Hiring Beta Readers

A detailed account of my experience using Fiver to hire beta readers

I tried to make this post as informative and helpful as I could. Just be forewarned that it’s long. If you want the TL;DR, skip to the high-level lists. The rest is background that might be helpful if you’re like me – a relatively new (and perhaps anxious) author seeking outside feedback for the first time.

If anyone wants the names of the beta readers I hired, email me. I won’t write them in the post or in the comments. If you have any other questions, ask! I want to help others as much as I can. And if I got anything wrong, please point it out. I don’t want to accidentally mislead anyone.

*I should also note that I read that authors shouldn’t pay for beta readers, and that the service you’re getting on Fiver is actually classified as a “critique.” I’ve seen people call Fiver contractors “beta readers” despite this, and that’s how they marketed their services, so I’m going to refer to them as such throughout this write-up.

Why I Paid

My novel is … different. It’s a fantasy novel, but it’s a similar style to Kings of the Wyld (pointed out by one of my beta readers, best compliment I got, thank you!) in that there’s comedy, character development, and action/politics. I would classify it broadly as fantasy, but it doesn’t fit in with the classic genre novels, done so intentionally.

Suffice to say takes some risks, and yeah, I know I’m stepping into a genre that has readers with set expectations in mind when they pick up a fantasy novel. I also have no formal creative writing training. I’ve never participated in writing circles and this is the first I’ve shared anything outside my friends and family.

I saw Fiver as an opportunity to hire beta readers that were committed to the cause, had some expertise, and could give me constructive, critical, unbiased feedback. I did worry that the fear of getting a negative review could influence them. I wondered, “will they say nice things because they’re afraid to say otherwise, even if my novel sucks?” But I learned that a good beta reader won’t do this, they’ll tell you the truth, even if it stings, but they will do so constructively, and you will thank them for it.

Fiver: What I Wish I’d Known

Maybe this is common knowledge, and I will admit that I technology is not my forte, in addition to the app-based gig economy eluding me at times. Whatever you may think of it, here’s my list of lessons learned:

1. Sellers set the delivery deadline, but they can extend it as many times as they like.

You can choose to accept or deny an extension. Accepting gives the seller more time. Denying awards you a refund, except…

2. You don’t actually get a refund.

You get a Fiver credit. Wish I’d known this, you’ll find out why below. I didn’t try to argue this with Fiver but maybe I could have. If anyone has any advice on that, let me know.

3. You get asked if you want to tip.

Where I live, it is expected that you tip at restaurants, coffee shops, when you get your hair done, etc. I was a waitress for three years and let me tell you, the only thing that made that back-breaking job bearable was the tips.

So in no way am I resentful for tipping my beta readers. I would encourage you to include it in your budget, because really, they don’t charge that much for the work they do and I’m sure they appreciate it. I will acknowledge that I can afford to tip, and I know this isn’t the case for everyone. Just be aware of it when you’re calculating your costs.

4. If a seller offers you a refund/requests to cancel, and you accept it, you can’t publicly review their services.

If anyone knows a way around this, please tell me and I’ll update the post. I will also note I don’t know what happens if you don’t accept their offer to cancel. Maybe you can rip them a new one for all to see?

5. You have three days to accept the order when it’s finished, otherwise it will automatically be accepted. After you accept it, you’ll be asked to provide a review immediately.

I didn’t realize I’d be asked to immediately review the services. So when I saw the option to give them a review, I said, “I’ll do it later after I read what their report.” I didn’t get the chance to do it again. Maybe there’s a way around this (again, open to feedback here). I wanted to give the person 5 stars and feel bad that I didn’t get the chance.

Lessons Learned

I tried to pick people from varied backgrounds that I could picture reading (but not necessarily liking) my book. Of the four people I chose, three were superb. One was not. More on that throughout this section.

1. Follow-up questions should be welcomed and free.

You should be able to ask follow-up questions after you receive your report. All the decent beta readers I worked with were all open to these, and when I did ask questions, they went out of their way to give me extended advice. They also didn’t charge me for this.

One person had it set as an option when I ordered initially, charging extra for “follow up questions.” He ended up being the most problematic of the four. I don’t know enough to say whether this was a red flag, but maybe someone else can speak to that.

