Writing Wednesday: No, You Don’t Always Have to Please Your Audience, Part 2: Fanservice = Misery for You

Writing Wednesday: No, You Don’t Always Have to Please Your Audience, Part 2: Fanservice = Misery for You

By Kara Newcastle

So last week, I started talking about why you shouldn’t always give your fans what they want, and I had decided to break up the blog because I realized it was getting way too long. Last week was specifically why you shouldn’t make characters that your audience wants to see just because it’s the cause de jour—don’t write a character as being, say, dyslexic just because somebody out there is freaking out that there aren’t enough dyslexic characters in fiction and you don’t want them to be mad at you. Just write your character as you imagined them to be, write that dyslexic character when you want that character to be dyslexic.

Otherwise, by giving your fans what they demand, all you’re doing is fanservice, not writing, and that’s one of the biggest mistakes you can ever make.

Let’s define what I mean by “fanservice” in this particular instance: “fanservice” is when people who are fans of a particular book or show or whatever start clamoring for the creators to give them what they want. Most frequently, this is having two characters fall in love or admit that they are in love and officially become a couple. Other times it might be the introduction of another character or villain, confirming a plotline or revealing a detail that the fans have been speculating about.

And this almost always ends disastrously.

You would think that doing something that makes the fans happy would improve the book or show in question, but this often has the exact opposite effect. Usually, once the thing that the fans have been begging for has been presented, there’s nothing left to look forward to. The quality of storytelling goes down because the writers now have to work around this event which has thrown their timelines off. And fans are pretty much impossible to please; some will be happy with the outcome, some will not be happy, and some will sort of be happy but don’t like how the writers went about doing it, etc., etc. etc.

Is this always true? No, of course not; some shows, books, games, movies and comics can deliver fanservice and still maintain a decent storyline, but usually the opposite is true. Once the fans get what they “want,” they either lose interest or they’re sorely disappointed by the results thereafter.

If at any point in your writing career (be it fanfic or real fic) you find that your fans are getting on your case for you to do something that they want to see … DON’T DO IT!!! Don’t do it if it wasn’t already planned out by you and you alone. Fanservice isn’t worth the risk to your creation, even if you think you’re doing it as a “thank you” to your fans—you’re just sabotaging yourself by letting the fans run the show. If they’re hounding you to do something, don’t throw them any bones because it won’t shut them up and may even encourage them to keep pestering you with requests. The second you release any of your creative control, you lose your story, and will lose your readership. Period.

“But Kara,” you might be saying, “what if I’m writing something and my audience is telling me that they don’t like what I’m doing?”

Good question. What does your gut tell you? Is this the way you wanted to write your book? Then by all means, keep writing it that way. Chances are good that most of the people who follow through to the end won’t be so ticked off once they reach the conclusion, and things that were critically mauled in the past have a way of being rediscovered and hailed as masterpieces in the future—just read some of the original reviews for The Empire Strikes Back if you don’t believe me.

Is there ever a time when fanservice is good? In my opinion, not really, no; fanservice is like pleading with people to stick around, a sort of, “I’ll give you my Oreos if you promise to be my friend” deal. There shouldn’t be any negotiating with your fans—either they enjoy what you give them and wait for the good stuff to happen on its own, or they can go find something else to entertain themselves with. Let them whine. This is your story, not theirs, and you know what you want to do. Keep writing what and how you want to write.

Writing Wednesday: No, You Don’t Always Have to Please Your Audience, Part 1: Writing the Characters The Fans “Want”

Writing Wednesday: No, You Don’t Always Have to Please Your Audience, Part 1: Writing the Characters The Fans “Want”

By Kara Newcastle

Konrad Westermayr_Schreibendes_Mädchen Writing girl 1913

Okay, so let’s say you’ve been writing for a while. You’re feeling pretty good about your skills and confident in your ability to tell a cohesive and engaging story—great! You’ve gotten to a point where people are starting to take notice, and you have even developed something of a fan base—awesome!

Now that you have fans, you might start worrying about how you will keep them. You might start to worry about what they’re going to think about your next fictional endeavor. You want to give them something they’re going to love. You might even feel a little pressure from some of these fans to include things that you hadn’t considered before, and aren’t sure you want to do. Then you start thinking that maybe you should … after all, they’re your fans, you should make them happy, right?

If you ever find yourself worrying about “pleasing your fans,” just stop. First off, you’re not going to please everybody—it’s impossible. Second of all, if you start writing with the idea that you’re doing it for someone else, your writing is never going to be good. It’ll be strained, stilted, restricted, it won’t sound honest, and you’ll hate it because it won’t feel like your work—it’ll feel like somebody else’s project, and that’s a sensation that will rip you apart. Always write for yourself first and please the rest of the world later (or never, in some cases.)

In older writers (Gen X, Baby Boomers, and the like), there isn’t quite as much pressure to please their audiences; they feel more concerned with the quality of the fiction, and if people aren’t happy about it, well, screw ‘em, essentially. With newer, younger writers, we’ve grown up in a world where it seems like the fans run the show, and if we do anything that is just a hair out of line with what is the popular cause at that moment, we run the risk of being verbally flambeed and forced to issue an apology.

I’m here to tell you that it is perfectly okay to not follow, for lack of a better phrase, whatever cause is trending at the moment, especially regarding your characters; just because everyone else is hopping up and down screaming that we need characters with a feature (again, for lack of a better word) that is not frequently portrayed in the media does not automatically mean that you have to make any of your characters like that. I agree, there’s a massive lack of diverse characters in fiction and entertainment, but I really don’t think you should feel forced to include them if you don’t feel a natural connection to that character. Don’t make a character gay because you feel like you “have to,” or you’re worried that people would complain if you don’t; have a gay character because you know that’s how you want that character to be. If you make a character gay, trans, disabled, a different race, a different religion, or whatever it is that is contrary to your original intent because you want to satisfy your audience, that character will not come across as genuine, and trust me when I say people will pick up on it.

