Saturday, May 30, 2015

5 Tips for Co-Authoring a Novel

Post by co-founder, Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley

     Co-authoring a novel is a very interesting experience for a writer (especially for an indie author) because the writing process is traditionally solo. I've personally found that it is a lot easier to keep motivation on a collective novel. They allow you to meld your skills with those of another author, making for a product neither of you could have created alone. Also, being exposed to another author's skills and viewpoints so thoroughly can teach you a lot. Here at a few things to keep in mind when partaking in such an adventure.

1. Don't Trample the Other Author

     It is very important that you allow the other author to express their thoughts, ideas, and sentiments. If you don't, why write a collective novel at all? Why not just write a normal novel? This is a co-operative endeavor, so listen to your partner. You will learn from them if you do, as well as end up with a superior product. Also, how do you think it would feel to be trampled? It wouldn't be pleasant, so respect your fellow writer and listen to them.

2. Don't Let the Other Author Trample You

     This works the other way around as well. Don't let yourself be trampled, as it will make the whole experience a nightmare. Make your voice heard, don't just be silent. Compromising is great, and important, but make sure that you are not the only one compromising. The next point ties in with this one.

3. Choose the Right Partner

     This may seem obvious, but you need to choose someone who can work well with you. If you are a hardcore sci-fi author and your partner does Amish romance, you aren't likely to get very far, unless you are somehow combining the two into something you both will like. But also temperaments are important. If you are a meek person, choosing someone who is more on the pushy side may be a mistake, unless you are sure that they can keep their shortcomings in mind. Also, the other way around. If you tend to be more pushy, either choose a person similar to you, or make a point to ask the other what you think.
     A good way to choose a partner you can work with is to each critique the others work first. This will allow you to understand them better (both from their writing and their critique) as well as build trust. And remember, opposites aren't always bad. If you tend to be character-based and your partner tends to be plot-based, your novel will likely be strong in both.

4. Make Sure Your Goals Align

     Writing a novel is a long process. Make sure that your co-author is committed to finishing the project, and also that you agree on just what the project should be. Many conflicts can arise later on in the process, such as late rough draft or even redrafting and editing, because of differing assumptions. Maybe you both agree on the plot, cast, and theme, but how a particular character thinks, or the meaning behind a certain event, might be completely different in your minds.

5. Be Ready for Compromise

     This may seem like a repeating chant, but it's really the most important point. You WILL have differing opinions on different aspects of your story. It is impossible to prevent that, because you can't talk over every single detail, and a lot of times there is no "better", just "preferred". In these cases, you will have to compromise. This may mean you give up your idea, they give up theirs, or you both give yours up and look for a completely new solution.  But it does mean that the novel will not turn out how you envisioned. This is true for any novel, but much more so with a collective novel. You need to be ready for this, and relinquish that expectation. It is a lot easier to deal with when you have prepared for it.

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK.

We have a short story contest right now, where your submission must contain a dangling participle. See the guidelines here.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

3 Ways to Make Unintentional Foreshadowing Happen

Post by Catsi Eceer, co-founder

One of my favorite experiences in writing is when unintentional foreshadowing happens. I know several other writers who agree with me.

In case you're not quite sure what unintentional foreshadowing is, allow me to explain. Foreshadowing is, according to the dictionary definition, "a warning or indication of a future event." In writing terms, it means a hint at a bigger plot point.

Say that the main plot twist in your story is when it is revealed that the previously-thought antagonist turns out to actually be on your Hero's side. To foreshadow this, you might have the antagonist appearing briefly confused in the one scene he is in when Hero attacks him. You could have him say something that doesn't line up with the mantra the bad guys believe. Any little hint that he isn't quite as evil as we all are led to believe is foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing is a tricky thing, though. If it's too obvious, you'll spoil the surprise of the plot twist. (Ever watch a poorly done movie, hear a line and go, "Okay, now I know how the movie is going to end"?) If it's too subtle, the reader won't notice it at all.

This is where unintentional foreshadowing saves the day.

So what exactly is unintentional foreshadowing? It's when you're re-reading your rough draft, and there in the second chapter is a line that hints at your climax...and you didn't even think twice when you wrote it. Only now does the importance stand out to you.

In my opinion, unintentional foreshadowing is the best foreshadowing. Why? Because since you didn't notice anything unusual when you wrote it, the reader isn't going to notice anything unusual. They won't suspect the plot twist because of the line, but once the plot twist happens, they'll remember that part and be like, "OH."

The tricky thing about unintentional foreshadowing happen, though, is that it's unintentional. When you try to put it in, it becomes intentional.
So how can you make sure unintentional foreshadowing happens?

  1. Know about your plot twists while you're writing.
    I'm the sort of person who plots out every little thing before I even put down the first sentence. I know what the plot twists are before I'm anywhere near them. Even if you're not the outlining type, taking the time to figure out what all of the surprises in your story will be can be a great help. Your subconscious, since it knows about your plot twists, will affect the sentences you write and you'll end up putting in more hints than you realize.
  2. Don't overthink things.
    Don't stress about putting in unintentional foreshadowing. Remember, it's unintentional. Just let yourself think maybe-just-a-little-too-much about your story, and it'll come naturally.
  3. Let your characters be themselves.
    The best foreshadowing lines come straight from the mouths of characters. More than anything else, I've found that when I just let my characters talk as they would naturally talk, unintentional foreshadowing comes out. And more than that, foreshadowing of character change becomes visible.

Have you ever found some unintentional foreshadowing in your writing?

