Friday, August 21, 2020

A Disabled Author and Reader's Thoughts on Sensitivity Reading

As you've probably noticed by now, I am very open about the fact that I'm disabled. I talk a lot about disability representation, give disability rep book and movie recommendations, and occasionally share my day-to-day experiences as a disabled person.  

Because of this, people often ask me if I will do sensitivity reads for their stories. 

Very rarely do I say yes to this. 

It's not because I don't think sensitivity reads are important (they are...but we'll get to that). It's simply because I have very complicated thoughts about sensitivity reading. When applied improperly, sensitivity reads can easily be misused and abused by authors. Additionally, they can be very stressful for me as sensitivity reader. 

So, as both a disabled reader and author, I'm here to tell you why sensitivity reading is important, how they can fall short, and how we can work to fix this issue. 

Ya with me? Okay. Let's do this.

A picture of a bookshelf and a hand reaching for a book. Above it reads: "A Disabled Author and Reader's Thoughts on Sensitivity Reading"

But before we get started, I have two disclaimers: 

1) This post is dealing with non-paid sensitivity reads. I have never (and probably will never) do paid sensitivity reading, so I can only speak to my own experience here. Paid sensitivity reads work very differently from what I am describing below.

2) If you have ever requested a sensitivity read from me, please know that this post is not about you. If I turned down your request, I turned it down for whatever reason I personally explained to you at the time. If I took you up on the offer, I took you up for whatever reason I explained to you at the time. I've been thinking about this topic for years and have had this post in my drafts folder for months, so: No, this post is not about you. I promise. 

What is Sensitivity Reading and Is it Important?

Put simply, sensitivity reading is when someone reads a manuscript with the intent of providing feedback on how the author handled representation of an underrepresented group. This reader is always one that has personal experience with these issues and is part of the group that is being represented.

Sensitivity reads are, in my opinion, important, especially when a writer is handling topics they are unfamiliar with. It's a great way to make sure you haven't accidentally reinforced negative stereotypes or overlooked cool opportunities for accurate representation. It makes your writing stronger and more interesting.

So why do I have reservations about being a sensitivity reader? So many reasons: 

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? 

A whole lot, let me tell you. 

Authors can (and do) use it as a "diversity pass." Sometimes writers will bring a sensitivity reader on to approve of their work. Then, if anyone critiques their representation, they can say, "But X from this marginalized group said it was fine!" In fact, some authors will intentionally seek out "sensitivity readers" who they know will simply pat them on the shoulder and tell them they did good. It's a really crappy move, but it happens.

Authors use it as a replacement for upfront work. Instead of heavily researching the group they are writing about upfront, authors sometimes do minimal research because "Hey, the sensitivity reader will fix it for me later." Instead of talking to people from the group they are representing before even drafting the story, they just bring those people in at the end. This sucks. It makes a sensitivity reader's job incredibly difficult and often impossible. 

I'll use a real-life example to illustrate this (it's long, but bear with me). I'm a disability advocate at my university. Our New Student Orientation program finally decided to give a disability education presentation for Orientation Leaders, and they asked me and a fellow disabled student to look over the material before the official release. The problem? It was far too little, far too late. Because they didn't consult with us during the creation process, the educational material was incredibly incorrect in a multitude of ways. My friend and I spent hours analyzing and suggesting corrections, and now the program will have to spend a large amount of time applying our edits. If they had simply worked with us upfront and done their research from the beginning, it would have saved all of us a lot of time and energy. 

A little kid saying, "You're killin' me, Smalls!"

This is often what it can feel like to be a sensitivity reader. If authors would approach us before beginning the story and consult with us during the writing process, their stories would be so much better for it. And the editing process would be much smoother. Instead, some authors bring in sensitivity readers at the end when it's very hard for us to make suggestion because the problems are so deeply ingrained in the story.

Put simply: It's too little, too late.

Authors assume that one sensitivity reader is enough because they assume the group they are writing about is monolithic. As you hopefully know, no group of people share the exact same experiences and opinions. As a disabled person, there are many experiences I share with other disabled people. However, myself and my disabled friends don't agree on everything. We use different disability language, different disability advocacy/activism approaches, and have vastly different social experiences. It's pretty cool, actually. 

The problem comes when an author doesn't recognize the diversity within underrepresented communities  and only asks one sensitivity reader to check their manuscript. This still only gives them a relatively narrow view of the group they are writing about and can lead to an inauthentic story.

