Now that I’m in the writing industry, THIS is my biggest pet peeve

I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends now that I’ve broken into the writing industry, but there’s one thing that bothers me.

I’ve been doing author takeovers and that’s when you promote your book and do giveaways on someone else’s book release or whatever. Anyways, I won 29 books in the past few days. I love book freebies. I just do. I spend more of my meager paycheck on books as it is. If I can get them for free I will eventually read them.

However, most of these books are romance. Which is fine, I like romance, especially gay romance or romantic comedy. Did I receive any of these in my freebies? No.

Out of the 24 authors that signed up to do this author takeover, I was the one one who wrote gay lit.

Let me repeat that for emphasis: Out of the 24 authors that signed up to do this author takeover, I was the one one who wrote gay lit.

This upsets me because I became a writer to provide representation for the LGBT community without all that nasty fetish bullshit. Now that I’m here there are almost no LGBT authors I know personally who don’t write fetish.

I don’t understand why it’s so hard to find a wlw book that’s well-written and isn’t thinly guised erotica to pleasure men.

When I wrote Bloom: A Monster Love Novella, the plan was to write a book where I had well thought out female characters with real personalities and wants and needs. Now I’m losing out and being crushed by erotica. Straight erotica.

There’s sex in Bloom: A Monster Love Novella if that’s what you want. It isn’t the kind of sex erotica has. It’s awkward and sweet and they talk about it before they have sex because that’s what sex is. Awkward.

Recently, Malinda Lo posted a twitter thread about how hard it is to write for a marginalized audience. Malinda Lo writes books for lesbians and I absolutely adore most of her titles. I own every book she’s ever written and she is a huge influence for me. I wish there were more people like her.

I’m going to keep trying and keep pushing despite this. I don’t want to live in a world where there aren’t books to represent people who deserve representation.

That’s why I write books with:

  • POC characters (despite a lot of my white friends thinking it’s weird that, despite being white myself, I crave diversity in TV shows and books)
  • Lesbians
  • Transgenderwomen
  • Transgender men
  • Women in general (There are not enough women in books and that is a shame. And the women that are in books seem to only want to serve their male love interest. WHY?)
  • Gay men
  • Asexual men and women
  • People with mental illness
  • Agendered people
  • Bisexual and pansexual people
  • Demisexual people
  • Intersex people
  • Gays who aren’t tragic
  • Books where LGBTQIA+ is normalized and no one bats an eye about people being trans or gay or bi or anything.
  • Stories where my characters aren’t defined by their genitals or who they decide to fall in love with (or not fall in love with), but are instead defined my their actions.

I could go on guys. I really could.

And I’m not going to stop writing books like this. I won’t do it. Not for all the money in the world. Representation is important and I will fight for that until my dying breath.

It is a shame more people aren’t on my side.

How to Format Books for Self-Publishing

Formatting might actually be worse than writing and editing and cover design. I mean that with everything in me.

Pro-tip: Before we start, you’re going to definitely want to have all your images at 300 DPI. If you don’t know how to do that, check out this tutorial.

Right now I’m gonna tell you guys a secret. I literally am only releasing my book on Kindle or on Amazon because Amazon makes it a whole hell of a lot easier to format and publish books than anything else.

Before my friend Jay showed me “de way” I was trying to use scrivener which is probably one of the most confusing programs ever. Let’s be real here, it’s a nightmare.

I personally, couldn’t figure out how to

  1. Fix my chapter headings
  2. Fix my page numbers
  3. How to get my front matter to not show up as an actually chapter
  4. How to fix my table of contents

I promise you guys, if you’re new to formatting scrivener isn’t the way to go.

Some authors swear by Vellum, but since Vellum is only for Mac users and since I’m a die-hard PC user with a custom built machine, I probably won’t be using that.

So here’s what my good bro Jay told me.

Format everything in Google Docs, download it as a docx, upload it to KDP and Amazon takes care of the rest. Literally. Amazon will format that shit for you and I 1000% recommend using Google Docs for everything.

My print book was a little more difficult, however. Since in print books you’re required to have page numbers, Google Docs won’t work for that.

