This week’s post will focus on my character development and what that looks like when I am both in the beginning stages of my manuscript and when I am working on the book itself.
Disclaimer: Character development can look different for all writers. Some will develop their characters as they go and some will have everything planned beforehand. Some may even have strategies of their own that I’ve never even thought of but they know works for them. For those of you who want to share your own forms of character development please feel free to comment down below!
For me the beginning always finds me with a story forming in my mind. This can play out like if the opening of a movie was playing in my head or when something like a song or a scene from a TV show inspires me. I’m not going to get into too much detail about inspiration but we can definitely save that for another post.
Character development comes along once I start asking questions when the story idea is forming in my mind, and these can be ones that any writer will be familiar with. Who is the main character? What do they want? And, my personal favourite, what am I going to do to keep them from getting what they want? If you were to break down a grand majority of the books you’ve read in the past into these three questions, you’ll likely find that a great many authors out there use the same format. It’s a great way to get the ball rolling in my opinion.
I like to think of my characters as people that I know, or at least that I am beginning to know. I’ll start with their name and what they look like. Once I have that frame in mind I’ll begin by filling in the gaps. Such as, how they like to dress, what is their unique style. Do they have long hair that they wear up all the time or lose? Do they have glasses and if so are they prone to breaking them? This will then spiral into character flaws and personalities. Is the character stubborn, are they messy, are they independent and head strong, or are they insecure and quiet?
Age is also a main factor for my character development as this will help me pinpoint certain “life events” for the character. Such as whether or not they might have a driver’s license or if they are still in school. (Side note: owning a license or being in school is not limited to any given age - I could go into detail here but then I would just be repeating my Master’s Thesis :D ).
Once I have the character ‘framework’ as I like to think of it, I then expand on what I know from that one person and begin to add other people into the mix. Do they have siblings, are they close to them, if not why, if so, why? Do they live with their parents? Do they live alone? How many friends do they have, are there any they have a tighter bond with, if so why? And on and on. This I find definitely helps build upon my characters and make them feel more real when it comes to seeing how they interact with the world around them.
After the characters social group is formed I can begin getting into the nitty gritty side of WHAT is going to happen to the character and this is where they will begin forming with the general story idea that’s been forming in my mind.
In ‘The Next Right Thing’ I’d had those characters in mind for years before they finally made their way onto the page. Characters like Rena and Will had changed so much over the years in terms of how old I thought they were to the life experiences they would have which would later on affect how they lived their own lives. It’s definitely at points like this in my writing that I can begin to see the influence of my educational background seeping in. Having studied subjects like Law and Justice, along with Psychopathology and Criminal Behaviour, I find it easy to form the characters to the story. Their actions and choices will ultimately effect how the story development will come back to haunt them later on in the book. For example, the main character in ‘The Next Right Thing’ Rena was deeply impacted by having been abandoned by her birth mom and feeling as though she had no control over the circumstances of her childhood which lead her to being raised by a single parent. This would later affect how unable she is to let go of the feeling that she could do more after she becomes a victim of a random hit and run accident and fears that someone else could get hurt the same way or worse and knows that she has no choice but to act on her instincts.
My favourite part of the character development process would definitely have to be when the characters make the choices themselves. I know I know, there’s no such thing as the characters coming to life. Don’t worry. I haven’t gone crazy and started to think of my characters as people lol. But I do imagine them that way when it comes to the writing process. Once the character has been well developed and you’ve given them a personality, an identity, it becomes really hard to force them to do something they aren’t ‘built’ to do. For example, Rena would never have dropped everything and fled town to go on an excursion after her accident. Her behaviour and personality wouldn’t allow it. She HAD to stick around and find out the truth. I’m sure many authors out there have also found themselves in this position where regardless of how much of a ‘plot twist’ one event could be, it’s just not possible given the characters they’ve created thus far.
My new project, ‘The Caged Curse’ series, is definitely my favourite thus far. I love how much more room I have to develop these characters versus a stand alone book. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still write more stand alones in the future. But there is something to be said about being able to given your character more depth. For example, in ‘The Next Right Thing’ I mostly focused on the aspects of Rena’s life that were necessary to the story at the time. But for my new protagonist Nora, I can really dig into what makes her tick and not worry about writing a 10,000 page book in the end either.
