If you’ve read my bio or been tracking with me for a while now, you know I mainly write young adult historicals and historical fantasies. If you were to look at my shelves right now (or the Rachel's Reads tab), they’re an interesting mix of historicals such as Roseanna M. White, Kristy Cambron, and Jocelyn Green; and quirky, unique fantasies such as Nadine Brandes, Kara Swanson, and Sara Ella.
Last month, I read an article by blogger Olivia G. Booms about why she is not a fan of YA. It was a well-written article with some excellent points and she laid it all out very well. I highly recommend giving it a read and giving her blog a follow. https://oliviaspenn.wordpress.com/2022/09/12/why-im-not-a-fan-of-ya/
I agreed with everything she said in the article. But once I finished reading, I couldn’t help but sit there and think, “But what about this book? And this author? And this . . .?”
I’m not discounting what she had to say. She was absolutely correct in her assessment.
Olivia’s observations brought her to the conclusion that YA is no longer worthwhile. My observations have brought me to the conclusion that YA is wildly worthwhile. While she sees these weaknesses of the genre as a whole, I’m immersed in that genre and can see all the authors trying to change it.
Here are three reasons why I adore YA fiction.
YA is more creative than other genres.
I see originality in YA books that I don’t see anywhere else.
Who else would have thought to recreate the story of Guy Fawkes in a version of 1600’s England where everyone can control colors? (That would be Fawkes by Nadine Brandes, by the way.)
As adults (and I can say that because technically I am one), we suddenly find ourselves boxed in by certain expectations. If you don’t conform to those expectations, you become the spectacle of much scrutiny and concern. As a result, we often become worried about fulfilling those expectations and lose sight of our whimsy.
YA strips all those expectations away. It’s a safe space to break the rules, to be crazy, to be weird, to bounce off the walls, to learn to fly.
YA is more open-minded than any other genre I’ve experienced. Authors and readers alike are willing to try things that are completely ludicrous, that would never work. Sometimes those things majorly flop. Sometimes those things become our next favorite read, stories we carry with us the rest of our lives.
We’re willing to try anything. And when it doesn’t work, we’re willing to pick ourselves back up and try something different.
In the words of Angela Lansbury in Mary Poppins Returns, we “choose the secret we know before life makes us grow. There’s nowhere to go but up.” (And if the voice of Mrs. Potts says it, then how can it be wrong?)
YA is willing to discuss the hard things of life.
People complain that YA is entirely inappropriate. So is anything else. Seriously. You will never find a genre of book where you do not find both ends of the spectrum—wildly inappropriate books and squeaky clean books and everything in between.
I think people go harder on YA because of the age bracket it’s written for, and it makes sense. YA (along with MG and children’s) targets some of the most formative years in a person’s life. The wrong books can have a terrible influence.
But the right books can have all the influence.
Which is why it’s such a big deal that YA is frank about the hardest things in life.
More than any other genre I’ve seen, YA is willing to discuss topics such as abuse, depression, anxiety, suicide, self-harm, divorce, sexuality, disabilities, bullying, and mental health.
As we grow up, we’re expected (or we believe we’re expected) to have it all figured out. When someone asks “how are you,” we’re supposed to be able to wholeheartedly answer “fine.”
YA doesn’t expect that. It lets you be a mess. And it sits next to you in it. Maybe it helps you find a way out. Maybe it just points to a firefly in the corner. Maybe it just sits and is quiet for a while.
I read the book Shadow by Kara Swanson over the summer of 2021. Though some people immediately leapt upon it, claiming it was too dark, that book touched me in a way not many stories ever have. I was going through something extremely hard and all the feelings that came with it. I understood this feeling of a shadow tearing me apart. And that book came alongside me and helped me find the light in the darkness. I still read that book when I’m discouraged.
Has YA failed in some of its representation of this hard stuff? Absolutely. The book Thirteen Reasons Why and the resulting TV show were meant to come alongside suicidal people and instead wound up glamorizing suicidal thoughts and actions. And that’s only one example.
But at least they’re willing to talk about it. At least they let you be not okay and don’t judge you for it. At least they try.
And if more people committed to using this power for the most good that they can? Can you even imagine?