2. Expect live comments in your manuscript.

Again, maybe this isn’t normal and I just got super lucky with the three amazing beta readers I hired, but they all provided these as part of their service and I loved reading them.

3. Go for sellers who are established with lots of buyer reviews, especially if you’re on a budget.

Might be obvious, but I didn’t do this for one of my choices and suffered the consequences. Not only do a lot of positive buyer reviews mean sellers are good at what they do, it also means they finished their orders.

I took a risk and picked someone with only a few reviews, because a) I wanted some gender balance; b) he came across as a fantasy snob, the exact type of person I wanted to read my manuscript because I wanted to know what their reaction would be to it; and c) he was cheap. I came to regret this choice.

4. Yeah, you get what you pay for, but sometimes you get a little more.

I hired two expensive beta readers and two inexpensive ones. One lower-cost beta reader I hired turned out to be professional, quick, and super nice. But the cheapest option? He had very few reviews and he was less money on average than the established sellers.

5. It can take time, so plan ahead if you’re on a schedule.

The fastest timeline I got was two weeks. The longest was four, but she finished ahead of schedule. All in all, I waited close to a month to get everything back.

6. Prepare a list of areas you want them to focus on.

They should ask you what you want specific feedback on and provide it to you in the report. I asked for plot, characters, dialogue, etc. If you want a full list of what I asked, DM me.

Overall Thoughts

The Good

I loved reading the critiques and the live comments. Seeing people laugh at things I tried to make funny and talk about how shook they were by the ending was rewarding. Hearing things like “I want to read more,” and “I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even when I was doing other things,” or even “I was so angry at [insert character name] I slammed my laptop closed” was worth every agonizing moment I spent on this novel.

Reading their analysis of my characters, saying they love them and feel connected to them (or that they hated them for the reasons I wanted them to hate them), has probably been the best thing to happen to me in a long time. I don’t really have words to describe the feeling it gave me. But I would say that it felt exactly like I imagined it would, and then some.

I want to make it clear: there was constructive criticism, as there should be, because no novel is perfect and that’s the point of beta readers. One report went into an in-depth analysis of the problems. It was a bit overwhelming, but damn, it was helpful and well thought-out, and I appreciated it as much as I treasured the compliments. I think it will help me make my novel better, but also show me how to be a stronger writer overall.

The Bad

The cheapest reader I hired was the most unprofessional of the four. He sent a plethora of excuses (the details of which I won’t get into) and numerous requests to extend his deadline, only to cancel abruptly. This, coupled with the fact that I didn’t get a cash refund and couldn’t leave a review to warn others, was a bit frustrating. Oh well, the Fiver credit turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because I used it to tip the others.

Moving Forward

What now? I’m going to polish this sucker up and make it better, maybe do a rewrite. Keep working, that’s what I’ll do, because that’s what I do best.

For anyone else out there like me, anxious to share your work out of fear of an anticipated accosting, don’t let haters influence you! Do what you want and take risks. Seek feedback and learn from it, but don’t let the fear of shitheads stop you from putting your work out there. Like me, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by what people have to say.

Back in Action

It's been 84 years | Its been 84 years, Memes, Laughing so hard

Jokes aside, it has been a time. Graduate school was two years of agony, burnout, as well as fun. Then COVID-19 was the crescendo of crap, my graduation literally occurring peak pandemic. This is a post about getting through the perfect shitstorm, so if you’re not into that kind of stuff, wait for my next post (I promise it won’t take 84 years).

The first year of graduate school was brutal. I worked 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 8 months straight. It was a rough transition, and a drag-your-heels-until-they-bleed finish.

I know there are a lot of people that don’t have a choice but live this lifestyle (if you can call it that). I want to acknowledge (before I continue to whine) that for me it was a choice. An incredibly privileged choice, I might add.  Even though it was tough, I’m still grateful for it.

I spent the summer between first and second year working a paid internship. It was a brief reprieve from school, and it was fun! The thing is, I had many grandiose plans about getting my blog and social media going again. But the burnout was real, and my living situation was stressful. I spent most of my summer drinking.

