Fiction Friday #8: Write the Prompt with Me!

Happy Fiction Friday everyone! I decided that I should branch out a bit — and basically only a little bit — and go for a Sci-Fi writing prompt this week. I usually don’t write Sci-Fi, but there’s been something in me that’s been calling out to the genre, so I said hey, what the heck. And here we are.

The Prompt

Sci-Fi Writing Prompt
Week #8 Writing Prompt

This prompt is from Deep Water Prompts, and they seem to have a lot of great ones. As always, I’m going to write for 30 minutes, and just see where the story goes. If you write along with me, I’d love to see your writing as well. Don’t forget to check out my other writing prompts!

The Writing

Photo by João Silas

It was only when my hands brushed against the clammy walls that I realized I was asleep. My eyes flicked open as my stomach dropped with a sudden overwhelming amount of dread. It was dark in the hallway, with the only light source coming from the faint green glow of wall lanterns. 

Then came the whispers. They reverberated from wall to wall, hitting me with their muffled voices. I thought I could hear my name, but then again, isn’t that what everyone hears? 

Squinting into the darkness ahead of me, I realized that with that many voices, surely I should have seen someone up ahead, walking towards me.

I glanced behind me, but there was no one. There wouldn’t be. Not this late. The lab got to work so early in the morning, and with everyone forced to stay on base for this experiment, there wasn’t any reason to stay up this late.

It’s just my head. Still half asleep. I should turn back. I should go to my room. 

Every corridor in this base looked the same. The only indication of what hallway I was in was the number painted over every door. But I was so far into this hallway that I didn’t even see a door.

I decided to listen to my instinct and walk towards the way my back had been turned. The likelihood that I had been doing multiple turnarounds was not that great, but then again, I had never sleep-walked either. At least as far as I knew.

There was a soft buzz radiating from the wall lanterns, and as I passed underneath them, I couldn’t help but feel like something was watching me just from the darkest parts of the hallway. But my feet kept moving, even with this fear rising in my tingling fingers and dry mouth.

When the double door leading to the next hallway come into view, I stopped walking. My whole body went numb as I stared at the number. 43. 43. 43. 43. 

My breathing hitched as my heart rate rose. The sleeping quarters were in number 15. There were only 40 numbers I was told of. It was reasonable to assume that there were more numbers that I wouldn’t have access to, but here I was. In a restricted area. That I had somehow gained access to in my sleep. And I hadn’t been shot yet.

I hesitated to reach out for the door handle. What if these people worked at night, to make sure that no one interfered with their work? What if I was one step away from being caught?

“Haaayes.”

The whispers had gotten closer to me, coming from behind door 43. This time I was sure I could hear the sing-song call of my name.

I should run. I should run out this door. Run as fast as I can back to my station.

I reached for the handle and pushed.

My eyes blinked as they adjusted to the brighter light of this hallway. For some reason the door had been tinted, not showing that this hallway was lit up with the normal fluorescents that were used during the day hours.

There was a long table, but that wasn’t what I was looking at. Sitting on the edge of the table was a girl, maybe close to my age or a few years younger. Her hair was loose and wavy around her neck. Her skin was a creamy brown and exposed through her thin dress.

“You found me,” she said with a soft smile. “Now find me for real.”

My body convulsed and I fell to the floor. But no — I sat up. I was in my bed. It was dark, but I could see the green glow under my bedroom door from the hallway lanterns. My hands were clammy, my breathing absolutely too fast.

A dream. That was all. Just a dream.

I laid back against my pillows, a hand rested against my chest so that I could feel my heart as it slowed down. This wasn’t the first time I had dreamt of wandering the halls past where my clearance let me go. But I had never dreamt of something so specific. 

It’s just because you saw those helicopters arrive today, I tell myself. Your head is telling you that something big is going on. But nothing is. Of course, it isn’t.

I go back to sleep, but even as I close my eyes, I can still see the girl. And I wonder if it’s true what they say: that you can’t dream of anyone you haven’t seen before.

Why I Continue To Send Query Letters (Traditional Publishing)

As I send my 70th query letter between the two different book series I’m trying to publish, I find myself wondering: why am I still trying to publish this way? The answer is complicated, slightly prideful, but also embedded in the fact that I don’t only want money. I want people to be able to read my book. I want to belong to something.

Close-up view of keyboard.

When I was in high school, I managed to get my book (Spell Bound, Kristen McDonald) published through a legitimate publishing house — Black Rose Writing. Though now that I look back on it, I realize that being on my own to navigate this publishing process was a nightmare. They’re one of the few companies that accept unsolicited query letters (for anyone who doesn’t know, unsolicited means you can send your work without being represented by an agent or someone on the “inside”). Me being the little naive teenager I was, I considered this to be a plus.

But at the end of the day, I had to pay out of pocket for 100 copies, I had to edit the manuscript myself (with a 9th grader’s experience in the English language), and I received little-to-no marketing besides the book being released online through major outlets.

A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

After hearing all of this, you may think that I wouldn’t want to go through a nightmare like that again. Maybe I should just publish through Amazon and skip the trouble. But instead, this experience has made me feel like the only route that will work for me is to get represented. Maybe part of me is just such a purist: I feel that getting published the traditional way feels like the only option for me. But I know it’s more than that.

Also, I can’t edit myself — even as an adult. And I’m not about to shovel out a large sum to have someone else do it for self-publishing either.

Why am I still trying to go the “traditional” route for publishing? Why do I believe that finding an agent is the route for me? There are several reasons.

Navigating the Expenses

Glasses resting on a pad of paper.

While I am continuously sending query letters, I have looked at self-publishing expenses before. I’ve even requested packages and received numerous phone calls from people who try to get me to join their programs. The bottom line is always the same: I don’t have money to self-publish through these companies. So many of these places offer only slightly different packages for you. Some offer a set amount of money to receive a set amount of books. Others help with marketing but you have to pay for everything along the way.

I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is.

-Anne Lamott

But who really has money for this? It’s an investment for sure, but books won’t make you that much money unless you’re selling a ton of copies. But it’s not about the money for me when it comes to books.

Really, as a broke kid with college debt living in LA, my only chance to get published right now is through some kind of book deal with a publishing house. While self-publishing companies claim to push as low as 500-1000 dollars to get published through their system, that price is just not practical in my current situation. I loved this line from firstwriter.com, “Remember, it’s better to have 15% of something than 50% of nothing.” When you publish traditionally, you have such a better chance of your book getting read and purchased. 

Gaining an Advocate

While I’m sure there are plenty of horror stories about agent-writer relationships, at the end of the day, I need someone to advocate for me. I need to know that I have someone on my team who is trying to market my book as much as I am. Why? Because until I can reasonably support myself with my writing, I’m going to have to work another job. Which leaves very little time to actually market my own books. Not that I wouldn’t push it HARD on every platform that I can. But this means that I’m going to need to get a good marketing deal with a publishing house.

