Musings of Nic Stone

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Get Out Of The Way
By Nic Stone

I didn’t think I could write fiction.

“I’m not creative or imaginative enough,” I said. “To come up with a whole story? What would I even write about? There’s just no way.”

The truth is I was scared. People who looked like me didn’t populate bestseller or required reading lists. They weren’t even in the books I read. Not in a way I could identify with at least. I wasn’t an escaped slave or a person deemed stupid because I spoke broken English or a guy falsely accused of a horrible crime (and then killed for it).

I was a book-loving black girl with a thirst for adventure who loved to tromp through the woods. That girl didn’t exist in books. So I didn’t think she could.

And since the story I knew best was my own, but my own clearly wasn’t what anyone wanted to read, I didn’t think I could write fiction. I couldn’t imagine being a little white kid slaying a dragon and saving the world–so I wasn’t imaginative enough. I couldn’t create a world where people like me didn’t actually exist–so I wasn’t creative enough.

But then something happened: the more I read, the emptier I felt. I could no longer ignore the lack of people who looked and lived like ME in the stuff I was reading.

And there WAS a story building in my bones, itching to get out. About a brown girl saving the day. I tried to ignore it, but the plot points and dialogue kept coming and coming. The story wouldn’t leave me alone.

So I decided to give it a shot. Put words, ideas, mental images to paper. Turns out I’d been wrong about myself. I COULD write fiction. I WAS– AM–imaginative enough, creative enough.

I just needed to get out of my own way.

Maybe you do, too.


13525503About Nic Stone

Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.

You can find her goofing off and/or fangirling over her husband and sons on most social media platforms

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram


24974996.jpgDear Martin

Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.

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Huge THANK YOU to Nic for getting this post in to us while on deadline! Your experience and encouragement to other writers is inspiring. We have all felt like we could not do something, when in actuality we can if we have more faith in ourselves.

As always, thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature! Your words and advice are always appreciated and we love you all for helping us.

We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!

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Musings of Maggie Ann Martin

eternaldreamers

5 Easy Ways to Build Your Author Platform
By Maggie Ann Martin

So. You’ve been told that building your author platform is important. But you have no idea where to start. I’m here to tell you that it’s not as daunting or scary as it might seem! Here are five easy ways to build a community around you and your book.

1. Create a book blog

I actually can’t stress this one enough. Sparking conversations about books within the genre you are writing is an amazing way to understand what your potential readers enjoy, and connect with them over mutually favorite books.

2. Join Twitter chats. Frequently.

There seems to be a new literary Twitter chat going on every day now. Find one that is relevant to readers or writers in your genre, and make your voice heard. Keep up with the connections that you’ve made during the Twitter chat by following them and adding them to Lists.

3. Curate Twitter Lists

I firmly stand behind the idea that Twitter Lists are the most beautiful and glorious feature that Twitter has to offer. Lists allow you to monitor conversations happening by a certain group of people. So, you could create a Twitter List of people who participated in a chat you were a part of, or you could start a list of potential agents that you’re interested in submitting to. Carve out a specific amount of time a week that you would go on and interact with people on these lists to keep up with these connections.

My Lists right now are: Bloggers, BookTubers, Bookstagramers, Agents, 2017 Debuts, Authors, and then various pitch competition lists. Some of these lists are public, but most of them are private lists that only I can see.  

4. Participate in a pitch competition

There are so many incredible authors being matched with agents every day through Twitter pitch competitions. Not only are they an awesome opportunity to get in front of reputable agents, but you’ll make loads of connections with other authors submitting their work for consideration. Some of my favorite pitch competitions that I’ve participated in are #PitchWars, #PitMad, and Sun vs. Snow (and there are SO MANY MORE).

5. Give something back to the community

If you’re really wanting to get engrained in a community, the best way to get to know fellow bloggers and authors is to host an event. This could be your own Twitter chat, a blog series (i.e. I hosted a blog series called Book Madness, which is basically March Madness for book characters), or buddy read with a group of people. So much of your support comes from online writing friends that you’ve met through any of the above ways.

And you don’t have to do all of these things at once! You won’t be able to build your entire author platform in one night. Gradually build up your participation within your writing community as you see fit, and as you have the time for.


MaggieAnnMartin2About Maggie Ann

Maggie Ann Martin hails from Iowa City, Iowa but moonlights as a New Yorker. She has a shiny new BA in English and Journalism from the University of Iowa, the most welcoming literary community in the world. When she is not writing, you can find her binge watching TV shows or passionately fangirling over fictional characters on the Internet. The Big F is her debut novel.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads Facebook


TheBigFColorAbout THE BIG F

Danielle effed up. Big time.
Danielle’s plans for the future were pretty easy to figure out… until she failed senior English and her single college application was denied. Suddenly she’s in hot water with very few options, because honestly who applies to a safety school when their mom is a semi-famous “college psychic”?!