It also puts far too much pressure on sensitivity readers because it makes us feel like we have to speak for our entire community. It also makes us feel that, if this story ends up having negative representation, we are somehow partially responsible for the disaster. That feeling can be incredibly intimidating and stressful.  

How Do I Fix This? 

I know some people might read the above section and think, "Whelp, I guess sensitivity readers are out, then." 


That is not what I am saying. 

While sensitivity reading can be abused, there are ways to fix this. As a sensitivity reader, below are the criteria I have begun using to decide if I will read a manuscript:

Note that these are also all things I consider as an author, too. It makes my writing stronger and I'm sure it would have the same effect for others. 

I make sure I'm the right reader for the job. Often people will approach me with a general, "I'm writing a disabled character, will you read this to make sure I did it right?" My answer is always: "It depends. What type of disability does this character have?" The answers I get to this question varies: Sometimes the character is very similar to me in respect to their disability, but often the character's disability is entirely different. If I'm dealing with the latter situation, I always tell them that I can double-check for broad disability issues (such as reading it and asking: Is this inspiration porn? Are they othering the disabled character? Did they use hurtful language? Did they use Magical Healing or some other harmful trope? Did they overlook the social ramifications of disability? etc etc etc). 

However, I always strongly recommend that they find a few other disabled readers who actually have the same disability their character has. Otherwise my feedback, while somewhat helpful, will be largely useless when it comes to accurate representation of that specific disability. 

The takeaway for sensitivity readers: Make sure you have personal experience with the topic before agreeing to read. 

The takeaway for authors: Find sensitivity readers who are good fits for what you are writing. 

I ask what their writing process was. Did they research the specific disability? Did they talk to disabled people throughout the project? Did they consume books, essays, films, and/or Youtube videos by disabled people? If the answer is no to one or more of these, I don't instantly turn the author's sensitivity read request down. I do, however, become innately more cautious. I also consider asking for a longer amount of time to read and provide them with notes, as I now have reason to believe that their story will have quite a few holes. 

The takeaway for sensitivity readers: Don't do the heavy-lifting for the author. Make sure they've put in their fair share of work.

The takeaway for authors: Don't be lazy. Do your research up front and along the way, and don't just dump everything on your sensitivity readers. 

I ask how many other sensitivity readers they have. If I'm the only sensitivity reader, then that's a huge red flag for me. Why aren't there others? Is it because the author has only ever interacted with one disabled person (me)? Or do they know other disabled people, but are so uncomfortable around them that they didn't dare ask for their help? If this is the case, it decreases the likelihood that their representation is solid. 

Besides, as mentioned above: The disabled community is not a monolith. It is a very diverse community and I never feel comfortable speaking on behalf of all of us. Being disabled doesn't mean I instantly know all there is to know about disability. I'm still learning, and thus can't shoulder the responsibility of being the Sole Disabled Voice on this project. 

The takeaway for sensitivity readers: Create space for other people in your community by requesting to be one of multiple sensitivity readers, not the only sensitivity reader.

The takeaway for authors: Don't assume that all people from a single community are interchangeable.  Include multiple readers in your process. 

I consider my connection to the author. Sometimes I get sensitivity requests from people completely out of the blue. They've never interacted with me before, yet here they are. This is red flag. 

Most of the sensitivity reads I've done in the past are for authors who I know and have interacted with extensively. Because I know them, I feel comfortable that their motives are pure. I often don't even have to ask them the above questions because I know them well enough to know they've done their due diligence. I also know that they will take my comments seriously while maintaining the integrity of their story and style. This familiarity creates a mutually beneficial atmosphere where we can both thrive: Me as a reader who wants to do right by my community, them as an author who wants to tell a good story.

The takeaway for sensitivity readers: If you get slimy vibes from an author, don't feel like you need to work with them.

The takeaway: Build genuine relationships with sensitivity readers before asking them for help. 

I do have quite a few more thoughts on sensitivity reading, but I'm going to stop here and just open up to questions: If you have anything at all you'd like to know about this topic, please leave a comment below and I will respond! 

Related articles: 
Disabilities in Fiction: Interview with Hannah Heath | Coffee with Yaasha (Episode 14)7 Tips for Writing a Character with a Chronic Illness

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, please don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every week!

Friday, August 7, 2020

Mistakes Were Made: Announcing My Of Myth and Monster PFW Anthology Story

My favorite superhero is a guy who dresses up as a bat to strike fear into people, so it's no surprise that I'm a huge fan of stories that focus on monsters and myths. 