YA brings deep messages into no man’s land.
I once read an article where an Academy Award winning director claimed that Marvel Cinematic Universe movies “aren’t cinema.” Other directors and actors concurred that it “diminished quality of films” and that watching one didn’t gain anything, enlighten you, or inspire you at all.
Actors who had been in the MCU films immediately came back.
Tom Holland, who played Spider-Man throughout the films, said, "I’ve made Marvel movies and I’ve also made movies that have been in the conversation in the world of the Oscars, and the only difference, really, is one is much more expensive than the other. But the way I break down the character, the way the director etches out the arc of the story and characters — it’s all the same, just done on a different scale."
Natalie Portman, who played Jane Foster in the Thor films, said, "I think that Marvel films are so popular because they’re really entertaining and people desire entertainment when they have their special time after work, after dealing with their hardships in real life."
Karen Gillan, who played Nebula in the Guardians of the Galaxy and later Avengers films, said, "I would say art is subjective, and so it is artistic to make a big project superhero film for sure — it's just a different type of art."
Why am I talking about this? Because YA is the same way.
Read those quotes again, but put YA in the blanks where it says Marvel films, or superhero films, or whatever.
We’re the MCU. We’re seen as a lesser form of storytelling because we like whimsical worlds and epic battles. We’re seen as nothing more than entertainment. It corresponds with what today’s world believes about young people. They believe we’re shallow, that we have nothing of value to say.
Think about it, though. Between an Academy Award nominated film (with the exception of Little Women, of course, it's a legend that everybody should see regardless of the awards, I shall write about it someday) and, say, The Avengers, which one are you more likely to have seen? So, which one has been more likely to speak to you?
The fact of the matter is, a fun, whimsical story is what people look for after a long day of just being human. It gets our foot in the door, it gets us in.
And once we’re in, whimsy has a way of speaking to people that nothing else can do. Whimsy just might be one of the deepest things there is—it allows us to say the things we’re never allowed to say out loud without ever saying a single word.
For the record, I do walk out of some MCU films with inspiration for my real life. YA does the same thing. Only different.
This is why I write YA. This is why I write at all.
I believe God is still up to His elbows, working through the YA genre. He works through books that may or may not ever acknowledge Him, so imagine what He can do with books and authors who do, whether that be explicitly or implicitly. He's not done with YA, and He has given YA some unique superpowers (to continue the MCU analogy) to reach people in some of the most formative years of their lives.
I'm honored that He has called me to be a part of this particular mission.
What about you? You don’t have to love YA. Why do you love books? Let me know your adventures in the comments below! (And remember, give Olivia a follow, she has more than earned it!)
During my first year of blogging, I couldn’t come up with something to put in my newsletter. One of my family members jokingly told me to write about how I didn’t know what to write.
(*in SpongeBob imitation voice* *wait, I haven’t even watched SpongeBob* Three years later . . . )
Here we are.
I’ve been blogging for three years (three years! We made it, everybody!). And usually before I post something, I still sit and stare at a blank screen for half an hour before tapping out the worst couple hundred words I’ve ever written in my life.
(What have I been up to this month? What’s been occupying my headspace? What’s on my mind?)
Sometimes, there’s just nothing. I went back to school at the end of August, and even though I slipped back into old routines fairly easily, sometimes I just find myself sitting there with nothing in my brain because it’s full of other things.
(Does that make any sense? Can anyone relate?)
Sometimes, things immediately spring to mind. I mean, I could write you thousands of words about my recent Marvel Cinematic Universe fascination, the psychology of my favorite book character, or the profound-ish (well, I thought it was anyway) thought that entered my head while I was watching a Disney movie.
(But would that be too weird? I mean, does anybody really need to hear all that, or is it better left in my brain?)
And other times, I reluctantly settle on a ho-hum topic and force out a couple hundred words—only for a stroke of inspiration to hit me halfway through the month when my post is already behind schedule. And of course, I completely abandon that hard-earned hundred words for a mini-rant on the topic of my choice.
(I always come back for those hundred words, though. Most of the time.)
Because even though I’ve been blogging for three years, no matter how explosive the stroke of inspiration or how interesting I find my random topics, a tiny voice in the back of my head never quite shuts up.