As someone trying to be picked up by the largest publishing house possible, an agent is a necessity. They’re going to be the ones who are able to push my work through what so many people call the “slush pile” and seen by publishing houses.

The Unfortunate Reality

Fancy letters that say "no"
Every response letter I’ve gotten so far.

It’s estimated that about 300,000 books get published every year in the US. And these are the books that are not self-published. So yeah, the odds are not in my favor. Even with a small, published book under my belt. Plus with the trends of genres always changing like the tide, it’s hard to catch the right agent’s attention. 

I can’t tell you how many articles and YouTube videos I’ve watched about “How To Get an Agent” or “Why Agents Aren’t Picking Up Your Book.” But at the end of the day, I’ve seen just as many agents tweet things about how it’s just luck. It’s just subjective. It’s just a personal opinion. And you just have to find the right one at the right time.

As a young man just beginning to publish some short fiction in the t&a magazines, I was fairly optimistic about my chances of getting published; I knew that I had some game, as the basketball players say these days, and I also felt that time was on my side; sooner or later the best-selling writers of the sixties and seventies would either die or go senile, making room for newcomers like me.

-Stephen King

According to theadventurouswriter.com, agent Janet Reid “gets 100 query letters a week; other agents in her office get 500 queries a week. Reid may request 4 partial manuscripts from those 100 query letters.” I know agents have a hard job. I follow quite a few on twitter, and I see how exhausted they are by writers who just don’t understand what “no” or politeness means.

But that’s easier said than done when it feels like you’re running out of people to send your work to.

Even worse, I’ve seen even agencies not accepting unsolicited query letters. At that point, I wanted to throw in the towel. How can I even hope to be published traditionally when there are all of these hoops to jump through? And yet I persist. Why? It might be because I still believe in this industry and want to be added to the YA shelves of every bookstore across the world. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Who knows?

All I know is that I will continue to write and continue to push my writing out into the world.

My Conclusion

My personal journey is to travel the narrow path of traditional publishing, but I know this isn’t everyone’s choice. What are your thoughts and reasons for wanting to self-publish or traditionally publish? I’d love to hear where you are in this process and how this journey has been for you. 

Book Review: Wilder Girls Is Not Quite the Wild Ride I Wanted

Firstly, let’s acknowledge the incredible cover art by Illustrator Aykut Aydogdu. I think this cover art is half the attraction and hype of this book. So good job, marketing team.

Alright let’s get to it. Few-to-no spoilers for this part (when regarding specific plot-points). Just a straight-shot review. If you’d like to see my in-depth analysis, read “Getting Through the Weeds” below.

A Light Review Section

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Wilder Girls by Rory Power has been called a combination of Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies by literally every popular review website. Except, it’s really like a knock-off teen version of the movie Annihilation and a watered-down version of Lord of the Flies without the social commentary undertones. The writing was vague, the plot was thin and often petty. For a book saturated with powerful girls, this book was seriously lacking some girl power.

Wilder Girls is set in a time period most likely close to ours, where a group of students at a boarding school in Maine are attacked by a mysterious island disease that kills males quickly and leaves the females with nature-influenced transformations. With anything from scales to second spines, these girls are fighting for their lives. Meanwhile, the flora around the school continues to morph and a group of scientists search for answers to help them (from a distance). The story is told from split perspective of two best friends Hetty and Byatt, while other girls and teachers are splattered in scenes here and there.

The premise of Wilder Girls is obviously an interesting one, with potential for political commentary, LGBTQ+ romances and conversations (when considering the “biological” response to the disease), and scenes of girls being kick-ass. The author did a great job of making an ailment that might have been humorous actually seem terrifying and even cool at parts. But I came into this book expecting powerful girl romance and great story.

Unfortunately, that didn’t really happen. The romance was forced and weak. The “feminist” aspect of the book was non-existent. The writing was somehow so vague and dream-like that moments felt under-described and blurry. As if the picture wasn’t completely formulated when it was written. All in all, I felt super disappointed by this book. Especially because I felt like it had so much potential. If you’re into girl drama and an interesting setting, then this book might be an okay read for you. But if you were really banking on this book being your next favorite soft Sci-Fi YA, you might be let down too.

**Spoilers Below**

Getting Through the Weeds

Shallow Relationships

Things started out strong. We have a sassy narrator who described their current status, with shocking details of each girls’ mutations. We have some hierarchy shifts with Hetty getting picked to be a supply-runner, which drives some conflict with her loner friend Reese. And then this line:

“She looks almost shy. But Reese doesn’t do shy. Even when she came out to me, it was like a weapon. ‘Queer,’ she said then, as though she was daring me to disagree.”

I don’t know if this passage was just out of place, forced, awkward, or all of the above. Did we have to make it such a clunky statement? This line makes me feel like Reese is obviously going to have a crush on one of the main girls. There’s no tension, no tenderness. It’s just kind of awkward? Maybe I’m crazy.

The relationship between Byatt, Reese, and Hetty gets even more complicated when Reese tells Hetty that she doesn’t want Byatt to be a part of the picture anymore. It’s just cold and toxic, and automatically makes me kind of resent Reese as a person. I want to like the main characters, but they’re all so distant and mean to each other. Constantly bickering over trivial things when they’re all literally dying from a terrible disease. It’s almost like the book is saying girls can’t stop being petty even if their life depends on it.

When Reese kisses Hetty, it was really forced and also inconsequential. They kiss near the beginning and spend most of the rest of the book fighting or running. There’s not much relationship building at all, which was super disappointing. Hetty also seems to have feelings for Byatt, who’s gone for most of the book, but she’s still okay with making out with Reese? Maybe she’s going for a love triangle, but it was pretty lukewarm.

Disappointing Plotline

But the trivial conflict of our protagonists is really just the icing over the poorly laid plot. Most of the driving plot points are Hetty sneaking places with little-to-no tension or consequences (at least for her and her BFFs). In a setting of fantastic beasts and creepy mutations, we see very few interactions between our girls and the fauna. The climax of the book isn’t even a major point towards figuring out the diseases. It’s just a bear trying to break into their school. That also somehow gets diluted by the fact that Hetty and Reese escape super easily. Even when the scientists are threatening to blow up their school, because they’ve given up on trying to find a cure, there’s no suspense. I just didn’t care.

It’s definitely a challenge to make readers care about sick characters who are most likely doomed to die a horrible death. But this book didn’t even seem to try to connect characters to readers. Dialogue is pretty shallow and their constant bickering doesn’t help.

Byatt gets separated from Reese and Hetty pretty early on in the book and has her own adventure. Including purposefully giving the disease to a male scientist. I guess he was stupid enough to fall for her sick ass in a couple of minutes and kiss her. Because…feminism?