See, in book writing, your page numbers should not appear on any front matter pages (things like the table of contents, title page, dedication, and copyright page).Google Docs, in its infinite wisdom will not allow you to have custom page numbers. There used to be an add-on for it, but it was taken down.

So, for print, you’re going to have to use Microsoft Word to get those page numbers right.

Also, a real quick tutorial on print. It is so much different than formatting for Kindle.

With Kindle all you need are:

  1. A front cover
  2. Your manuscript
  3. Any graphics you want to put in your manuscript
  4. Your front matter

With print, you’re going to need:

  1. A front and back cover.
  2. Your pages need to be set to the book size you chose.
  3. You can do this in word by going to Page Layout and Selecting Size, Custom Size, and setting your page size.
image
  1. A whole hell of a lot of patience.

You will have to re-upload your book more than once to both KDP and Amazon Print. I promise you, there will be glaring formatting errors that you absolutely need to fix.

Pro-Tip: I’m going to save you guys a ton of time too, for Kindle DO NOT make your chapter fonts, or headings, or any of your font period larger that 18pt.

People can and will resize shit and it’ll make your formatting look like trash. So Keep it simple!

Don’t forget to buy Bloom RIGHT NOW on Amazon. It’s also available to read FOR FREE on Kindle Unlimited.

The Making of Bloom: Part 1

I’ve written a piece on my personal writing process, but here’s what it was like to write Bloom: A Monster Love Novella from start to finish.

Sometimes shit got real stressful, so if you’re thinking about writing a book, know this: it is not easy, you will cry real tears, and formatting is an absolute pain in the ass..

It all started with an idea.

Like most of my ideas, it was half-baked and sort of uttered once to one of my friends as a joke. We were talking about Chuck Tingle and how I should write a weird teratophilia (aka monster love) book about lesbian trees with a bunch of tree puns.

Then, like all of my ideas do, shit got serious real fast.

It’s impossible for me to write crack once I get a good idea for a character. And in Holly’s case, I wanted to make her trans.

There aren’t a lot of books out there normalizing trans people, and I wanted to do that with Bloom. I wanted Holly to be a character people could connect to. Especially people who don’t have a lot of representation.

So I couldn’t have Holly be a crack character. She needed to be this really cool likable bro who likes science and bees and is really sweet and that’s what she became.

It actually took me around a year of puttering around to write this. I started it in February of 2017, but got distracted by working on a different series called Wixen.

Wixen is a looot longer than Bloom. The first book is roughly 500 pages and it’s called Poisons, Potions, & Propositions. The second book just hit 550 pages and it is still in heavy edits. There’s also a novella for that too, but I digress.

I knew I wanted to self-publish Bloom. I wanted to do it as a birthday present for one of my friends. So this year when I finally got fed up with writing Wixen, I set to work on finishing Bloom.

I did all of the writing, editing, graphic design, social media, and grammar editing myself. I don’t recommend doing this. I have a background in professional editing, graphic design, and social media because I went into integrated marketing instead of english.

This doesn’t mean that people with an english degree can’t also do this, but I have professional experience with doing all of this so I mean. I know my work is at least decent. The point is, unless you have prior professional experience I’d go ahead and outsource.

You can get some people who do great work for real cheap on Fiverr. For your first book, I would definitely start there editing and cover design wise. You will have to pay extra per book length.

Writing the first chapters of Bloom weren’t hard. Writing isn’t the hard part. It’s stressful and it sucks, but once you hit a point where you realize you need to get the words out and edit later, you’ll start pumping out 2000-3000 words a day.

I wrote roughly 4500 words a day for Bloom, with the most words being 10,000 in one 24 hour period. You have to be vigilant and you have to absolutely want this because you can pull some long ass hours trying to meet a deadline.

The hard part is editing, and I love editing.

Once the words are all out and the story is finished, you can breathe for a few days. Then take editing page by page.

As a general rule, I usually do at least 10 passes over a chapter, depending on how bad it is when I rewrite it. For Bloom I was on a very quick deadline, so I only did 4 and one Google Translate edit.

If you guys don’t know what a Google Translate edit it, it’s when you copy and paste your writing page by page into Google Translate and have it read the story aloud to you. It is an absolute lifesaver for grammar and spelling and tense.