Character is hands down one of my favourite aspects to any story and I love how just an idea or inspiration can lead to creating an entire new world all on its own. The possibilities alone are endless! Keep in touch for my latest project as it is in its final stages of preparation before it becomes available!
All the best,
I was asked a while back to discuss what my editing process looks like when it comes to writing a book and getting it ready for publication. But in order to answer this I felt that I’d also need to discuss my writing process beforehand in order to make some sense of it.
Disclaimer: Each and every writer has a method to their writing that works for them. There isn’t one that’s better than the other which allows us writers to really own our style as we see fit. Because like with all good things, there is no one size fits all.
During my writing process I and definitely a planner! Or plotter? Whatever it’s called now, I’m the kind of writer that will create a bare bones timeline for what I want to have happen in my story before I actually sit down to write it. This can consist of mostly the major plot points of the book and it gives me a more visual representation of where I can fit in additional scenes throughout the book so things are less messy.
Afterwards I’ve held myself back long enough and I’m off! Writing to my hearts content until anything I’ve wanted to happen - or anything that’s come up along the way - finds it’s way onto the pages in a glorious mess that is Draft One.
One thing I want to say before I go any further. When it comes to drafting, your first one is always going to have faults and be messy and sometimes downright sucks - THATS OKAY! This just means that you have somewhere to start in the editing process. Can’t fix what doesn’t exist right? Right? So don’t be too hard on yourself if the first draft isn’t perfect - it’s never meant to be.
Once the first draft is done - this can take anywhere from a few weeks to a month or so - I go over the whole book and find places I can improve. I’ve taken to avoid calling my manuscript “done” or “finished” especially when I’m in the early stages of the writing process because I never feel that it’s reached that point yet.
At this point I’ll make sure that any of the additional scenes I’ve wanted to add along the way can still fit now that the manuscript has changed over time; which happens more often than you know. This allows me to include what I like to call “fluff” scenes. Scenes that don’t necessarily have that much of an impact in the whole storyline but do offer their own kind of importance by helping to develop a character more or showing more depth in one scene where there wasn’t one before. These can sometimes become some of the more favourite scenes for my readers I’ve found. Which in and of itself amazes me every single time because of how close that scene came to not being included at all in the final draft.
Once the fluff has been added and I feel well and truly like I’ve done all I can do in my power, I go over the manuscript one more time and correct any obvious mistakes and typos before I send it off to my trusted readers who will have the chance to read the manuscript in all its unedited glory.
This process can normally take anywhere from a few days to a week or so for them to get my manuscript back to me. I prefer to have more than one person looking over my manuscript because I’ve found that three pairs of eyes are better than one. And where one will notice a sentence fragment, one might notice a gap in the storyline instead so I have a better chance at getting the most out of my feedback.
While I wait, I normally take this time to work on my query letters and book pitch so that I can begin submitting them to potential literary agencies and publishers in the hopes that someone will find my pitch worthwhile.
Afterwards I dive into edits and spend the next few hours/days deep inside my manuscript going over it time and again until the edits are done and it’s as close to perfection.
Once we’re at this stage however it all becomes a waiting game. For my debut novel ‘The Next Right Thing’ I waited patiently for feedback from agencies and publishers for about two/three months before I’d had enough and went the self-publishing route - which I’ll never regret doing. It’s at this time that one can either wait to hear back from agencies and publishers to get that long awaited ‘Yes’ or choose to take matters into their own hands. But that all comes down to the writer themselves.
There are also plenty of paths a writer can be taken down when at this stage. Some may get feedback but not an exact 'yes' from an agency and therefore be required to make some edits before they re-submit their manuscript.
The only advice I can give at this particular stage of the game is to go easy on yourself. Those rejections will come in, they always do. But they aren't all horrible. I'm sure I've said this before but its worth mentioning again. Every single rejection I've ever gotten, every one, was positive. No one bashed my work or questioned my capability to be a writer, so please don't believe that every single rejection will be negative and harmful in nature. I'm not discounting the fact that those do exist, but more often then not, publishers and agencies want you to better yourself and not lose faith in what you are trying to do.
So keep at it.
