me?”

“Making sure you’re not hurting innocent people. Like that widow five years ago,” I said cooly. 

“You really have been keeping tabs on me,” he said and leaned back. He hung his coat on the arm rest and crossed his legs. I straightened mine, realizing I was mirroring his position. 

“Nope,” I answered. “But I did have a run-in with your former partner who thought I’d make a decent ransom to get the money you conned him out of.”

“What?” he asked, his smile gone. “If he laid a finger on you–”

“I can handle myself,” I said, cutting him off. “I’ve already dealt with it.” Huh, I thought. If that wasn’t what had brought him through my door, I wasn’t sure what else it could be. 

“That’s my girl.”

“I’m not your girl anymore,” I spat out. I unclenched my fist a few times and slowed my breathing while he stared at me with a small sad frown tugging at his lips. 

“You will always be my baby girl, I don’t care how much you grow up,” he finally said.

“What are you doing here?” I asked. I held my hands tightly together to avoid fidgeting.

“I wanted to see you. And see this new business you’ve got,” he said, smiling as he glanced around the room. “How many clients do you have?”

“Enough.”

“Any exciting jobs?”

“Nothing really,” I said and narrowed my eyes at him. 

“C’mon, there has to be something. Fill your old man in.”

It clicked as I realized what he was fishing for. He wanted Marlene for his next mark. “I’m gonna kill him,” I said, my nostrils flaring. There was only one way he would know I was working with her. 

“What?” Harold asked, and for a second it finally looked like I had thrown him off his game. 

“When did you see him? How long has he known you were coming?”

“I don’t know what–”

“Don’t you protect Danny. He had no right to tell you about my life!”

“You always were clever,” he said, frowning. “But don’t blame the boy. He’s always been an easy one to con. It sounds like I’m not the only one who’s been doing it. He told me about your meeting in the jail. I don’t think you were really looking for info on me, were you, princess?”

“Get out of my office,” I said quietly. 

“Princess,” he drawled.

“GET OUT!” I stood up, knocking the chair back. 

The door to the office slammed open, making both of us jump. Marlene stood in the doorway, her hair wild and her eyes big. Her cell phone was in her left hand and a canister of mace was in the other. She glared at Harold as if he was pure evil. 

“If you don’t leave right now, I’ll call the police and have you thrown in jail for trespassing.” Her voice shook slightly but she stood her ground. 

Harold blinked, wide eyed and stunned for a moment. 

I tried to stop smiling but couldn’t. Marlene looked like an avenging angel and Harold was more surprised than I had ever seen him. 

“You heard the lady,” I said, chuckling lightly. “Out you go.”

He turned to look at me and slowly got out of his chair. “I’ll be back, princess. I’m sticking around for a bit. Someone needs to watch out for you.”

“Someone already is,” I said and was surprised that I meant it. I looked over at Marlene and threw her a grateful smile. She gave me a tense one in return. 

“Huh,” he said and swung his arms into his coat. He gave Marlene a long look as she let him pass out the door. Once he was down the hallway a bit, she ran to the door and slammed it shut, locking it behind her. 

“Are you okay?:” she asked. She stared at me as I giggled slightly. “Are you in shock? Should I slap you?”

That sobered me a bit and I shook my head. 

“Marlene, you just met my dad.”

“Oh,” she said and guilt flooded her face. “I thought…”

“You were amazing. But what are you doing here? I thought you left?” She flopped back on the couch on the far side of the room and I walked over, sitting next to her. 

“He was in the hallway when I left. He seemed to be waiting for me to leave and I was pretty sure he had a gun in his coat pocket when he took it off. I rounded the corner and then waited outside after he went in to make sure you were okay.”

I opened my mouth to say something and realized I had no idea what to say. Though she had been wrong about me being in danger, she had just rushed in to save my life armed with nothing but a close range spray and a phone against a gun. 

“You didn’t have to do that,” I said quietly.

“I know,” she said emphatically. “But whether you like it or not, you’re my friend. And friends look out for each other. You’re stuck with me.” She crossed her arms and looked at me sternly, waiting to hear my disagreement. 

I was pretty sure Harold didn’t have a single person who would have done the same for him. 

“Partner and friend? That’s a lot, but I guess I can make it work.” I said with a small smile. Olive branches were pretty new to me but I must have done it right, because she shrieked and hugged me tightly. 

“That doesn’t mean I take back what I did,” I said, detangling myself. “But I’ll let you know next time.

“I’ll take what I can get,” she said with a laugh. “Do you think you’re dad is gonna hate me now?” She bit her lip.

I laughed out loud. “That was probably the best first impression you could have given him.”

