Reading and Writing: Finding the Balance

Hey all! Today I have the amazing C.M. Keller on MFB. Not only is she one of this month’s amazing award sponsors, but she’s a kick-ass writer. I hope you all enjoy her tips on how to balance your reading and writing lives. Take it away, Connie.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time 
(or the tools) to write.” 
Stephen King 

All writers have heard that quote or one like it. And we all know it’s true. But balancing the two is like herding cats. You can try, but you end up getting scratched. 
I know I tried. I’d begin writing and I get so involved with the story that I’d forget to read and I’d write and write until my creativity dried up and blew away. Then, I’d read until my eyes bled. I tried thrillers, devouring them (which helped me learn to craft tight plots) until I couldn’t stand another gun shot. So I focused on the classics (where I saw the power of understatement, metaphor, etc.) until I was ready to strangle yet another indecisive heroine. 
The only good thing was that when I finished the reading cycle, my creativity was recharged until I drained it dry. The cycle was not a good thing. Maybe a little OCD as well, but we won’t go there. 
I had to find a better, a more sane way of balancing my writer/reader issues. A way that would sustain me as a reader and a writer. I tried lots of things. They all failed. 
I’d like to say that I analyzed the situation and came up with a solution. But I found it by accident—I sort of fell into it. And it wasn’t until I realized the writing-reading was working, that I even wondered what I was doing differently. 
It started years ago, when a health problem made me commit to running, which I hate with a passion. So I bribed myself to run a treadmill. While I ran I could read “fun” books, thrillers, mysteries, and YA, but I could only read them when I ran. 
Then this fall, I decided that I’d devote all before-bedtime-reading to a classic or literary/upmarket novel. To make it even more fun, I asked/begged a writer friend to read the “classics” too—so we can exchange emails about what we’ve read. “Hey, did you finish chapter four last night? Did you notice how the author changed the mood, foreshadowing the end of the chapter?” 
The one final change I made was that any other free time belonged to writing. Even if a novel was calling out, “Read me, read me!” 
How did it work out? I’m reading more than I have in years. And writing…I finished a first draft in three months. (I’ve never written a novel in less than six months before.) 
So if you find yourself alternating between bleeding eyes and shriveled creativity, you could try what I’ve done. Either that, or give the Muse a call. I’ve tried, but I’m pretty sure she’s blocked my number. 
Thanks so much for this lovely post, Connie. I’ve been struggling with maintaining a sane balance, and now you made it sound so easy. 🙂
So, lovely people, how do you strike a balance between reading and writing? Do you suck at it like me? 
Before you go! Remember to vote for awesome bloggers and to enter my Word Master Challenge

Flaws and Sympathy

Last week, I wrote a post about complex characters and how to write them.

Basically I think it comes down to showing more than one side of a personality, the good, the bad and the ugly.

It’s amazing how often new writers are scared of doing this. I was too. When I started writing my fantasy epic, I was honestly terrified of my decision to write complex characters. After all, fantasy is traditionally the land of noble souls, so I was worried that writing something that veers of far from that, I’d alienate my readers.

And you know, it didn’t.

In fact, I ended up loving all of my characters, although two of them are capable of being complete bastards. More importantly, the people who’ve read my novel so far do too.

There are more than one reason for this, but today I want to focus on one.


A reader is drawn into a story because of sympathy for the character leading them through it. There are a variety of ways to win sympathy for your character. If you’re interested, I suggest you see Moody’s series on it.

All of Mood’s suggestions are valid. To summarize the series to date:
1) Put them in danger.
2) Make them suffer.
3) Strength of character
4) Have the character be an outcast.

I agree, but there’s another aspect to emotional attachment between a reader and a character. Emotion. Specifically: the character’s emotions.

You see, putting characters through the grinder isn’t enough. In fact, it can be a very risky thing to do if it’s not coming organically out of the story.

Aside: “organic” as I’m using it now applies to both plotters and pantsers. There are things that happen in a story because it makes sense within the story (organic). Or things happen because the authors need them for the story to make sense. (not-organic)

The risk comes from the fact that readers immediately pick up on non-organic events. (More on these later.) So instead of sympathy, just adding the four factors above will have readers rolling their eyes at best.

Instead, I propose to writers, the emotions themselves are what make the connection. A characters emotions make a reader’s move in resonance. (I.E. they strike a chord.) Complexity of emotion along with complexity of character will move the reader completely. That’s why characters can be terrible personalities, but still loved.

In every situation. What is the character feeling? Loss? Fear? Dread? Hope? Love? Anger? Resentment? The options go on and on. How the character reacts emotionally will give the reader something to hold on to.