I have a vast array of different characters, but I do not have a character who is transsexual. Why not? For the same reason I don’t have characters who are Russian, Episcopalian, autistic, or missing a limb; I don’t have a story for them yet. When I have an idea for a story that can use a character who is Russian, Episcopalian, autistic, or missing a limb, then I will write a story with a character who is Russian, Episcopalian, autistic, or missing a limb. I will not write about a character who doesn’t click with me at that moment because if they’re not true to me, they will not be true to my readers. If they’re not true to my readers, then I’m basically using that character as clickbait, and you’d better believe there are going to be a lot of teed-off readers.

All right, so I made this Part 1 of this blog because when I initially started writing it, I realized there were a few other topics related to pleasing your fans, and if I kept going to with it the blog would be, like, eighteen pages long. No matter how much time you might have right now, nobody’s going to read a blog that long. I’ll try to have Part 2 shortened and ready for next week!

Writing Wednesday: No Such Thing as “Master”

Writing Wednesday: No Such Thing as “Master”

By Kara Newcastle



We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.

—Ernest Hemingway

What makes somebody a “master” of writing?

If you’re new to the whole writing game, you might say that a master of writing is someone who maybe has a complete understanding of the written language. Or that they have a firm grasp on the construction of a compelling and enthralling story, so much so that every single book they put out is a best seller. Or perhaps it’s someone who has gotten to the point that they never struggle with writing at all.

Do yourself two favors: 1) Stop thinking like that and 2) and don’t say those things to people who have been writing for a long time. They’ll probably look at you in disbelief, then scowl and shake their heads as they hunch over their manuscript again.

That’s because longtime writers know that there is no such thing as a master of writing.

Yes, I know that colleges and universities often have a “Master’s degree” in writing (usually called a Master’s of the Arts, or of Fine Arts), but that’s not what I mean here. No, I’m talking about that misguided notion that there’s like a Yoda-esque master of writing out there and that everyone should strive to be at that level.

Newsflash: they don’t exist! Even the ones that many of us would refer to as masters of writing don’t consider themselves masters of writing. Those authors know better; they know that writing is an art that is constantly changing and evolving. They know that they can always improve on what they’ve written, and they know that it’s virtually impossible to get everything right on the first try. They’re still learning how to write.

Furthermore, no one can be a writing master because it’s impossible. Everyone has their own unique style of storytelling—there’s no single standard to hold up to because no one writes the same way.

I don’t know exactly where the concept of master writer came from, but I know it’s been around for a while and it has caused a lot of damage to new writers (yes, myself included.) New writers want so badly to be as good as the authors they adore, and when they can’t achieve what they see as that same quality of writing, they start thinking that they’ll never be good enough, or that they don’t have the talent for writing at all. Pshaw and hogwash, I say. Once you realize that there are no “masters” or “experts” or whatever you want to call them, you’re going to feel a huge weight come off of you, and writing is going to become easier now that you don’t feel the pressure to be great.

No sense in trying to live up to something that doesn’t exist.

So, if you feel like you’ll never be a “master” of writing, stop thinking that way; those kinds of people just don’t exist. Don’t worry about being the best. Just go write.

Writing Wednesday: AREN’T YOU FINISHED YET?

Writing Wednesday: AREN’T YOU FINISHED YET?

By Kara Newcastle


438px-Gerard_ter_Borch_-_Die_Briefschreiberin_(Schwester_Gesine) woman writing a letter 1655 wikimedia


One of these days I’m going to put together a list called “Things Writers Absolutely F***ing Hate to Hear from Other People,” and this particular question is going to rank pretty high on it, if not #1: “Aren’t you finished yet?”

Show of hands: how many of you have heard this or some variation of it? Yeah, I don’t need to see you to know that about 99.9% of you have your hands up. And you’ve likely heard it every time you start a new book or story that takes a bit of time to complete. And it is so IRRITATING.

You usually get this question from a relative or friend who is not a writer by any stretch of the imagination. They know you’ve been writing for a long time (or maybe not, maybe it feels like that to them) and it boggles their mind that you haven’t completed your work yet. The problem is that most non-writers don’t understand the effort and process that goes into writing. All they see is the finished product, not the blood, sweat and tears that go into the creation of it. They think all you do is sit down and write your entire project in one go.

But we writers know better. We know that there is plotting to be done, research, rough drafts, rewrites, edits, struggling to find that right word, stressing out over phrasing, suffocating writer’s block, procrastination from crippling self-doubt and, oh yeah, REAL LIFE INTERRUPTING EVERYTHING.

If you ever mention your book to someone and they respond with, “Aren’t you done yet?”, don’t feel guilty about it. You know what the process is like (and be honest with yourself if you know you’ve been avoiding it.) Like any other project, writing can’t be rushed or you’ll end up with crap. And if you end up with crap, you’ll just get frustrated with yourself, and it’ll just hurt you in the long run.

How should you respond when somebody asks you why you aren’t done yet? It’s up to you; you could go into a long discussion about the process, or you could shrug and say, “It takes time,” and leave it at that. You could go the snob route, sighing dramatically, “You’re not a writer … you just wouldn’t understand.” You could lean in and whisper frantically, “I don’t know what’s going on! I keep sacrificing the animals, but the shadow that lives in my closet won’t give me any more ideas!” Or, you can use my go-to response: “I’m not done with my book yet BECAUSE PEOPLE KEEP INTERRUPTING MY WRITING TIME!!!”

Really, in the end, don’t let anybody harangue you about how long it’s taking you to get your story done. You don’t owe anybody an explanation … unless it’s your editor or boss, then that’s different.

Writing Wednesday: What If They Laugh?

Writing Wednesday: What If They Laugh?

By Kara Newcastle

Junge_Dame_beim_Schreiben_eines_Briefes by anonymous 19th c source Koller Auktionen wikimedia commons


Anything that would cause people to laugh at me, or tease me in NYC, please get rid of it.

 –Pat Conroy to the editor of one of his novels




Admit it: at some point in your writing career, you were afraid to show anybody what you had created because you were sure they were going to laugh at you. Maybe not laugh; maybe you were afraid of a sneer, a raised eyebrow, smirk, an eyeroll, or—eerugh—somebody criticizing you. Either way, you were afraid of being put down in some manner.

Hey, it’s a legitimate fear, one that has affected every writer at some point since the first scratch was made in clay. Nobody likes the feeling of pouring their heart and soul into something only to have it lambasted by someone else. It could happen, it has happened, it will happen … and then you’ll learn to get over it and keep going.