"No one wants to read that. Or really needs to, quite frankly."
"That’s just too weird. Choose something normal to write about already, like this blogger over here."
"What’s even the point of this? Remember that really profound blog post you read last week? Shouldn’t you have something like that waltzing around in your head? Look harder."
It’s silly, I know. I have all of you who show up every month to read this randomness and to leave encouraging comments. Maybe, if I’m lucky, it even blesses you a little.
(You all know this blog is about you, too, right?)
It’s easy to forget what this is all about.
"I’m just not an interesting enough person to run a blog."
"I’m really just annoying everyone and they’re only subscribed because they feel pity for me."
"Am I just standing here going on and on, while the people I’m writing for have completely zoned out and are looking at memes?"
"I’m not important and my voice doesn’t matter."
But this isn’t really about me, is it? I’m not writing this so you all feel bad for me and shower me with love and affection.
I’m writing this because maybe you feel the same.
This is just one of the many channels where I’m hoping God’s grace shines through. And the fact of the matter is that He made me this way with my randomness for a reason.
(Is it still random if I have a reason?)
I and my voice are important, not because of what I have to say, but because of the One Who gave it to me.
So maybe it’s time to loosen up and just be me. Maybe I don’t have to fit that particular idea I’ve got of what I should be.
Some days that may mean writing a post when I feel like my brain is empty. Some days it may mean embracing the randomness. Some days it may just mean clicking post even if it doesn’t feel quite ready yet.
Because someone needs to hear it. Just like someone needs to hear you.
So. What’s on your mind? I'd love to hear it. Share your adventures in the comments below!
I also realized I posted the same meme two months in a row. So I'm giving you two memes this month!
C.S. Lewis once said, “The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.”
I wasn’t sure what I thought of that at first. How could a Christian writing a good story be better than a book that clearly laid out the steps to salvation and what Christianity looks like?
Now that I’ve been writing for seven-ish years, I agree with Lewis.
I recently researched and wrote an article for Kingdom Pen about the bestsellers of the past one hundred years and how they impacted our writing today. I’d slogged from 1920 all the way up to the year 2020 when I found something very interesting. (Read the article here: https://kingdompen.org/best-selling-books-last-100-years/)
One of the top ten bestsellers of 2020 was the book Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. That was a Christian novel written by a Christian author and published by a Christian publishing house.
Christian fiction is finally getting its head in the game. We’re sitting up and realizing that there’s something more out there. That it’s not just about writing a convincing conversion scene—it’s about writing a good story with God.
Don’t get me wrong—conversion scenes are wonderful and even appropriate in some stories. But Christian writers are beginning to widen their focus to the bigger array of nuances, themes, problems, and solutions that the world is looking for.
We’re beginning to value compassion and diversity more than our own personal preferences. We’ll go out of our way to write a different race, a different sexuality, a mental illness, a trauma, a physical or mental disability. And we’re doing one up by not just writing those things, but by showing the hope in, through, or out of them. We have started to truly see people, and we value the people we see more than being comfortable and bolstering our own personal pet peeves.
We’re writing less books that stay in neat tidy cabins on the prairie and more that get out into the messy city squares of life. We’re not expecting an angelic miracle to save our climax, for prayer to fix everything exactly as we want it, and for a conversion scene to be the only way out of the low point. Rather, we use them as they are the most helpful to our story and more importantly, our reader.
We’re writing books where instead of banging you over the head with a Bible, we come and sit next to you on this crazy ride called life. We help you escape the dark for a few hours and give you a few things to think about when the book’s over.
Even if we write stories that never once say God’s name, it’s clear He’s all over every page of our manuscripts.
We’re writing real stuff. But we’re not discounting the truth. We’re doing what Jesus did. We’re getting down where the action is happening and we’re writing there instead, bringing the hope with us.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. We’ve still got a lot to do. But it’s an exciting time to write. And it makes me so proud to be able to call myself a Christian writer alongside so many other people who are trying to do the same thing.
*What are the best Christian books you've ever read? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
*A meme for your troubles.