Second year, I worked two jobs, attended classes and wrote a thesis. Writing a thesis was challenging, because it is a totally different style of writing from creative writing. But I learned a lot, and once more, I’m grateful I had the opportunity to do so.

Then bam, middle of March comes, and I’m in lockdown. My mental health took a nosedive. I was already in a state of burnout, running on fumes, coffee, liquor and aggressive sports to unleash pent-up stress. I barely slept, maybe 4-6 hours a night, and all the intense working out riddled with an unhealthy lifestyle caught up to me.

My foot went first. I couldn’t walk for two weeks with a sprained ankle. I didn’t even realize it happened until I tried to walk to work the next day. Then my back – one herniated disk, three dislocated ribs. All I did was stretch in the morning. It’s crazy what stress can do you to your body.

The good thing about lockdown was I didn’t have to walk anymore, so a buggered foot didn’t matter. The bad thing was I sat constantly, making my back worse. On top of everything, it felt like the world was ending, I was still on the hook for all my assignments and my thesis, and I had two jobs to wrap up. Worse yet, we had a death in the family. I’m not going to be pompous and try to be eloquent. It fucking sucked.

I would love to say “I don’t know how I survived, but I pulled through, wow, I did it.” *Cue dreamy smile shot behind an inspirational backdrop like a sunset or waterfall or some shit.* Haha. No.

I drank. I drank almost every single day without fail. I would not recommend this approach. It was expensive and in the long-run, more taxing on my mental health than the alternative.

I finished everything pertaining to grad school in May, and I begin my new job in September, which gave me four months to do whatever I wanted. I remember thinking I have four months to write a book, make it perfect, publish it, and get my social media going! Wow-ee! BUCKLE UP!

Low and behold, I spent all of May drunk. Yes, all of May. My back went out in June, so that kept me sober, so I did a lot of writing then, but lockdown was lifted and July was boozy once more.

Somewhere amidst all that insanity, I thought to myself: why am I doing this? I talked to an old friend recently about everything, and something clicked. It has to stop. Maybe I finally recovered from the burnout. At least, enough to start writing my blog again. Or maybe when one does nothing but party, they realize it gets old fast.

I don’t know. I’m not going to over-analyze it. I’m just going to write this blog post, edit it, post it, and do the same again soon. And I’m going to get my social media active again. And I’m going to keep writing, even if it’s a trash 100 words a day, even if they’re excruciating, even if it takes everything I have that day to do it, because writing is better than booze, it’s better than over-exercising, and it’s one of the few things that genuinely makes me happy.

Writing Podcasts: Mythcreants Podcast

I’m a Luddite at heart. While I enjoy technology, I despise social media and I’ve been resistant to the societal changes it’s brought about. I refused to get a new phone for five years, but recently I had no choice and succumbed. I’m basically an 83-year-old in a 27-year-old’s body.

Doubtless, it would be difficult to make my way as an Indie Author without social media. So I’ve decided to create some pages on Instagram and Twitter, and will be making a Facebook account soon enough. I also frequently post on Reddit, but I don’t really consider that social media. It might be the only platform besides WordPress I don’t use begrudgingly.

That all aside, another aspect of technology I’ve avoided has been Podcasts. Why, might you ask?

  1. I didn’t understand what they were, and I didn’t care to find out;
  2. I didn’t like the name “podcast” (yes, I’m ridiculous);
  3. I thought you had to have an Iphone to get them (continuing on the ridiculous train);
  4. I didn’t know any good ones, and I couldn’t be bothered to look into it (do I need to say it again?);
  5. I hate Apple, and I associated Podcasts with this company for the longest time.

However, my thirst for knowledge overpowered my stubbornness, and I invested some time in researching good podcasts (is the word a proper noun?) for writing. One that came up was the Mythcreants Podcast.

I started listening to it while I was stuck in the filing room. It was a long, boring week at work, and I got relegated there to do someone a favour. During that time, I listened to at least 10 of their shows. The verdict? These guys are fantastic.

Oren and Chris really know their stuff. Both of them are  intelligent and knowledgeable when it comes to writing and creating. The topics covered on their podcast include a wide range of subjects, such as “Describing the Environment;” “The Important of Character Likability;” and many other areas of writing I didn’t even think of.