I also really like colors. My hair is bright blue, I wear sugar skull earrings, I have vibrant art hanging from every wall in my room.

So, when I heard that the theme for the Phoenix Fiction Writers third anthology would be myths and monsters, a single word popped into my head: 


The story unrolled from there. 

A dark red book cover with the title "Mistakes Were Made" in white, green, pink, orange, and blue letters. The letters are decorated with Mexican-esque patterns. At the top of the cover is the name "Hannah Heath," at the bottom reads the words "In Of Myth and Monster.' The rest of the cover has white scribbled drawings of an insulin bottle, a backpack, a chupacabra head, and animal footprints.

All Guillerma wanted was to see an alebrije. That's a completely harmless wish, right?


When an alebrije steals her friend Mundo's final art project, Guillerma's little sight-seeing trip goes terribly awry. With Mundo's entire future on the line, they set out on a race against time--and a hungry chupacabra--as they attempt to retrieve his artwork before it is due.

Join a happy-go-lucky college student and her disgruntled BFF in this hilarious space opera adventure.

Mistakes Were Made is everything I've always wanted to put on page: humor, a long-suffering best friend, Mexican inspired world building, loads of Gen-Z and Mexican slang, all set to a backdrop of the terrifying and exciting whirlwind that is college. 

Anyone who has been following So I Accidentally Killed the Chosen One on Wattpad already knows all about Guillerma. She's an irreverent, big-hearted goof who often find herself getting into trouble because she refuses to live life the way a "normal" person would. 

While So I Accidentally Killed the Chosen One follows Guillerma's antics after graduation, Mistakes Were Made gives us a glimpse at her life as a college student. As you can imagine, it is not pretty. What it is, however, is entertaining. 

This story is, of course, quite different from my regular backlist of dark tales. It does, however, contain all of the Hannah Heath staples that we know and love: Colorful world-building, a unique POV style, disability representation, and some strong themes to chew on. 

I am incredibly excited to share this story with you all. It will be appearing in the Of Myth and Monster anthology and let me tell you: This anthology is gonna be AWESOME. We'll have everything from Historical Fantasy to fluffy phoenix floofs to other-cool-things-I-can't-talk-about-because-they-aren't-officially-announced-yet. 

You're definitely going to want to keep an eye on our website and newsletter for more information. 

While you're waiting, you should also probably enter our massive giveaway to win a dragon hoard's worth of books, art, buttons, bookmarks, and more! 

So what do you think? Are you stoked to read my first official comedic publication? Leave your comments below! 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

11 of My Favorite Disabled and Autistic Characters in Movies and TV

It's Disability Pride Month, so let's talk about alllllll the disabled and autistic characters in movies and TV shows!  

Specifically, these eleven: 
Nebula from the MCU 
Regan from Quiet Place 
Zak from Peanut Butter Falcon 
Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road 
Brick Heck from The Middle 
Katie from Alexa and Katie 
Little Boy from Float 
Raven Reyes from The 100 
General Amaya from The Dragon Prince
Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon 
Renee from Loop

If you wanna read some awesome disability rep, check my books.

Who are YOUR favorite disabled and/or autistic characters in film? I'd love to hear about them! Drop a comment below. 

Related articles:
9 Tips for Writing Physically Disabled Characters in Fantasy
Writing Disabled Characters: What You're Doing Wrong
#ChatWithHannah Ep 21: Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid to Write Disabled Characters

Some links are Amazon Affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, July 10, 2020

6 Badass Disabled Warriors in History: Proof That You Can Write A Disabled Protagonist

Did you know July is Disability Pride Month?

Well, it is!

That means that this month all of my blog posts and YouTube videos are going to be disability-centric (more so than usual, anyway). I am quite proud to be a disabled person, so I'm excited to share that with you all.

Today I wanted to give a list of incredible disabled warriors throughout history. I'm doing this because one of the main things I hear when people consider writing a disabled character (or see one represented on-page or on-screen) is that it is "unrealistic" for disabled people to be heroes. 

This is, of course, complete and utter garbage. Here's proof: 

6 Badass Disabled Warriors in History: Proof That You Can Write A Disabled Protagonist

Note: I chose examples of warriors from time periods that are typically depicted in fantasy stories, but keep in mind that there are many others out there spanning all time periods. 