Determined to get her life back on track, Danielle enrolls in her hometown community college with a plan: pass her English class and get back into Ohio State and her mother’s good graces. Romance isn’t on her radar… until she reconnects with her childhood crush and golden-boy-next-door, Luke.

Between family drama, first love and finding her own way, Danielle can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. Thankfully she has her friendship with the snarky and frustratingly attractive Porter, her coworker at the campus bookstore, to push her to experience new things and help keep her afloat.One thing’s for sure: This time, failure’s not an option.

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Thank you Maggie for compiling a quick list of suggestions for new authors! It can get overwhelming when you’re first starting out. We know our readers appreciate the time you took to share your experiences!

As always, thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature! Your words and advice are always happily devoured, and we love you all for helping us.

We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!

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Musings of Melissa Bashardoust

eternaldreamers

Face Your Fears, Find Your Flaws
by Melissa Bashardoust

How do you design a character’s flaws? The answer, like most things, lies in Star Wars.

As Yoda tells us, the root of the dark side is fear. Fear is what makes us lash out. Fear can motivate us or hold us back. Fear can bring out the best and worst in your characters. If you want to find out a characters flaws, figure out what your character wants, what motivates them, what’s important to them. Their family? Their status in the social hierarchy? Freedom and justice?

Great—now threaten to take that thing away from them.

Put your character in a position where they’re about to lose the thing they’re most afraid of losing, and imagine their reaction. Would they become ruthless and destructive? Would they retreat and give in to despair? Push a character hard enough, and eventually they’ll show you their worst impulses. Force a character to confront their worst fear, and you’ll find out what demon they need to overcome, what’s holding them back and what’s driving them forward.

Okay, but what if a character’s response is a mature and healthy one? You can work with that, too, because there’s a flip side to every coin, after all. Every good quality can become a flaw if it’s too extreme. A cheerful attitude can become an unwillingness to confront the heavier parts of life. A calm sense of detachment can become an inability to connect with others. Anakin Skywalker would never have fallen to the dark side if he didn’t have the admirable quality of caring so much about the people he loves…and if he weren’t so afraid of losing them. (It always comes back to Star Wars, I’m telling you.)

Even just knowing what a character is afraid of can lead you to their flaws. To take an example from…let’s say…Star Wars, we have a scene from The Force Awakens where the antagonist (Kylo Ren) very conveniently tells us what the protagonist (Rey) is afraid of. “You’re so lonely, so afraid to leave,” he tells her (and us). On the surface, Rey’s afraid to leave the planet where she was abandoned as a child, because she’s worried her family won’t be able to find her if they ever come back for her. But really, she’s afraid to leave because that would mean admitting that her family isn’t coming back for her. From this core fear come her flaws: stubbornness, self-imposed isolation, a refusal to move forward. Her fear of abandonment causes her to initially choose stagnation and isolation when given opportunities to expand her horizons and make new connections.

If you’ll allow me a more self-indulgent example: In Girls Made of Snow and Glass, one of my main characters, Mina, is afraid that she’s unlovable, that anyone who truly knows her will reject her. By working from the inside out, I can take that fear and translate it into flaws. Mina can be guarded and distrustful, ruthless and manipulative, because she believes

that she has no one to count on but herself, and that if anyone sees the real her, she’ll never be loved. Desperation—that mixture of fear and desire—makes her flaws manifest.

Knowing my character’s fears and flaws helps me know how she would react to both positive and negative events in the plot. The worse the event, the more likely she is to retreat into herself, to reject others before they can reject her. She doesn’t have to have any of those flaws. There’s no one set path from fear to flaw—but tracing out of one of those many paths will make the flaws feel organic and will help readers empathize with the character even when they’re not at their best. We may not all relate to each individual flaw, but we all understand fear, and the influence that fear can have over our actions.

You don’t have to know your characters’ flaws from the start. One of the most satisfying parts of writing is seeing your characters develop on the page, watching them go from vague skeletons in your head to fleshed-out people. Flaws are the thorns, not the roots. The roots are the characters’ hopes and dreams, their upbringings—and yes, their fears. Water those roots and the thorns will grow on their own.


Melissa_516

About Melissa

Melissa Bashardoust received her degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, where she rediscovered her love for creative writing, children’s literature, and fairy tales and their retellings. She currently lives in Southern California with a cat named Alice and more copies of Jane Eyre than she probably needs. Girls Made of Snow and Glass is her first novel.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Tumblr


Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

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Thank you so much to Melissa for writing this wonderful post and sharing it with us. I know from experience that sometimes character flaws and growth are the most difficult parts of writing and what really divides a good book from a great book!

As always, thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature! Your words and advice are always happily devoured, and we love you all for helping us.

We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!

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