After I did a Google Translate edit, I moved on to ProWritingAid, which helps with grammar editing and overuse of words. I have a tendency to overuse adverbs, and “just”, and “that”, so I need a tool that helps me pinpoint all of that tomfoolery.

All in all, it took me two months to finish writing, edit, and format a novella.

Pro tip: Give yourself more time. Four to five months would be much better and less stressful, especially if you’ve never formatted before.

Then, just like that, I was finished. Which is a huge relief because of all the work that went into it.

For the sake of my sanity, and yours, I’ll do a separate blog about formatting. I know how difficult it is and finding a blog to help is a pain, but I’ll walk you through it lickity split!

Stay tuned for that monstrosity.

DON’T FORGET TO BUY BLOOM RIGHT NOW ON AMAZON. IT’S ALSO AVAILABLE TO READ FOR FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED

Writing Advice: How to Get Started

Not all writing advice is created equal! This is just what works for me.

So you think you want to write? Well, there are some things you should know prior to getting started. Writing isn’t easy. People who think it is, are the people who never finish anything. That or they publish horrible books with weak plots that either become popular or flop completely. 

I once spent three days researching and practicing five ballet poses to use two of them in my writing. Writing is a lot more difficult than you think it is. So if you still want to do it despite my warning, here’s how to get started. 

One Does not Simply Write a Book

Start small. I wrote short stories, flash fiction, drabbles, news stories, blogs, articles, and social media posts. Each of these things helped me understand a little bit better how to write for an audience. That and every single time you write and are peer reviewed you have the chance to get better. 

Write fanfiction if you can. Fanfiction is the easiest way to get feedback outside of college and writing news stories. In fact, I got my start in fanfiction. It’s where I got my most criticism and where I learned to grow as a writer. I’m serious. Without fanfiction I wouldn’t be the writer I am today. 

So before you jump in to writing your epic story, I’d suggest doing something smaller. Books are a lot of work. I’ve written three and trust me. There’s a lot of crying and frustration and dumb bullshit you can’t escape. To date I haven’t even published any of them because I feel like they’re not my best work.

Writing is a lot harder than people give it credit for.  

Publish Small, If You Can

I’ve written a whole slew of blogs and news stories. I’ve been published on several different websites for poetry and editorials. You don’t have to self-publish short stories to add published work to your repertoire. 

You can also send short stories into magazines or self-publish novellas. I’ve been featured in a few anthologies in the past. That’s another great way to get the word out about your work. And it’s a great way to grow as a writer. A lot of anthologies employ their own editors so you can get a taste of working with them. 

Editors are merciless. I’m lucky that by the time I started writing for anthologies I had already experienced a lot of criticism online for my work. Editors will rip you to shreds and you have to accept it. Because honestly they’re trying to make you better and help shape you as a writer.

P.S. It is okay to cry. 

Read. Read. Read. 

You don’t have to read fiction to write fiction, but you do have to read. Writing isn’t easy and when you’re developing your voice, it’s important to understand how books and stories are written. Read books about writing, read articles, read Wikipedia, read something until you understand the basics of how to write a story. 

You should also read books by other authors. Read books similar to the ones you’d want to write. It is 100% okay to base ideas on another writer’s book, but all of your stories should be your own. 

You should be reading tirelessly!

Research Everything

Everything you write needs to be well-researched. That’s the bottom line. Just like reading, you also need to research anything and everything you want to put in your book. If you have first hand experience, great, but if you don’t? Research the shit out of it.

I’m an avid reviewer of Wattpad stories and Fanfictions and I’ve had a whole slew of writers tell me “there isn’t much information on this topic!” 

Don’t play with me. I know how to use the internet and I know how this shit works. I’ve been researching stories since I was 12 and if I can find information on it, so can you. 

If you’re writing something like what it’s like to die or what a specific mental illness feels like and you don’t have first hand experience go to Ask Reddit. I’ve done this hundreds of times. All you have to do is post a topic then wait for people to respond. If no one does, try to see if someone has asked the question before and read the testimonials on that.

Most of the time people are willing to share their stories and experiences. There is no excuse for you to have poorly researched stories. Not in the age of technology. 