Speaking of which, feminist literature is supposed to be like a defense or establishment of equal rights of women — whether politically, socially, economically, or otherwise. I don’t think I would ever consider this feminist literature. For one, there’s nothing inherently political about the disease affecting only women. It’s not like The Power, by Naomi Alderman, where this is some sort of revelation of power dynamics. It’s just a hormone reactant. The only feminist power line was this:

“We don’t get to choose what hurts us.”

And yes, true. Preach! But that’s about it in the commentary department. I don’t need a book to be saturated in socioeconomic comments, but just because a book is an all-girl cast doesn’t make it feminist. At least in my opinion.

Byatt was by far the superior character, and I wish the story had been told by her perspective a little earlier on. She had some gorgeous poetry-like paragraphs when she was on drugs with the scientists. But she also had this gut-wrenching self-harm scene that made me tremble with nausea. It was honestly a bit much at times, but I kind of liked that about this book. It was definitely fearless with the horror descriptions. BUT, these clearly written violent details made everything else look even more under described.

There were a couple of logical errors like Hetty breaking open a window with her fist when she had a knife on her to use as a blunt force against the glass. And are you telling me that all they had to do was cut the parasite out of them and they’d be better? No scientist tried that at all before? Instead they just keep trying these drugs and gassing the girls. It’s just a little weird.

I think this book just focuses on the wrong things at the wrong time. The pacing is weird. The characters are just not great people and flat half the time. The concept was definitely interesting, but it just didn’t rock my world.


Change my mind about this book! I want to like it so much more, but right now I feel quite meh about it. What do you think?

Book Wrap Up (January): What I’ve Read So Far

I had a reading slump at the beginning of the month. I blame it on my anxious mental breakdowns and the usual — playing Skyrim. However, I finally got back into reading after finding the Booktube community. Mostly binge-watching ReadWithCindy. Anyways, here’s my book recap for the month. Have you read any of these books, or are they on your TBR list? Let me know what you think!

Books Read

  • Beautiful Creatures – Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl (2 out of 5 stars)
  • Becoming – Michelle Obama (4 out of 5 stars)
  • To Drink Coffee With a Ghost – Amanda Lovelace (3 out of 5 stars)
  • The Last Wish – Andrezej Sapkowski (4 out of 5 stars)

Beautiful Creatures was….meh. You can read my review, but I felt lukewarm-to-not-great about it. It was very bland with bad pacing. That’s about all I have to add to my thoughts on the book.

I actually listened to Becoming on audiobook, which is great because Michelle Obama just won a Grammy for the reading of this book. While I really loved hearing her life story and getting an inside look to what it’s like to be the President’s wife, I felt like she ran out of things to talk about in her early life. She did do a good job reading. I was entertained and engaged for most of the book. I also had an emotional breakdown when she talked about her disabled dad dying. My dad is similarly disabled, and it was like hearing my future before my ears. Needless to say, I was sobbing for most of my car ride home from work.

To Drink Coffee with a Ghost is a poetry book, and I realized a little too late that it’s actually the second part of a poetry collection. Despite this, it was definitely readable as a stand-alone. I connected to a lot of the poems about her mom, but some of them were just a little too obvious. I like poetry that’s pretty heavy in the metaphor department. So if any of you have recommendations, hit me up!

Ah, The Last Wish. This book made me believe in fairytale retellings again. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it really fast actually. The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars was because it was a little disjointed at times (partially because it was a collection of short stories). But there was a lot of names thrown at you, and the “overarching” storyline was really short and non-essential for the most part. But, I’m looking forward to the other books in the series for sure. LASTLY, I think the show did a really great job of connecting these disjointed stories into one giant storyline. And I was still able to enjoy the book’s differences.

If you’d like a full review on any of these besides Beautiful Creatures (which I already did), let me know!

Books Currently Reading

  • Beautiful Darkness – Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl
  • Dracula – Bram Stoker
  • Wilder Girls – Rory Power

I’ve been reading Dracula for a while, and it will probably be another month before I finish. I mostly read it when I have nothing else to read. Or if I only have my iPad with me (because I’m reading it via Apple Books).

I’m also giving the second book of the Castor series a try. *Sighs for eternity.* I’m just trying to figure out why it’s so popular.

Lastly, I’ll be writing a full review of Wilder Girls when I’m finished, which should be in the beginning of the month of February. I’ve got a lot to say about it so far.


What books have you read this month? Do you agree with my ratings? Leave a comment below if you’d like to share your lovely thoughts.

Beautiful Creatures Is a Wannabe “I’m Not Like Other Girls” Mess

Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, is classified as a YA Southern Gothic Fantasy. It’s told in first person from the perspective of high school student Ethan Wate as he encounters the new girl, Lena Duchannes, the niece of the local recluse. As their relationship develops, Ethan discovers hidden secrets in his and Lena’s past. They also have to grapple with the curse on Lena’s family which determines whether she will turn into a Dark or Light Caster (basically a bad or good witch) on her sixteenth birthday.

I know this book was published in 2009, but I’ve been itching to read the series for a long time. **I’ve tried to keep the spoilers to minimum.** And although I rated the book 2 out of 5 stars, I’m almost interested in reading the others to see if they get any better. Let me know if you’ve read the series and your thoughts!

Problematic Issues with Race, History, and Creepiness in General?

It’s not really my place to decide if the character Amma is a racist depiction of a southern black woman. What I can do is give you her character descriptions and let you decide for yourself. Although Ethan seems to be attached to her like a mother, Ethan’s sentiment alone doesn’t override the writer’s descriptions of Amma. She’s one of the few characters who talks with a dialect at times, she’s a devoted Christian and yet also follows a magical practice which is most similar to a stereotypical Southern voodoo, and she lacks much character depth besides these tropes. She mostly comes into the plot to cook, to contrast against Lena’s uncle, or to stop Ethan from doing something. So….yeah. For a book that mentions the Civil War often, it’s a little strange to have Amma be a stereotype.

“History was a bitch sometimes. You couldn’t change where you were from. But still, you didn’t have to stay there. You didn’t have to stay stuck in the past, like the ladies in the DAR, or the Gatlin Historical Society, or the Sisters. And you didn’t have to accept that things had to be the way they were, like Lena.”

What the book did seem to have was Civil War apologetics. Or what ended up looking like apologetics. Above is the scene where Ethan contemplates how it feels to be a part of the South, comparing his feelings about his own heritage to those who live in Germany after WWII. I guess we’re supposed to feel bad for him, but I really just…don’t? On one hand this might be a real issue many people in the South feel. On the other hand, the writers try to make this white, Southern boy appealing by overcompensating a civil-war-glorifying town with one family that’s not. And we can cheer for Ethan because his relative ran away from the Southern army? Maybe…

There are several flashbacks to Lena’s past relative where it’s basically implied that her relatives owned slaves. And it’s never really addressed. The writers missed a really great opportunity to talk about that issue and make it a major point of reconciliation for the main characters’ pasts. I mean, sure they say that the war was bad, but they never really get to the main issue of why it was bad.