Sunday Story Segment, writing

Bluffing : Asena Ch. 12

The next chapter in Asena is here and the spunky detective has some surprises in store for her! It has been a while since the latest update so feel free to check out the earlier chapters of Asena first. 

 

My office usually felt like a second home. I had slept here many nights and I could walk around it blindfolded. 

Today it felt a lot less like home.

“How dare you do something so risky without telling me?!” Marlene barked. She resumed her pacing, slowly wearing down my carpet in front of my desk. I was plopped in my chair behind the desk, attempting to act as if what she was saying was rolling off my shoulders. 

Instead, all I could think of was how my father had betrayed every partner he had. 

“I get you didn’t like our plan,” Marlene said, stopping in front of me. Her coat and gloves were discarded on the chair she had flung herself out of after hearing of my trip to the police department. She was in a flouncy green dress with crimson tights on that nearly matched her hair. “But we’re partners,” she said, her lip trembling more than it had been as she was raging. She sat back down and took a few deep breaths. 

“I’m sorry,” I stressed. “I just didn’t want you to get hurt. And I had to move fast.”

“Texting takes like two seconds,” she said. She crossed her arms in front of her. “You didn’t need to put yourself in danger.” I resisted the urge to laugh. She had planned to deal with some big nasty criminals with nothing but a handful of money to keep her safe. Yet when I go in to a single criminal who was already behind bars that I had a great deal of leverage on, she gets upset.

“I was safe,” I stressed. “He never would have hurt me while he thought I had the tape.”

“But you were bluffing!” she said, her voice raising.

“Marlene,” I said, my voice dropping. “This is the world I live in. It isn’t safe. It isn’t an adventure or some fun mystery novel. People get hurt, and I will put myself in danger if I need to. I’ll do what I have to to get a job done. And that bluff worked. Trust me, I know what I’m doing.” 

“You waved an old Maroon 5 CD at him,” she said, throwing her hands up in the air. 

I stared at her, my arms crossed. 

She stared back, her bottom lip stuck out in defiance. 

“What did Danny say to this plan?” she asked. 

I bit my lip. I hadn’t even realized she’d paid enough attention to Danny to even remember his name. But the smirk on her face told me she thought she’d won a point. 

“Danny helped me, that’s all that matters.”

“Did he even know?” She was annoyingly perceptive, and I remembered again why I had agreed to let her help. She was good at getting a read on people, which meant I needed to be a lot more careful around her. 

I put on a sweet smile as I answered. “Danny knew plenty. He may have not been thrilled with the idea, but do you really think he’d let anyone go in there if it wasn’t safe?” She frowned as she thought about it. “And speaking of, I had the whole of the police department around me. Nothing was going to happen and I have complete assurance that nothing will happen. And, now I don’t have to worry that my friends are going to get themselves killed on a fanciful idea.”

“Friends?” Marlene asked after a moment, a half smile curling her lip. 

“Associates,” I corrected as if I didn’t care. What was I doing? I was getting way too close to her. Even Emmett was blurring the line of friend and informant. 

I sighed loudly. “It’s probably best if you left. I have another case I need to do some background reading on and the quiet would help.” 

She stood and gathered her coat. Her eyes darted around the office and finally landed on me again. “You can lie to me all you want. You’re good at it, but I figured out your tell.” She stalked out of the room, leaving a whisp of sweet perfume in the air. 

It felt like she had taken all the energy out of the room too. I slumped in my chair and leaned my head against my palm. 

She was right, I didn’t have another case. I had a few people I could call or email back but nothing that sounded worth it. I just couldn’t deal with this weird sense of guilt that kept rising as she sat there, concern seeping into every annoyed word of hers. I didn’t do guilt. I avoided the feeling as much as possible and if I couldn’t, I would avoid the person who reminded me of it. It’s why I hadn’t seen Danny in months. And it certainly was why I didn’t want to see Marlene. 

I should read up the names that Bernie had given me, but even that didn’t interest me. 

“Ahh,” I growled. I stood up, pushing my chair back forcefully. “I’m better than this. I don’t need anyone!” I shouted to myself, my breath coming out ragged.

“Well, I hope you still need your old man,” a voice said quietly from the doorway. 

“Dad?”

WordSmith Musings, writing

Looking for an affordable and experienced editor for your novel?

Writing is a long and difficult process. So when you make it to the end and finally have a finished draft of your novel, there will be a huge sense of relief…and confusion. What does the next step look like? Now that you’ve got this done, how do you keep going?

Most likely, you want to get that novel published, whether through a traditional publishing company or using the various self-publication methods available. Either way, the next step needs to be finding an editor.