If you genuinely can’t find anything on your topic or it is extremely difficult to find what you’re looking for, I promise you that there is a book for that. In fact, I had to buy a book on poisons and poisoning to write Wixen. I needed to know what a safe dosage of Belladonna and Mandrake were and what an unsafe dosage was. I spent several days trying to find it on the internet before caving and buying this book. 

I also own several books on witchcraft and runes and I’ve employed the help of several different witches to offer insight. There is literally no fucking excuse for you to not research your stories.

Not All Word Processors are Created Equal

Number one thing people ask me is what I write my stories in. Honestly? I use Google Docs. It’s easier to share and get feedback. Plus you can block people from copying and pasting your work, etc. 

Some of my friends swear up and down that Microsoft Word is the only thing they’ll write in. Some people use Notepad or Wordpad or any number of things. Pick the one that feels most comfortable for you. 

Though I don’t recommend using Notepad because it doesn’t have spellcheck, but that’s probably just me. Not to mention you can’t format it. Unless you’re exporting it as an HTML file, but I don’t recommend that? Just don’t use notepad, promise?

Anyways, quick helpful formatting tips: Add page numbers to the bottom of the page. Center or right. Try to avoid left because that puts it in the crease of the page. Also change the background color of your story to something you can easily look at. White is going to hurt your eyes and burn you out. I use gray, blue, green, and pastel pink. 

Outline or Write a Vague Idea Down

You don’t have to outline every single chapter, but you do need to have a vague idea of where you’re going with the story. It can be as short as half a page or as long as 200 pages. Just get something down. I promise this will help you so much in the long run. 

I also use journals and the notes on my phone to write down any idea I have when I’m somewhere where I can’t sit down and write. I always carry a journal and a pen on me at all times. I’ve collected over a hundred of them in my lifetime. I write a whole fucking lot. 

Write Every Day*

You should be writing every single day. Whether you want this to be a hobby or if you want to make a career out of it, you need to write at least 100 words every day. This is the only way you’re going to get better. 

It doesn’t even have to be anything pertaining to any ongoing story. As long as you’re writing. Don’t ever stop. 

*I'm gonna be honest with y'all. I don't actually write every single day. However, I do do something creative every day. Like drawing or baking something cool or outlining a story or writing a blog. Do what works for you!

Angry Gay Writing Advice: How to Write Bisexual Characters

NEWSFLASH: BI’S EXIST

Sit down and shut up and let me tell you how to the fuck to write bisexual characters. 

Rule 1: That Means They Get To Be Bi 

Even the dudes (Thanks Thirteen for your insight on this). Men can be bi! It’s true! You wouldn’t know it from television or the current bisexual climate, but they can be. 

The only bisexual dudes I can think of literature wise are Simon Snow from Carry On (Though he never says it out LOUD when EXPRESSLY ASKEd. I’m WATCHING YOU Rainbow ROWELL) and Adam Parrish from The Raven Boys Series. And to be honest, that’s not right. 

The point being, let your men be bi. Especially when you’re writing reverse harem titles. Having everyone be rigidly straight is exhausting. And I know that threesomes might be difficult to write, but we didn’t become writers because it’s easy.

Rule 2: You Don’t Have To Be Obnoxious 

I have several bisexual characters whose sexuality never comes up in casual conversation. That’s okay. You don’t have to force it. Don’t make their sexuality the only thing about them. 

The best advice I can give you is to think about one of your friends who is gay or bi or pan or whatever and think about their traits. Is their only trait their sexuality? No? Then why the FUCK would your character’s? You’re creating a living breathing person inside of your head. Not a puppet. Act like it

Rule 3: Multiple Relationships

This is something you should be practicing in writing anyway. People don’t have one relationship throughout the course of their lives. They have several. The best and easiest way to showcase a character’s sexuality is 1) through them discussing it with other characters and 2) through them having more than one relationship throughout your book. 

This does NOT mean to make them a slut. They don’t need to be expressly humping everyone they see. Bisexual representation is important in literature. So you need to be representing bisexuals right. And while they’re also people and can be slutty, it’s important that people don’t get the idea that all bisexuals are sluts all the time. So don’t fuck it up. 