And you’ll see that it probably can help you BIG TIME.

The first thing to address is why we think people will laugh at us. That’s easy; it all goes back to when you were a kid. As a young child, I’m sure you made something that you thought was absolutely amazing. Let’s say you painted a picture, and when you looked at it, you saw a Renoir, but when you showed it an adult, they laughed. You were confused; why were they laughing at your masterpiece? Odds are, they weren’t laughing because they found your attempt at painting absurd—they were delighted, but you were too young to understand the difference. That didn’t stop it from hurting.

Fast forward a few years to your tweens. Let’s say you wrote a story for the fun of it and you show it to your friends. You think your story is on par with Rushdie, but your friends are unimpressed. They laugh dismissively, then go back to talking about whether or not Ayden with the “y” likes Aiden with the “i.”

Let’s go ahead to your teens. Let’s say you wrote a poem in your English class, and that your teacher read it. You have no aspirations for it, it’s just an assignment you did. Once the poem is finished, that one kid who sits in the back and never takes his baseball cap off yells, “That was so STUPID!” (this actually happened to me.)

Is it any wonder you’d be afraid to show your work?

To top the anxiety off, you probably feel like you don’t really compare to any established author, so you’re sure you are going to sound so ridiculously amateurish that anyone with the I.Q. of slime mold is going to find it hysterical. The thought of being mocked fills you with such dread that you’d prefer to write in secret and never show it to anybody.

Let me ask you this: how are you going to benefit from hiding and avoiding? If you have any intent of making any kind of career with writing, be it writing novels, blogs, articles or essays, you need to have people read it. Maybe they’ll laugh. If they do, let them, then ask them why. Odds are good that they’re not laughing because they find you pathetic; they might laugh because you wrote something genuinely funny. Or they’re actually very impressed with what you came up with and that’s the way they express their awe. Or they might laugh because you did make a mistake and they think, “Oh jeez, I remember doing that way back when.”

In other words, most people won’t laugh to hurt you. However, I have to point out that there are people who will make fun of you because they love seeing you hurt. (Take a second to read the comments section on a Youtube video and you’ll see I’m right.) The reasons behind this mentality are multifold, but largely it comes down to two groups: the ones that are jealous, and the ones who think they are superior. The ones who are jealous are the ones who are too afraid to put in the effort, and they resent that you have the guts to do what they can’t. The ones who think they’re superior have struggled for years to become accomplished, and they resent anybody else who comes along and breaks the rules or doesn’t appear to have put in the same amount of effort that they had to.

And yet, there is a possibility that being laughed at can actually save you from embarrassment in the future. Whenever I discuss this topic with someone, I always call to mind the bonehead move that Robert Browning made when he wrote the verse drama “Pippa Passes” in 1841. The Pippa in the title is a young Italian girl who makes observations about the world around her. Pippa says at the end of the poem:

But at night, brother howlet, over the woods,
Toll the world to thy chantry;
Sing to the bats’ sleek sisterhoods
Full complines with gallantry:
Then, owls and bats,
Cowls and twats,
Monks and nuns, in a cloister’s moods,
Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry!

Yeah, read that third line up from the bottom again. Uh-huh, yup, there it is, no denying it. He used THAT word. Why is this such a big deal? So glad you asked! Apparently, Browning lived such a sheltered life that he wasn’t familiar with vulgarity. He came across the word in the bawdy 1660 poem “Vanity of the Vanities” that went, “They talk’t of his having a Cardinall’s Hat/They’d send him as soon an Old Nun’s Twat,” and assumed that a “twat” was the headcloth that a nun wore. He never bothered to look up the actual meaning, used it in his own poem, and it went to print. Luckily (or unluckily) for Browning, no one had the courage to educate him on his mistake, and he continued to misuse words in his works.

179 years later, people are still laughing at his goof. If somebody had laughed when they first read it, maybe Browning’s legacy could have been spared this embarrassment. Maybe it’ll save you too … the idea of people in the year 2199 laughing at a dumb mistake I had made freaks me out more than anybody chuckling at that mistake now.



























Writing Wednesday: Expectation vs. Reality

Writing Wednesday: Expectation vs. Reality
By Kara Newcastle


“Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”—from an Iris Murdoch novel

There is a myriad of different things that frustrates a writer, whether they be a bestselling author or a total newb at the whole thing. I bet you’ve experienced them—God knows I have. And there’s one thing that bugs every writer at some point, and it’s one of the big reasons people give up writing altogether: you have a great idea, you know exactly how it’s supposed to go, and the end result is utter crap.
Or so you think. Every writer has great expectations for their novel and the writing process, but once they get going, they’re hit with reality. The reality that the book isn’t turning out the way they want it to. The reality that writing is actually a shit-ton harder than they thought it would be. The reality that they’re not the great writer they thought they were (that one’s more objective, and we’ll get to it in depth another time.)

Don’t feel bad. We’re all victims of our own expectations in everything. Every single one of us—myself included—will go into writing (or anything, really) thinking that this is going to be absolutely perfect. The trouble is, what you envision perfectly in your head doesn’t and can’t always be translated perfectly onto the page. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at something I’ve written and silently screamed at myself, “WHY CAN’T I GET THIS RIGHT?! This sounds so stilted/dull/passive/immature/weak. It’s supposed to be active/engaging/exciting/illustrative/professional/powerful! Why can’t I get what I see in my head onto the page?!”
It may take a while for the concept to sink in, but in time you’ll come to learn—as I did, as every author before did—that it takes time and rewrites to get what you want. You’ll also learn that at some point you have to stop and say you’re done, you’re satisfied with your work. It’s not easy to do; E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web among many others, was infamous for being unhappy with his work. Stories abound of him finally completing a manuscript and sending it to his publisher, only to panic, race back to the post office and beg the postmaster to dig out the package and give it back, so White could change something in the story. White was so scared of what people would think of his writing, he was constantly going back and tweaking it. He was never satisfied with his own work … but, if any of you had ever read any of his stories, you know he was a true master of the written word.
For me, it was a combination of emotional exhaustion over stressing about getting everything to translate on the page as perfectly as I imagined it and getting just so fed up with working on the same thing over and over again that caused me to rethink the whole “have to get it perfect” conundrum. I realized that I was just making myself unhappy by trying to live up to my own unrealistic expectations. Okay, so I didn’t exactly get across that the monster was hideous the way I wanted to—it’s more important that the reader understands that the monster was dangerous.
I mean, just writing this particular blog took a few tries; I had the idea for what I wanted to write but had a hard time wording it. My expectation: I’ll just bang out this blog no problem. My reality: took me maybe three rewrites and four days to get it done.
So don’t get hung up on your expectations, and don’t get discouraged by the reality. Go easy on yourself. You’ll get it done.


