A Writer’s Resolutions: 2016 Edition

Aaaand we’re back! Did you miss me? 😉

As is tradition, today’s post will be a review of everything I accomplished (or didn’t) in 2015, as well as a rose-colored look at everything I hope to accomplish (but likely won’t) in 2016. Hey, at least I’m being honest, right?

New Years Meme

Let’s face it, if we make resolutions at all, they’re likely grandiose, overly ambitious, and sometimes unattainable, even when we try to make them otherwise. We can never predict exactly what the new year will bring, so trying to plan what we’ll achieve is often a fruitless endeavor. And yet we continually do it. I know I get excited every time the calendar turns over. It’s a fresh start, a clean slate full of amazing possibilities; what’s not to love about that?

But beyond the boost of productivity endorphins that make us feel like invincible superhero warriors out to conquer the world, the new year represents a chance to objectively look at the previous one, to grow and learn from the experiences now notched into our belts. So let’s look at how I fared against my goals for 2015, shall we?

As a recap, here’s what I wanted to achieve last year:

Writing Resolutions 2015

  • Finish Unmoving 
  • Upload Chapters of Unmoving every two weeks to Wattpad & Authonomy
  • Revise and Re-publish The Bardach, Spinning & Confessions via Createspace/Amazon KDP 
  • Compile brief synopses of all plot bunnies
  • Write, Edit & Publish one new short story
  • Plan, Prep, and Unveil Secret Blog Project by the end of the year

And here’s what I actually achieved:

None Meme

Seriously, I’m not just being facetious. I did absolutely zero of the things on that list. I didn’t finish Unmoving, and instead ran into the dreaded Total Voice Shift that warrants a complete overhaul. That revelation led to the cessation of my posting it online, at all, anywhere. I didn’t even try to touch the short story revision project, nor did I even so much as look at my pile of plot bunnies. I did manage to write approximately a paragraph on a new short story, so hey, not a total failure on that one — though counting that as a success is questionable at best. And obviously, those of you who followed my postings last year know that not only did I not unveil said Secret Blog Project, I had trouble even just generating new articles on a regular basis. Definitely not a win.

So what did I do in 2015? Sounds like a whole lot of nothing, right? In fact, it was probably one of the most stressful, difficult years of my professional life. Basically, I worked. A lot. As in certifiable workaholic, absolutely insane a lot. All total, I helped twenty — twenty — books come into the world. That’s an impressive number (I think) for any editor, but considering I did that on top of my regular 40 hour per week Day Job of Doom, it’s easy to see why I managed to lose an entire year of my life to the Editing Cave.

Don’t get me wrong, I love editing, and I’m honored that I was part of the journey for those twenty books, but I also know that I can’t ever have another year like that again. I lost a lot of sleep, dramatically damaged my health on more than one occassion, lost out on important time with family and friends, and nearly pushed myself to the point of quitting editing completely. Those closest to me can attest to the fact that I nearly had a complete mental breakdown more than once. And that’s not okay.

Which is why the theme for 2016 is to be kinder to myself, to set better boundaries and create healthier habits that will allow me to continue doing what I love for the long run, rather than burning out before I’ve barely started. To that end, I’ve created an actual schedule for my editing life, one that includes — wait for it — official days off. Shocking concept, right? But when you work multiple jobs and one of them is in the after-hours of your “proper” job, it’s easy to overlook or give up every second of free time without even realizing it. It’s also easy to feel incredibly guilty when you do take some much-needed personal time. Most labor laws mandate that employees get two days off a week. Therefore, I’m doing the same and taking two days to myself to deal with life and otherwise recharge.

But on top of that, I do have actual goals — resolutions, if you will. Specifically, these:

Writing Resolutions 2016

  • Stick to my newly established work schedule; make my “off-time” sacred (Hear that, self? Don’t feel guilty for time off anymore, mmmkay?)
  • Finish one new short story (I’ve already started one, so we’re on track for this at least.)
  • Read at least twelve published books (When you read unpublished manuscripts all the time, you start to lose perspective. Plus, it’s a great way to inspire the muse and grow as a writer.)
  • Finish outlining Unmoving & begin massive, scary overhaul (Yep, this pantser is going to have to become a plotter in order to finally finish this behemoth.)
  • Plan & Prep Secret Blog/Wattpad Project (I may not start it this year, but I can at least get it ready for maybe 2017.)

And that makes five. I don’t like to do more than that, so I’ll just stop at those. Notice they’re a lot less ambitious than last year’s. I did that on purpose, because my number one goal this year is to create less stress in my life. If I achieve anything on the agenda, let it be that one. Please.

All right, before I let you go, there’s one more thing left to address — probably the main reason you checked the blog today anyway — announcing the winners of my eBook bundle giveaway! You ready? Okay!

The winners of my 2015 Holiday Bookapalooza Giveaway are . . .

Romance Bundle: Cheyenne Young

Meta-Fantasy Bundle: Komal

Dark Fantasy Bundle: Sydney Richardson

Science Fiction Bundle: Emily Pichardo

Thank you to everyone who entered! Your support is always appreciated. And don’t worry, I’ll have other opportunities to snag some goodies soon. See you next time!