Rule 4: I Will Come To Your House And Kick Your Ass If You Make This Tragic

Number one thing I hate, and all my other LGBTQIA+ friends hate as well, are tragic gays. Bro. Not all gays are tragic bro. Leave that shit back in the early 2000s where it belongs. Tragic gays are behind us. It’s time to start having gays that are widely accepted and not ridiculed. And it is BEYOND TIME to have Bisexual representation in our society. 

It is okay to be bi. Show this through your writing. Have people ask questions and get them clarified through actual bisexual people. Show your straight characters being supportive and great about it or have them not react at all. Normalize LGBTQIA+ in your writing. 

Rule 5: Gay relationships and Straight Relationships Are Exactly The Same

With a few key differences. I’m sure you can figure out what differences on your own, but in case you can’t: It’s sex. Sex is the key difference. When you’re writing a smut thing it’s important to know that girl on girl is different than girl on guy, and you should use protection for both. 

If you aren’t clear on the specifics of a sexual act between same sex or the opposite sex. You have two options:

1) Research it until you’re familiar with it. And no I’m not talking about porn. Porn is not real life. They don’t talk about protection. They don’t show you the funny stuff or the gross stuff. They don’t have real conversations before sex. 

I’m talking testimonials. I’m talking reading other stories and reading blogs about how to write erotica. Do hardcore research like actually fucking try. OR.

2) Don’t write it.

It’s as easy as that.

Writing Advice: How Creating Sims Helps You Write Better Characters

This is something I tell a lot of people who are just starting out. The Sims helps you give characters basic traits, it helps you work out their long-term goals, and it helps give you a vague idea of what they look like. 

Creating sims and sims houses from the ground up is still something I still do when I’m writing. To date I have a sim of every character I’ve ever written. 

Even if you have a good idea of your character in your head and you have most of their personality on paper, it is a whole different thing to sit down and create them in The Sims. 

I had already written a 300+ page novel about my most recent characters in Wixen before I sat down and created their sims, their house, and their love interests. This opened up a whole new world for me description-wise. When you have your character in front of you walking through this house you designed for them and picking things up, picking things to eat, etc. you learn so much more about them. 

Giving a sim the same traits and job as your character will give you better insight into how your character will react in certain situations. It could even help you pick out difficult favorites for them. Like their favorite food, favorite music, and favorite color. 

For example, after I created my sims, a fire broke out in their house. There were several small children inside. Violet, instead of helping any of the small children, ran outside and saved herself. Jasmine tried to grab as many children as she could and carry them to safety (even though she was only a visitor in the house). And Persephone and Caspian just stared at the fire and did nothing.

The fire nearly burned the entire house down because the fire department didn’t wanna put it out. And that’s how I decided a fire would be how Persephone and Violet’s parents died when they were young. 

It helped me work out generally how terrible Violet was as a person. Considering she literally left several children in a burning building.  Even though she was directly next to said children when the fire started.

You never know what The Sims will teach you about your characters. 

How to Write Convincing Romance (Semi-Straight Edition)

Romance was one of the first things I learned how to write and write well. This means I’m hellllaaa fucking picky about what kind of romance I read. Don’t let my username fool you, I’m almost 0% into the actual romance genre. And you’ll learn why.

1) Don’t force it. The number one thing you want to do when you’re writing a romance is let your characters come together naturally. You may have it in your head that you created a specific character for them to bang, but you could be wrong. Like in real life, you want things to progress naturally between your characters.  Let them work out their feelings for themselves and your romantic plot will be better for it. I promise.

2. Avoid Purple Prose. We’ve all been there. You’re in the heat of a romance scene and you’re describing things left and right. And it sounds so good and intense in your head how his “gorgeous cerulean orbs bored into her emerald ones and they experienced an intense moment of lust and electricity”. 

No. Stop. This sort of thing can pull your reader out of the story to contemplate what an “orb” is and why you’re using ridiculous over the top colors for your character’s eyes. Personally, if I see this shit in a book I have to put it down and bury my face in my hands. It’s not as pretty as you think it is. Most of the time it’s just confusing. 

3. Write interesting male characters. So many times in romance books I’ve come across writers describing their guys as tall, handsome, and muscular with “piano fingers” or “high sharp cheekbones” (Comma omitted purposefully) when in reality men are a lot more diverse. 