Writing Wednesday: When They Think That Writing is Pointless or Stupid

Writing Wednesday: When They Think That Writing is Pointless or Stupid

By Kara Newcastle



The Artist’s Wife, by Henry Herbert La Thangue




“Why do you want to be a writer?”

There’s a good chance that you either have heard or will hear these obnoxious eight words, or some variation of them. Usually, they come from either somebody important in your life (quite frequently it’s a nervous relative), or from somebody you know who is utterly clueless. Actually, that last part can apply to everybody, but let’s start with why people get so incredulous when you mention your desire to write.

“Professional” jobs are jobs that are always in demand, with no real periods of low sales or business; lawyers, dentists, doctors, teachers, law enforcement, veterinarians, these are jobs that are constantly operating. There’s never a lack of clients, no slow moments in business through the year. Most of these jobs pull in a high income, and are seen as “professional”, “real”, “established”, “respectable.”

Careers in the arts—such as writing—aren’t looked at with the same kind of respect. For non-writers (that is, people who have never harbored any interest in writing), there are really two kinds of writers: those whose readily recognizable names are emblazoned in huge letters across their newest bestseller, and those who are bussing tables at Uno’s. Non-writers basically see the established authors as being naturally talented and then there’s … you. They look at it as you’re either predestined to become a successful writer, or you’re not. In the end, they think that writing is a pointless, stupid endeavor.

They don’t get how it works, and they don’t really care. They also likely don’t realize how much this hurts and confuses you. You might want to ask them why they feel that way, but don’t bother—you’ll probably be hurt even more. Instead, scroll through my list of reasons why people wrinkle their noses at writing. It might make you feel a bit better to understand why people are such jerks.


  1. They’re worried about how you’ll support yourself: Okay, this is a legitimate fear; writing is a hit-or-miss career most of the time. If you get a piece published, great! But will it be enough to pay the rent or buy groceries? Can you guarantee that you’ll be published again and again and again, or will there be long stretches of time in between successes? They really don’t want to be supporting your butt for the rest of their lives.
  2. They think you’re being lazy: It’s true that there are people out there who say that they’re going to make a living off of their writing, so they don’t get any other job and are currently living in their parents’ basement, contributing nothing to the household. Maybe you’re one of the wiser people, working a real job and writing in your free time because you know that you still need to support yourself, but your family might assume you’re one of the loafers who use writing as an excuse to not get a real 9-to-5.
  3. They don’t see writing as a legitimate career: Professionals and people who don’t appreciate books tend to view writing as a joke. Think about it; many writers are self-taught, whereas an attorney has to go to law school, intern for many years, get hired by a firm and maybe work their way towards their own practice. Same thing with doctors, teachers, veterinarians, dentists, executives, police officers, computer programmers and more—these are people who have to train, study, be graded, apprentice or intern, and have a way to timeline and show their progress. Their efforts are visible and quantifiable … writing doesn’t really have that same aspect. These are the people who will tell you, “Oh, I’d love to just sit around writing all day,” “I wanted to write when I was younger, but now I have a real job,” and “You can make money doing that?” Because there is no VISIBLE effort being put into writing, they don’t see it as a legitimate or respectable career.
  4. They’re jealous: This is always a fun one: there are people who wanted to be writers, but for whatever reason, they gave up their dream and went a different route. Often they find themselves unhappy with their choice, and when they hear that you’re a writer, they get jealous. It irritates the hell out of them that you’re doing what they would so desperately love to do but can’t or don’t. The hurtful things they say may be deliberate, but usually it is said unconsciously. Best to let it slide, but if they’re really pushing it, feel free to let the air out of their tires.
  5. They’re worried about you getting hurt: It’s no secret that writing is one of the toughest careers to take on because of the emotional toll of rejection. You may have your story rejected by every magazine you submit to. Editors and agents can be brutal in their analysis of your work. Professional reviewers make insult an artform, and the general public … let’s face it, people are assholes. Having to deal with this kind of “feedback” can take a serious toll on your mental health, and your family and friends might be scared about what it would do to you. They think they’re saving you from pain by dissuading you from writing.
  6. They resent that you pay attention to your work and not them: This is something I had to/have to deal with a lot; my mom HATED that I would spend time writing. Now, I had chores around the house and I would get them done, but somehow, whenever I sat down to write, she would come running up to be with some new errand or crisis that needed immediate attending to. Do you know how many times I had to plug in the damned printer for her? IT WAS A LOT!! It got so much worse when I got jobs and had less time to write. I was still trying to make time to help out my parents because they were getting older, but Mom redoubled her efforts to keep me away from my computer and doing something for her. I don’t know if she just liked having me around or just liked to use me as a free maid service (more the latter), but I finally told her that I had enough. We haven’t spoken in a while but hey, I have more time to write.
  7. They think you’re deluding yourself: Hey, it happens—there may be people in your life that have no confidence in you. Maybe they don’t recognize your talent, or they don’t think you have a chance at success, so they try to sabotage your efforts by pressuring you to give it up. Sometimes these people think they’re doing you a favor, other times they’re just bastards who don’t think you can do it.
  8. They don’t think there’s any money in writing: Not the same thing as being successful; there are people who think that authors don’t make a lot of money off their work. This is semi-true; published authors usually don’t make a lot of money the first year because most of the sales profits go to the publishing services. However, magazines tend to pay well for stories (anywhere from 1 cent up to 25 cents a word, or a fixed dollar amount), and self-published authors earn a bigger profit because there are no agents, editors or distributors to pay. Self-published authors aren’t necessarily as successful as traditionally published authors, but it’s not unheard of for a self-published author to market their book and sell thousands of copies either.
  9. They’re afraid you’ll get ripped off: Okay, this has been known to happen: you publish your work, then the publisher or the agent steals your money, or has written in their contract that they can keep your work and fire you, or somebody accuses you of plagiarizing, etc., etc. etc. It does happen, but not as often as it used to, and the best way to protect yourself from this happening is to thoroughly do your homework on the people you’re submitting your work to. Keep copies of all your material and copyright the hell out of everything. If you get a contract, it’s a good idea to have your agent or a lawyer go over the fine print with you to make sure that you understand what’s in the clause, and that nobody tried to sneak anything in there. Some magazines will have a clause saying that you can only publish that story with them and can never republish it in any other magazine or collection (sometimes the limit is a year, occasionally it’s forever), while others will buy it from you and republish it as often as they want without you ever seeing another dime. Do your research.
  10. They’re afraid of being embarrassed: Hell yeah, this one’s great; if you have particularly neurotic relatives or friends, they might worry that you’re going to write something nasty about them … or just write something nasty. It’s no secret that many authors have based characters on people they hated, be they parents, teachers or ex-boyfriends (JK Rowling based Gilderoy Lockheart on an ex-boyfriend) as a means of revenge, so people who have been mean to you might fear you’ll do the same (word to the wise: don’t use anybody’s real name lest you incur the wrath of the defamation lawsuits.) On the other hand, you might not have any intention of basing your characters on actual people, but those in your life might have such fragile egos they assume the worst anyway. Furthermore, writers with straitlaced family members might take major offense to anything related to sex, violence, drugs, religion, etc., so if they get an inkling that you’re writing something that they don’t like or think will make the family look bad to the rest of the world, they’ll freak out (my mom turned inside out when she found out I had a story published in Playgirl years ago … not that anybody would know that it was written by her daughter, because they didn’t use my last name.)