1. Burial Site 223 

This is one of my absolute favorite examples. Archeologists were exploring the King Archaeological Site in Georgia, a protohistorical Native American site, when they discovered a warrior who had been buried in full honors. They originally assumed this warrior was male, given that the Coosa culture tended to have predominatly male warriors. However, it turns out that this person was actually what is known as a War Woman, a title given to female warriors. 

But it gets better. This War Woman was, in fact, physically disabled. Her bone structure indicates a crushed pelvis that would have made one of her legs largely useless, as well as probably very painful to walk on. And yet not only did she become a warrior, but she became such an excellent and respected warrior that she was buried with full honors along side her non-disabled male warrior counterparts. 

How completely badass is that? We sadly don't know anything else about this woman, but I would pay good money to learn her full story. 

2. Ivar the Boneless

This guy was a Viking leader who invaded Anglo-Saxon England. Despite his name, he did, in fact, have bones. However, due to some unknown disability, he was unable to walk. Did that stop him from winning many battles and vanquishing many foes? Absolutely not. Here's how: 

He was one of three Viking brothers who worked together to invade England. Ivar was an exceptional strategist and very well respected by his clan. During invasions and travels, his people would arrange to carry him with them either on a stretcher or on a shield. He would study villages and battlefields, decide upon the best plan of attack, and his brothers would then carry out his instructions. They won many battles and invasions this way. 

The cherry on top? Ivar was also an excellent bowman, so his brothers would prop him within shooting distance of the battlefield so that Ivar could assist in fighting from afar. 

3. Marcus Sergius

Meet the first documented user of a prosthetic hand. Sergius was a Roman Empire general in the Punic War who lost his right hand in battle. Instead of giving up his title of general, he fitted himself with an iron prosthetic hand that he used to hold up his shield. He then went on to lead many war efforts, including the capture of twelve enemy camps. 

But wait. There's more. 

He was captured by Hannibal. Twice. And escape on his own. Twice

Now look me in the eye and tell me that disabled warriors are "unrealistic."

4. King Alfred the Great

As his name indicates, this dude was pretty great. Not only was he a great warrior, but he was incredibly wise. He fought many battles against the Vikings and ultimately struck an agreement that led his country to (relative) peace. He pushed for the education of his people, had scripture translated into English, and worked very hard to change the infrastructure of his country to protect it from further attack....All before the age of fifty.

Impressed yet? It gets better. King Alfred achieved all of this while living with chronic pain. The is no clear diagnosis, but historians suspect he had a form of Crohn's Disease. 

I've heard it said that disability and pain clouds people's judgement and thus makes them unfit to lead. King Alfred's legacy begs to differ.

Shout-out to Grace Crandall for teaching me about this amazing person! 

5. Gaiseric

Ever wondered where the term "vandalism" comes from? Well, wonder no more. Gaiseric was king of the Vandals and was so fierce and brutal that the name of his people became synonymous with violence. 

Historical accounts state that he was "lame in consequence of a fall from his horse." While the word "lame" is currently a derogatory term because people associate lameness with worthlessness, Gaiseric is proof that this mindset is ableist garbage. Not only did he lead the Vandals in many battles, but he also brought together the Alans and Goths and took over a large portion of Roman Africa. But he didn't stop there. He successfully captured and plundered Rome itself, and later successfully defended his kingdom from multiple attacks by what was left of the Roman Empire. 

And that, my friends, is one of the many reasons why we should not use the world "lame" as an insult.

Many thanks to Beth Wangler for alerting me to this warrior's existence! 

6. Jan Žižka

This guy was the undefeated general of the Hussite War. Oh. And he was blind. Get ready for one of the most incredible life stories on the planet:

Žižka lost one of his eyes at a fairly young age, though exactly how this happened is unclear. He became well-versed in warfare and was known for wielding a mace, though he also knew how to use cannons and pistols (both of which were weapons that were not in popular use at the time). He was shot with an arrow and lost his other eye during battle, but continued to lead his troops to victory while horribly wounded

Now completely blind, he went on to not only direct military operations, but also personally lead his men through multiple battles. 

He continued to engage in raids, ambushes, and straight-up battles all the way through his 60s. He became sick with the plague and died an undefeated (and much feared) general. It was said that he was so mighty that no mortal could kill him, and thus could only be extinguished by God himself.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

My 6-year-blogiversary! Signed paperbacks, one-on-one Skype sessions, and more!

Today marks the 6 year anniversary of my blog launch! It just now hit me that I've been blogging for a little over a forth of the number of years that I've been alive. 

*sits back in chair* *counts on fingers* Yup. That's how that math works.  