Lastly the adults in this book are just creepy most of the time. Uncle Macon sneaks into Ethan’s bedroom for *reasons*, and I was just reading thinking, I don’t think this is okay. Of course like most YA, the adults have no control over the teenagers, and the teens tend to do whatever they want. Fine, whatever. But then the adults are also super powerful and threatening and borderline abusive or negligent at times. Ethan’s dad basically lives in his bedroom, leaving Ethan parentless for no reason other than his dad feels closer to their dead mom in his room. Nice!

It’s more just something that makes me sad, rather than a knock against the book itself.

Lena Is “Not Like Other Girls” and Neither Is Ethan.

“And what would you know about that? You’ve never been burdened with a relationship in your life, not even a friend. You don’t understand anything. How could you? You sleep in your room all day and mope around in your library all night. You hate everyone, and you think you’re better than everyone. If you’ve never really loved anyone, how could you possibly know how it feels to be me?”

Someone screamed the quote above. And because I was mostly checked out at this point, I thought Uncle Macon was yelling this at Lena. But no. It was Lena yelling at Macon. And I was like, Girl. You literally are doing the exact same thing. You need to chill. I was about to cheer that Macon had put her in her place for once, but sadly I just had to listen to this whiny girl complain about her sad birthday to a guy who’s protected her throughout her ENTIRE life.

Lena is the traditional emo, bookish girl who is strongly contrasted against the Southern Bells of their high school. She has a necklace of sentimental knickknacks, she writes angsty poetry on her arms and bedroom walls… But the thing is, unlike real people who have more to their characters than appearance, Lena doesn’t. Her character relies on the images she projects of herself, and the projection is unoriginal and not interesting.

But Ethan is also not like other girls even though he makes the statement, “It was that she made me realize how much I was just like the rest of them, even if I wanted to pretend I wasn’t.” Despite his own view of himself, he separates himself from the herd so he can be with his girl Lena. He never really acts like the other guys, so I’m not sure where he’s even getting this idea from. But he’s also a bland character without any clear flaws.

So I guess this book goes out to all the teens who just don’t feel like they belong. A good concept in theory if it wasn’t so dang boring.

It’s Just Boring. They Somehow Made Magic Boring.

I love reading YA Fantasy books, but I found this book to be so dry. Firstly, Ethan and Lena are together for a majority of the book and only have one or two fights throughout 500+ pages. Their fights come out of nowhere and mostly result from Lena freaking out again about her impending curse-related doom. And they resolve almost instantly.

That means that a majority of the conflict comes from outside forces. People in the town are annoying and basically avoidable as the two main love interests basically hide away from them for the entire book. Lena is being pursued by a Dark Caster, but this threat is also not substantial and irrelevant for most of the book.

For a book about building a relationship, there’s not much to the relationship anyways. Ethan gives up his entire life to pursue Lena, including quitting the basketball team and hanging out with his best friend Link. Although, he quits in part because his team literally acts like five-year-olds whose toy got stolen away from them when Ethan starts dating Lena. Ethan and Lena’s attraction is physical-based, their conversations are boring, and I really just don’t care about either of them. There’s no chemistry, no romantic tension. It’s just like a dependent first relationship, and I’m just not about that life.

In a World of Magic, Not Much Happens

Even the magical aspect, which should be one of the most dangerous and interesting parts, was rushed and side-lined by the lifeless relationship. Lena gains control over her powers in a matter of a few months without much explanation. The source and resources used for magic are flimsily explained. And the curse that haunts their family seems to be as unstable as a Greek prophecy, and not in the exciting adventure kind of way. There’s just not much substance or foundation for the world to stand on.

“Mortals, I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures.”

I think that quote about sums up the book. The “beautiful creatures” aren’t even the supernatural ones, but the humans. And yet every human in this book is either hyperbolized or plain potatoes. And yet I can’t help but wonder, do these books get any better?

Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Have you read this series? What are your thoughts? I really am curious if you liked it whenever you read it.

Response To: “The Decade in Young Adult Fiction” by Slate

Is YA Fiction Eating Itself Alive?

As someone who grew up as a teenager during the last decade, the state of YA Fiction is something near and dear to my heart. But I’m also a writer, and a writer of YA Fiction, so I feel like I have a second stake in this area. This is a response (obviously) to the Slate article “The Decade in Young Adult Fiction” by Laura Miller.

Readers of YA lit can get a lot of crap. In part because a majority of it is teenage romance, teenage angst, and teenage drama. But although these three things alone are not the makings of a genre that can transcend to almost any age, there’s so much more to YA than this article is giving it credit for.

Is YA Fiction Getting Out of Control?

I can list the different types of trends that have surfaced over the past decade: magic, vampires, boarding school romances, paranormal boyfriends, dystopian worlds, and alien boyfriends. Yeah it’s gotten a bit weird, but I wonder what’s causing that? Maybe it’s this crazy world we live in that’s driving writers to even crazier tactics to reach young adults.

Science fiction or fantasy, makes tomorrow’s ogres real and present, within the threatening framework of an imaginative world. It is within this framework that the writer can challenge readers, through the persona of the protagonist, to find answers…as they identify with the main character, they begin to understand the possibilities, the greatness of being fully human. They are empowered.


Young Adult Literature and Culture – Harry Edwin Eiss

It’s my belief that the fantastical makes the trials of everyday feel approachable and understandable. Sometimes the hard things in our lives seem impossible until we take a step away from them. But that’s easier said than done. Seeing similar — if not exaggerated or fantasized — events in YA books can help teens feel not so alone. So yeah, it’s gotten a bit weird. But it kind of had to.

Do YA Writers Shill Out for Movie Deals?

As for the whole James Frey conspiracy where he made up his “memoir” and formed a group of writers to push out literature and make money — I mean, yes, it’s true. The same thing can be seen on YouTube right now with bizarre content farms popping up. I think the difference is, when I was younger reading I Am Number Four, I actually enjoyed the books. They were some good juicy romance in my middle school eyes. And even if they were written with the intention of making money, at least they motivated me to be a writer myself.

I really think Frey’s quote is quite interesting in the article Slate references. I also recommend checking the actual article out for yourself.

Frey said he never considered whether A Million Little Pieces was fiction or nonfiction—and anyway, before the memoir craze of the nineties, it would have been published as a novel. “If Picasso painted a Cubist self-portrait,” he suggested, “nobody would say it didn’t look like him.”