Even if you aren’t writing SciFi or fantasy, check them out, they have a wealth of knowledge to share: https://mythcreants.com/ Seriously, check it out!

The Red Queen Series

Spoilers ahead for the Red Queen series.

So I’m reading Victoria Aveyard’s War Storm right now. I’m four chapters in and my eyes are bleeding. If anyone has picked up the Red Queen series, you’re probably thinking I brought this on myself. You’re right, I did. But I have weakness for Young Adult (YA) novels, and sometimes it is nice to read something mindless, especially when your brain is fried from work. And let’s be real, some YA is really good!

But this series sucks. The first book was alright, but as the story drags onto it’s fourth novel, it’s verging on unreadable. My initial impression was that it was a rip off of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, which is totally is. Truth be told, I could deal with that in the beginning.

However, the series has warped into a convoluted mess of POV (Point of View) chapters in a strange attempt to make it a GOT-level epic (GOT = Game of Thrones), for which the author lacks the skill to pull off. It also doesn’t help that the foundation of this novel is built on the well-worn trope of a female protagonist in a post-apocalyptic society, fighting to save the enslaved while plagued by tugging love interests (a set of Princes and a childhood best friend). Gag.

I think that if you have skills and talent, you can pull of a trope or two. But Aveyard doesn’t. Why?

For one, her writing is riddled with adverbs and one-sentence paragraphs. I know I said the occasional adverb is not the devil, and I stand by that. But it feels like every goddamn sentence has one. I chuckled darkly. He said sadly. I moved slightly…She wrote poorly.  They make the writing cheap and lazy. And the one-sentence paragraphs are melodramatic and annoying. They do not make her writing impactful, because there are so many. SO MANY. They are irritating and relentless.

Her POVs also lack distinction. I feel like I’m reading the same boring person’s voice over and over, just with different opinions and settings. I agree now with the advice that it’s hard to pull of multiple POVs, and you have to really know what you are doing if you want to be successful. Aveyard is a good example of how not to do multiple POVs, if you want one.

The characters themselves are cliche and the volume of people being introduced is overwhelming. The A Song of Ice and Fire series has a lot of characters, as well, and its a testament to GRRM’s skill that he can pull this off without making his readers bored or confused (debatable by book five, but in the beginning it wasn’t the case). Aveyard cannot do this. The side characters she introduces are one dimensional, and quite frankly, lame. They lack anything robust and only serve as fodder to her plot. There are too many dicks on the dance floor, as I (plus Brett and Jermaine) like to say.

Aveyard also isn’t that great at describing people, places, battles or settings. One example that stands out is when she highlights one of her characters as “smiling like a cat.” I don’t understand why she used this comparison, especially given that her plot takes place in a society that is 1000 years into the future and probably has no inkling of Alice in Wonderland. Because without Chester, when would you think of a smiling cat? Cat’s never fucking smile. They yawn, hiss, growl, bear their teeth, but when do they smile? Ugh. And what’s worse is this character smiling like a cat is supposed to make the readers question him. Is he devious because of this cat-like smile? What are his real motivations? What is he really thinking? CAN WE TRUST HIM?!!! It’s fucking terrible. I’m sorry, but it is.

The plot really isn’t that great, either. In fact, the basis of the story (newbloods) is one giant dues-ex machina waiting to happen. It’s just a matter of time before “the most powerful newblood of all” swoops in and saves Mare and her friends from total annihilation (and side note – what kind of fucking name is Mare?). It sucks. Period.

The sad thing is some of the concepts aren’t that bad, and if the writing wasn’t awful, Aveyard could probably pull it off. I’m gonna reference my number one homeboy Steven King here, in that I can see how reading terrible books can be motivating. After reading the Red Queen series (which apparently is a fucking hit??), I know I can do better and I want to do better. So thanks, Aveyard, for giving me that, and showing me what not to do.


The First Rewrite

Oh Gosh. Long time no post. To all three of my readers, I apologize.

Sarcasm aside, I’ve been tits-deep in my rewrite and it’s been sucking the life out of me. I spent a good part of the year procrastinating, but I finally started a few months ago. And now I’m almost done!! This post won’t be my best writing because I’m totally gassed, but I want to share regardless.

