Relevant Updates, Writing Advice

I Finally Finished Beyond the Wolf

Friends, it’s been almost two years. Imagine me there, a little 13-year-old in early July 2020, having only just decided to pursue writing seriously in April, and joining the Young Writer’s Workshop only about a month after that. I was quickly scribbling down a new WIP (work-in-progress) idea in my journal, not wanting to forget it.

I liked it and was planning to outline the project to write it out during National Novel Writing Month, November. I first titled it, A Wolf’s Call. (I love how that title had no real involvement with anything. 😏) Some plan. I gave in to pantsing and ditched outlining after four chapters.

I first planned it to be 60,000 words, then dropped it down to 50K. The words just didn’t stop, and my end word count goal kept growing. 60K, 65, 70, 75, 80. . . now, the final tally is 100,901 words. O-0 I finished it Saturday, the 4th.

Isn’t it epic?! If I remember correctly, the friend who made this stand-in cover for me also suggested the name of this book. If you are here reading this, thank you!! I am indebted. (:

I did not expect it to reach that at all! Beyond the Wolf—the new and current name of this project—is my first WIP full 1st draft. I’ve learned SO MUCH from writing it. It sometimes takes grinding out a lot of trash before you learn what gold actually looks like. (; If that makes any sense.

Some of what I’ve learned. . .

How outlining saved me from further insanity.

You know now that I pantsed basically the whole book. Only near the end did I scribble a general outline—on the map I made for Beyond the Wolf (BtW). It was basic, but it was enough. I finished it after all, didn’t I?

That’s not all, however. There were two more novella projects I began in the long BtW process. The first I called Finding Home. The second, which I mentioned in January, was called Heirs of Guinn. Both were meant to be pretty short.

For Finding Home, I wrote a fairly efficient outline, from beginning to end. When I got about 3K words in the actual first draft, however, I noticed that FH wasn’t working. I dwelled on the ending a bit, then decided it wasn’t worth my time, writing FH.

I was SO excited for Heirs of Guinn (HoG). I got pretty far in the outline for HoG. I focused a lot on planning out character development but then noticed that there was no meat to it. HoG was a really shallow concept, and the ending I started planning just didn’t work. I quit that one too.

I have no regrets on stopping both these novellas. They were shallow and boring, I now see. Outlining those both saved me so much sanity! I would have wasted plenty of time with little reward.

Why did I continue Beyond the Wolf, then?

BECAUSE. If I quit BtW after putting SO MUCH work into it, my mental health would go down the drain. And now? I feel so accomplished after finishing this! And I’ve learned a lot.

In case you didn’t know, I don’t plan on continuing any further with BtW. It is really, really bad. It lacks quality in its entirety. But now I know what trash really is, right? I have no regrets.

3 tips for you that BtW taught me.

1. Never have too many main characters, or characters in general! I had over 20 main characters, and it exhausted me. Most shifted from side characters to main ones. There were so many of them that they all ended up having zero real development (except for one little dude, Bolt; I’m a bit proud of his character arc).

Keep your characters at a minimum. Too many characters confuses both you and your reader. What no author wants is for the reader to give up reading—and because there are too many characters, of all things!

2. Concept matters! Concept is the whole idea of your book; the plot put in a few sentences.

The concept for BtW is not great: “a bunch of rebel wolves are attacked by armies of the emperor wolf. They band together and travel to take down the ‘big bad wolf’ emperor. They gain allies in moose, coyotes, and more along the way.”

It sounds so silly. So work on your concept! You’ll need it for yourself, and when friends ask what your book’s about. 😀

3. Themes are vital!! Halfway through BtW, I tried adding them in when I learned about them. It doesn’t work like that. You need your themes to resonate throughout it all.

They are the virtues or skills that you dissect throughout the story and what your characters are challenged to grow in. Forgiveness, self-control, caring, contentment, peace. . . whatever it is, they are super important!

So, what’s next for me?