Aaaanyway. That's a long time to be in the blogging game. I've blogged through surgeries, through six publications, through transferring to a four-year university. I've blogged through good things, through bad things, and through everything in between. It's been a wild six years, and I'm so glad to have you all along for the ride. 

As a thank you, I have many epic reveals planned. Put down anything you're holding, take a seat, and get ready to have your socks knocked off. 

My 6-year-blogiversary! Signed paperbacks, one-on-one Skype sessions, and more!

Anniversary Song by Jay Fite

As you may or may not know, my younger brother is a rapper of incredible music that focuses on mental health awareness. If you haven't already, you should go check out his website

To celebrate my 6-year-blogiversary, I asked him if he would write and rap a funny song for me. He said yes. What he came up with somehow manages to be funny and touching while also being chock full of easter eggs specific to my blog. Behold:


If you like the song (I mean...c'mon. Who wouldn't?), be sure to pre-save his upcoming album: Chaos.

Blog Trivia 

How big of a Hannah Heath Blog fan are you? This trivia quiz will separate the strong from the weak. It's like the Hunger Games, except people won't die and nobody's freedom is on the line. 

Sooooo maybe nothing like the Hunger Games....? Let me start over: 

This trivia contains 12 questions that you should know the answer to if you've been following me and my blog for any amount of time. I mean....I'm not saying I'll be ashamed of you if you get certain questions wrong, but I am saying you run the risk of bringing dishonor upon your cow.

This little trivia jaunt is "open book," so yes, you can try to search for the answers via my blog search bar, my website, my Youtube channel, Google, a summoning charm, a palantír, etc. Do what you gotta do, bro.

What's the prize? I'm glad you asked. The prize is....*drum roll*...THIS:

One-on-One Skype Session Giveaway 

That's right! The top two winners of this trivia will be granted a one-on-one Skype session with yours truly. This session will be a 30-minute long chat where you can ask my any and all questions you have about being a writer, blogger, indie author, youtuber, podcast host, social media marketer, or just about any writing or reading related topic you can think of. All you need is a Skype account and access to wi-fi. 

Yes, it is entirely possible that more than two people will earn perfect scores on the above trivia game. If that happens, I will take all of the top scorers, scream "DIDJA PUT YER NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIYAH," then do a random drawing to select the two winners.

It's gonna be awesome. I'm looking forward to meeting my top two winners! May the odds be ever in your favor:

Take the quiz now.

This quiz closes on 07/07/2020 and the winners will be announced on 07/08/2020, so get in on it now!

Torn Universe Store!

I saved the best for last. 

You can now buy signed paperbacks of my stories directly from my website! *throws confetti shaped like tiny Batmans* 

You can also purchase stickers and original character art. And yeah, I do ship all of these items internationally. You're welcome.

Oh, and between now and September 1st, 2020, you can buy a digital gift card to my store. Go buy one now for the Torn Universe fans in your life! Or, you know...hoard them all for yourself. I don't judge. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Epic Fantasy Tropes That Never Get Old

Let's talk about epic fantasy tropes that are THE BEST. From flashy magics to grand quests, we'll explore them all! 

Missed my video on epic fantasy tropes that are THE WORST? Watch that here

Listen to the audiobook for Skies of Dripping Gold, a YA Christian dystopian about a young man's climb to rescue his sister and save his own soul.

If you wanna read some awesome epic fantasy, check out my Terebinth Tree Chronicles series. You're welcome. 

Have any epic fantasy tropes that you absolutely love? Leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you.

Some links are Amazon Affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Related articles: 
9 Epic, Underused Mythical Animals for Your Fantasy Novel

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Friday, June 12, 2020

My Writing Process in 18 Gifs

Let's talk about my writing process. 

I know, I know. Self-centered, much? 

I'm writing this post because I occasionally have people ask about how I go about writing stories. I've never written a blog post on this topic because it is top secret information and...

Just kidding. I always felt that my process is very specific to me personally and thus wouldn't really help anyone. But then I remembered: 

Today is Thursday and I have zero blog post ideas. So. 

Let's do this thing! Behold. My writing process in 18 gifs. 

Step 1: Get pumped about a shiny new idea. 

My story ideas start out very basic. Usually my brain just thinks of random, cool-sounding concepts and screams them at me until I write them. For example: AZTEC VAMPIRES! ANGRY DESERT ELF BOI

I take a few days to be excited by this new, shiny thing, then get to work. 

Step 2: Generate a plot. 