Today, I have the honor of sharing a post from R. M. Archer. You may have seen her posts on her blog or on Kingdom Pen (which have been so helpful and have taught me so much). She is sharing about why she chose indie publishing. (And keep watch on her blog later today as I share about why I chose traditional publishing!) This post really clarified indie publishing for me, and I hope it does the same for you!
Thanks for having me, Rachel!
Today I’m super excited to talk about some of the reasons I chose indie publishing—and why I plan to continue indie publishing for the foreseeable future.
Really, creative freedom is the underpinning for most of my points. I love being able to have the final say over everything from what I write about to who I write it for, to what it looks like when all is said and done, to who I work with. Maybe that just means I have too strong a need to be in control, lol. But I love being involved in the whole process and getting to execute the stories I’ve been given in exactly the way I want.
Indie publishing is also more flexible when it comes to writing across genres. If I really wanted to, I could write high fantasy, dystopian sci-fi, contemporary short stories, and gothic horror all under the same name; no looking for different publishers or flipping my whole brand on its head.
Writing for a Specific Audience
Indie publishing allows me to write for a specific audience, whether or not that audience is the majority that traditional publishers are writing to. I’m not tied to the current popular trends (which is good, because I can’t write fast enough to keep up anyway, lol). On occasion, there’s a happy accident and I end up publishing something in a year it’s really popular (Asian-inspired fantasy is really popular this year, and the book I’m releasing this summer happens to fall under that umbrella also), but I don’t have to plan to write something according to the current trends.
This allows me to cater to more niche (small and specific) audiences: fans of slow-paced fantasy, Christian YA readers, sci-fi readers who prefer high-tech Earth to space, etc. As an indie author, I’m able to write for these readers even in seasons when traditional publishers are writing for someone else.
A Flexible Schedule
I’m a pretty slow writer. Some of my first drafts go quickly, but I take a long time to edit and produce finished books. I’m pretty sure I’d bomb if I needed to have a book ready on an externally-imposed deadline. While other authors are able to crank out 1-8 books per year (kudos to them!) I’m lucky if I can hit that one-per-year “minimum.” Which is why I appreciate being able to work at my own pace as an indie author.
Indie publishing allows me to take what time I need on a book—whether that means finishing two short story collections in a year or spending two years on one novel. I can work as quickly or as slowly as I need for a project, and I can be as consistent or as varied as I need with my release schedule.
A Custom Team
As an indie author, I’m responsible for all the “hats”: writing, editing, formatting, marketing, etc. But I can pass out those hats as I see fit (aside from writing, obviously). If I love the writing and editing processes, I can handle those myself and then hire someone else to do the formatting that makes me want to yank my hair out. I can do all of my own marketing, or I can hire a virtual assistant to help streamline the process.
And what I love most is not that I can get someone to do the things I don’t have the time/energy/interest for, but that I can hire anyone. I get to choose my own team and work with other creators that I know, trust, and want to support. My favorite part of releasing my current book has been getting to work with so many awesome creatives that I’ve known for ages but not had the opportunity to work with before!
I love the indie author community. Not only do I get to hang out with them as fellow authors, but indie authors have amazing opportunities to support each other! Some of those creatives I’ve worked with? Fellow indie authors.
Because indie authors don’t have as much reach with their books off the bat as traditional publishing houses can offer, it makes the need to support each other and share each other’s books even greater. Collaborations, book promotions, resource-sharing, etc. abound in the indie author community, and I love getting to be a part of it.
In putting forth these positives, I don’t intend to deny that indie publishing has its own challenges, nor do I intend to suggest that traditional publishing lacks all of these elements! These are just a few reasons I’ve chosen indie publishing, and why I love it. If you’re trying to decide which publishing path is best for you, I hope this helps!
See? Didn't she explain that so well? Check out the second half of the swap here: https://rmarcher.com/
I used to think there was something wrong with me. At least with my reading habits.
I could zip through any novel anyone handed me in just a few days’ time. I could enthuse about the characters, the story, and the writing until people went cross-eyed. I could understand what the author was trying to say through it and often thought about how it applied to me.
But even though I had a stack of wonderful nonfiction books that I so wanted to read, I had to force myself through them. Even when I developed a reading plan to study some of these books, I had to take it one chapter at a time. Sometimes only a half-chapter.