So, now that you’ve read the reasons why people look down on writing, you may have a better understanding of their reasons, but ignore them all the same. It’s none of their business. Find support elsewhere, like a writer’s workshop or online forum. Keep writing.

Writing Wednesday: When People Tell You You Can’t/Shouldn’t Write What You Want to Write

Writing Wednesday: When People Tell You You Can’t/Shouldn’t Write What You Want to Write

By Kara Newcastle



The Letter Writer Surprised by Gabriel Metsu



About two or so years before I published Nike, Part 1: The Demon Road, I was sitting in my parents’ kitchen, the rough draft of my book laying on the counter before me. I was going through the book line by line with a read pen, circling mistakes, writing notes in the margins, doing general editing on my manuscript. My mother walked in to start dinner and, seeing the huge binder and the red pen in my hand, asked me what I was doing.

“Just editing Nike,” I said, not looking up from the page I was working on. “Sometimes looking at it all printed out helps me find mistakes I would have missed on the computer.”

I couldn’t see so much as sense my mother hesitating as she placed a pot on the stove. She cocked her head a me a bit, then said slowly, “Kara … do you think this is a good idea?”

“What is?”

“Writing a fantasy book.”

Bewildered, I glanced up at her. “What do you mean?”

“There’s no money in fantasy books. Shouldn’t you write like a biography instead?”

My jaw dropped for a number of reasons, none of which I could articulate as I stared at my mother, speechless, shocked and hurt. Finally, I spluttered, “Did—did you just say that I shouldn’t be writing fantasy novels because there’s no money in it?”

My mom half shrugged and nodded. “Nobody buys fantasy books. You’re not going to make a lot of money that way.”

I felt a flare of anger shot through me as I snapped back, “Well, what about J.K. Rowling? And J.R.R. Tolkien?”

My mother wrinkled her nose at the names. “That’s not the same thing.”

Well, I’ll spare you the details of the “conversation” that took place after that. I’m sure my mother thought that she was looking out for me, but I knew she didn’t really know what she was talking about (she rarely reads, and if she does, it’s only biographies and memoirs, so it’s the only genre she’s familiar with.) That didn’t stop it from hurting … and it wasn’t the first or last time I had relatives, friends, teachers, boyfriends, relatives of friends, relatives of boyfriends, and total strangers try to talk me out of writing genre fiction, saying either that it wasn’t popular or wouldn’t be taken seriously.

Remember, when I first started writing I was thirteen years old, so people were impressed but unsurprised that I wrote about things like Amazons, witches, demon hunters, dragons, aliens and the like—it was expected of a young girl with a vibrant imagination. If I received any kind of criticism about it at the time, it was more along the lines of, “Eh, that’s not really my thing,” than an out-and-out lambasting of my stories.

That changed when I was a junior in high school and still writing fantasy, scifi and horror stories. Suddenly, I saw a decrease in support, particularly amongst adults. My writing and English teachers enjoyed my stuff, but other instructors, other adults, they started to complain. They started saying that I shouldn’t spend so much time writing about fantastical things because that was for “kids.” They rolled their eyes when I told them I wanted to write novels, saying that if I was so determined to write about fantasy things, then I should instead write children’s books, because only small children would like that sort of thing. No self-respecting adult would be caught reading a fantasy or scifi novel.

No, I’m serious, this all happened.

For a while, I was angry at the response, but initially ignored them, telling myself that they didn’t know what they were talking about, that if they actually liked genre fiction then maybe they’d feel differently about it.

But it wore on me; if so many people that I respected thought that genre fiction was a waste of time, that I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a writer, then maybe I should give things like literary fiction or historical fiction a shot. I tried to write a novel about the Prohibition era, but quickly lost interest. My attention kept wandering back to what I wanted to write, so I decided to keep writing fantasy, scifi and the like—I just wouldn’t tell anybody.

I had a little bit of an ego boost when I started posting fanfic online and got some generally good reviews, but I was still kind of embarrassed that I was 17, 18, 19, 20+ years old and writing this stuff. It wasn’t until I got my mitts on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that I really started to get excited about writing fantasy again. I mean, here was a book that was not only a major bestseller, it was also insanely popular among children and adults—that flew in the face of everything that I had been told before about fantasy writing being a waste of time.

