Beautiful People is a link up for writers hosted by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In. In Cait’s own words: It’s aimed at writers so they can answer the questions about their characters and their books. It’s designed to help you get to know your book better! (And also give your followers a sneak peek of your works-in-progresses). If you want to learn more or join in you can visit the official page. It happens every month, and you can decide at what time within the month you want to post it.

I saw this link-up on Paper Fury and I thought “I’m a writer who is currently doing writing things, I should do this,” so I am! I also thought this would be a good way to stop myself from giving up or putting my novel on the back burner since I’ll be forced to talk about it once a month. Not to mention, it’s January, and that’s the month of deciding to start new things.

What were your writing achievements last year?

Last year was the first time in a year or so where I’ve done any sort of serious writing. Serious meaning that I didn’t just add a couple words to a WIP or otherwise begin a new WIP. Serious meaning that I sat down with a piece and finished it. Polished and all. This year I finished two short stories that I wrote with the intention to submit to literary journals. I did submit one of the two to Subterrain Magazine for their Lush Triumphant lit awards. Unfortunately, I did not win, but I’m alright with that. I used to get exceptionally bummed out being rejected by journals, but eventually I learned to move on.

The first short story was about the daughter of a recently divorced couple who goes to live with her artist brother in Toronto. The brother is a sort of average Joe trying very hard to be unique in a city full of people attempting to do the same thing. The daughter is more focused on trying to figure out if she has a place anywhere at all anymore and she’s looking to her brother for guidance he might not be able to give. This is the one I ended up submitting and I might re-submit it for their regular issue instead of the contest.

The second one essentially my experiences working in food service, but with a character instead of myself. If you’ve worked a lot in customer service and food service you start to encounter temporary workers and permanent workers. Temporary are often students, recent graduates, etc. who are working there for a set amount of time until whatever they have next comes up. Like working part time to pay for school until you finish and start your career. Permanent workers are people for whom that job is their career or their livelihood. And in-between that you have people that want the work to be temporary, but can’t seem to find the kind of permanent work that they want to do. It was about the dynamics of that situation from the perspective of a temporary employee.

I wonder about putting these up on Wattpad or something similar. I have all these short stories just sitting around and feel like I need to do something with them…

*update: I also won NaNoWriMo, somehow I managed to forget to mention that…

Tell us about your top priority writing project for this year?

This year I’ll be working on the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo novel. It is currently without a name. I threw around ‘Witch Eyes’ but frankly that sounds terrible and I feel embarrassed that I ever thought of it. And the main character’s name is Nicholas so I can’t even name the book after him. Anyhow! The goal for these is to write a 2-book series. I thought this was terribly original until I realized that’s what Alexandra Bracken’s Passenger is, so it’s not as original as I thought, but I like it. I hope duologies become more of a norm. Currently, I’m in the editing stages of the first book. Once I finish with that I want to get started on writing and editing the second one.

The series is going to be very much like a modern fantasy: some of it takes place in our world and some in another world. The premise is that the main character Nick is a home schooled and wheelchair bound teenager who, by chance, makes eye contact with a witch. This sort of occurrence supposedly created bad luck for the witch and good luck for the mortal. In Nick’s case he gains magic abilities that cure the atrophy in his legs, but he also gets trapped in a magical world where everyone wants to kill him for his magic. He goes in search of the witch as she disappeared under less-than-ideal circumstances. Also because he feels responsible for her situation (since he technically cursed her) and because it’s her magic that gave him use of his legs. I can’t decide yet if that’s enough motivation to put yourself in danger but I’m working on it.

List 5 areas you’d like to work the hardest to improve this year.

  1. World building: This is my #1 work-on priority. I want a vivid and enchanting world that makes an impact on readers. The best way for me to do this is to build up a believable and plot-hole-free folklore and rules for magic.
  2. Third person:  I don’t often write in third person. I don’t have a lot of practice with it, and I find it difficult to create intimacy with characters using it. But for this novel I wrote it in third person so I could take advantage of having multiple perspectives. I tried doing it in first person, but it felt awkward and didn’t seem to fit the mood of the story.
  3. Description: This is my biggest flaw in writing. I often want to get into the action and neglect description. But description is a huge part of world building and getting the reader involved in the setting so I’ll need to improve.
  4. Male voice: My novel is written from a male’s point of view and so it’s important that this voice feel authentic. I wouldn’t want a guy to read it and feel like it was a caricature. So far I think I’m doing well, but I’ll absolutely be consulting my boyfriend for some things.
  5. Multiple perspectives: I am also going to be juggling multiple perspectives, which I haven’t done often. I want to make sure all my characters are realistic and that readers can relate to them. That being said, some characters will absolutely be getting more ‘screen time’ than others.

Are you participating in any writing challenges?

Nope. Editing this novel along with regular blogging and life things is going to be challenge enough without heaping more on top of it. I know my limits. But it’s only the beginning of the year so we’ll see.

What’s your critique partner/beta reader situation like and do you have plans to expand this year?

I have a friend who I usually give my writing to. She’s very helpful even though I spend a lot of time getting angry with her while she does it. This may make her saint-worthy, but I don’t want her to get a big head, so I won’t say that.

