Friday, July 27, 2012

All public transportation should be like London

I am back in London, and thrilled to be here! I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I was here last because coming off of the plane it felt like coming home.

My sister and mother were commenting on all the little differences and going through a bit of culture shock, though. I hardly noticed these things, but sitting back and reflecting on it there really are a lot of differences between life in the US and life in the UK, and even though I feel comfortable here and don’t even feel any culture shock, if I tried to write a book that took place in London I would undoubtedly make mistakes.

Which brings me to today’s topic: write what you know. So often I see authors write about something in their books that they obviously have no experience with, and it shows. If it’s not something familiar to you, it will be hard to sell it as something familiar to your characters (unless it’s magic, in which case you’re making it all up anyway :P)

This isn’t to say that it’s completely impossible—I’m not a master swordsman and I’ve never killed anyone, but the characters in my book have. But when you do write about something you don’t know, there are a few steps I suggest to follow.

1.    Do research. A lot of research. The better prepared and informed you are, the better your writing’s going to be.

2.    Immerse yourself in the culture/activity as much as you can. If you’re writing about horseback riding, go horseback riding. If you’re writing about fencing, take a fencing lesson. If your story takes place in New York City, (if possible) go to New York City. Practical, real-life experience will help you more than all the reading and researching in the world ever can.

3.    Have a beta reader who IS familiar with it. Make sure that at least one of the people helping you edit your book (preferably more if the thing you’re unfamiliar with is a prominent part of your story) is an expert, or at least well versed, on the subject. I plan on having the stage combat professor at my university look over some of my fight scenes and help me make sure they’re realistic.

4.    Read it and re-read it very closely—look for your mistakes. If something sounds wrong, it probably is. But if something doesn’t sound wrong, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right.

5.    Don’t be afraid to take criticism. Stories only get better when people critique them, especially if the author isn’t an expert on what they’re writing. However, at the same time, don’t let people walk all over you.

What you write doesn’t have to be completely perfect—as long as it’s believable and you don’t sound like an idiot, you’re probably all right. However, out of respect for those who are from that culture or do participate in that sport/activity/etc, be as informed and prepared as you possibly can to do them justice.

On a side note: why, in movies and TV shows, can they NEVER hire professional musicians? Whenever there’s a band playing for something, they almost always look like idiots because they don’t know what they’re doing. Anyway….

Enjoy the Opening Ceremonies! I know I will J


Sunday, July 22, 2012

And here we go again!

This morning, I woke up, took a shower, then sat down at my laptop, like always. Unlike most days, however, I opened up a brand new document in word and began typing.

Starting a new book is an adventure. Months and months will go by where you'll be completely absorbed in this world you've created, getting into the characters' minds, watching the story unfold. Even if you have the story outlined, your characters can surprise you--and you can surprise yourself.

The book I just started is a sequel to the one I just finished, so there's a part of me that doesn't feel like I'm starting a new book. However, the tone of this book is drastically different than the first--the first was very light-hearted up until the end, and this one is very dark. They're the same characters, but there's so much more to discover about them that I don't already know.

I'm excited to get this book underway and see where the characters take me. I know the beginning, some parts in the middle, and the end, but a lot of this is going to be free exploration. That's my favorite kind of writing--where you can just let the words flow naturally and see where it takes you. I'll edit out the boring parts later :P

On a side note, I can't WAIT for the olympics! I'm flying into London the day before they start and leaving the day after they end. Yes, it will be crazy, but I'm so excited!

Have a great Sunday, everyone!


I am royalty!


Because I'm the queen of first drafts.

I just finished the first draft of my third novel. But instead of going back and editing right now, I'm starting the next book in the series. I did the same thing with the last two, and went back to edit later (still haven't entirely gotten around to editing the second one...) They're all from the same series, so I guess there's a part of me that wants to finish all the books, make sure everything flows well, before going back to edit.

I don't know how wise this approach is, but I think I'm going to stick with it for now. The next year of my life is going to be crazy with school (I am still a college student) and the possibility of me going on an 18 month mission for my church some time before next December. So even if I had a draft that was ready for querying, I wouldn't want to get on the publication road and then leave for that long.

So, since I know that publication is at least two and a half years off for me, for now I think I will go ahead and finish the first drafts of all five books in my series. That way all I have to do when I get back is edit--seriously edit.

What's your approach to writing a series? Do you like to plan everything out before seriously editing, or  do you go book by book? Does it vary by series?

Get excited for the Olympics!