Easier said than done? Absolutely. I have written an entire blog post on how I generate a full-on story idea, so I'd recommend reading that. It usually takes me under and hour and is fairly bare-bones, but it gives me a jumping-off point. It also gives me what I need for step 3...

Step 3: Perform a few writing rituals.  

Before writing each story, I create a list of words and phrases that sum up the emotions I'm hoping to convey in the story. I also find an image that reminds me of my main character, and this image I keep in my line of vision as I write. I also usually light a candle, do a small dance, then stand on my head for thirty seconds while singing the Happy Birthday backwards. 

Y'know. Normal stuff.

Step 4: Block out the scenes. 

I write a few sentences to describe each scene, AKA: Blocks. Each block mentions the plot point, as well as main emotions I want to convey. I piece them together like a puzzle until I have a very basic idea of major plot points. 

This allows me to identify gaping plot holes before I completely fall into them and die a terrible death. 

Step 5: Write the end-scene first. Or don't. 

I write the end-scene first about 60% of the time (read my post on that here). However, occasionally I write a story that I can see about three or four possible endings for. I scribble down their descriptions in 2-3 sentences so I don't forget them, but I don't write all of them out because that's a waste of energy and words. 

Step 6: Find the character's voice. 

Some people call this drafting. I do not. Drafting actually kind of stresses me out so my hope is that, by renaming the process, it will be easier on me. Does this work? Not at all. But we'll talk about that later. 

What it does do, however, is give me room to find my character's voice, discover their POV, learn their word usage, and just generally start to feel comfortable writing their story. 

Step 7: Panic. 

I usually get about 1/3rd of the way through a story before deciding that something is off. Really off. Sometimes it's the character motivation. Sometimes it's the plot. Sometimes it's the world-building. Sometimes it's all of these. Either way, it's a horrifying realization and always, always sends me into a panic. Despite the fact that I've been through this seven times at this point and know that panic not only doesn't help, but also is unnecessary because I always figure it out in the end. 


My brain sucks like that.

Step 8: Try (and fail) to fix it. 

I re-block the story to try to fix whatever hole I've found. It's like a massive, brain-addling puzzle. But the new version of the story is sooooooo much better now and --

Nope. It still sucks.

Step 9: Cry and/or swear.

A lot. 

Step 10: Rinse and repeat. 

I often get anywhere between one eighth to three quarters of the way through a new version of the story before ditching it because it sucks. When this happens, I go back  to re-blocking, swearing, and questioning my life choices. 

What? I never claimed to be an efficient writer. 

Step 11: Macro edit. 

Finally. Finally. The rough draft is done. And by rough, I mean rough. Sure, it's the shiniest and complete-est of the other six versions I abandoned before getting to this one. But still. The character voice is probably a bit (or a lot) inconsistent. Maybe I switched world-building halfway through the story and now need to go back and fix that. Perhaps there's some weird info-dumping or thematically inconsistent dialogue. 

I print the story out and go through with four different pen colors, each with a specific meaning. You can read about that here. 

This is my absolute favorite part of the writing process. It is here that I can finally start to see the intended story shining through the mess that is my rough draft. It's exciting and beautiful and I love it with all of my heart. 

Step 12: Micro edit. 

I. hate. this. So much. I have a personal hatred for punctuation, spelling, and grammar rules, but I try to clean those issues up as much as possible so that I don't confuse my beta readers with dumb mistakes. However, I don't get too technical with things at this point.

That specific type of horror will come later. 

Step 13: Send to beta readers, then panic. 

In case you hadn't noticed, there is a lot of panic involved in my writing process. Don't judge me.

I have a very specific way that I go about getting feedback from beta readers, which is a process you can read about here

I send my story and the accompanying questions off to my betas, then sit back and wait. And panic. And panic some more. 

Step 14: Macro edit. Again. 

It never ends, people. It never ends. 

Using my beta-reader's feedback, I do yet another round of macro editing. And also maybe some more panicking.

Step 15: Send to editors. 

I know a few people who are very good at editing. Each of them have specific strong points that I entirely lack. For instance, they actually know where commas go, unlike me, who just puts them whereever I want readers to pause in a sentence, which I feel should be a valid usage but apparently is not? I am still very bitter about that, in case you can't tell. 

Step 16: Become sick of the sight of the story. 

By the time I get edits back, I am very, very tired of this story. I've read it through about 18 times, but it feels like 42 billion. And I am done. DONE. Even though the story is objectively excellent, I hate it and find it boring and just don't want to ever see it again. It's not personal. 