Before your work of art can go on to publishing, you will need someone to go through your manuscript to spot any inconsistencies in plot, character, and themes. You need someone willing to work with you to polish your novel and help it become a finished product ready to head on towards the world of publishing!

As an editor, I have a simple but effective process. I always believe you should begin with an initial read-through. Get a sense of the entire novel before you start in with a red pen. Once that’s been completed, I open the manuscript in GoogleDocs or some other similar platform to be able to leave clear comments in the margins that the author can actually read. I also create a document outside of the manuscript that categorizes my comments for the ease of the author. After that, I like to sit down one-on-one (in person or over video chat) to discuss my recommendations. I never want to tell you what you must do and any point should be a conversation. By the end, I want you to feel that you understand my critiques and feel confident moving forward.

If you are interested in having your book edited, please reach out below. I want to make sure everyone is able to create their masterpiece so I am able to work with each author individually on pricing.

I look forward to reading some fabulous manuscripts!

Sunday Story Segment, writing

Asena Ch. 11: Information

Hello dear readers. It’s been a while since we’ve dived into Asena’s life. Here’s a quick recap of the first ten chapters. After discovering Francis, the thief who stole from Marlene, dead at his hotel, Marlene proves that she has great observational skills and deduces it was murder. With a solid lead that someone with access to a deadly form of a drug was involved, they hatched a risky plan to pose as buyers, putting Marlene’s money, and possibly life, at risk. Asena, terrified of someone getting hurt and worried that she has lost control of her operation, searches for other ways to find out the info they so desperately need. 

 

 

Danny had been completely understanding when I had asked to see Bernie before he was released. I felt a twinge of guilt as I descended the cold concrete steps in the police station. During pizza, I had caved and told him that I didn’t think Francis’ death was an accident. He wasn’t surprised since that seemed to be where the investigation was leading and he had felt bad for not letting me know sooner. 

“I just figured I’d give you a day or two of relative safety before you start poking your nose around,” he had answered with a sheepish grin. 

If only Marlene hadn’t been so curious. But that smile, his concern for me that literally radiated out of his actions, forced my mouth closed. I couldn’t tell him about Emmett and our incredibly risky plan. And because of that, I couldn’t explain exactly why I needed to talk to the criminal in his jail cell. 

So I had told him that Bernie had talked about  my father and that it had been nagging me. He had been in town and didn’t see me or try to reach out or anything. I wanted to know why he had come back. 

I felt a little better, knowing that it wasn’t a lie. I did want to know, but I never would have stood to be near Bernie again if it didn’t keep Emmett and Marlene out of danger. 

The jail cells were nearly empty, one person in the first one dozing on the bed in a pair of slacks and a dress shirt. I kept walking till I hit the last cell where Bernie sat, reading a book. He looked up at the sound of footsteps and his eyes widened.

“What the hell are you doing here?” His eyes were clear and despite having been in jail since the fight, he looked much cleaner and more put together. 

“Hi Bernie,” I replied, my mouth quirking. 

“You shouldn’t be here,” he said, closing his book. 

“I’ve come for some information,” I said, leaning close. I tried to stay relaxed, arms open and my breathing steady. 

“Information?” He laughed loudly, echoing off the walls. “What kind of information? Where the best cupcakes are in town?” His condescending voice ate at me and I took another steadying breath so I didn’t lash out. 

“I need info about something a little more sensitive,” I replied. “Like where you would find a pure form of cocaine.”

His eyes widened and his forehead wrinkled, causing the dirt from the past nights to crease. 

“Damn, you really are following in your father’s footsteps,” he replied, whistling. “And why would you think I’d know where you can find that?”

“Because I know that the police believe you to be in contact with pretty much every drug runner in the area. You are very influential when it comes to this kind of thing, apparently.”

He grinned, sitting up a little straighter. “Well, that’s flattering. But if I knew anything, do you really think I’d talk to the little girl who tazed me when I was drunk and who’s daddy ripped me off?”

“C’mon,” I cajoled. “This is business. Don’t drag the personal in.”

“Business?” Bernie’s nostrils flared as he raised his voice. “Your father screwed me over in business. Don’t think you’re getting any help from me.” He shook his head, crossing his arms as leaned back.

“My father didn’t screw you over,” I answered slowly. If I didn’t play this well, I could be in a serious amount of trouble. “But I know he could. And I can too, if you force me.”

“What are you talking about?” he asked, his eyes slits.

“He always does the same thing, each con,” I replied. I slipped a CD out of my purse, holding it up for him to see. “It’s why you never ratted him out. Mutually assured destruction.”

Bernie looked pale as he stared at the CD.