Friday, July 20, 2012

A Villain's Perspective

First of all, yes, I'm alive! I was so busy at the beginning of this summer, and then I just got lazy. But now I'm trying to make it up to you guys (and myself) and focus on my writing again, which also means blogging. I'll do my best to not leave months in between my posts again!

In my current project, I've been writing each scene from a different character's perspective. I'm thinking that in the end, the novel will end up being written in third person, but for now each section is labelled with the character's name who's speaking. When I got to the most recent scene, I was struck with a real dilemma of who's POV to write it from--the angry good-guy, or the calm bad-guy (I also could have written it from the concerned princess's perspective, but I didn't think about that until after the fact :p).

I couldn't bring myself to make a decision, so I waited. And waited. And didn't do anything about it. Finally, my cousin told me to write it from the villain's perspective, so I did.

I think all along I knew that I needed to write it from his point of view, but there was a very large part of me that didn't want to. The first reason is I'm terrified of him. Others might not be as intimidated by this kind of villain (he's the epitome of the plotters I mentioned in my villain's post from forever ago) but he is a creature out of my nightmares. He can get inside your head and twist your thoughts, make you question who you are and what's right and wrong, convince you to do things you would never do, drive you mad.

The second reason was that I had a really hard time relating to him--how could I relate to someone who was that twisted? How could I come to understand his character?

It wasn't until I sat down and talked some thing through with a friend of mine that I was able to find some understanding of how he became who he is. Even then, the idea of putting myself in his mind was uncomfortable for me. I didn't want to do it--I was avoiding it as much as I could. But I knew that eventually I would come to the point where, at least for my own sake, I would need to suck it up and write in his voice. I reached that point today.

A few things happened: first, I discovered more about his character and how he thinks. Second, I discovered more about his relationship with his sister (which had baffled me before). And third, I discovered that when I let myself, I can be really, really creepy. I'd like to say it was my characters being creepy, but in all reality I'm the one writing it.

On a level it bothers me that I was able to tap into his mind (I have another character--a killer--who I was also able to tap into. That was disturbing to re-read...). Maybe it's from all the reading I do, maybe it's from the psychoanalysis of characters that seems to occupy my free time, maybe it's from my acting experience--I don't know. But somehow I'm able to relate to and get inside the minds of characters that I would never want to be associated with in real life.

Is this a problem? Maybe. Others might see it as a talent. Personally, it still kind of bothers me. Understanding them or analyzing them is one thing, but it bothers me when I can write as if I were them. I know that, as Sirius Black says, "We've all got both light and dark inside us", but I'm a little more in touch with my 'dark' side than I maybe should be...

What do you think? Should we be worried about me turning to the dark side? :P

Enough ranting--back to fun posts soon! This was just what was on my mind today.

Good luck in all your writing adventures!


Thursday, May 10, 2012


I know that sometimes when I'm writing, facing dialogue looks like this to me. In my writing, there's way too much internal monologue and description, and not nearly enough dialogue.

So recently, I've made a goal to have a little dialogue as possible. One of the ways I've been able to accomplish this is by writing from the point of view of someone who really doesn't let people hear her thoughts (including me....grr....) I have to figure out what she's thinking by what she says.

In the most recent scene I wrote, this was really successful! It was a scene between her and her future love interest in the story. Most of the dialogue is light-hearted, but there are still moments where you see what they're really thinking. I learned a lot about how these two communicate and how they interpret what other people say without having to go through paragraphs and paragraphs of someone talking to themself.

Oh, and it's a lot funner to read.

Embrace dialogue--let your characters talk to each other, not just think. Don't overanalyze every line--just let them interact as they normally would. If the dialogue gets cut later, that's fine, but in the first draft it's really helpful to get the voice of your characters as well as how they communicate with others.

Anyway, just for kicks I'm going to leave you with my favorite little snippet from today :)

         Anaya: "Are you a man or not?"
         Matthias: "I'm a man who doesn't attack someone unarmed."
         Anaya: "Well, I'm a woman who can kick your butt with my bare hands."

Happy writing!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Remember my post yesterday? Giving you and myself a pep talk?


Not only did I get through the scene that I was having a hard time writing, but I discovered new things about my characters that are going to enrich the plot as I move along. This morning, I wrote almost an entire chapter before my eleven o'clock class.

That, my friends, is called progress.

And suddenly I remember why I'm doing this in the first place :)

Never give up! Never surrender!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

When Play Becomes Work

In both my major of Theatre Education and my not-so-secret life as an aspiring writer, my work is play. The reason I'm pursuing these two careers is because I get to play all day!