Or is it?

Step 17: Publish. 


Step 18: Celebrate and be proud. 

I usually make myself something yummy to eat, watch a favorite movie, and squeal about this new publication to anyone who will listen. All the swearing? The crying? The I-don't-want-to-see-this-story-ever-again-ing? Those emotions are long gone. All I feel is pride and accomplishment and excitement. 

And maybe a little (or a lot) of fatigue, because dang. Writing is hard. 

And then I start the entire process all over again with a new story. Because I am apparently a masochist? 

So now I'm curious. Does my writing process match yours at all? Let's chat!

Related articles: 
5 Steps to Fighting Off Writer's Insecurity

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, please don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Factoid Friday #6: About Jayel's Name

I've always really liked Jael from the book of Judges. A woman who is badass enough and collected enough to pull off killing the general of an army? Yes please.

I decided to name my Flames of Courage protagonist after Jael because they have similar traits: They're both smart, justice-oriented, and they're both brawlers.

Here's the thing about the name spelling: Jayel was a character I originally created a good ten years ago. At the time, I'd heard the story of Jael recounted in sermons or read aloud to me by my parents. As a twelve-year-old, I had never personally read the story with my own eyes, so I didn't realize that the name was spelled "Jael." I assumed the name was spelled like it sounds: "Jayel."

It wasn't until a few years later that I learned the correct spelling of the name, but by then it was too late. She was Jayel in my mind, not Jael.

Luckily, Jayel is a pretty cool looking name, so it all worked out in the end.

Related articles:
Factoid Friday #1: About Wanderer's Name
Factoid Friday #4: About the Colors...

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Friday, May 8, 2020

6 Things in Harry Potter that make NO sense (Part 1)

Whether your love or hate Harry Potter, there's no denying that it is full of incredibly bizarre, nonsensical characters and world-building points. As a huge Harry Potter fan, I'm here to talk about my favorite (and least favorite) things in Harry Potter that make absolutely zero sense.

What are your favorite nonsensical Harry Potter facts? I'd love to hear about them!

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Friday, May 1, 2020

Nonlinear Character Arcs: What They Are, Why They're Epic, and How to Write Them

If you've been writing or reading for any amount of time, you've probably heard of the two main character arcs: the positive character arc and the negative character arc.

If you're not familiar with those terms, you're definitely familiar with the general idea. Positive character arcs describe a character who overcomes a problem and comes out the other side as a better person (think Bilbo Baggins...or pretty much any other protagonist of, well, anything. It's a very common arc).

A negative character arc is when a character comes up against a problem and, rather than overcoming it, is crushed by it and ends up as a somehow worse person than when they started (think Harvey Dent).

But what about nonlinear character arcs? Arcs that show a character becoming better, then worse, but then better again (yay!), but then backsliding (noooo!). Rinse and repeat over and over and over.

Let's talk about how to write that type of character arc.

Nonlinear Character Arcs: What They Are, Why They're Epic, and How to Write Them

Why write a nonlinear character arc? 

Nonlinear character arcs are far more realistic to what your average everyday person experiences. 

Most of us have a high moments and low moments and, as much as we'd like to think that we learn from them, we often end up repeating the same or similar mistakes. Rather than having a clear, smooth, linear trajectory that represent our personality development, our "arcs" tend to be very messy. Life is full of switchbacks and ups and downs and sideways movements. 

Because of this, readers are able to personally relate to nonlinear character arcs in a way that they may not be able to with others. Sure, positive character arcs are amazing because you get to cheer a character on and be inspired by their progress. And negative character arcs a really interesting too, because they're full of emotional impact. 

But nonlinear character arcs? They meets us where we are at. We get to see characters who act very similar to us (or people we know). This has great emotional impact because we are able to see that people make mistakes, and that's okay. We get to see that, no matter how many backslides we may experience in our lives, it's always possible to pick ourselves back up and move forward.

It also keeps readers engaged because we're never quiiiiiiite sure how a character will behave, whereas with a negative or positive character arc, we generally know what choice a character will make.

How do you write a nonlinear character arc? 

1. Let your characters make bad choices. This can be difficult for some writers because they are afraid of writing a character that is so flawed that they become upsetting to the reader. But you know what? You can't let other people dictate your storytelling process. Rosa knows:

Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn 99 saying: "You can't let other people's opinions get in the way of what you want. Especially because other people suck!"

Just kidding.