Why? How could I breeze through a four-hundred page novel, but drag myself through a forty-page nonfiction study?
Some of it may have been the different style of writing. Nonfiction tends to have a wider vocabulary and harder concepts. They take time to think on and understand before you move to the next chapter. By their very writing, much of nonfiction is something to ponder, not breeze through.
But can we also face it?—sometimes fiction writers get a bad rap. In movies (more so than books), we’re portrayed as ditzy idealists who spend our days in the clouds, out of touch with reality, and consuming far too much coffee. At best, we're misguided dreamers. At worst, we're hypocrites and liars. More often than not, it seems nonfiction works are applauded as world-changing books.
And they are. I could give you a list of nonfiction books right now that have been revolutionary to me (Crazy Love by Francis Chan, Love Riot by Sara Barrett, Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler, It’s Worth It by Macey McLain, and Priscilla Shirer’s books, for starters).
None of this is meant to bash nonfiction. There is a huge ministry there, and it is exactly what reaches some people. Some nonfiction authors have fantastic writing styles that make it easy to read.
But few people realize the powers fiction writers hold. Sometimes not even fiction writers themselves.
Few people realize that novels are world-changing books, too.
It took me years to decipher my problem with nonfiction. Here’s what I’ve noticed—a few things that prove that the novel you’ve been wanting to read might just be even more meaningful than your average devotional.
Life is tough. Really tough. Each of us have our own problems we’re trying to scale. Whether or not they’re “big” in comparison to things in the world or another person’s problems doesn’t matter. They are big to us.
I’m no exception. And when I’ve been going through the hardest things in my life, when I was hurt or angry or overwhelmed, I didn’t turn to a deep theological tome. I searched for an escape.
And I found that escape in fiction. I’d take a book off my shelf—maybe one I’d read a dozen times before, maybe one I hadn’t gotten around to reading. I’d pop in a movie. I’d lose myself in someone else’s world for a while. For a couple hours I’d travel the streets that connect London to Neverland, break codes in World War I, and explore revolutionary Philadelphia.
And as they battle pirates, race against opposite agents, and stop plots that could have changed the course of American history, I battle right alongside the characters. I return to my own world with a new hope that if they could solve their problems, then so could I.
Once I dive into a story, I become best friends with characters who have the same feelings I do, even though our situations are vastly different.
I’m not a codebreaker in World War I (never have been, either), but when Margot de Wilde cuts her hair to lash out at the snobby matron at the hospital, I understood. I understood that deep-burning anger that made me want to do something drastic. (The Number of Love by Roseanna White)
I’m not a girl with a mysterious healing powers, but I understood Kynet’s desire to protect those she cared most about and to make the most of the gift she’d been given. (Healer's Bane by Hope Ann)
I’m definitely not Anastasia Romanova, but as she struggled to forgive the people who had hurt her so deeply, I thought of those who had hurt me and struggled with her. (Romanov by Nadine Brandes)
Characters get angry. They get scared. They make mistakes. They cry. They feel overlooked. They keep things locked inside that they wish they could shout to the world.
My feelings are shown to be something valid, even if I feel like no one in my world hears them. Something real. And I realize that my feelings are okay. They’re normal. I’m not alone. I can work through them.
Anyone can spout off a string of colorful Christian-ese that means nothing. (Heads up: nobody beseeches anybody anymore. It’s a shame, but it’s true. Just saying.) I can’t count the times when we’ve read a family devotional and the author has said something along the lines of “You shouldn’t judge others” or “You must let God free you from your chains”—and there the devotional ends. Thanks for nothing! Even if they lay out exactly why we should do these things, there was no follow through. Being the logical, analytical person I am, I need practical, real-world examples of how these things work.
Fawkes showed me how to seek truth as a young person in a world full of diverse voices more than any sermon ever did.
How to Train Your Dragon showed me what it looked like to find your place in the world as you grow up better than any how-to book.
Big Hero 6 showed me it’s okay to hurt, and how it looks to hurt the right way better than booklet on grief.
Fiction drags us into the adventure even if we don’t have the hope to look for one anymore and shows us hands-on what victory looks like.