I see the worst offenders of this in Reverse Harem titles where all the men look exactly the same. Like they all walked right off the cover of a shitty romance novel. That isn’t reality and it hurts your audience and it hurts your characters. If I can’t tell them apart description wise or you spend a lot of time comparing how similar they are, then they’re not interesting. 

It’s okay to write male characters that are only average in build and average in appearance. It’s okay to have male characters that are shorter than 6′. It’s okay to have male characters that are overweight or have acne. It’s okay to love people who don’t look like they walked off of a romance novel cover. 

And for the love of God give them a personality beyond hot bro that likes the female lead a little too much. 

4. Write interesting female characters. As someone who mostly writes female characters because I’m a hardcore advocate for female representation, (Not to mention I have a mighty need for lesbian relationships that don’t center around shitty erotica) I will slap a bitch for writing awful female characters. Most romance authors are female, and in my opinion, females should know how to write females. Yet, from all of the romance books I’ve read (especially reverse harem), I find that women have a hard time writing women with personalities. 

Though I will say most of the time the female characters are more diverse than the male ones, they’re largely one dimensional. It’s like they’re not their own person outside of their romance. That isn’t cool and it doesn’t make for a good romance. Your leading lady should have personality! And for the love of all things holy, that personality shouldn’t be sassy and defensive or “she’s totally fucking smart guys”. 

It’s okay to write women that don’t have it all together. It’s okay to write older women or women who are mean or women who are of average intelligence. If you have to keep pushing the topic of your character being “totally smart” or any number of traits repeatedly, then it alienates your reader. It’s okay for her to be smart, but actually show her being smart, don’t just tell your audience that she is repeatedly without evidence. 

5. Bechdel Test. This one is important. In order for your romance to be convincing, your main character’s life can’t completely revolve around it. If she has a female friend (she should) or other females in her life (sister, mother, cousin), she shouldn’t spend every scene with them talking about her relationship. This shit pisses me off more than anything else on this list because it makes the whole story seems flat. It also makes every relationship in the book feel forced. 

If you have to constantly remind your reader about the relationship then I’m sorry to say it isn’t going to feel real. Have your character talk about herself with her female friends. Have her talk about her interests and their interests. Give them all a distinct personality. You can even have them talk about romantic preferences, but please for the sake of the stars above, flesh out your female characters. And your male ones for that matter. 

If they don’t have a personality beyond attractive then you’re not doing this right.

6. Don’t put too much emphasis on a first kiss. Kisses aren’t the do all end all of romantic stories. Your character can kiss one person and realize that they would rather kiss someone else. The emphasis should be on the journey to the relationship and the journey after it. 

Personally, I hate books that have the entire story revolves around the romance and ends with the two characters finally getting together. The lead up is only part of the story. The rest of it should be the characters facing the actual plot of the book together. 

7. Give your book a plot that doesn’t revolve around the romance. This is the #1 main reason I have a hard time enjoying anything out of the actual romance genre. I don’t like books that revolve around romance. The central plot should be something else. 

Romance should only ever be a subplot in the midst of a much larger story. You can focus more on it if it’s pertinent to your larger plot, but it should feel like the characters just so happened to fall in love because the plot brought them together. It shouldn’t feel like the romance brought together the plot. 

8. Men should not be violent or manipulative. I see this so much in romance. The women are soft-spoken, but sassy when they need to be (to make them seem more relatable) and the men are big hulking nightmares of testosterone who make all of the decisions for the female character. 

The female main might put up a fight at first, but eventually turns a blind eye to it and goes along with her male counterpart(s) instead of getting the fuck out of there. That’s not how this works in real life. This isn’t romantic or sexy. It’s terrifying. The moment a man gets violent or possessive and isn’t corrected or chastised for his behavior is the moment I stop respecting whoever wrote the story. 

Romance is an incredibly difficult thing to master. There are a lot of things that go into creating a romance worthy of your audience. And none of those involve your male characters trying to control your female character’s life. Or, if you’re like me and your only write lesbian/gay/ace/trans/etc romance, one character should never try to control the other character’s life in the name of love.

Just don’t do it.