For an example of what I mean, look at Katniss from the Hunger Games Trilogy. She’s mean, cynical, stubborn and out for her own interests above those of others. Not exactly likable noble character material. Yet, she kept millions of readers interested through three books. Why? Because below everything she says and does, she has a depth of emotion that I hazard to say has been unrivaled by her fictional contemporaries. With all her flaws, she deeply loves her sister, which is why she basically agrees to go to killing fields instead of her. That love is what keeps her going in the killing fields despite the terror and all the other mixed emotions that go with it. I personally couldn’t care less about a character named Katniss about to die. I care about a fictional person who did something completely against her personality traits because her love for her sister over-rode everything else. My suspicion is, I’m not alone.

So to evoke sympathy, let the reader see what’s going on with a character, even when it’s only glimpses. Don’t only make them suffer and go on a murderous rampage. Have them howling in pain first. And for heaven’s sake, motivate the pain by love.

Letting the reader see hurt and love and doubt, gives him or her a hold they won’t release until the end.

If you manage to do those right, fitting with your character, all those dirty tricks needed for creating sympathy come out on their own.

How do you go about evoking sympathy for your characters?

Before you go, please remember to vote for some awesome bloggers, and to check out my Word Master Challenge. Six more days left to enter. Have a great weekend! 

Just resting up a bit

Hey lovely peeps! Just want to let you know I’ll be back tomorrow. Just had a long couple of days at work, so I needed to rest. Will be back tomorrow.

In the mean time, please don’t forget to vote for the award nominees and to check out the Word Master Challenge. You have a week left to enter.

Have a great day!


News Day Week 3: Announcing Nominees and Sponsors

It’s News Day again! For those of you new to my blog, it’s a series where I bring awareness to goings on in our writing community. If you have something you’d like me to share, please contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com. It can be anything. From blogfests to great beginners to posts you think everyone should read. It can also be your own bit of news, if you’d like.

Today, though, I have to focus on the biggest piece of news for MFB:

I present to you the nominees and sponsors for January’s Paying Forward Award. By the way. I think the name’s sort of lame. Anyone have a better one?


Before I get to the nominees, I want to give a special thank you to this month’s sponsors and their prizes. Please go visit them all and give them some love. Why? Because they are all amazing.

Beta read or editing of first 100 pages
Critique of first three chapters
Redesign of a blog button, header or background
Her two YA time travel novels: Screwing Up Time and Screwing Up Babylon
Beta Read or Edit of first chapter 

Critique of first chapter
Critique of first 500 words. 

Finally, I will be giving away a $25 voucher to the vendor of your choice (assuming I can purchase it online).

Now, onto the Nominees by Category (in no particular order):

Most Encouraging Blogger: 

Best Reviewer: 

Best Writing and/or Inspirational Blog: 

Beginner and/or Small Blogger with Most Potential:

Thanks to every single person who nominated these extraordinary bloggers! Voting must please be done by email with “my vote” as the subject. E-mail address: mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Please pick one or no blogger for each category. Voting will stay open until 31 Jan and I’ll announce the winners on 5 February. 
So people. Who are your favorites in each category? Got a better name for the awards?  

Presenting: Polar Night by Julie Flanders

Before I start today, I just want to do two quick announcements. Firstly, I decided to move the nominations and sponsor announcements to tomorrow, since nominations are still coming in. So if you haven’t done it yet, please go nominate some awesome bloggers now! 

Then, you have 10 days to enter the Word Master Challenge


Today, I want to announce Julie Flanders’s new release.


When Detective Danny Fitzpatrick leaves his hometown of Chicago and moves to Fairbanks, Alaska he wants nothing more than to escape the violence and heartbreak that left his life in pieces. Numbed by alcohol and the frozen temperatures of an Alaskan winter, Danny is content with a dead-end job investigating Fairbanks’ cold cases. That all changes when a pretty blond woman goes missing on the winter solstice, and Danny stumbles upon some surprising connections between her disappearance and that of another Fairbanks woman three years earlier. Forced out of his lethargy, Danny sets out to both find the missing woman and solve his own cold case. 
The investigation points Danny towards Aleksei Nechayev, the handsome and charming proprietor of an old asylum turned haunted tourist attraction in the Arctic town of Coldfoot. As he tries to find a link between Nechayev and his case, Danny’s instinct tells him that Nechayev is much more than what he seems. 
Danny has no idea that Nechayev is hiding a secret that is much more horrifying than anything he could ever have imagined. As his obsession with finding the missing women grows, Danny finds his own life in danger. And when the truth is finally revealed, the world as he knows it will never be the same. 


Julie Flanders is a librarian and a freelance writer who has written for both online and print publications. She is an avid animal lover and shares her home in Cincinnati, Ohio with her dog and cat. Polar Night, a suspense thriller with a supernatural twist, is her first novel. It will be published by Ink Smith Publishing on February 7, 2013. Find Julie online at her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

All the best, Julie!