So, at long last, I’ve come to grips with my novel-istic tendencies. And I've learned that those who step into that world are not just naive liars. Fiction is a way to reach people who would never pick up a devotional as well as people who would.
Because deep down, we all long for adventure. And fiction serves it up beautifully right next to the answers we need.
COVID-19. It came out of nowhere. One day, it was overseas and only as close as a newscast. The next, I was walking out of the elementary school I worked at for an impromptu four-week break, watching students pack up everything from their lockers. The next, those four weeks became five months.
Everything then was COVID, COVID, COVID. And I'd decided my newsletter wasn't going to be one of them. I was going to stay upbeat and positive and be like, "What COVID?"
Well, here it is.
It's impossible for something as earthshaking as a pandemic to leave such a big part of our lives as writing alone. Suddenly, I went from having two solid solitary hours (not counting my work breaks at school) devoted to writing to being constantly surrounded by people (albeit people I love) and chores vying for my attention.
A learning curve, to be sure.
But what did I learn? And what did I change?
When you're only scratching out thirty minutes in a corner with a notebook and headphones, you appreciate those writing sessions more. Things I took for granted--like quiet, headphones, and having time to write at all--became very precious. The help people gave me by taking on chores and other responsibilities so I could have that time became very valuable (more on this later).
As I head back into "business as usual", I hope I'll never forget this time and the gratitude it built in me.
With less time protected for writing, I had to learn to get more done in less time. I quickly discovered what was important and what could wait. This meant some days I didn't check email so I could write.
I made goals and figured out what I needed to do to meet them. I made a schedule of what I needed to work on each day and did all I could to stick to them. The days that I knew what I needed to do were so much more productive than those I didn't. Goals are nothing if I have no plan to get there.
I took the chances that came to me--whether it was short story contests or five free minutes to scribble a paragraph down. Never let yourself feel guilty for taking those chances.
As a result, I hope I've built some good habits that will last me my writing career.
Sometimes it's easy for us writers to forget we need other people in on this journey. People are not stumbling blocks. They want to help us get where we need to go.
I let my family in on my goals. After all, they were at home all the time just like I was. Once they knew what I was working toward, some of them began to help me protect that writing time. It's okay to ask for help! It's okay for that one basket of laundry to wait an hour so you can write! The world will not end because of a few socks that aren't folded yet! (I don't think so, anyway.)
I found a time to connect with other writers--to encourage and to be encouraged. I engaged with the content in my writing lessons and virtual conferences. I asked more questions than I thought I had in me, then figured out how to apply the answers. I learned to value an email to a writer friend just as much as editing thousands of words. But at the same time, I learned to not let those connections distract me when I really needed to be writing.
For the first time in my life, I had to go a day, sometimes more, without writing. Siblings, chores, and a new puppy that demanded attention conspired to keep me from my notebook. It was frustrating. It was stressful. It was MADDENING.
But I learned to still let my imagination work behind the scenes. To take that time to read and imagine. Just because I wasn't in front of a paper, didn't mean I wasn't still creating. To not punish others for a day that I couldn't write by having a poor attitude about it. To still use that wordless day to do good. To trust that those days still had infinite purpose. Writing isn't everything.
COVID-19 was a learning curve. A long one at that. But I hope I've learned things, started habits, and built relationships I'll never regret.
*I would also like to add a huge shout-out thank-you to my family for all they did to help me have time and energy to write during this crazy time! Any writing I didn't get done was not for your lack of effort to get me writing. I so appreciate it!*
*How has your writing been during this crazy thing called a pandemic? Has it been easier or harder? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
In other news, it's been pretty warm here . . .
A few weeks ago, I shared about some authors that impacted me. Today, I'm sharing about some books that did the same.
I'd never realized how character motivation impacts the stories we love the best. Then I read this book. Plotting became easier and my stories became stronger--because readers could feel with my characters.
This book has a little bit of everything! Better than that, her tips work. It's a great reference resource. (The Plot Skeleton is a fantastic little book that makes sure your plot has everything it needs as well!)
I was unable to find a picture of the fantastic little book Word by Word by Linda Taylor. Intimidated by editing? Say no more! This book de-mystifies editing and encourages writers along the way.