Out and about on the internet I’ve been seeing more and more recommendations to have someone professionally edit your novel before sending it to publishers or literary agents. Especially to get advice from someone who isn’t invested in sparing your feelings. And I can admit that it would be great to know that I have something polished from top to bottom. Like anything I really want, I expect to invest in it. I wanted to have a blog with my own unique site name and so I invested in paying for hosting. And then I wanted more user friendly and easy scheduling for social media so now I pay for Buffer. So it makes sense that if I really want to get representation I should look into investing in that too. The only drawback is the cost. Some people have said they paid 1000 to have someone proof read their novel. I don’t feel tempted to find a free beta reader, but I suspect that I’ll be shopping around to see if I can’t find an editor closer to my price range.

Do you have plans to read any writer-related books this year? Or are there specific books you want to read for research

I always buy writer related books and then never read them—with the exception of a select few. I did, however, get a 1001 Spanish phrases ebook for my Kindle. My main character, Nick, is half South American (I haven’t nailed down which country yet) and his mom wants him to keep learning Spanish. And so I want to incorporate some Spanish phrases into the book, but I have a limited knowledge of Spanish so I’m using it to help me come up with phrases. I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to help the audience keep up?

Then there’s all the research for the folklore/magic components. I’ve done some already on alchemy symbols. The characters cast spells by drawing a symbol on the object or person they want to affect and then activating the spell. There’s some existing symbols that work well, but I’ve had to be creative with others. The goal is to come up with more of a comprehensive reference of the list of spells and their associated symbols.

In the second book I want to add in more ritual based spells that people in the modern world might try to use. Years ago my mom won a giant spell book at her work Christmas party’s Yankee swap game. I don’t really know why someone brought the book, but I’ve been keeping it to use as research. I’ve got to take a look through it and find some things to note down for the second book, and any rituals I want to adapt and use in the first book.

Finally, the linguist in me feels compelled to do some language creation. I may not be a Dothraki-creating language expert, but I have a BA in Linguistics too dammit! And I’ll be damned if I can’t come up with a simple language for a few characters to speak briefly. For the time being I have the main character using a translation spell of sorts, but not all words will translate well to English and that’s where I’ll put in my limited vocabulary.

Sigh. Now that I’ve written it all out I’m thinking it’s going to take longer than expected to edit this first novel 

Pick one character you want to get to know better, and how are you going to achieve this?

I have a character named Ashwind that I want to get to know better. I’ve pinned a lot of hopes on this character. My goal is to ultimately have him evolve from a distrusting stranger to an inseparable friend. Like my protagonist choosing between saving him and this girl he loves, he may very well may choose Ash. Excepppppptttt I have a bad habit of creating the handsome, mysterious, AND brooding character that is ‘misunderstood’. Right now, Ash is all of this and continues to be that way for the entire book. I’ve been toying with the idea of making him something of a klutz to add a bit of humor and make him more likable that way. He always runs headlong into danger and then ends up needing to be rescued from it, so I think that will work well. And since I’ve been watching a lot of Teen Wolf lately, I like the idea of that human character that helps ground the supernatural characters. Particularly, because I have Ash start out as hating magic and magic users, I want to explore the idea of him being a character that helps the others stay grounded in reality and not get too big headed.

Do you plan to edit or query, and what’s your plan of attack?

I’m editing right now. I had planned to edit a chapter a day so I could finish editing by the end of January but life has been getting in the way. Also I stressed that I hadn’t done a good enough job editing the chapter before and ended up going back to fix it until I was satisfied. Except then I still had to edit a chapter for the day and then ended up doing a crappy job on that chapter and having to go back and do it again. So now I’m going at a more leisurely, stress-free pace. I’ve set a deadline for the end of March. This way I’ve given myself time to edit at a slower pace, but don’t allow myself to go on doing that forever.

Then I’ll likely be handing my manuscript over to a paid editor and after I have it as perfected as I like, I plan to give it to my friend for a once over. I trust her to give me good feedback as a reader about how she enjoyed the story. And then once that’s all polished I’ll be making a list of literary agents and sending off queries to them. I doubt that I would ever be approaching publishers directly. For a first novel I feel I would need the guidance that representation would give.

Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  What are the books that you want to see more of, and what “holes” do you think need filling in the literary world?

What I want to see more of is the kind of world building that can spawn a collection of characters and books beyond the original. I think Leigh Bardugo is already doing something like this with her books. The Grisha trilogy and Six of Crows exist in the same world that she’s built up. If she wanted she could continue several series of books within the same universe. Or the more obvious example of Harry Potter or the A Song of Ice and Fire series.

More often than not a world is introduced in one series of books, and then a new one pops up in the next one and so on. But I’ve always enjoyed reading books where when I start a series there’s already a sense of familiarity. But because it’s a spin-off, any new reader could jump on and learn about the same world.

And I wouldn’t mind a book with a love triangle where the two people competing at least seem to been on somewhat equal footing. I don’t want it to be obvious who the character is going to end up with, or leave one love interest neglected. I want some fight! I want Angelina vs. Jennifer type drama.

What do you hope to have achieved by the end of 2016?

Literary agent representation would be wonderful. I haven’t hoped to dream about this for awhile, but I would really enjoy it. My dream of dreams is to be a full time writer, so representation would make that feel like something I could actually accomplish. More realistically, I just want to have both novels in the series finished and shiny polished to perfection.

What are your writing goals for 2016?

Let me know in the comments!