All the best,
For this week’s Writer's Corner I’m going to dive into the story of how I came to find FriesenPress - the official publisher of my debut novel ‘The Next Right Thing’. In my last post I talked about the back and forth struggle that comes with choosing to go either with Traditional Publishing or Self-Publishing when it comes to your novel and how it can be quite the decision. When I finally got around to the idea of self-publishing FriesenPress was already on my radar.
I want to start off by saying that Self-Publishing is very much a catch-all term. There are various ways to go about publishing your book on your own that requires you to literally do all the work from start to finish. I happen to have great respect for the people who have gone this route! In my case, I went the route that consisted of me finding a publisher who was dedicated to self-published authors and worked with them every step of the way.
This is my story!
To begin, there are many, and when I say many, I mean MANY publishers who are dedicated to working with self-published authors who will become interested in your book, sometimes even the moment they hear about it. Not gonna lie, that is quite a confidence boost especially after you get some of your first rejection letters for your manuscript - it does happen but that doesn’t mean that you’re a terrible writer, I promise! But when it comes to these countless agencies be weary especially when it comes to some publishers who will push their packages on you. This happened to be with one group in particular and even I have to say, it was a BIG turn off. I felt as though I was being shoved into a corner and had no way out.
When it came to FriesenPress I’ve actually interacted with them long before I became dedicated to going the self-publishing route. Back when I was doing my research, their name came up as one of the most highly regarded self-publishing agencies in Canada. They were beyond professional in our first interactions and completely understood when I said I wanted to see how my manuscript would fair out in the Traditional Publishing pool. I still remember speaking with one of the representatives and them asking me if/when they should reach out to me in the future to see if I would still be interested in self-publishing. At first, I remember being apprehensive about this, especially given my last experience with a self-publishing agency. Nevertheless, I trusted what I had already seen from FriesenPress and told them they could call me back around November (back in 2020).
After I worked and worked at getting my manuscript seen by a variety of publishers and literary agencies I was beginning to feel discouraged and thought my dream of being a published author was nearing the end of its journey. What I hadn’t realized, was that it was nearing the first week of November and another agency was waiting to call me back.
It was when the call finally came from FriesenPress that I was beyond excited to learn as much as I could about them and see what they were capable of. That first call was essentially a get-to-know-you conversation where I spoke with a very kind representative named Bret Newton who was patient with me and helped me understand all the different facets that FriesenPress offered. Their team dedicated themselves to authors all over Canada - as well as some in the United States - on countless genres spanning children’s books, non-fiction novels, and of course, fiction novels to name a few.
After that first call I got to work and looked over every single package the publisher had and carefully selected the one I felt was a great fit for me. Being a debut author I wanted all the help I could get and given that I was starting from the ground up I was more than willing to put in the work. It was around mid-November 2020 that I officially signed with FriesenPress and I will forever remember that day as the one where I officially began my journey to becoming a published author.
Being that FriesenPress works with their authors throughout the ENTIRE publishing journey I got the chance to learn so much. The amount of resources that this agency has astounded me. Everything from what to expect when you’re first getting started to marketing your book once its published. But one thing that completely struck me the most was how patient and kind the team was.
I was lucky enough to be paired off with Karly who became my Publishing Consultant and whom I spent the most time with working on my book to make sure it was as ready as it could ever be. I still remember our first phone conversation when I told her that I was completely new to the whole world of publishing and admitted I didn’t really know where to begin. In the past I have met countless individuals who’ve taken this as an opportunity to make someone feel small and insignificant, but Karly instead made me feel accepted and encouraged me the whole way, saying that there was no better place to begin and that no matter the question she would be happy to help.
Countless revisions on both my manuscript, cover design, as well as the final bits of paperwork necessary before a book hits the printers, my book was ready and printed out by February 2021, less than a year later - and yes, even they were impressed, but what can I say, I was pretty motivated!
Once my book hit the printers and was finally made available for sale I got introduced to Michelle Rogers who became my Promotions Specialist and when I say this woman knows what she is talking about, I mean it. I’ll be the first to admit that one thing I was not expecting throughout this whole writing journey was that actually writing the book would turn out to be the easy part! When it came to marketing and promoting my book it became a whole new ballgame. I have heard many new authors asking when would be the best time to begin promoting their book - i.e. telling people about it and posting about it on social media - well I was lucky enough to have an author friend who informed me way back when I wasn’t even finished the manuscript yet to start right then! You want to get the word out as soon as possible when it comes to your book and work on building that interest so that when the book is finally available people are running (or in the case of Covid, clicking) their way over to buy your book because they have heard so much about it already that they are dying to read it. (No joke, Amazon was out of stock in the first week of my books release AND my book hit the FriesenPress Bookstore best-seller list at #2 in the same week).