Who out there are mystery-lovers like me? 

Please send me awards nominations

Hey all! Before I start with today’s post, just want to do two things. 1) Remind you that you have until 31 January to enter my Word Master Challenge. 2) Let you know that my query is being critiqued at The QQQE, if you’re interested in seeing a tiny fraction of what Doorways is about.


So I mentioned here that I want to do awards ceremonies to pay things forward to other bloggers. Also, to make others aware of some amazing blogs out there.

Seven AMAZING people volunteered some prizes to pay forward. I’ll announce them next week, but in the mean time…

Thank you again! 

With my prize, we have eight in total, so I decided to announce four categories this month so that the winner and runner up can both win something.

These will be January’s categories (in no particular order):

Most Encouraging Blogger
Best Reviewer
Best Writing and/or Inspirational Post
Beginner with Most Potential

Please note: I will NOT be accepting nominations in the comments section as the links will probably shoot my spam filter to shreds. BUT, you can tell me what you think of this idea and which categories you want to see next month. Want to make sure I’m running something people like.

If you have nominations, please e-mail me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com with the word “nominations” in the tagline. You don’t have to nominate for every category, but if you have someone’s name immediately popping into your thoughts, you should nominate him/her.

Please spread the word about this, because on Monday, I’ll announce the nominees, prizes and sponsors. I’ll need you all to vote for the winners.

That’s me for today. Have a great one and a wonderful weekend!

A bit of a dilemma

As some of you might remember from November 2012, I explained how I picked my NaNo novel based on the thought of creating a production-line of sorts.

The plan is simple: Write all the current ideas in my mind. Stay in draft mode for as long as possible. Then move into edit mode and stay there for as long as possible.

My reasoning is that this way, I’ll eventually get to a point where I have a finished novel to query while having a whole line-up of novels to edit at the same time.

Simple, yes. Except for one thing. The way my creative mind works involves lots of pauses while it sifts through its thoughts.

Like now. I know what I want to happen in my current rough draft, but for some reason, I just don’t feel like writing. It’s actually a bit worse than that, although I don’t know how to put it in words.

Suffice it to say, something’s telling me to give this WiP a break.

But if I do, will I get back to it in time for me to fit it into the production line?

My gut says yes. My brain is wondering.

On the other hand, I know that it’s wise to give this one a break. I’ve spent years on the book before it and I’m querying that one as we speak. Maybe I should just relax and go with the flow.

Except I know it will be much better to have the sequel drafted by the time book 1 is out, which might be much sooner than I thought.

As I write this, however, I can feel a knot forming somewhere in my thoughts. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but if I force myself to continue with the story, I’ll be adding to the problem.

Guess that means I’m moving onto something else. Maybe for a day. Maybe longer.

Wonder which story I’ll move to now.

Anyone else hit upon snags without knowing what they are? What do you do?

Writing a complex character

Well today I finally get to go back to my roots a little, as a writing blogger. Hmm. Sorry, that’s a bit of a terrible way to put it.

I blog about writing. Sometimes I blog about my own writing progress, other times I dig into some aspect of writing for whoever feels the need for advice and/or information. 
Complex characters. 
If you think about it, complex characters are the Holy Grail of characterization. It’s something even some best sellers fail miserably at. Not naming names, but I’m sure you can find a few in your memory where their books had great plot, but almost no character depth. 
I also get the feeling that, if you found this post in a search, you’re probably plot-driven writer. There’s nothing in the world wrong with that. You’ll write page-turners, with your natural sense of plot. 
You also know that flat characters are standing between your novel and brilliance. 
Complexity isn’t easy to create, though. Yet it is. Sorry. I know this seems confusing, but bear with me. 
Now I’m going to briefly confuse you more. In my own experience of writing, creating a complex character is about not creating him or her. It’s simply about creating a character. 
But you’ve done that, you might say. 
Yes you have. What you haven’t done, is give the reader subtle glimpses of the character’s other sides. 
Yes, the baddy is amazingly evil. Why? Did someone hurt him? Is he secretly an idealist? Only you know. If your answer is that the baddy is evil because he’s evil, odds are he’s flat. 
Same goes for your protagonist. No person is perfect. And flat, perfect guys are boring. I’m not saying you should go and change the character into an anti-hero. Anti-heroes can be flat too. Because they’re just assholes who stumble into saving the day. 
Everyone has good characteristics and bad ones. Everyone has things they want and don’t want. Everyone has bad moments. Everyone has good moments. 
For an excellent and recent example of what I mean, watch Skyfall. The villain is capable of terrible cruelty. He’s smart, ruthless and willing to kill to get what he wants. And what he wants is to destroy M. 
But. He’s not all about murder and bloodshed. A significant portion of him is, yes. But there are moments when M makes him cry. He’s even capable of being incredibly gentle and caring. When he tries to convince Bond to go rogue, he tries to make it look like it’s the sensible thing to do. It honestly feels as if he’s doing it because he thinks he’d help Bond. After all, if he didn’t give a damn, he could have killed him. On the other hand, it might be because he knows he’d hurt M by turning Bond against her. 
All of that going on with a single villain. 
That’s depth. 
Giving the character a chance to show more than one side to their personality. 
Your job is to do it with subtlety. Which is the hard part.  
How do you write complex characters? 
Before I go, I want to let you know that I’m willing to answer any writing and edit-related questions on my blog and by e-mail. If you have one, please contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com
OOH yes! Don’t forget to check out my Word Master Challenge. It’s a great, fun way to stretch your writing skills and there are prizes to be won.  