We have a short story contest right now, where your submission must contain a dangling participle. See the guidelines here.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Pixel Art: Dithering

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     Pixel art is the oldest form of digital art. You know those old Mario games? They used pixel art. Pixel art is basically any art that is manipulated on the pixel level. This is still used in many games, such as Pokémon. (The little tiny figures are definitely pixel art, I'm not so sure about the larger ones.) Because of the smallness of pixel art, it requires some different skills that make it work better for certain people than other art forms. The fact that you don't need even average motor control is a huge plus for me, as my finders don't seem to respond to my brain very well.
     For pixel art, the most important things are patience, an eye for detail, and creative use of color. You see, you don't get the gentle gradients that other art forms get. While technically you can use as many colors as you want, usually the style limits it. Ever heard of a 16-bit color scheme? That's very common in pixel art, and it means you only get 16 colors to work with. If you have white, grey, black, blue, red, yellow, green, purple, orange, brown, cyan, pink, and skin color, you only have three colors left. Even harder is an 8-bit, and the easier on is 32-bit. But I've found that sometimes you end up using less colors than you have available, especially if you don't count "transparent" as a color.
     Anyway, because of the limited colors available, a shading technique used in pixel art is dithering, which in appearance is similar to crosshatching.

     See the parts where the pixels are arranged next to the corner of a pixel of the same color? That's dithering. It can be hard to make that look good, but it works better when the image is smaller.

     It's not as blocky-looking now, huh? It's still kinda sandy, but I was actually working in 4-pixel clumps, so if I had done this pixel-by-pixel, it would look a lot smoother. Anyways, you use dithering just as you would shading, or to make a new color if you're working with a limited number. For example, with an 8-bit color scheme, you can dither black and blue to get dark blue. As long as the image is small enough, the colors will blend to the human eye, rather than looking sandy like the image above.

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK.

We have a short story contest right now, where your submission must contain a dangling participle. See the guidelines here.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

3 Tips for Writing a Prologue That Works

Post by co-founder Catsi Eceer

Hi guys! I know it's been a while since I've posted anything on here, and I've missed you all a ton. But now I'm back (hopefully for a while this time), and I've got lots of post ideas for you.

Today I want to talk about prologues. I know a lot of people who are completely against them, and some who absolutely adore them. My views aren't on either extreme, but I'd like to explore the aspects of what makes a prologue work or fail in a novel.

So many people skip prologues, if they're boring. They might put up with a slow first chapter, but they won't stick around for the prologue if it's dull. Lots of people skip prologues without even glancing at them. (I once accidentally skipped a prologue because I didn't realize it was there... I don't think that was the prologue's fault, though.)

However, there are some very good prologues I can think of. Ones that definitely help the story, rather than detract from it. What makes those prologues work? I've come up with a few ideas.

  1. Make your prologue interesting.
    This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it goes a little deeper than you might think at first. There needs to be some kind of action, some kind of conflict, just as if it were a chapter on its own. Do not, and I repeat, do not spend the entire prologue rambling about the history of your fantasy world. If your reader really needs to know all of that, put it in the actual story. They won't stick around for the prologue.
  2. Make your prologue relevant to the story.
    Another seemingly no-brainer, that's often ignored in prologues. Make sure that what your telling us about in the prologue is actually important to the story. If you took the prologue out, how would it affect the rest of the novel? If it doesn't affect the story, chances are, it shouldn't be there at all.
    Maybe you need to write out the history of your country, or the details of an old war. That's fine--write it for yourself. But don't put it in the prologue.
  3. Give your reader someone to care about in the prologue too.
    If it's relevant, and it's interesting, that's great. But make sure we have a protagonist to follow in this scene, a main character of sorts. If we don't know who we're supposed to be paying attention to, we might not be paying attention at all.
    And this is where a tricky part of writing successful prologues comes in. If you manage to get the reader attached to the main character of the prologue, they're going to be disappointed when they get to the actual novel and find a completely different character waiting for them. So if it's at all possible, use the main character of the actual story as the prologue main character too.
Do you have a prologue? Does it match up to the 3 Tips I've come up with? Do you have another idea of what makes a good prologue? I'd love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dangling Participle Contest

     I know, this sounds very odd. But for a long time I've liked the idea of a contest based on a dangling participle, so we're going to do one. It's going to be fun.
     So, remember in your old grammar book that talked about dangling participles that made sentences not make any sense, and which were actually pretty funny if you thought about it long enough? If you can't remember what they are, they're something like, "Hanging from a nail in the closet, he found his tie." Now, technically, this sentence is saying that a guy found his tie while he was hanging from a nail in the closet. So, when you submit your story for this contest, you must have in the body of the email a sentence containing a dangling participle. It needs to be clear that it's actually a dangling participle, something that doesn't normally make sense. Then you need to use that sentence in your story, and it must make sense.

     Include "Dangling Participle Contest" in the subject line.

     Submit to

     The story must be 500-5000 words in length, not including the title.

     Submissions must be attached in doc., docx., or txt format.

     You may include a short, 200 word bio, plus a picture.

     You may also include links, either in your bio or separate from them.

     Submissions must be PG-13 or cleaner.

     ALL rights remain with the creator, we only ask that we be allowed to display your poem and bio on the website and newsletter, but if you would rather we didn't, let us know in the email. It will not impact your chances of winning.

     Please do not include your name in the attached document, only in the body of the email.

     You must be the sole creator of your story, or have the permission of all the other creators and have been an integral part of making it.

     Previous and simultaneous submissions are welcome.

     The deadline is June 20th.

     Results will be posted July 1st.

     Send any questions to I can't wait to see your entries. This is going to be awesome. And hilarious.