But seriously. The good thing about nonlinear character arcs is that readers know that, even if the character does make bad choices, they will end up making better ones at some point in the future. Rather than being off-putting, this can make readers want to stick it out and hope to see the character triumph, even if it is temporary. 

It's relatable, so don't feel the need to sugarcoat it. 

2. Model your characters after real human behavior. Often times, riders will fashion their characters after other heroes in books or movies that they like. It's why we have so many common archetypes: The Reluctant King (Aragorn), The Chosen One (Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter), The Rebel (Katniss Everdeen, Jyn Erso), The Comic Relief (Pippin). 

But the truth is that people's personalities and choices in real life are not that clear-cut. People are full of inconsistencies, inspiring bravery, and heart wrenching cowardice. We humans are hard to nail down. Even the most likable people can sometimes disappoint, and even the most frustrating people can have moments of surprising goodness. Think about the people in your life, then consider modeling your characters after the behaviors that you see around you. It will lead to a rich, layered, complicated character that your readers would love to engage with. 

4. Set the stage. You want to be sure to establish from a fairly early point that your character is not going to have the traditional arcs that readers have come to expect. This is important because you don't want to disappoint your readers. If you don't lay the groundwork, they may label your character as inconsistent rather than complex. They'll be irritated, you'll be upset, and I'll be disappointed because I gave you the tools to avoid this problem, but did you listen? Noooooo.

David Tennent's Doctor Who making a disgusted face. #JudgingYou flashes beneath him.

Walking this line can be tricky, but if you are very intentional it should work out. For example, my vampire character from Vengeance Hunter has a nonlinear arc. I set the stage for this right off the bat by showing her inconsistencies within the first few pages: 

The opening scene shows her hunting down and killing somebody for their blood. This is obviously not a great thing to be doing. She almost seems to enjoy the hunt, but also appears to be vaguely disgusted by herself and her fellow hunters. Immediately afterwards, I show her giving this blood to other people in her society who are hungry and need it to survive. She seems to do this of her own accord, indicating a certain goodness within her, but this is undercut by the fact that she seems to be turning a blind eye to the fact that her activities are clearly immoral. All of this signals to the reader that this character is not a traditional hero, nor is she a villain. She's confused, hurting, and is consistently making contradictory choices. 

Be sure to set the precedence for your character's nonlinear nature within the first few pages of the story. Not only does the complexity and mystery of it draw readers in, but it will also make sure that they know what they're getting into.

3. Read up (or binge) nonlinear characters. Study their patterns. You'll start to notice that these characters have a sort of predictable unpredictability about them. Don't make a series of decent choices, only to make a few terrible ones. Or they'll make a lot of terrible choices, and then one massively excellent one. They continue in this pattern for the entire story and there ending arc generally is fairly open. It's not clear whether they will manage to get their lives fully together, but there's just enough of a hint of hope to keep the readers happy. 

My personal favorite examples of nonlinear character arcs? Here are a few. Yes, most of them are from the TV show The 100. Those writers know how to do a nonlinear arc like nobody else. 

1. Octavia Blake from The 100. It's no secret that she makes a lot of terrible, damaging, violent life choices. But she also occasionally does some amazing things, and often is operating out of a desire to keep her loved ones safe. 

2. Severus Snape from Harry Potter. This guy's arc is all over the place, but in a good way. He simultaneously makes some great choices, but also lots of bad ones. One moment he's risking his life to save others, the other moment he's terrorizing small children.

Snape gesturing like, "I do what I want."

3. Han Solo from Star Wars. One moment he's a scruffy-looking nerf herder with a heart of gold who risks his life to go stuff his friend into a dead Tauntaun. But fast forward a few decades and he's let his not-super-stable friend give his son a glowy-death-sword and then abandons his wife when that inevitably goes south. Sheesh. Tighten up, dude. 

Other examples include: Tony Stark (Marvel), Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter), Abby Griffin (The 100), Red Hood (DC), and Loki (Marvel). Not to mention a whole plethora of my own characters: Ishtaka from Vengeance Hunter and other ones I can't mention because *spoilers.* 

(Please note the lack of female characters with nontraditional characters arcs. Now go forth and populate the earth with them. Thank you) 

And that's it! Your Nonlinear Character Starter Pack. You're welcome. 

Do you like nonlinear character arcs? Who are some of your favorite examples?

Related articles:
Writing a Compelling Hero: 7 Tips With Examples
Unreliable Narrators: What They Are and How to Write Them

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