News Day Week 2

Welcome to another News Day. It’s intended to bring some info I’ve found to my blog readers’ attention. If you have any news you think I should share here, whether or not it’s your own, please contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

Offers to Help

First order of business for today is Beth Fred. She’s offering to promote published novels and to crit queries

Competitions and Submissions

I’m holding my first ever writing competition: The Word Master Challenge. Prize: $10 voucher to the e-vendor of your choice or a ten chapter critique by me. 
Charity Bradford announced a High School Writing Competition, so if you know any writing teens, please let them go check it out. First Prize is $250. 
Rhonda Parrish is calling for submissions to an anthology around Cancer. A significant portions of the proceeds will go towards The American Cancer Society. 

Marketing Tactics

Susan Kaye Quinn now has her Mindjack Trilogy on sale. Really. If you haven’t yet, just look at this trailer.
Michael Pierce is doing a blog tour for Provex City. Please go support him. Tour stops can be found here

Calls for help

Jamie Ayres is asking for people to help with a book bomb for her new release 18 Things. 

Nick Wilford is looking for stories by you to enter into an anthology. The proceeds of which will go towards further educating his son, who has Cerebral Palsy. Please go check out the post here


Maria Zannini is giving away her new book Self-Publisher’s Punch List. It has its origins in a highly useful blog series for authors who want to self publish but are new to the experience. I’m DEFINITELY getting my copy
She and Gwen Gardner will also be hosting the Indies 4 Hire event on Facebook. Another good place to win freebies and find out more about going indie. 

Bloghops and Blogfests

Annalisa Crawford and Kyra Lennon are hosting The Imaginary Friend Bloghop. Prizes to be won. 
Mark Koopmans is hosting the Got Green? Blog O’hop again this year. The format will be a bit different though, so be sure to check out how it will work.

On of my amazing CP’s M Pax is hosting the Back from the Future Blogfest with Suze from Subliminal Coffee and Nicky Elson. 

Worth A Look

I found this very informative post on the shapes, scopes, forms and names of various sorts of edits. Thought some of you might be interested.

If you are new to writing and would like a great, easy to understand resource on the craft, Moody should definitely be one of your first stops. 

That’s it from me for today. Please feel free to bring more tidbits to my attention. I might not be able to update today’s post (as I might be on the road), but send them anyway. If I can’t get them in now, I’ll try for next week. 
Have a wonderful day! 

Am I ready yet?

That’s the big question looming in my mind at the moment. How ready am I to return into the query trenches?

I’m both very eager and petrified of starting again. On the one hand, I know I now have a brilliant query. I also know that I have a one page synopsis that I like the look and sound of. I probably won’t be able to refine it much further than it is now.

At the same time, I have come to a decision. Something has to happen to Doorways this year. Either an agent says yes, or a publisher says yes, or I publish it myself. Point being, I am NOT sitting on it for another year.

It’s done.

So. By the time you read this post, I will have queried about 90 agents. Every single fantasy agent I know of. If none of them like the sound of my book, I’ll be going to my small publisher’s list.

And if someone still doesn’t believe portal fantasies can’t sell, I’ll go it alone.

Some of you might wonder why I’m leaving it as the last option: no reason in particular. I’m just following a progression that seemed logical to me.

As for why I’m in a hurry? I’m hoping to get my answers by March or April. That way I have a few months for my book to be edited, formatted etc. and still be finished on time.

Another reason: I no longer doubt my query. I don’t doubt my story. Not a single bit. So there will be no more revisions to my query and I’ll only revise if someone asks me to. Other than that, there’s no point for me to stretch out the process.

I know my book will go where it’s supposed to.

Wish me luck!

Anyone think I’m nuts? (I partially do.) Have you done something like this?