That's not to say that it's not a lot of work. Countless hours go into rehearsal for a play, and even more hours go into the preparation--choosing the concept, refining the design elements, etc. But for me, the term play is literally that--play!

The same goes for writing. I can't tell you how many hours of my life have been devoted to a series that is not represented and not ready to be self-published (if I decide to go that route). I don't think it will be published for at least another three years. During those three years, I will still be working on this series, never stopping. But why? Because it's play for me!

But here's the thing: sometimes, it doesn't feel so much like play anymore. When you get writer's block, or when you consistently get rejected by agents, it's easy for the play to become work.

It should be the other way around. Your work should be play! Remember why you started this in the first place! Don't deprive the world of your wonderful characters, your captivating story, and your unique writing voice! No one else can write the story that's in your head, and I want to hear it!

(This is a pep talk for me as well as you :D)

Happy writing!


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Increasing Decrease in the Importance of Birthdays

I've noticed that as you get older, birthdays don't seem to be as important. Sure, people will say happy birthday and you might get a present or two, but it's not like when you were a kid.

Honestly, how is that fair? People expect you to be all adult, be responsible on your birthday. If you're on a diet, you're not allowed to have cake. If you're in school, you're not allowed to relax.

Well, forget that. I'm relaxing. I'm eating cake and ice cream. I'm ordering pizza. I'm not doing any homework.

Because today is my twentieth birthday, and I'm going to celebrate it, even if no one else does!


(PS--I promise I'll start posting more now that Winter Semester is done! lol)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Where do you find your motivation?

I find it when my friend comes up to me and says, "I've read your book eight times since you gave it to me. You need to give me all the sequels NOW."


Where do YOU find motivation?


Friday, March 23, 2012

Mock Covers

First of all, saw Hunger Games last night. LOVED IT. Even though there are certain moments playing again over and over in my mind that are probably going to give me nightmares for a week.


So sometimes I get into a writing slump, but all I can think about is my novel. I know that doesn't really make sense, but I'll be thinking and thinking about it and not able to force myself to type out the words.

When that happens, I usually make mock covers.

I can't tell you how many mock covers I've made for my books--probably at least three each. I have so much fun doing it, and it's interesting to see just how different it turns out than the last one I made.

I particularly liked the one I made today, so I thought I'd share it with you, just for fun :D

May the odds be ever in your favor! 


Monday, March 12, 2012

Oh, Peeta.....

These three books have been my life over the past two days. Yes. Two days. I finished MOCKINGJAY at 3AM last night/this morning. I couldn't bring myself to put it down.

Yes, I know I'm late to the game on these. I've had a copy of HUNGER GAMES since last summer, and for Christmas I got all three in hard back. Still, I put off reading them, mostly because I didn't have time. But with the movie fast approaching, I decided the time had come to set aside some time. Little did I know I'd be setting aside my entire weekend.

I read HUNGER GAMES on Saturday, then didn't let myself start CATCHING FIRE until Sunday (I would have missed work...). On Sunday, I read all of both CATCHING FIRE and MOCKINGJAY. I didn't stop to do anything else. By the end of the day, there was a really bad crick in my neck.

I'd like to say that it was worth it. In ways, it definitely was. They're amazing books. The story is absolutely gripping. It helped me see ways I can make my own writing gripping like that, even though I write in a different genre.

But, at the same time, I cried the last hour of reading MOCKINGJAY. I don't know how I could see the pages through my tears. I also screamed at the book a few times in frustration, specifically in reference to Peeta's predicament (I don't want to spoil it in case there are some of you who haven't read it yet). 

The ending? I thought it was appropriate. I was pissed that a certain character died (well, a couple certain characters, but I think you know the one I mean) but with this series, you couldn't sugar coat it. It wasn't going to be sunshines and roses as soon as Snow was out of the picture. I thought the ending was actually pretty optimistic, considering everything that's happened in their lives.

There were things in the writing that were weaknesses, but I won't reflect on those now. The story was gripping enough that I ignored them as I read. I would be lying if I said I enjoyed reading these books, but I'd also be lying if I said I didn't. I'm not sure what to think.

So there's my two cents. If nothing else, if you want to know how to keep readers turning your pages, look at Suzanne Collins. Be prepared for a lot of conflicting emotions.