These young adult fiction books handle topics that real teens face in ways that real teens react to them. They take a unique, fresh touch on the themes, and inspired me to do the same.
*Which books impacted your writing? Share your adventures in the comments!*
What is an indie author? (No, it has nothing to do with Indianapolis.)
I didn't know the answer for the longest time. People threw out the phrase "indie author" right and left and I just sat there in bewilderment. I later found out that indie is just short for independent. Independent (or indie) authors publish their books themselves. They may only independently publish, they may publish traditionally (with an established publishing house) and independently, or they may be publishing independently as a step to traditional publication. They're independent.
But indie authors get a bad rap. In fact, most people don't count them as "real" authors. General opinion is that indie authors:
---are authors who have simply been rejected by all other publishing companies
---not willing to put in the work to traditionally publish their book
None of this is actually true. But why do we believe it?
With the rise of resources like Amazon KDP, a lot of authors previously unable to do so are now able to show their work to the world. Anyone--literally anyone--can publish a book.
Unfortunately, most of these people are not authors. So we now have a ton of books floating around on Amazon that have poor formatting, poor covers, and ever poorer writing.
That means that the indie authors that did it right are getting lumped with those who didn't put in the work.
The truth is, most indie authors do even more work than traditionally published authors.
---write the book
---self-edit the book (and then pay professional editors to polish the manuscript)
---format the book so it's nice to read
---pay a professional cover designer
---market the book
---and take care of all the business things, too.
While traditionally published authors do the same, they have in-house editors, designers, and marketers to work with.
Indie authors have a lot to work against. And there's a good deal of them that are writing fantastic books. So today, let's remember those indie authors and let them know their skills and work are not unnoticed.
*Who are your favorite indie authors? Share your adventures in the comments!*
Today, I want to share with you three pieces of advice that impacted my writing. And by impact, I mean they blazed like a meteor out of the sky and left a giant crater in my writing. And there's nothing to do after a crater but rebuild. And I'm so glad that this advice helped rebuild my writing.
Some are things I wish I knew when I began writing. Some are things I've learned the hard way. Some are things other writers passed on to me. And now I want to pass them on to you. I hope they help and encourage you!
I was excellent at making goals. But I rarely met those goals. Why? Because I had no plan to get myself there. When I took the time to sit down and figure out how many words I needed to write to finish the novel by the end of the month, I felt freer and more able to meet them. I knew that no matter how bad a writing day I was having, all I had to do was edit this many words. It suddenly made bad writing days look very good, because I knew I could still reach my goals.
Onto a more technical note. I always thought adverbs--those little "ly" words like slowly, beautifully, or snarkily (not sure that last one is a word)--were so bright and sparkly. But the truth is, if I had to use a "ly" word to describe how my character said or did something, then I had a weak sentence on my hands. I hadn't made the best use of my action words. Eliminating adverbs from my edited drafts has led to so many brilliant sentences I never would have had with those "ly" words. As a result, my novels are so much stronger.
When I was working on Author of Peace, I remember someone told me they believed I would find a niche market, and that would just kind of be my thing. I was like, "Niche market, great!" I really didn’t mind the idea. But the idea that I couldn’t do any more than a niche market? I wasn’t so crazy about that. But then someone told me to write what God had given me to write. So many writers talk about having to write for the market. But the bottom line is if God has given you this book, then He will take it wherever it needs to go. So just be you and write the story that He has given you. Don’t doubt what He can do through the book you’ve written, no matter what that book is.
*What advice has impacted (or left a crater in) your writing? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
A couple months ago, I watched Disney’s 2019 remake of Aladdin (thanks to quarantine). For a few hours, I was dazzled by color, visual, a culture so unlike my own, and sheer story magic. (And I don’t like musicals, so that’s saying something.)
I must confess, I’ve always been a bit intrigued by the story of Aladdin. Which got me thinking about the fairy tales that intrigue me . . . and the ones that don’t.
One that doesn’t is Cinderella.
Don’t get me wrong. I had my fair share of Cinderella when I was younger. My sisters and I would snuggle on the floor with our stuffed animals and best friends and watch it at every sleepover we hosted.