The thought of having to do a second rewrite is jarring, but I think it’s necessary. I’ve learned an immense amount throughout this process  Moreover, I’ve fallen in love with my work again. I was dreading tackling my draft because I knew it was flawed, and part of me was worried I’d say screw it and scrap the whole thing. But the opposite happened. As Dolores would say, I chose to see the beauty in that draft. And, I used what I have learned over the last little while about writing to make it better than before.

Do I have any wisdom to pass on? Hmm. Let’s see

1. Just do it.

If you’re anxious about rewriting your novel because of the inevitable self-criticism that will follow, dwelling instead of writing will only make it worse. Sit down and get started, no matter how painful it is. You might struggle in the beginning. I know I did. I kicked and screamed and metaphorically bit myself as I sat in front of my computer preparing to start. But as time goes on and you spend more time on your rewrite, it will get easier, less painful, and you’ll find splendour in your work

2. But wait a little bit first…

I had to throw in some juxtaposition . Steven King suggests that you leave your draft alone for a little while, so when you pick it up again you can look at with fresh eyes. I have to agree with this advice. When you’re in the depths of your novel, it’s hard to spot mistakes. Just like with a toxic relationship (I’m on a roll with the dark humour), taking a step back and giving yourself some time to process what you’ve written will allow you look at your draft from a new perspective, giving you the ability to spot flaws, and edit accordingly

3. Be critical, but not mean.

I use the comment tool in Microsoft Word when I’m rewriting like self-administering morphine after surgery, ripping apart my own work with criticism. I poke holes without mercy because I know others will, but I do so with the goal of making my draft stronger, not with the aim of putting myself down. Sometimes I cringe as I do, thinking, wow, Ava, can’t believe you missed this, as I cringe and wonder why I even bother.  But I push forward despite these thoughts, remembering that acknowledging flaws will only serve to make my story better

4. Re-read, re-read, re-read.

I’m lucky in that I like reading my own writing (anyone else feel the same, or am I totally self-indulgent?). So I can reread the same part over and over, until I hate it, then I put it down and re-read it again. By doing so, I continually make my writing better. Throughout this rewrite, I’ve probably read some of my problematic chapters 10-15 times each, editing each time. It’s only served to make my work better, so I recommend trying it.

5. Be brutal with removing unnecessary words and sentences.

I noticed that I when I am pounding out my draft, I tend to write the same thing but in two different ways. During my rewrite, I was often forced to make a choice and cut out one of the sentences. However, by doing so, I cleaned up my work and made it much less wordy.

The general rule is draft – 10%. My second draft is longer than my first draft (about 20% longer), but only because I wrote in description and added items that are necessary to the plot. I actually cut out a tonne of my old work because it was redundant, poorly written, or just unnecessary. It’s hard sometimes, but essential for improvement.

6. Read out loud.

Especially the dialogue. If it sounds weird, or you think “would someone actually say that?” then switch it up, then read it out loud again, over and over, until it sounds smooth. This is a critical step. I used to do this for all my university papers, as well (and not to brag, but I aced almost all of them).

7. Adverbs should be avoided but are not the devil.

Sorry y’all, but I don’t hate them. The truth is, most readers don’t care about the occasional adverb because they don’t realize they are considered poor form. I didn’t care about them until I read On Writing. Adverbs don’t ruin your writing if they are used sparingly (see what I did there). I think they give my writing character, actually. Just sayin’.

8. Don’t get sucked into the oppressive world of rules.

I found that the more I tried to learn about writing by reading blogs, listening to podcasts, posting on Reddit, etc., the more I found myself feeling constrained and bound to a set of norms. This hurt my ability to be creative and it sucked the life from my writing, especially in the rewrite phase. Truth be told, the more I rewrote my work to adhere to these rules, the less I liked it.

Don’t get me wrong – these rules helped me improve my writing, too. I’m just saying moderation is key here. If breaking the occasional rule gives your writing a unique and endearing voice, embrace it I say. Otherwise we’ll all just sound the same.

9. Avoid the copy and paste method.

I’ll admit that there were times (quite a few times) I was lazy and I would copy and paste from my old draft into my new one instead of actually, you know, rewriting it. Occasionally it worked, because the work I’d done previously was good. However, my writing was much stronger when I sat down and made the effort to retype my story line by line. New ideas would form, things would come out better, and over all, the rewritten work was stronger than the what I had copy and pasted, then edited.