I think it was worth it. But we'll see how long my nightmares continue.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Hello, Writing Slump. My name is Tiffany Garner. You killed my passion. Prepare to die."

....I had to do it ☺

What causes writing slumps? I honestly don't know the answer to that question. One day you're wildly passionate about what you're doing, and the other you can't bring yourself to write a single word. At least it seems like that to me. Now, I realize that some of what I'm battling is my depression, but it's more than that. I've had days when I was far from depressed and I still couldn't bring myself to write.

The ironic (and somewhat paradoxical) thing is that I'm still extremely passionate about my characters. I still love their story and can't wait to write it. But when I open the document on my computer, my mind goes blank.

I'm sick and tired of it. I want to write!

So what am I going to do? Force myself to write. Go to the library (where I can't as easily get distracted), put on headphones, and stay there until I start writing.

I've done this before, and when I first sit down it feels like any other day in my slump. But as I force myself to stare at the screen, words start coming out one at a time, until I can't stop myself from typing. If some of it sounds a little forced, I can always fix it later in editing.

I love my characters and my story and I can't wait to get back to writing!

What do you do to kill a writing slump?


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Life is Beautiful: my new blog

Hello everyone! I have a very special post today.

As I might have mentioned before, I've been struggling with depression for a few years now. And, as I recently mentioned, I've made a turnaround recently, and I intend to keep the upward trend going.

This process of recovery is not easy, and there are many who are suffering through it. I want to be there for those suffering along with me and offer them hope.

So, I've started a new blog!

It's called life is beautiful, and it's all about looking at things in new ways and finding help. It's not about what's going wrong in my life, but what's going right.

If you know someone who's struggling, please tell them about this. It's important to have a support system, and talking to others who are going through the same thing can be very productive when approached with an attitude of hope.

Because life is beautiful!

I love you all, and we will return to our regularly scheduled writing posts soon :)


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My approach to working out

For those of you who don't know me in real life, I'm about a hundred pounds heavier than I'd like to be. I'm attacking this head on, and I'm now exercising twice a week with a friend of mine (the goal is to go two more times in the week on my own, but....let's face it, that doesn't usually happen.)

This morning I got to the gym and hopped on the elliptical, because to me it's the most fun machine in there. That doesn't mean it's not hard for me, though.

I've discovered that for me, I need to count down the minutes. Not just "I've done x amount of minutes" but breaking them into percentages and fractions. So if I'm exercising 30 minutes, after two minutes I think, "I'm 1/15 of the way done." After three I think, "I'm 1/10 of the way done." And so on.

All I focus on is the next minute. Because I can do one more minute.

When we write, sometimes people look way beyond where they're at. They're writing the first draft, but they're already looking for a final draft. They're doing their first revision, but they want to be on their last. It is critically important that you focus on the step you're on right now, or you're setting yourself up for failure. Can you not imagine doing five more revisions? That's fine. Find the strength to do one more, then let it sit for a while.

If you take this approach to writing, you will be published someday. It might not be with your current WIP, but some idea will come along that only you can write about. And if you take it one step at a time, you will be unstoppable.

At least I'm hoping this is all true, because that's what I'm counting on.... :D

The second thought I had in the gym was that if the characters from my epic fantasy walked in, they would think it was a torture chamber.

What motivates you to keep going even when it's hard? Do you have any tricks you'd like to share?


Friday, January 27, 2012

Falling in love all over again ♥

"Hello, Tiffany! We've missed you!" Awe, I've missed you too :)

I'm referring to my characters here.

Over the past few months, I took a break from working on the second book in my series because I just couldn't focus on it. I had too many other things to do, and too many other ideas in my head. The best thing to do, I decided, would be to set aside writing altogether and focus on school.

In the past couple weeks, I've felt that familiar pull, the urge, the need to write. I started working on two of my other ideas, and loved where they were going, but my mind kept wandering back to my epic fantasy series.

Earlier this week, I finally gave in and opened up the daunting, huge document that needs a lot of work. The first book in the series ended on a cliffhanger, and I was torn between skipping ahead in time and starting right where it left off. I've spent so many hours on the first two pages that the words are almost permanently etched in my mind.

It wasn't a ton of fun--until I got past that. At the beginning of book one, you meet some amazing characters that I absolutely love, but then the MC gets separated from them. They appear occasionally throughout the rest of the novel, but the focus shifts to where she is and who she's living with at that particular moment.

At the beginning of the second book, she's going back to those characters, characters I haven't written about in what seems like ages. Just yesterday I wrote a new scene with one of my favorites--Gideon. I felt my heart start to flutter and that excited, almost nervous feeling in my stomach.