“James Frey’s Fiction Factory” – Suzanne Mozes

Just like reality TV and most other realistic fiction YA, Frey just made a realistic and sensationalized book in the hopes of making sales. The point is, I think people are exploiting a broken system. Everyone is of course trying to make money. Only a few writers will write simply because they love the craft. But I think after the whole J.K. Rowling explosion of wealth, a lot of authors began to see that YA lit was where it’s at for commercial fiction. And if you’re a decent writer and a good business person, it’s not hard to imagine someone taking advantage of writing quick, trendy stories that capture the next generation’s imagination.

If anything, we just need to learn from this and recognize that many writers are just pushing out books for bragging rights and making money. And like the publishing company, movie producers know that teen flicks just sell tickets. Of course they’re going to keep making the worst and most dramatic of these books into shows and movies. But we have to think about young adults when we’re writing and publishing. We have to keep making content that pushes them forward and encourages them. Even if that kind of book is making bank, I would be okay with it. Maybe that’s just me.

What Is the State of Diversity in YA Lit?

As someone who is currently sending query letters to agents, I’ve come across a large amount of agents who are looking only for #ownvoices writers. If you’re not aware of this phrase, it basically means that the diversity the book includes is written by a person who has experienced the events or cultures.

While #ownvoices is a great invitation for more diverse writers for YA lit, there’s several problems that many people argue about. This is a sensitive topic for a lot of people, to say the least. If you feel like I missed something, please leave a comment below. I’d love to learn from your own experience of creating diversity in the publishing industry.

While inviting diversity in the publishing industry can result with great books like The Poet X and Children of Blood and Bone, some people argue that forcing diversity doesn’t automatically equate to good writing. Of course we should have way more minority stories represented in our YA lit. Young adults need to have mirrors (stories that reflect their experience) as well as windows (stories that show someone else’s experience). I personally have loved exploring the different authors who represent cultures and experiences other than my own. And I have also recently read books published by very white people that have problematic representation and themes.

However, there are two things that need to be addressed. One — a first person account will of course be more authentic, but genuine secondhand accounts can also be impactful. Two — agents and publishing companies who are accepting only diverse, minority perspectives, but don’t provide these writers security and protection, are putting these people in very vulnerable positions.

Although the publishing companies may be turning around in wanting more than a white perspective, a friend of mine from the LGBTQ+ community made the comment that she wouldn’t feel comfortable writing a story as a member of this community, but she would love to tell her story to a writer and help them write LGBTQ+ characters better. This is of course one perspective, but I wonder how many other people feel the same?

I think the point for diversity in YA is that you can’t force it. Just like you can’t force good writing. This isn’t a recent problem. But something that has been going on for a very long time. We have to protect and encourage people belonging to minority groups so that we can support them as writers. But also I personally don’t only want to write about white girls my entire life. Writing only what you know just isn’t what writers do. All of us have to do better. Every writer must be willing to accept they were wrong about something or someone and change for the better.

Is There a Future for YA Lit?

If you haven’t checked out my post for Sex in YA Fantasy, you should definitely read part one and two. YA is an important genre for teenagers, and we need to keep publishing quality stories that encourage young adults to read, think about themselves in new ways, and help them see the lives of different people more clearly.

Also young adults aren’t the only ones driving this burning car. According to a study done in 2012, about 55% of YA readers were over the age of 18 and therefore classified as “adults.” I wouldn’t be surprised to find that statistic is pretty much the same today. But why?

I think there’s several reasons:

  • They’re easy to read.
  • They bring up feelings of nostalgia.
  • They simplify complex topics.
  • They’re exciting to read.
  • There’s an endless variety.

YA books are the reason I decided to be a writer, and I’m sure many others can say the same. Even as an adult, I love reading YA books — even the bad ones. Of course we need to work on a better system, but let’s not forget all of the good it’s done in the past decade either.

Books Read in 2019 and the “Best of” Winners

As the year comes to an end, let’s all reflect on all the wonderful books we’ve had time to read this year!

As you can probably tell by the list, I like to read. And I like to read widely. From biographies, to young adult, to fantasy, to philosophy — I love it all. Below is the order of books I read this year. You can probably tell when I got tired of a genre and needed to try something new.

Believe me when I say this was an unusual number of books for me to read in just a year. I had a lot of time traveling with audiobooks and physical books, and I had a job for several months where I listened to audiobooks while I worked. Needless to say, these past three months I’ve slowed down a lot. I can already tell this upcoming year won’t be as big of a list!

Have you read any of the books listed below? What books did you read this year? List out your book winners or want-to-read(s) in the comments below!

I’ve also written several reviews for the books listed below. Check out their links!

Books Read In 2019

  1. Wild, Cheryl Strayed
  2. The Solitude of Prime Numbers, Paolo Giordano
  3. The Baron in the Trees, Italo Calvino
  4. Lord of Shadows, Cassandra Clare
  5. The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, A.S. Byatt
  6. Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger?, Sherry F. Colb
  7. Eye of the World (WoT #1), Robert Jordan
  8. The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson
  9. Roots of Yoga, James Mallinson and Mark Singleton
  10. The Great Hunt (WoT #2), Robert Jordan
  11. If You Could Be Mine, Sara Farizan
  12. Queen of Air and Darkness, Cassandra Clare
  13. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick
  14. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman
  15. Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbit
  16. Storm Front (Dresden Files #1), Jim Butcher
  17. Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
  18. Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2), Jim Butcher
  19. The Magicians, Lev Grossman
  20. The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron
  21. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
  22. The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo
  23. The Story of Owen, E.K. Johnston
  24. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
  25. The Magician King, Lev Grossman
  26. Finding Ultra, Rich Roll
  27. Over Sea, Under Stone, Susan Cooper
  28. Dragon Reborn (WoT #3), Robert Jordan
  29. On Writing, Stephen King
  30. Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor
  31. Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi
  32. Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan
  33. The Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman
  34. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
  35. The Dark Is Rising, Susan Cooper,
  36. D.I.Y. Magic, Anthony Alvarado
  37. The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger
  38. The Green Mile, Stephen King
  39. Love Wins, Rob Bell
  40. White Cat, Holly Black
  41. The Power, Naomi Alderman
  42. Grave Peril (Dresden Files #3), Jim Butcher
  43. Red Glove, Holly Black
  44. The Shadow Rising (WoT #4), Robert Jordan
  45. Black Heart, Holly Black
  46. Greenwitch, Susan Cooper
  47. The Awakening, L.J. Smith
  48. The Struggle, L.J. Smith
  49. The Fury, L.J. Smith
  50. The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss
  51. Odd Thomas, Dean Koontz
  52. Forever Odd, Dean Koontz
  53. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
  54. We Are Okay, Nina Lacour
  55. A Gift of Magic, Lois Duncan
  56. Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer
  57. The Kiss of Deception, Mary E. Pearson
  58. Good Omens, Terry Pritchett and Neil Gaiman
  59. The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
  60. The Heart of Betrayal, Marry E. Pearson
  61. The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
  62. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
  63. You Are a Badass at Making Money, Jen Sincero
  64. The Biblical Clock, Daniel Friedmann
  65. You Are a Badass, Jen Sincero
  66. Project Tau, Jude Austin
  67. Writing Magic, Gail Carson Levine
  68. We Are Voulhire, Matthew Tysz

Best Book to Movie Adaptation – Odd Thomas

Odd Thomas

If you’ve never seen this move starring Anton Yelchin (Star Trek), you should definitely check it out. It was on Netflix the last time I watched it. What’s great about this movie is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it also maintains a pretty cohesive and entertaining story. Basically Odd Thomas can communicate with dead people. But he also can see these strange creatures that bring about bad luck and death. It’s really funny, very charming, and both the movie and the book made me cry.