And yet, there were still issues. In my senior year of college, I FINALLY got into the Creative Writing class, and, for my first assignment—because we were just told to write a story, no other guidelines given—I wrote a fantasy story. I remember my stomach twisting a tiny bit as we went around our big U-shaped group, talking about our stories and then reading segments out loud. Everybody had written something from real life: one wrote a story about a character who was addicted to heroin, another wrote a story about homelessness, I think. Then, of course, they get to me, and I remember reluctantly saying out loud to the whole room, “Uh … Actually, I wrote a fantasy story.”

God, I’ll never forget the look on my professor’s face when I said that. If I had said that I had summoned up Mephisto and sold my soul in exchange for writing a story, I don’t think she would have looked half as stunned. Meanwhile, I was startled to hear my classmates around me say things like, “Oooh, cool!”, “Really? We can do that?”, “Aw, I should have written one!”

And here’s the funniest part; when we met the following week with our new stories, almost everyone had written a fantasy!

Was that cool? To me, yes, but my professor came across as exasperated, and it didn’t do too much to impress some of my other instructors; I was bitterly hurt when, after telling one of my favorite professors about Nike, he gave me a puzzled look and said, “Don’t you think that’s kind of intensive stuff for a kid’s book?”

Luckily, I had two instructors who were over the moon with my Nike idea and even allowed me to work on the first novel as a part of my thesis. The others … not so much.

Praise and derision continued to be a part of my writing life (and still is) for years afterwards. When I went to job interviews, the interviewer would ask me what I like to do in my spare time. I would tell them that I was writing a book, and they would perk up and ask for more details. I’d tell them about Nike, and they’d lose interest. Relatives would encourage me to write more serious fiction, because that’s what they would like to read. Mom told me flat out that they had no interest in reading anything of mine so long as it had anything to do with fantasy and/or scifi, and Dad said he had no interest in it other than me making a lot of money off of it. One ex-asshole’s—oops, sorry, was that out loud? I meant ex-boyfriend’s—father was very dismissive of my fantasy writing and would pile books by Salmin Rushdie and similar writers on top of me, saying, “This is what you should be aiming for.”

And yet, while all these people are telling me that fantasy writing is not popular, eight freaking Harry Potter movies come out, Game of Thrones is a massive hit in both the literary and televised world, there’s a massive resurgence in the popularity of Star Wars, X-Files and Buffy are huge hits, Star Trek comes back to theaters, the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies are blockbusters, James Cameron’s Avatar destroys records while Nickelodeon’s Avatar; The Last Air Bender attracts kids and adults alike, comic book movies have taken over, Neil Gaiman reaches nearly godhood status, The Legend of Zelda franchise shows no signs of fading away, ComicCon is wildly popular, and there are only a few billion websites dedicated to every effing fandom imaginable.


So, if and when you encounter people who turn their noses up at genre fiction, saying that it’s juvenile, not serious fiction, best for children, whatever—and you will—do this: smile derisively, and ignore them. You may want to argue why you want to write fantasy, scifi, horror, etc., but don’t bother because they won’t listen. Mark Twain summoned it up best: “Don’t argue with idiots. They’ll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” And it’s true; people who look down on genre fiction will stand by their opinion and make you feel terrible about your interests, and you’ll never win. Ignore them, all of them, even if they’re important people in your life, and keep writing. Don’t let anyone derail you.

Writing Wednesday: When It Feels Like Work

Writing Wednesday: When It Feels Like Work

By Kara Newcastle


NM 2653


Writing really shouldn’t feel like work; writing should be an outlet, something relaxing, something that stimulates your creativity and your joy. When writing feels like work … well, then you’ve got a problem. If you’re starting to dread writing because it feels like too much of an effort, but you’re not sure why, take a look at the list below and see if any (or all) of these descriptions fit you.