I’m definitely not going to work anymore on anything involving BtW. But I’ve been plotting in my head a new writing project, and I’m really excited to start writing it down! Balancing out my perfectionism and impulsion by making a full but simple outline, and allowing myself to write down important scenes that pop into my head.

I’m also going to keep blogging consistently throughout the summer. Honestly, I will be very busy with writing, math, science, and other summer activities and events.

Right now, though, I’m just so relieved that I’m done with Beyond the Wolf. 😅 It’s been a long journey, and I’m thankful to the Maker for carrying me through it all.

Just trying something new. . . hehe.
Writing Advice

The Writer’s Absolute, Christ-Like Power Over Their Story

In the Christian writing community I’m part of, I see several writers call themselves “evil.” Why? If you know writers, you know it means they make their characters suffer, both for their own “amusement” and to make the readers cry, or at least feel sad.

When you erupt strong emotions in the reader, it usually makes them more involved and interested in the story. All authors want this kind of outcome from the reader.

However, I don’t like the label, “evil writer.” For several reasons: 1) it’s making it clear that you’re exploiting the emotions of the readers for your own gain, which is a cruel way to gain readers, 2) besides piquing the interest of readers, it’s overall pointless and violent, and 3) no Christian should ever want to call themselves evil.

The best way for someone to grow as a person is to try to be more Christ-like. Not only is Christ the supreme model for how we should be, but He is also the Author of life. He created life and everything else; He also ‘wrote down’ what came to be, is happening, and will come to be. We can become incredible writers by following His example.

So instead of “evil writer,” here is one term writers could use to call themselves..:

Ultimate Authors

“Ultimate” means “all-powerful” and “final,” or “conclusive.” It refers to the highest power, and the very end, of a situation. With God, that situation is really all of time and existence. For writers, it means the overall story arc.

All-Powerful.

Writers are all-powerful over their stories because it’s them that write, plot, create, and dream. Even when the storyline feels out of control, really it’s you who has the ultimate power to change and fix it (always stay dependent on God, mentors, friends, and family, though!).

Conclusive Control.

It’s only God Who can bring about the end of time and Who knows how to end it in the best way possible (and impossible). Every author wants that kind of ultimate control and knowledge for their story’s conclusion. You can have a great intro, even an incredible story body, but without a good outro, it’s almost all for naught.

What Does the Ultimate Author Do?

The perfect version of the ultimate author doesn’t kill, torture, or make suffer the characters without a purpose. She knows how each character contributes—however significantly—to the storyline and plot.

The perfect ultimate author has a plan to tie everything up into a masterly conclusion, that makes the story’s theme shine and stirs up the emotions of the readers properly. He designs the story in such a way that the readers are left staring at that last paragraph for minutes on minutes, enchanted.

What Do We Do With This Information?

Maybe I left you thinking “if only.” I know I made myself think that. 😅 But don’t just stop there! We will never go anywhere with wistful wishful thinking. Plus, those examples were of perfect ultimate authors. And nobody’s perfect. Do more than dream—try, and write! And write, and try! And push, and press on! And write! What I’m saying is: do something about who you want to be.

I’m not telling you to ditch “evil writer” and use “ultimate author” simply because I don’t like people calling themselves evil. I’ve provided my reasons why, and it’s up to you to decide.

If calling yourself an ultimate author helps you to keep a good mindset and view of writing as a Christian, then go for it!! It definitely sharpens my own perspective.

But if not, that’s fine—I’m not offended. 🙂 It’s a take-it-or-leave-it kind of thing. The whole point is that you remember why, how and for who (or Who)  you write. I could list my own reasons, but that’d take a while. So I’ll stop here. I hope you’ve taken away something from this post that will stick with you.

God bless and farewell, fellow ultimate authors! (That is, if you so choose to claim that title for yourself, alongside me. 😉)

With God’s help,

~Daniel Amador

Writing Advice

Your Own Pace

You are running in a 5K and you look around and see all these other people going faster than you. You feel like you’re going slower than them just because you’re not trying hard enough, so you speed up. That increase near the beginning affects you near the end, and you lose your breath and are forced to slow down or even stop. You end up getting a lower score than you hoped. This is because you didn’t really go at your own pace. The same goes for writing—and life in general.