So thankfully I already had that social media backing when I met Michelle. But it was with the help of this genius that my official website (the one you are currently on) became reality. I am still amazed that a site this professional looking is actually mine and I could not say enough good things about the work that went into this domain.
Once the site was live and the book was available for sale (see page ‘The Next Right Thing’ to see everywhere my book is available!) it was time to get into the marketing and promotions of my book. This was all thanks to the customized plan that Michelle created just for my book - with Covid restrictions respected as well - and I was off. This plan helped calm down my nerves when it came to book promoting because when I say I had no clue, I had NO CLUE. None. Nada. Ziltch.
The plan clearly outlined how best I could work to get the word out about my book. This consisted of reaching out to local bookstores and media to talk about my book - my elevator pitch as they would say - and hope that they would be interested in helping me spread the word. I am happy to announce that I have had quite a few interviews thus far - and even one Radio interview - which has all helped greatly to spread the word about my book; especially for those who were not tech savvy and aren’t on social media. I was shocked at how big of an outreach promoting has. But let me tell you, it is easy to get overwhelmed and feel as though you aren’t doing enough. Thankfully I had both Michelle as well as the book community I found on Instagram who were all more than kind enough to let me know that I was doing a great job.
And here we are today! I am still working with Michelle on promoting my book and working on my social media presence in order to gain more interest for my book as well as help guide me on my journey as a writer. I know that this post basically turned into a glowing recommendation for FriesenPress but what can I say? They were pretty awesome, and I have already recommended them to my fellow soon-to-become authors as well.
The journey to become an author can be a long one, especially when you have to sift through all of the details and information being thrown at you. I am forever grateful that I found FriesenPress and choose to work with them. It is because of this amazing team that I learned so much and can honestly say that I have grown more confident as an author and am looking forward to where my writing takes me next.
So, to answer a question I have received a few times now. Will I self-published my next book or go at it via Traditional Publishing? Guess we’ll just have to wait and find out won’t we? ;)
All the best,
Since becoming an indie author - or self-published - I’ve had a few instances where people have asked me why did I choose one over the other, and truthfully, there is no one right answer. When it came to my book I was faced with more challenges than most given that I was brand new to the world of publishing - and it was a global pandemic - namely, the odds were not in my favour. But that’s never stopped me before.
During my time researching other authors and publishers and countless literary agencies I found one consistent response to the ever growing question - which is better? Traditional publishing or Self-Publishing? And honestly? There isn’t one.
That’s it! No competition, no outrageous war between the two, and not one that will give you more success than the other. Simply put, it all comes down to the author and what they choose to do with their own work. I’ll be honest, I was hellbent on getting signed with an agent and becoming a success with my writing - even when I knew that the chances of being an overnight success was slim to none - we have all been there. We want to be the ones that made it, and I get that.
When it comes to publishing your book, it really comes down to the journey you want to take it on. If you have your heart set on traditional publishing over self-publishing then I encourage you to GO FOR IT! But if you also choose to join the world of Indie authors, I can say from experience, we are a unique bunch. If anything the entire book community has been like this long lost family that’s welcomed me to a home I never knew I had within this world, and I am forever grateful.
I can say with certainty that when it comes to finding the best fit for your book is that you need to follow the path that you want - no one else - just you. And do as much research as possible. Because when all is said and done, you don’t want those regrets and wondering ‘what if’
So I implore each and every one of you to pursue your writing journey with whichever avenue is the best fit.
Although I started out as an Indie author, I am still hanging onto the dream that one day a publisher or a literary agent will receive one of my many queries that I’ve sent out and send me that long awaited ‘Yes’ response, but for that, only time will tell. Until then, I’ll be here, between the pages of a book (both literal and digital) and surrounded by more people than I ever could have imagined.
All the best,
The Writer's Corner originally began on my Instagram account and I decided to share it here. The Writer's Corner has now moved to my Newsletter which you can sign up for via the link below! Enjoy!