Best Fantasy – Eye of the World

Eye of the Word

When I started this book, I didn’t know how much I’d been missing a grand fantasy series. Little did I know I’d be strapping in for another 14 books (and a prequel). I haven’t finished the series yet, but this one is by far my favorite. It’s fast-paced, nostalgic of those old fashion epics of yore, and creates a very unique world. It’s also being made into a TV series, so definitely read this first book before it comes out!

Most Inspirational Read – The Artist’s Way

The Artist’s Way

I’m usually pretty skeptical of how-to or self-improvement books, but this one really spoke to me. I’ve been hearing about it for a long time by a variety of different creatives that I follow on podcasts, YouTube, etc. So I finally gave it a go. This book is so helpful and encouraging for people who feel like they’ll never be creatives and make money. It also gives fantastic, practical advice for getting through creative blocks.

Best Fiction – The Solitude of Prime Numbers

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

I went through a phase of wanting to explore “classic” Italian literature and ended up reading this book among the few I selected. It was one of those rare times when I couldn’t stop reading, and when I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about this book and how much I wanted to know what happened next. I’m usually not a huge fan of realistic fiction or pretty dry storylines, but there was something almost mystical about the writing. If you’ve ever read The Sun Is Also a Star, you might like the dynamic that is created in this book between the two leads.

Best YA Book – The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go

I was recruited to read this book by a teacher who wasn’t sure if it would be okay to let her grade school students read. It was pretty violent and had some swearing, but the structure, voice, and story were so strong and engaging that I couldn’t put it down. Every spare second I had, I found myself gravitating back to this book. It does a lot of unique things with the white space of the page, and I think that it’s a great addition to the YA world.

Best Short Story Collection – The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye

The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye

If you’re tired of the same fairytale stories of helpless girls and misogynistic knights, this collection of stories will be perfect for you. It’s a bit of a story within a story, but it also gives new twists to stories that feel a little familiar. I’ve never read Byatt before this book, but I’m definitely interested in reading more of her works.

Weirdest Series – The Magicians

The Magicians, Lev Grossman

If you’ve ever seen American Horror Story and felt like it was trying too hard to be edgy for the sake of being edgy, you might feel the same about this book series. Honestly, though I liked the first and kind of liked the second, this series got out of hand and wacky way too fast. Set in a boy’s Narnia-dream-world come to life, this book series pushes sexual tension, the cost of magic, and realistic wizard schools to the extreme. Interesting, but definitely not my favorite read this year.

Best Writing Book – On Writing

On Writing

Coming in a close second to my favorite audiobook of the year, this book was super inspiring as a writer. I’ve read only a few of King’s books, but hearing him talk about his experiences as a struggling writer, while also being highly entertained was a highlight of my day. Seriously, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to grow in their writing. I also highly recommend listening to the audiobook, as Stephen King reads it himself.

Best Theological/Philosophical Read – Love Wins

Love Wins

While my philosophical reads this year were pretty limited, the few that I read were very insightful. This book really made me question my beliefs about heaven and hell — especially regarding if hell even exists. Even if you don’t necessarily consider yourself a Christian, Rob Bell writes in a very approachable and inclusive way. Annnnd this book basically got him excommunicated from the church. So it’s definitely filled with controversial ideas.

Best Audiobook – Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone

Audiobooks are usually hit or miss with me, as they can often be read so poorly. But even more often, reading them out loud reveals all of the book’s flaws. But in this case, I would recommend listening to the audiobook over reading the physical book. Firstly, the reader (Bahni Turpin) was fantastic and made hearing the names of places and people much easier than reading them. Secondly, there were several times where characters chant or sing songs. And Bahni sings. Actually sings. It gave me literal chills. There was one part near the end where this happened and I started screaming with excitement in my car. Yes, I know I’m a nerd.

Most Anticipated Sequel – The Kingkiller Chronicle Book 3

The Name of the Wind

These might be the longest books I’ve ever read in my life. And while you can’t really say that they’re action-packed, this slow-burn fantasy series is so addicting and hypnotic that I couldn’t put it down. The only problem is everyone has been waiting for the third and final book to come out for several years past its promised released date. I know that I will be super hyped to read the conclusion, and if you like really scientifically grounded fantasy with great bard-like storytelling, you should definitely read these two.

Special Mentions

Practical Magic – It wasn’t awarded above, but its one of the best magical realism novels I’ve read. It’s definitely worth the read. If you like to imagine how real witches live in our world and want something similar to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants at the same time, this one’s for you.

If You Could Be Mine – this deserves a mention just for being incredibly unique and powerful. It follows the story of two young Muslim girls as they wrestle with feelings for each other and how to survive in a society that strictly forbids their relationship. Definitely a book worth considering if you want to see a different perspective than most YA books.

Conclusions

Well, that’s it for this year! What books did you read in 2019 or have planned to read in 2020? I would love to know your tops for the categories I’ve listed above. Have you read any of the books I’ve read this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Fiction Friday #7: Write the Prompt with Me!

The Prompt

Writing prompt #7

I couldn’t find the actual website this prompt used to belong to. It took me instead to a Game of Thrones online game… Well that’s alright. Anyways, let’s get to the prompt.

As always, 30 minutes and enjoy your writing everyone! Don’t forget to leave a comment about what you think of my version, or where you’d want your own prompt to go.

If you have any prompts you want to see on this website, be sure to leave them in the comments section.

And for even more prompts, check out my Pinterest board just for writing prompts!

*WARNING THIS PROMPT CONTAINS VIOLENT IMAGERY*

The Writing

I inhaled as the creature rounded Tommy once more. Not today, I begged. Please, just not today.

The monster was a milky pink with layers of skin folding over its body like an obese worm. No eyes, only two small slits where eyes and nose should be. And his mouth was ripped open to his ears, filled with several rows of razor teeth.