10. Embrace change.

It’s hard to let go of our creations. But if something isn’t sitting right in your gut, or if you know part of your plot doesn’t make sense, take the plunge, change it and make it better. I was afraid of change, another reason why I delayed my rewrite. But once I got started, I saw how much it improved my work and was inspired to keep going. It’s funny how many times I’ve been terrified of the idea of doing something, only to find out that I actually love it. Change was one of these things.


Maybe some of you will read these bits of wisdom and say, “None of that applies to me, I can’t WAIT to rewrite my work and change is a beautiful, unthreatening thing!” How I envy you. For me, it was a grueling process, but like any challenge I am glad I overcame it. Next steps for me are to repeat the above process, then look at getting an editor. I’m sure that will be an adventure in itself.

In the meantime, I’ll keep updating this blog, because I miss posting here!

Anyone else rewriting their draft? Care to share some thoughts? Rants are just as welcome.

Thoughts on “Requiem”

I’m referring to the new series that came out on Netflix recently: Requiem. Major spoilers ahead!

I love horror, but I don’t like being scared (yeah). So I always have to make a trade-off when I indulge in the genre. I’m not a fan of movies like Saw, but I enjoy series that have fantasy elements blended with psychological undertones. So Requiem was a good choice for me – it had psychological aspects (albeit transparent), and managed to scare me but not too much.

The first thing I want to talk about is the music. It was great. Dominik Scherrer composed the soundtrack, and as I write this, I’m listening to it on Spotify. It’s haunting, creepy, and somehow still entrancing. It suited the themes of the show, and added to the fear I felt watching it. I also think that because the main character is a cellist, Scherrer mixed in classical elements to the score. The piece names all appear to be in Welsh, as well.

Which brings me to my next point! The series is based in Wales. I like Wales. I’ve been there once, and I loved it. The history of Wales is fascinating, too. In a UK history course I took in university,  my professor frequently brought up the 13th century conquest of Wales. He mentioned the poem the Bards of Wales, which details the story of the legendary suicide of the last bard of Wales. The bard curses the Edward I and his family line for the burning of 500 Welsh bards before he jumps off a cliff (I believe?). My professor stated he believed this “curse” was real in that the final member of the Edwardian royal family line, Richard III, died in a brutal way. Moreover, until recently, Richard III was regarded as the boogeyman thanks to Tudor propaganda. Pretty awful way to be remembered, so perhaps the curse worked?

The Bard, by John Martin(1789-1854).

In Requiem, the idea that Wales is a powerful place, specifically Penllynith, ties nicely into the supernatural undertones of Welsh history and the themes of the show. Personally, I was excited to see Wales in the show and hear people speak Welsh. Maybe there’s a bit of bias own my part, but I thought it was really cool (people from the UK rolling their eyes at me for being a North American fangirl buying into the stereotype, but roll away, guys. Wales is awesome!).

The visuals of the show were great, too. The choice of Lydia Wilson to play Matilda Grey was smart. Her silvery blond hair, pale skin and large, dark eyes stand out against the grim backdrops of the old mansion, the grey skies, and the comparatively plain villagers. It made me think “yeah, there is something otherworldly about this girl.” Additionally, the bright green hills and the forests of Wales were surreal, demonstrating the power of the area. The colours, the music, and the idea of Wales sucked me in, even if the story was weak at times.

Image result for requiem

So what made the story weak? In my opinion, it isn’t all terrible. It just had some growing pains. I like British television, in that it doesn’t scream stuff in your face like “WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT? DON’T YOU KNOW THAT DOING THAT WILL LEAD TO X, Y AND Z WHICH WILL CAUSE THE WORLD TO END?” It isn’t obvious and there generally isn’t any hand holding. A lot of times, you have to infer things and use your own judgment to discern the plot.