***

We all go at different writing paces. That’s okay. Don’t overwork yourself.

I’m a pretty busy guy myself, so last month (November), while some people’s writing goals were something-thousand words (mostly because of Nation Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo), mine was only at a 100-200 word average per day. That’s okay. I’ve tried to do 500-something a day, and when I was this busy, it just didn’t work for me. And guess what? I’m still making progress. I’m still reaching those milestones. Maybe it’s slow progress. I don’t care that I’m not the fastest writer in the world. I’m fine with the speed I’m at. I’d love to be faster, and I am getting faster, but I’m not going to beat myself up about not being ‘one of the best’.

Maybe you have all the time in the world. Great, go for it! Write hard and long! Maybe you don’t—maybe you’re super busy. That’s fine. Just do what you can. Do your best!

We all run our own races. It’s impossible to run someone else’s race—that’s not how life works. You go too hard, you burn out.

Here are some suggestions that I do hope will assist and guide you in some way.

#1 Take a break.

Breaks are more important than you may think. If something’s stressing you, there is a good chance that you need a break from it. Try taking a week long break from writing, and see how that feels. Maybe what you need is a whole fresh start. If so, try for one month. One month without writing. If an idea comes into your head, write the basics down somewhere then move on. And pray unceasingly whilst you go about your business.

#2 Rearrange your schedule.

After your break, despite your crazy schedule, hopefully, you have a clearer state of mind! If so, take a look at your schedule. What’s there that’s vital, what’s not? Is there a way you could rearrange things better? I suggest you make another detailed list of things that you do regularly but wouldn’t have put on a list. Some things could include brushing your teeth, lunch, and procrastinating school by scrolling on social media. Estimate how long each takes. Is there something you find yourself doing that is really just a waste of time?

#3 Accountability.

If you’re like me, you get distracted a lot, which is an easy way to not make progress. Consider getting an accountability partner or a few, a friend or relative. If you spend a lot of time online when you shouldn’t be, have your accountability partner schedule messages to be sent to you regularly. Imagine you’re scrolling on Gmail and then pops up. . . “HEY, GET BACK TO WORK, SILLY!!!” Possibly that’ll bring you back to reality. 😆

If you get distracted by daydreaming, request that a sibling or parent ‘yell’ at you to get back to work regularly.

Something a lil’ bit funny: when I do math I easily get distracted with daydreaming (hey, I’m a fantasy writer—what can I say?) and so often when my mom comes by, she says something like, “get back to math,” or just, “Danny.” And I reply with the same exclamation bringing me back to reality, “oh-oh, math! Yeah!” 😛

#4 Increase your writing speed.

This is not something you can just. . . do, hehe. It takes skill and lots of practice. Here are two suggestions for ya:

  1. Write fast and don’t care about quality. This is geared toward people writing first drafts. Most commonly, the way to go about writing first drafts is just to write, write, write. Not edit, just write. Then, when come the other drafts, you may edit all you want. But, hear me now if you’re writing a first draft: don’t even look over what you wrote when you’re writing, just focus on what you’re about to write. I don’t care if a character says, “I ned that sord, sir. Coud have it?” You can edit those. . . later. Just practice writing-writing-writing hard, and you’ll likely get faster at writing-writing-writing hard.
  2. The Most Dangerous Writing App. Yeah, yeah, I have mentioned this several times before, but from my understanding and limited experience, a few short sessions/sprints of this will help you get in the write-fast-don’t-care-about-quality attitude and feel. What I think is convenient and kinda ironic is that I don’t even need to download it as an app, not on this laptop anyway. I just search it up and go.

***

Dear reader and fellow writer, I pray that this post has been of use to you. Just remember this: you are in your own race! Run it to the best ability, not looking left or right, and let the Author of Life guide you. Do not feel bad about not being as fast as others. Just pay attention to what God says and He will not lead you astray.

With God’s help,

Daniel Amador