But as I’ve gotten older, and I think about the stories a little more, it lost a bit of its allure.
I’m not the only one. In a poll put on a community for teens and young adults (specifically writers), eighty-eight percent said they’d rather read an Aladdin retelling than a Cinderella retelling.
Their reasons were (almost) all the same.
Cinderella is overdone and gets really old.
(Well, and that she falls in love for no reason, but that would be a whole ‘nother post, ladies and gents.)
Sure, this could just be because there’s a lot of Cinderella retelling books out there. (A lot.) But why did this story get tired out faster than Aladdin? Especially when they share the same general plot?
Because when I sat down and thought about it, Aladdin and Cinderella are basically the same stories. An underprivileged orphan rises to royalty due to magic—magic that can only last for a limited amount of time, in which they are left to themselves to rise to royalty again.
So what makes the difference between a tired-out character and a timeless one?
*Note: This post is based on the original fairy tales, not based on my opinions on the Disney remakes (of which I have not seen Cinderella) or original films (of which I've never seen Aladdin), although some details may reference them alongside other retellings.*
Let’s start with Cinderella herself, shall we? (Read the abridged original fairy tale here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinderella) Cinderella is the favorite fairy tale princess of countless little girls. And she has a right to be. She has spunk and perseverance. She refuses to give up on her dreams and holds them as tight as she can. (After all, a dream is a wish your heart makes!) She is kind even in the face of her family’s rejection.
But take the magic out of her story. No fairy godmother. No pumpkin carriage. No glass slipper. Is there any sign that she would have gone to the ball? Is there any sign that she would have gone to the ball? Is there any sign that she would have met the prince? Is there any sign that anything would have changed?
No. In fact, even in the original Disney Cinderella, the mice are responsible for her first dress, and once her sisters tear it to shreds, she gives up and flees to the garden. She doesn’t set about developing a new plan. She doesn’t start a new life or find a way to chase her dreams. (And her animal friends have to free her later so she try on the glass slipper, too!)
Fair reaction. But without her animal friends or the fairy godmother, Cinderella would have been scrubbing floors to infinity.
Aladdin is similar to Cinderella in many ways. (Read the abridged original version of Aladdin here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aladdin) He has spunk and perseverance. At the opening of the original fairy tale, we find him taking care of his mother (it’s how he got in the lamp mess in the first place!). Even in the Disney version, where he is an orphan, he fights his way towards the change he dreams of. He works towards his dreams (although in rather misguided ways).
Does Aladdin never lose heart? Sure, he does. (One Jump Ahead Reprise, anyone?) In the original fairy tale, he is in despair when the genie appears (sound familiar?). But he doesn’t let himself stay there and wait for someone to come rescue him. Even when the genie disappears, he chooses to be himself and fight until he can’t fight anymore. He doesn’t wait for the bad guys to go away. He faces them down himself (fair, with the princess’ help). He refuses to be the victim of a society that labels him little better than a thief.
Here is where the fairy tale and the Disney versions go off, though: in the original, Aladdin did the same Cinderella did. He rode on the success of his magic. In this case, I like the Disney version where he loses it all and makes that choice anyway much better.
And there's the secret that Disney used to create a sparkling timeless character.
Both Cinderella and Aladdin had almost all the things they needed to do that. They had dreams. They had positive characteristics. But Disney took the final step in creating Aladdin into a character that we return to over and over again. He works towards his dreams. He acts, whether or not he always gets it right.
*Another note: Just an interesting aside--this secret works to create interesting protagonists and interesting villains. For instance, the excellently-written villain in Wayne Thomas Batson's Dreamtreaders worked towards her dreams just as much or more than the protagonists in that trilogy.*
Aladdin--and protagonists who fight for their dreams with him--inspires readers (and watchers, thanks to Disney) to be stronger—and reminds them they don’t need to wait for a glass slipper or magic lamp.
*Which is your preference—the Aladdin type or Cinderella type? What do you think makes a strong character? What retellings have changed up these stereotypes? Share your adventures below!*
Hi, I'm Rachel! I'm the author of the posts here at ProseWorthy. Thanks for stopping by!