I did, however, find that there was a bit more telling rather than showing in Requiem. Hal and Nick (two male characters) do Matilda’s bidding without question, and if you aren’t able to deduce that it’s because she’s beautiful, the other characters will tell you that. Oh, and Trudy telling Hal and Matilda over and over that everyone hates them in the village when it’s pretty clear that they do … Nick manipulating Matilda and acting strange, but constantly letting you know he has money problems. Why not just show him being shady and reveal at the end that he was forced into things, and let the viewers try to make up their mind for themselves? Meh, maybe I’m just nitpicking, but I love the grey elements of British television and I found they weren’t as strong as they usually are in this show (not to say that they weren’t there at all).

It was also easy (for me) to figure out that Matilda wasn’t crazy. I love plots that make you question the character’s sanity. The OA did this well – by the end, you aren’t really sure if she was telling the truth or not. Requiem made it way too clear that Matilda wasn’t nuts. She was falling apart and perhaps a bit mad, but she wasn’t insane for pursuing what she thought was the truth (and it turned out to be that, too). She looked unhinged to other people, but there were too many obvious hints that she wasn’t. Again, telling and not showing.

In addition to this, the concept of a cult being behind the madness is a bit overplayed. I wish that it wasn’t an “archangel” that was being summoned, either. This made me cringe and I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s cliche? I also think my bias is coming out, in that I really don’t like Tara Fitzgerald. Not gonna lie, her being the ringleader of it all made me roll my eyes a bit.

Image result for Tara Fitzgerald requiem

She’s coming to get you with her bad hair extensions and crystals!

All in all, I liked the show’s construction, but the story needed a bit of work. The ending was good, and I enjoyed the brief snippet of Matilda killing the people who tormented and betrayed her (revenge, yes!). The visual aspect of her possession was also creepy and beautiful, so well done. I hope they produce a second season because I’m curious to see where it all goes.

My rating? 7/10. Anyone else watch? Thoughts?

The Line Between Your Characters and You

Recently, I’ve been reading Limyaael’s old posts/rants on writing and they are extremely helpful. Her focus was the fantasy genre, but I think a lot of her advice applies across the board. The rants are fun to read, as well. I wish she was still around.

However, Limyaael seems to disagree with the idea of “working out your own issues” through your characters and your novel. She says that “therapy” and “diaries” are for dealing with your problems, not your characters.  She cites people who write about teenage heroines in awkward family situations, being yelled at by their parents to “clean up their rooms.” You know, characters dealing with modern drama in a fantasy context.

Yeah, this is annoying. I do dabble in YA (ashamedly…but also not, some of it’s good), and there are times where the heroine is obviously based on the author. Sa-rah is short and has long raven-black hair with blond tips because she’s magic, and is sick of her parents telling her to be a lady, so she fights with them and hates her miserable life (Sa-rah being some cheap attempt at making the name Sarah more “futuristic” and different).  We’ve probably all come across a character like this at some point (*CoughMarefromRedQueencough*). It’s an overdone trope in YA and appeals to the teenagers who, omg, have to do chores, thus selling books.

However, when it’s done right, I really don’t see a problem with using your characters to work through your issues. Writing is an opportunity to express your emotions and create characters that help you understand yourself and the people around you. It’s not always a conscious thing – I’ve created characters that are mirrors of some of my own internal struggles without meaning to. Stephen King has done it, as well. He said a lot of his characters unintentionally struggled with alcoholism because he himself was fighting that demon.

I’ve been through some hard times in my life, and writing helped me cope with them. In fact, one of the first epic stories I wrote was when I was 14 and dealing with a bad breakup (yes, I know, but I was an angst-ridden, hormonal teenager). Would I ever let anyone else read this story? Fuck no. But did it help me deal with my problems? It sure did. I recently re-read this story, and the dialogue and characters were pretty good (all obvious teenage-drama-inspired things considered). This is largely because I based them on real situations, real emotions I’d felt, real people I knew and real conversations I’d had.

There’s nothing wrong with letting out your emotions through your characters. People often feel like they’re the only ones going through a certain situation, feeling specific things, and that they are alone because of this. If you create characters who feel the same things you do, I believe that you’ll create someone that others can connect to. You might also create a character that helps your reader better understand themselves and the people around them. Personally, I’d rather read a book where the characters are realistic because they struggle than one where they are strong because a rape doesn’t affect them (see rant several posts below). I think most people agree, which is why series like A Song of Ice and Fire are so popular. We can relate to and understand the characters, even if they are assholes.