I fell in love with him all over again.

I didn't realize how much I missed him. The words seemed to flow effortlessly from my fingertips, something I hadn't felt when working on the opening scene. Something about this character just inspires me and drives me to continue writing all through the night. You could say Gideon's my muse.

Yes, a fictional character is my muse.

I think you should love your characters. You should miss them when the scenes your writing don't include them. You should be excited when they reappear, just like your readers. If you're not, why are you writing about them?

I love Gideon. I just wish he were real.

What do you love about your characters? Do you have some characters that are just easier and funner to write than others?


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Heads Up!

My lovely book club friend, Kayla Beck, sent me a link this morning that literally had me squealing!

Between April 16th and 30th, Angry Robot Books is accepting submissions from unagented novelists with an completed epic fantasy novel! Their sister company, Strange Chemistry, is accepting all subgenres of YA SF/F.

Keep in mind, this isn't until April, but if you're interested polish up those novels! Personally, I've been having trouble finding someone that actually wants epic fantasy, so this had me jumping out of my chair!

Good luck in all your endeavors!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

So, as you might have noticed, I've been really bad at keeping up with the blog. There have been personal issues and challenges in my life that I was dealing with, in addition to being a full time college student.

Yesterday, I turned a corner, and today I feel amazing.

So this has become a bit more of a personal blog than I initially intended, but I'll be back to the writing soon :)

I'm so grateful for all of you and I look forward to getting back in the swing of things, online and in my own life!

Have a fantastic day!


PS: I like the redesign. It makes me happy :D I'll make a new banner (probably just edit the coloring of this one) when I get home tonight.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The importance of a support system

Last night was a bad night. A really bad night. One of those nights where you wonder if anything you do is worth it. Where you just want to give up and delete your entire novel off of your computer.

Yeah. That bad.

So I sulked in my room with the door locked, listening to sad music and munching on chocolate. I was idly staring at the computer screen, feeling like there was nothing to do.

Then my amazing cousin, Katrina, came online. I didn't intend to bring up all my emotional problems while we chatted, but those things just come out when you trust someone. She let me rant, giving me advice but not forcing me to take it. I left the conversation feeling only slightly better, thinking there was at least one person in the world that cared about me. But I still felt like this whole trying-to-get-published thing was a waste of my time.

When I woke up this morning, I saw two messages from Amazon in my inbox, each saying I'd received a gift from Katrina. She sent me a couple of songs, and I downloaded and listened to them, still in a sour attitude. They were nice songs, but the fact that she cared meant so much more than the lyrics to the songs.

So I sucked it up and went on querytracker. I wrote a completely new query, revised it, scrapped it, wrote another one--you know the drill. I edited the first three chapters of my book for the bazillionth time. And then *gasp* I sent out my first query in over two months.

Am I really expecting anything out of this query? To be honest, my hopes aren't high. But I sent one.

We'll see what happens, but that's not the point. The point is that I needed a kick in the pants. It was a soft kick in the pants, but that's exactly what I needed to get started. No one else can force us to write, or query, or edit. We have to make the decision to do our own work, but having someone support us is definitely a huge help.

So just so you know, I'm always available for a kick in the pants. I'm really good at that at least :)

When has your support system helped you?


Saturday, January 7, 2012

A sneak preview at my next project

What I did this morning:

  • Watched a ton of vampire documentaries, including a documentary on Bram Stoker's Dracula, Discovery Channel's "Monsterquest" series, and National Geographic's "Is It Real?" series.
  • Watched a few episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" 
  • Started watching Dracula the movie. Decided to wait till I had other people to watch it with me. (Yes, I am a wimp!)

  • Researched the Irish Potato Famine
  • Looked into how they lived here in the United States, particularly in Boston
  • Researched what kind of jobs they might have and where they might live
  • Looked into what diseases were common among the Irish Americans

  • Watched a documentary about the civil war
  • Researched timelines of the civil war
  • Watched a documentary specifically about the Battle of Shiloh, including reenactments of the battle
  • Did more reading on the Battle of Shiloh, particularly the battle strategy on the confederate side

What in the world do all these things have in common?

Immortal Scorn, my current WIP!

And no, it doesn't take place during the civil war (though there are chapters told during that time period...)

Anyway, there's just a little peak on what I'm working on! I'm excited to someday have this available for other people to look at!

What have you been working on in the new year?

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