  1. You’re not writing for yourself: First off, and I’ve said this before, always write for yourself first. Once you start thinking that you have to write for a particular audience, your focus shifts from creating to pleasing, and you will burn yourself out with worrying that your imaginary reader—somebody vague and, in all likelihood, doesn’t even exist—will hate your story and badmouth you all over Goodreads. Once you start thinking about pleasing that reader, that critic, your fifth grade English teacher, your great-great-great-aunt, nothing you write will ever be good enough. Don’t imagine any audience. Think, “I’m going to write what I want to write. To hell with all the readers,” and then just write! Write what you Go back and make fixes when you’re ready to present to the world. Trust me, I’ve been there, and you’ll notice that when you write for yourself the quality of your work is so much better.
  2. You’re too hard on yourself: If you write thinking that you’re Hemingway, and then reread your stuff and feel like you sound more like a two-bit Dr. Seuss, then you’re being too hard on yourself. Getting angry that your writing isn’t as good as you want it to be only adds to your stress and takes the enjoyment out of writing. Be honest with yourself. Find the parts that you like and tell yourself you did a good job. Go back and tweak the parts you don’t like later on. Understand that writing is a process that improves with time. Remember that you are you—you’re not Hemingway, Salinger, Oates or anybody else, and nor should you be.
  3. You’ve got too much going on: There are too many things going on in your life that are affecting your focus on your writing. You might think that you’ve put all those problems and stresses aside to work, but they’re probably bouncing around somewhere in the back of your head, making you too unconsciously tense and distracted. You might even feel a little guilty that you’re trying to write when there are problems, issues, concerns, annoyances to be addressed. Stop writing for a bit and take care of what you can accomplish at that moment. Don’t get distracted by insignificant tasks like dusting—those can wait. Do make that phone call to the doctor you’ve been putting off.
  4. You’re tired: Didn’t sleep well? Worn out from work? Jet lagged? Allergy medicine knocking you on your ass? Exhaustion can make anything seem like a monumental task, and if you’re consistently overtired when you’re trying to write, it’s going to be so much more difficult to get anything done. Stop writing, take a nap, go to bed, slam down a V8 Energy, veg out for a while until you’ve got your oomph back.
  5. You have writer’s block: ARGH, THE FORBIDDEN PHRASE!!! THE DREADED ANTITHESIS OF THE MUSE!!! THE SLAYER OF HOPE, JOY, AND CREATIVITY!!! NO, I AM NOT EXAGGERATING!!! If you’re any kind of a writer, at some point you will get stuck. You’ll get hung up on a plot point, a character motivation, how to phrase a sentence or scene … hell, you might just have no idea of what to do next. When you’re stuck, you’re frustrated, when you’re frustrated, you’re angry, and when you’re angry, nothing’s fun anymore and it starts feeling like work. I’ll write some blogs on writer’s block in the near future, but in the meantime, if you find yourself blocked, try taking a break for a bit, skipping ahead to another scene, or try working on another story for a while. My husband likens writer’s block to mental constipation and recommends eating a dictionary to cure it. He says it’s chock full of wordy fiber. If you try it, let me know how it goes.
  6. You’re sick of the story: It happens; you started out on what was supposed to be a great story, and it’s just not living up to your expectations. Rather than killing yourself trying to get it done, tell yourself that it’s okay to put it aside or even give up on it entirely. You can always go back and rewrite it. You might even be able to salvage some scenes to use in other projects. Just understand that there’s no shame in saying “Screw it” to a bad story.
  7. You’re discouraged: You’ve submitted twenty stories, and two-thirds of them came back with rejection letters and the remaining third haven’t even been looked at yet. The story you posted on Wattpad/Fanfiction.net/A03/wherever isn’t getting read. Maybe those stories are being read but no one is posting a review or, worse yet, the reviews are horrible. Maybe you gave out copies of your book to several friends and relatives over two years ago and nobody has bothered to read them yet … not that I speak from experience (EXTREME sarcasm.) You start feeling that because you can attract any interest to your stories, then you mustn’t be that great of a writer, so that takes your passion away and makes writing feel like a chore. This is all painful stuff that every writer goes through, and the best advice I have for you is to just keep trying. Do your best to ignore the sting of rejection and work at both improving and promoting yourself. It does get better over time.
  8. Your feelings are hurt: I really hope that anybody reading this will fall into the minority of this instance, but, unfortunately for the rest of us, there is likely at least one person in your life that is going to say something about your writing that will cut you to the core. Sometimes it’s a stranger, but frequently it’s person you know well and trust, like a parent, relative, friend or even a writing instructor, More often than not, these people think they’re being helpful, but they come out saying really dumbass things, like, “This is good, but you’re not seriously thinking about doing this for a living, right?,” to “There’s no way you can compete with somebody like JK Rowling,” or even, “This is so bad.” With all that negativity weighing down on you, it makes perfect sense that writing would become so much more of an effort to do. Don’t let their stupidity derail you, even if you feel that their opinion is extremely important. Many an accomplished writer (such as JK Rowling) had people in their lives that they loved and respected tell them that they had no future, but they forged on ahead and became wildly successful.
  9. It feels like work because you’re making it feel like work: Want to know the secret to utterly killing all desire and happiness for your writing? Start treating it like a job! Seriously, if you approach your writing like it’s a job that you’re dependent on for survival, then you’ll worry too much and all your energy and passion will fly right out the damned window. Don’t think about putting in a set number of hours, or how you have to satisfy somebody, or how this has to be good enough for Oprah to pick because if she doesn’t pick it well then you might as well give up now because you’ll never have a career as a novelist and you might as well be living in a refrigerator box downtown because you won’t have a book deal so you’ll never be able to make it on your own and, and, and … Aaaaaagggh! Stop it! That’s not how writing works—that’s not how any kind of art works! You don’t create art for the money, you create art for the sake of creating art. Don’t approach it the same way you drag yourself to your regular job because you’ll just make yourself utterly miserable. Enjoy it. Treat it as a release and a reward. You’ll feel so much better about it, trust me.

Now get back to writing.

Writing Wednesday: Finding the Time to Write

Writing Wednesday: Finding the Time to Write

By Kara Newcastle



Princess Elizabeth by William Beechley




Sometimes you have to get your writing done in spare moments here and there.

—JK Rowling



I know finding time to write can be hard. Life can get in the way. I was working three jobs (not counting all my book marketing and whatnot), but I was doing pretty well with my writing, blogging and cartooning for a while. Then came the Christmas season, so I was extra busy at two of my jobs, and I started teaching more classes at my dojo. There were times where I didn’t get home before midnight some nights, and then I had to get up early to do it all over again (oh, and please, no bullshit ranting about the wickedness of capitalism, okay? I knew what I was getting into and I was okay with it.) On top of that, my mom is getting older and needed extra help, so in the end I had very little free time for a while. If I ever had a free minute, then I was doing chores, was too tired to even consider sitting in front of the computer, or, honestly, just plain forgot about it.

Then, about a month ago, I was just about to go to bed when I happened to glance over and saw my computer, sitting silent and loyal on my desk. Startled, I sat bolt right up and thought, “Wait … when was the last time I wrote?”

That was alarming to me; I had gotten so distracted by a million other things in my life that I hadn’t realized that I wasn’t doing any creative writing or blogging at all. Alarm turned to irritation, and I vowed to get back on track with writing.

Of course, it can be hard to find time to write—this is something I hear from a lot of people who want to write but just don’t. If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, take a look at some tips for finding writing time, both from established authors and moi.