I think Limyaael was trying to help people avoid creating characters who are always based on themselves (otherwise they’ll all be the same), or characters who struggle with problems that don’t fit into your story. Or, more importantly, annoying characters who whine and complain about mundane crap everyone has to deal with. Or… characters who are strikingly beautiful with silver-green eyes and beat up the bully and everyone in their school of magic loves them and they are now super popular unlike me irl unlike before. I agree with Limyaeel on this entirely. But I don’t think anyone should feel bad about working out their issues through their stories, because I think a lot of times it adds more to your characters rather than taking away from them. And if your story does end up sucking because of this (which, unless your character is having a mental breakdown because their parents won’t let them stay out past 11, it probably won’t), keep it to yourself and use it for you. There’s no shame in that game.


I’m feeling a bit all over the place right now. I think I had too much coffee (no I definitely had too much). I can’t make a decision about what I want to do with my free time. I have so many projects I’m excited about and working on, and when I finally get time to do them, I sit down and can’t decide where to start.

Normally, I’m quite focused. I always have mental planner in my head with colour-coded blocks of times that I can devote to specific tasks. It’s basically an outlook calendar programmed into my mind. It’s great for managing my time and allows me to get the things done that I need to get done.

Except right now the calendar is triple and quadruple-booked with different priorities.

The best thing to do in this situation is just to pick one thing and do it. Like writing this blog post. Is it the blog post I imagined it would be? Not quite – it doesn’t really serve a purpose such as review, writing advice, etc. But it’s something.

For me, just sitting down and writing is the best way to feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s like Stephen King said in On Writing, I’m uncovering the fossil. The fossil isn’t going to be the star of the museum, though. It’s definitely not a dinosaur. No, it’s the dingy plant fossil every kid has unearthed at least once in their life. But it’s something, right?

Night Writez

For me, I do my best writing at two times: first thing in the morning, or late at night. As you can probably guess, juggling a 9-5 makes optimizing this time difficult. On a normal Monday – Friday, I am rushing to get out of the house first thing in the morning, groggy and caffeine-deprived. I chug down a disgusting smoothie crammed full of all the things I hate (kale, banana, yogurt) and do my best not to taste it as I remind myself its full of good things like nutrients and protein and fibre and… yeah. Anyways, as I gag slightly during and after finishing said smoothie, I drive to work, doing my best not to vom up all the nutrients I’ve just forced myself to ingest. No time for writing.

So I get home, often exhausted. I find if I don’t exercise after work, I’m even more groggy and helpless. I eat my dinner (ravenous and ready to strangle anyone who gets too close). I decompress, and then, at around 8-9PM I am ready to write. And boy, do I write. I get so fired up and smash out a good 1k-3k words depending on how much of a roll I’m on.

I am a delicate little flower in that I need a solid 8 hours of sleep or I am a raging bitch for the whole day (or I’m not functional at all). I also am not a blessed individual that can fall asleep as soon as they shut their eyes. Really, those people have a gift from the gods, and if you are one of those people give yourself a pat on the back. After all is said and done, I need to be in bed, with my eyes shut, my teeth brushed, nightly-meditation and other chores complete, at 10PM stat. I am basically a middle-aged person in a mid-twenties body.

This is not the end of the world, and I am grateful that I have a good 9-5 that pays me well enough to invest money into my self-publishing goals. But damnit, I get so fired up when I’m writing. My brain explodes with ideas, I get excited, I want to keep going. Sometimes, after I write, I feel like I’m caught between two realities and can’t even have a conversation with people without grunting and forgetting what I was saying mid-sentence. I love this feeling, but right before bed, it sucks. All I want to do is keep going.

But such is life. Self-publishing is like starting your own business: if it was easy, we’d all do it but more importantly, we’d all succeed. I’m dedicated to my cause, I just wanted to write a little rant about how I wish I could stay up late all the time and write. Haha, I realize now I sound like a kid who wants to stay up and play video games, or drink, or whatever. Being an adult is laaammmee.

Anyone else want to rant about this type of problem (maybe you’re a morning writer who has to leave to work rather than go to sleep)? Feel free. My comments are a safe space to complain (wink wink).