Of course, my friend couldn’t see the thing licking his ear. He probably couldn’t even feel it.

But I could.

“Claire?”

My eyes snapped to meet his.

“What?”

His eyes narrowed and then rolled to the side. “Never mind. I’ll see you later, okay? I have to get home before my dad does.”

He adjusted the strap of his backpack on his shoulder and walked away from me. I took a breath as the creature vanished in a single blink of my eyes. Like its existence had popped out like a bubble. As long as it was gone, I didn’t care.

As I waiting for Tommy to turn the corner and start on my own way home, I noticed a rustling in the leaves.

I walked towards it, numb in my fingers and face. Just thinking about all that I was yet to see today. They had started to show up when I was seven. My aunt had been arguing with my mom when my dad came home. Then they all got into it. The next thing I know, some freaking ugly-ass creature blinks into existence, slices mom and dad’s throats and leaves my aunt to go to jail for the crime. Now I live with my grandma. If you can call “living with” a situation where I don’t even usually see her. I don’t know if she leaves the house or is just hiding in one of the massive rooms so I can never find her. Either way, I’m on my own.

I realized that I was now standing in front of the bushes. Two black-pit eyes were staring back at me through the shrub and several feet below my eye-level. The eyes swayed from side to side until I made out its gaping mouth in the darkness. Filled with row after row of yellow teeth.

I took a step back.

The creature beckoned me forward, pushing its frail hand — from which long black nails jutted out — through the branches of the bush.

I can’t tell you why I moved forward. There’s no reason why I should have. But I did.

I entered the shrub as I started to hear shouting from across the street. A group of kids — two girls and one boy — crossed the street and raced towards where I had been standing. I stepped farther back into the bushes, knowing full well that the creature still stood beside me, gawking. Not really moving, just staring at me and the scene that was unraveling before my eyes.

“Claa-ire,” the shortest girl called out in a song-like tone.

“I swear I saw her,” the other girl said.

“Yeah, I definitely did too.” the boy said. He had something he held in his hand that was sharp on the end. It caught the glint of the street lamp like some sort of glass dagger.

I recognized them all as my classmates, with varying degrees of feelings towards each. The boy was Jake, the basketball center and often too quiet to make assumptions about. The other girl I had seen before but only knew her name as Trisha. The short girl was Hailey, the only one in most of my classes and someone I had personally tried to avoid since we had met.

“Shut up,” Hailey said, brushing her cropped curls behind an ear and raising a hand to silence them. “Maybe we can hear her.”

I knew the art of silent breathing. When I was in bed at night I was often “greeted” by these strange beings. If I hid under the sheets without making any sudden movement or noise, they would often just stand there until morning. One time I accidentally coughed and the loudest moan echoed off the creature’s lips. I had run out of the room and searched through the house for my grandma all night. And I still didn’t find her.

“She’s definitely not here,” Trisha said.

That’s when Hailey and Jake turned in towards her.

“You tipped her off, didn’t you?” Hailey demanded, grabbing the sharp tool from Jake’s hand.

Trisha took a step back with her hands raised at her chest. “Um, no — why would I do that? I told you, I thought she was weird. I wanted to go through with this.”

Hailey’s chin lifted up so she could make eye contact with Jake, and he nodded.

Then two things happened. A shadow appeared behind Hailey and latched itself onto her back like some sort of felt fabric sewn to her skin. Only the shadow’s hand wrapped around her hand and dragged it forward as she pushed the dagger into Trisha’s body.

Jake grabbed Trisha’s arms and pulled them behind her back as the Hailey-shadow combination plunged the knife in two more times.

“That should have been Claire,” Hailey said, wiping her dagger off on Trisha’s shirt. On the only spot she could find that wasn’t drenched with blood.

Trisha was still gasping for air. But only for a few minutes. Then she was gone.

And so was the shadow.

In my paralyzed fear, I realized that the creature in the bushes was still beside me, breathing faintly. As I noticed it again, its hand reached out at me. I flinched, but not before one of its claws brushed against my skin. It scratched the surface, but not in a normal way. Instead, it left a symbol, almost like a rose but with thorns built inside of the petals.

And somehow I knew at that moment: these creatures might be more complicated than I had first thought.

Even More Fiction Fridays!

Fiction Friday #6: A fugitive running through the graveyard leaves it with ghosts

Fiction Friday #5: A curse of constantly dying terrorizes two lovers

Fiction Friday #4: Witchy quest for Necromancy spell

Fiction Friday #3: Vampire Noir mystery action in a fancy restaurant

Fiction Friday #2: Mutated human wolf creatures

Fiction Friday #1: Giant battle with a human killing machine

6 Methods of Self Care for Writers

Take Time Off Main Projects

Bicycle clock

If there’s anything that can help a writer, it’s taking a break from your WIP. You may want to wait until you finish a first or second draft to do this. Another great time to pause your writing is when you’re facing major roadblocks in the plot department.

Tuck your writing away. Save it for when you’re itching with excitement to write again. In the meantime, read a book. Watch a movie. Don’t think about your main project.

It might also be helpful to take some time to write something else. This can be a great time to explore a different idea or genre. Writing daily writing prompts can be a great way to keep writing while also taking a break from your main work. Be sure to check out my post for reasons why writing prompts are super helpful for writers.

Share Your Writing Wisely

Hand holding flower

When your writing is in its beginning stages, you may feel like you want to share it with the whole world to make sure you’re on the right track. DON’T. While your writing may be fully realized in your mind’s eye, what people are seeing is a newborn child.

That’s why it may not be wise to share your first draft. You might have written a masterpiece, but chances are, you’re writing still has a far way to go. And that’s okay! Sharing your writing too early can be discouraging and can prevent you from moving forward on your project. If you do share it with someone, make sure you specify what you’re looking for regarding feedback.

Explore Non-Writing Hobbies

Painting supplies

Although it may seem like a good idea to just branch out in just the genre that you’re writing, it’s also helpful to try new activities besides writing. Going on walks, drawing, playing video games, role playing, sewing or knitting — all of these different activities can help you relax an over-worked writer’s mind. You might even find that previously convoluted or messy ideas untangle themselves when you’re in the middle of one of these hobbies.

Hobbies are great stress relievers. But they also help you relax your mind. Like breathing a breath of fresh air in the mountains after being surrounded by city pollution.

For me, sketching, yoga, and playing guitar are super helpful when writing has become stressful.

What hobbies help you relax?

Find a Supportive Writing Community

Group of girls

For a long time, I viewed other writers as an almost threatening presence. The artistic community can often turn so competitive that we turn against each other. Who gets published first? Who “succumbs” to self-publishing? Who gets represented by an agent?

Does it matter? Not really.