“How did you get that?”

“Dad always left a copy in our safe deposit box,” I answered, slipping it back in my purse. His eyes watched it hungrily and he stood up, his legs ready to pounce if I gave him the chance. 

“You can’t give that to the cops,” he said, shaking his head as if to dispel the notion physically. “Your old man is on there as much as me.”

“Yes,”I said, as if I was thinking it over. “But in case you didn’t notice, we don’t get along very well. A stint in prison could be good for him. Maybe straighten him out.”

“Liar,” he breathed. “You’d never send your father to jail.” He clenched the bars, now only a few feet from me. I took a step back, just in case he did decide to lunge.

“I know what’s on this video. You scammed a poor, old woman out of so much money. You are both scum and I would happily turn you in. People who do terrible things like this deserve to be in jail,” I spat. My fists were clenched and I leaned back quickly, realizing I was within grabbing distance from the bars. 

Thankfully, my outburst had caused Bernie to back up. His fingers were fidgeting with his shirt and his eyes kept darting from me to my purse.

“If I tell you, you’ll destroy that and all other copies?” he asked. He scratched his face.

“No,” I retorted. “Do you think I’m stupid? I know the people you deal with, I wouldn’t make it out of the parking lot. No, I will not turn in the video. Though there is someone who has a copy, and if I ever go missing or something unfortunate occurs, this will go out. Plus, Harold would kill you.”

He rubbed his arm and his chest heaved as he thought about it. “What did you need to know?”

“Who has the ability to sell a pure form of cocaine? Something that could cause an overdose from one usage?”

“An OD with one use?” He scratched his chin, staring far away at a corner of the cell. “ I mean, there could be lots of sources.”

“Narrow it down. C’mon, who do you think would make a sell like that?”

“Calm down, girl, give me a second.” I huffed my impatience, happy to see a small smirk lift his lip. He liked being able to annoy me.

“Wilson Helston works off from Ninth and Praline, he could do something like that,” he mused. “Or maybe Henry Fauston. Actually,” he drug out the word and I sighed again for good measure. “Jeffery Mugson, he’s got a good connection with his suppliers, he’d be able to find some very discreetly. If I needed something done like that, I’d go to him.”

“Thank you,” I said. “Now, I don’t want us to be hostile, even if you did try to ransom me back to my father. I’m not the kind of person to hold something like this over you. Please don’t see me as your enemy.” 

He spat out some laughter and shook his head.

“What you’re doing, girl, that’s called blackmail. I may not be your enemy, but that is a sure-fire way to make them. Be careful, those drug dealers aren’t as kind and sweet as me.”

I smirked back at him. “Last time we met, you got tasered and I walked away. Trust me, I can take care of myself.”

He let out a chuckle. “You’re bold, I’ll give you that. Definitely Harold’s brat. But if I get one word that that disk has been seen by the cops, I’m going to be much less friendly. You got that?”

I stared him down, my fists curling. “I keep my word, Bernie. I am not Harold.”

“No,” he said, shaking his head with a half smile. “You aren’t. But you could do well to be a bit more like him if you’re getting into this world.”

WordSmith Musings, writing

Learning to Write Again

I’ve been writing for years, so the idea of teaching myself the habit of writing seemed ridiculous. But, that is currently the dilemma I’m facing. As any author knows, writing changes over your lifetime. There are times where you can sit down and write for eight hours straight. And then there’s times where you fit in five minutes every week.

I’m getting off a season of life that was the latter. I went from stealing away time to having almost two hours every day and more to write.

And suddenly, my fingers froze.

Do you know that feeling? It’s not quite writer’s block. I know what I want to write and even, shockingly, how to start. But diving in, immersing myself, feeling the keys beneath my fingers and letting myself sit in the world I create is intimidating.

So I’ve been slowly learning to write again. It starts with just a little bit. A page, a paragraph. I even reread the last few pages I wrote just to ground myself, whatever helps ease me in. I sit down, limit my distractions, and write. Write even when my brain is jumping to the list of chores I still need to do or what I want to pack for lunch or how loud the neighbor’s lawn mower is this morning (which is very, in case you’re wondering). I write even when it’s hard. Because deep down, I know that writing is my passion. My husband can attest, I will go on and on about my characters and my world. I love it.

And yet, I’m relearning it. Teaching myself to put in the time, put the effort in. I have a cup of coffee, some wordless music, and I write. And, word by word, I’m learning how to write again.

Have any of you felt like this? Do you have any tips or tricks that help when writing becomes hard or it’s just too easy to get distracted? Let me know in the comments, I would love to try them out!

Thanks for reading!