  1. MAKE time to write: If you really want to be a writer and you feel like you don’t have a spare moment to catch your breath, let alone put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), you’re going to have to make time to write. JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone while her daughter napped. John Grisham would get up early, write for a while, go to work at his law firm, come home and write again after dinner when the kids were asleep. When Stephen King was a high school English teacher, he’d write during the students’ study hall, and then at home when the kids were asleep. Ursula LeGuin wrote while her children slept (I’m sensing a theme here.) Agatha Christie found time to write twelve novels while working full time as a nurse during World War II. Sue Grafton wrote whenever she could find a spare minute while working full time and raising her children. The list goes on, but the story remains the same: they were all busy, but they all made time to write. You can find it too if you think about it. Lunch break, before work, after work, late at night, get up extra early in the morning, during your commute (so long as you’re not the one driving), waiting for a movie, after the kids go to bed, while the kids are school, while you’re sitting on the toilet—you get the idea. You can make it work. (In case you’re wondering, I’ve been staying up to write. So far, I have not fallen asleep on my keyboard. So far.)
  2. DON’T wait for the right time to write: Just an FYI: there will never be the perfect time to write. Yes, you have responsibilities, but the second you start thinking, “I can’t write now, I have to take out the trash, fold the laundry, learn Mandarin and clip my toenails!”, you take priority away from your writing and assign it to mundane things that really can wait (and then you start using as it a go-to excuse to avoid writing altogether.) Decide what things need attention immediately (grocery shopping, bill paying) and what can wait a bit longer (washing the car, alphabetizing the spice rack.) I can already hear a bunch of you saying, “But Kara, if I don’t do it right away, then it’ll never get done.” Two things. 1: Apply that attitude to your writing. 2: Learn to be disciplined and responsible and get your other projects done quickly … or hire a cleaning lady.
  3. People are going to have to learn to survive without you: One of the big hurdles for writers are the people in their lives distracting them. No, you can’t shut them out of your life entirely, but you can’t let them run roughshod over you either. For example, I have a relative who has suddenly decided that she’s too old to be doing certain things anymore (seriously, typing in an email address?) When she was legitimately sick I had no issue with helping out with things like grocery shopping and vacuuming, but when it got to the point where she was incapable of doing simple tasks and hefting responsibilities onto me that I had no business doing, I had to put my foot down. Yes, there was some rage and some nasty things said, and she likes to tread on my boundaries, but I refuse to give in. My time is mine, and I want to use even just a little bit of it to write. Your time is your time too. You’re entitled to it, it belongs to you. Tell people to back off (saying it nicely would be best, but make it known in unequivocal terms that your writing time is important,) condition yourself to accept that things will possibly be a wreck (things may get messy—deal with it), teach your kids/spouse/relatives/friends to live without you for a little bit every day. If people continue to bang at your door, find a place to write outside the house—far outside, where it’d be too much of a hassle for them to track you down.
  4. Be happy to get ANY writing done: You had five minutes and you managed to scratch out a sentence and a half. GREAT!! That’s a sentence and a half more than what you had before. Don’t feel like you need hours to write, or that you need to produce ten pages of story in order to accomplish anything—just write whatever you can in whatever time you have available.
  5. Don’t get distracted!: It really sucks to have some time to write, only to discover you’ve frittered it all away by watching fourteen possum videos on Youtube, or fell in the “one more episode” trap with Netflix. Be responsible with the time you have, because it might be a while before you get it back. I mentioned this in a blog a long time ago, but I set up folders on my Internet browser labeled with each day of the week, then fill them with shortcuts to sites I visit regularly and other things I’ve been meaning to look at. I try to get some writing done, and when I’m finished (or I feel too fried to keep going), I look at the folder marked for that day, visit those sites, don’t visit anything else, and then get back to work. As for TV, I’m working on avoiding idle watching, sticking just to shows I watch regularly, saving the rest for Prime and Netflix, limited to an episode or two a day. There are applications out there that you can download to help you stay on task or spend less time on the Internet, but I won’t suggest any of them until I’ve researched them first (if you’ve tried them give me some recommendations so I can blog about it!)
  6. Learn to seize the moment: The second you realize you have some time to write, do it! You could have two free hours to write, but if you spend 45 minutes cruising the Internet beforehand, you’ll have 45 less minutes to write. Bookmark whatever it is that’s trying to lure you away and get to writing.
  7. Write even if you don’t feel like it: This is something I had to train and retrain myself to do; you have free time, but you’re too tired or irritated to write. Write anyway. It might not be the greatest prose you’ve ever banged out, but at least you’ve got something, you’re keeping the flow going, you can always go back and fix it later, and you’ll feel better that you got any kind of writing done. Don’t get hung up on how it sounds or all the spelling mistakes you’re making, because right now they’re not important. What is important is that you’re doing any writing at all.
  8. Use anything you have to write: One thing that irks the crap out of me is when I have time to write, and I really want to write, but I’m not at home in front of my computer. Luckily, I have a variety of different things to write on until I get back home; my cell phone, my iPod, my tablet, a good old-fashioned notebook, a scrap piece of paper swiped from the scrap piece of paper bin. Don’t feel confined to one medium to write, use whatever you can and transcribe it later.
  9. Get an accountability partner: Find someone (a friend, significant other, relative, whatever) and form a pact: you will work on your projects together for a set amount of time. You will check in with each other frequently to make sure that you both have accomplished your goals for that day, and if one of you slacks off, the other one can pile on the guilt. In other words, you are held accountable for your work that day, so if your goal is to spend, say, fifteen minutes of undistracted writing, and your partner’s goal is the same (or could be anything, really, as long as it’s productive), you check in with them and say, “Hey! I wrote for fifteen minutes!” and your buddy says, “Me too!” Or, you can say, “Um … I didn’t get any writing done,” your buddy can say, “Seriously? I got two pages done. Why am I working my ass off and you’re not?” I haven’t gotten to try this yet, but many people say the guilt-tripping helped them a lot.
  10. Be willing to make sacrifices: If you really want to write and you’re hurting for time, you might have to give up some activities on occasion. If you have a habit of watching TV immediately after dinner, taking the dog out for a walk, helping the kids with homework and then going to bed, you should consider giving up TV for a little while (odds are you can always record it or find it streaming.) Hang out at the bar with your buddies for three hours every Friday? Cut it down to two, use that free hour to write. Invited to party that you kinda want to go to, but not really? Skip it, stay home and write. Play video games all day long? Quit it, play for an hour or two, spend the rest of the time writing. You want to see a movie that just came out in theaters? It’ll be there a while longer, sit down and write. Yes, it might suck at first, but once you see the progress you’ve made with your writing, you’re going to feel a lot better about it.
  11. Don’t be so hard on yourself: Let’s say that you’ve got so much going on in your life that you really can’t afford to take time away from it to write. Let’s say that you were planning on writing, but something very important came up that drew you away. Maybe you had an opportunity you couldn’t afford to miss, or an obligation to fulfill. Maybe you’re just too tired. If any of that is true, then it’s perfectly okay to not write that day. Be reasonable with yourself about your abilities and your expectations. Don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t get a chance to write. If you really want to write, you’ll find the time.