On Twitter, there’s a giant community of writers who all use the hashtag #writingcommunity and #amwriting. They show support by following, they repost other writer’s tweets, and they’re incredibly encouraging. I’m sure like any social media, this group might have it’s negatives, but there are plenty of other online platforms for writers to gather, as well as physical groups for writers.

When I think of writer’s groups, I think of the old group that Tolkien and Lewis belonged to called the Inklings. They used to meet for a drink and work on writing together. Maybe you just have a small group of friend writers who can help you process your writing. Maybe you meet over video chat.

The next time you see the chance to join a writer’s group, give it a chance. As writers, we need to support each other and lift each other up. If one of us succeeds, we all succeed.

Be Kind to Yourself Daily

Person in field with mirror

The writing world can be tough at any level. Whether you’ve received your first bad review or just can’t figure out a character’s motivation for taking her next step, YOU as a writer need to take a moment to be kind to yourself.

Tell yourself 5 things you love about your writing abilities. That’s right — compliment your own writing. Get as big-headed as you want.

Next tell yourself 5 things you love about yourself besides writing. This might be harder, and that’s okay. But it’s also important to remind yourself that you are more than a writer. You have a set of unique characteristics.

What do you love about yourself or your writing?

Spend Time with Your Critiques

Person at riverside

After you’ve pepped yourself up a bit, you’re ready to face those reviews, those edits, those comments. Spend time reading critiques from your fellow readers or writers. Take time to mull them over. Keep the comments that will help your writing and chuck out the rest — and that includes all personal attacks.

Only you can choose how you receive and process your critiques. Not every review will be true, but they can also be helpful. Take your time with them and be gentle with yourself and your writing. You’ve worked hard. Now it’s time to work harder.

Pin-able reminder of self care for writers!

5 Tips for Beginner Freelance Writers

So in my quest for finding work in LA, I began to look into freelance writing and ghostwriting. Writing has always been a passion of mine, and though I love fiction writing, any writing feels “right” to me. Like many accountants love balancing checkbooks, or mathematicians love solving equations, I love completing a well-rounded article.

That’s also why writing for the blog has been quite the challenge. I’ve been working a 7 hour job — editing photos, taking photos, and content creating for a fashion company — and then I come home and work on articles for separate companies.

There’s a couple things I’ve learned in my short time in the freelance writing world, so I thought I’d share for all you writers out there.

1. Take Opportunities You Find

Person leaping across the floor
Image by Andy Beales

When I first started looking for gigs to freelance write, I was overwhelmed by the number of other writers doing the same thing. Not only were there so many freelancers, but there was also so many businesses who were hiring freelancers for different reasons. But I couldn’t seem to find a job that fit for me. I applied to several companies and heard nothing back.

But as I continued to study my options, I came across several opportunities to write. Here are just a few things that helped me get started:

  • Blog, blog, blog. It only gives you writing samples and builds a network.
  • Look for chances to submit short pieces as a contribution post.
  • Keep applying to places.
  • Study websites and other company blogs.
  • Listen. Sometimes people talk about needing a writer before they even realize they actually do.

After I started blogging, I also contributed a short story. I picked up a freelance writing gig for a SEO company that was just starting out and needed someone with a background in excellent proofreading and content writing. I also got the opportunity to write for LA Elements and go on the red carpet to interview actors and crew members about the new movie Agent Emerson.

The point is, opportunities are out there. You just have to be persistent.

2. Not Every Opportunity Is Legit

People discussing a project
Image by Thomas Drouault

After I submitted my short story as a contribution post, I received and email saying they loved my piece so much that they wanted me to be a paid author on their site. I was so thrilled (obviously!). But when I sent an email in response, I got back silence. Nothing. For over two weeks.

When I sent another email, I got back a short reply that they actually had meant to send that email to someone else. *Sigh.* Back to square one.

While this situation is pretty particular, there are going to be tons of scams out there. Be sure to look up where your writing will be posted if you contribute writing. Make sure you’ve established good communication with whoever you write for. Make contracts ahead of time. Meet up face-to-face if possible. People want writers to work for free. Don’t let that happen.

There are also tons of people who are “professional freelancers” who just want to sell you their $500 freelancer kit. If you really trust one of these people’s programs and have the money to spend, sure. Go for it. But personally, I’ve found I can learn just as much about anything through YouTube and Google. I’ve left some resources at the end of the blog if you’re interested in SEO and content writing.

3. Know That Not Every Gig Will Pay Big

Person fanning money
Image by Alexander Mils

The internet will tell you that freelancers are paid anywhere between $.03 to $.10 per word. Some crazy ones even say $1 per word. In reality, you’re more likely to get paid $.02 per word or a set payment for a project. For example, I’ve gotten paid $60 for a 600 word article. And I’m currently getting that rate of $.02 for my SEO writing. It does add up, and it can still make you a good amount of side change. But you won’t be able to live off these rates at first.

Don’t be discouraged. If anything, a paid gig is still better than just contribution posts or working for free. You can add it to your resume. Also, keep track of your assignments so you can send them to future clients as examples.

Dig into the grind of getting paid little for work that deserves much more. Prove to your employers that you’re worth more than the rate they actually pay you. Eventually you might be able to negotiate higher rates.

4. But Also Know Your Writing Is Worth Something

Person writing in cafe
Image by Kat Stokes

Above all, remember that your writing is a craft that not a lot of other people are capable of. Whether it’s fiction, poetry, self-help, SEO, brand writing, etc. You are a word artist. And just like any other legitimate job and craft, you deserve to get paid.

It’s fine to do a couple jobs pro bono, especially if it’s for a cause you love, contests, or contribution posts to major blogs. But don’t let anyone tell you that your writing is an easy thing to do and doesn’t deserve to be paid. If it was so easy, then all of these companies and websites would just do it themselves.

The world needs great writers. And they need to pay them too. Stick with your guns. You’re a great writer, and you deserve to get paid for it.

5. Make Time for Yourself

Person reading a book
Image by Nathan Dumlao

As much as I love content creating for other people, it’s important to still take time for yourself. You’re a writer for a reason, and there were probably projects you were working on for yourself before you started working for others.

If you started writing that book, keep writing. If you love poetry, keep working on your poems. Just because you aren’t getting paid for those projects now, doesn’t mean they aren’t worth your time. Your passions are important. They bring you life. They’re the reason you’re a writer. And someday, those projects will come to life before your eyes.

So make time for your craft. It’ll be hard. You might have to start with a small amount or one day a week. But make time for your own writing. And make time to relax too!

What are some lessons you’ve learned as a writer? Comment below!

Resources to Help Freelancers

Canva – helps you create easy graphics for your writing

Grammarly – is great for picking up little grammar mistakes

Hemingway Writing Ap – useful for correcting sentence structure and length

All Freelance Writing Jobs – a website that shows great and diverse writing jobs