Beta Readers, Critique Partners, Editors; They’re all the Same, Right?

Today’s post is a little different from the usual. I was asked to write a guest post over at Live, Love, Read, and I chose to write about something I feel could have value to all of you here as well — the difference between critique partners, beta readers, and editors. Rather than copy the article in full though, I’m going to use the handy re-blog feature and turn you over to the lovely ladies that host the Musings of the Eternal Dreamers series, for which the post was written. There a lot of other articles from that series which might also be of interest, so be sure to check them out as well. Enjoy! 🙂

Live, Love, Read

eternaldreamers

Beta Readers, Critique Partners, Editors: They’re all the Same, Right?
by Kisa Whipkey
Acquisitions and Editorial Director, REUTS Publications

Beta Readers. Critique Partners. Editors. These are all terms that swirl around the writing community, and authors are encouraged to collect them all, like Pokemon. But that advice, while true, rarely includes the order in which you should use them. And there is an order, trust me. We’ll get to that in a minute, though. First, let’s look at what each of these important roles entails and how they impact your journey as an author, because, contrary to what some believe, they are most definitely not the same.

I’ve written about the different types of critiques several times on my own blog, so feel free to check out that article as well. For now, here’s a small preview detailing the three review types pertinent to today’s discussion.

The Critique Partner

Every…

View original post 1,115 more words

Featured From the Archives: Motivation (Or the Lack Thereof)

Yep, I went archive-diving again. I do have new content in the works, but time, health, and other forces keep conspiring against me. Which means I either dredge something up from the archives, or post nothing at all. And since I am battling a rather large dose of the Blahs right now, this article felt particularly relevant. You’ll see why in a moment.

Motivation (Or the Lack Thereof)

by Kisa Whipkey

Originally Posted on 2/8/13

Writing requires two things to flow smoothly — inspiration and motivation. I’ve already ranted about the fickle nature of inspiration here, so today, it’s motivation’s turn.

We’ve all had those weeks where it feels like we’re carrying around 500 pounds of iron. Where even breathing is too much work, and the lure of creativity pales to that of our bed or TV. But life can’t just stop, can it? No matter how much we don’t want to deal with anything, wishing to bury our heads in the proverbial sand, we have to suck it up and carry on. And while that attitude can get you through the dreary act of day-to-day chores (barely), it’s as good as cyanide to your muse.

Muses are easily chased away by anything from stress, to illness, to exhaustion. That perfect combination of inspiration and motivation? It only strikes like a lightning bolt in a blue moon. If you wait for it, you might get a whopping 3 days a year to write, and they’ll land on days when you don’t have more than two seconds to yourself. Guaranteed. So what do you do instead? What do you do when motivation leaves your sails deflated and your muse MIA?

Just like inspiration can be tricked into making a reappearance, you can kick-start motivation. Everyone has their own methods, but here are some of mine. Feel free to give them a try if you’re suffering a bout of motivation-less Blahs, like I am.

  • Read:  I find reading relaxing, so whenever my muse decides to take a vacation without me, I turn to books. Reading puts me back in the literary frame of mind, and nothing is more inspiring than reading someone else’s brilliance. You never know, maybe some of that brilliance will rub off on you like the dust from a butterfly’s wings.
  • Listen to music: Music is such an integral part of my storytelling process that it’s no surprise this is on the list. Since it’s the root of all my inspiration, spending some quality time surrounded by the songs tied to my works-in-progress can jump-start my inner projector and get things back on track. So if you don’t already use music as the excellent source of motivation it is, try creating a playlist of songs that invoke your story in some way, either the emotional content, the visuals, or the overall tone, and see if your muse will decide to come dance in the melodic rain for you.
  • Watch TV/Go to the movies: Storytelling is storytelling, and sometimes just being immersed in it can be enough to rekindle the sparks of motivation. (Yep, I just gave you license to be a couch-potato. You’re welcome. 😉 )
  • Chat with your critique partner: No matter how lame I’m feeling, a critique buddy can instantly get me fired back up. Plus, I really hate to let people down, so my sense of guilt for being a slacker can sometimes be enough to spur me back into action. If you have a critique partner, you already know there’s nothing better for motivation than commiserating with a fellow writer. If you don’t have a critique partner, find one. It’s amazing what having a little accountability can do.
  • Work on something easier: I find blogging to be exceedingly easy compared to fiction. (Although this week has been like pulling teeth, so maybe this theory is a bust.) Anything that uses what I call “Essay Voice” doesn’t require as much thought for me. So I use it to get the words flowing. If fiction has come to a grinding halt for you, try working on something else. Either something that has fewer expectations of greatness because you’re less invested in it, or something that uses a less formal voice. Even Tweets and Facebook can count. Sometimes. Just don’t let your social-media addiction derail any motivational value you might get from them.
  • Deal with the To-Do list: I’ve found that I can’t write a darned thing when my To-Do list is as high as Mount Everest. So when my internal stress-alerts start to sound like a bomb about to explode,  I take a deep breath, set aside any thoughts of writing and tackle that list one step at a time. Eventually, I get to the end and am able to write burden free. Distraction is a writer’s worst enemy, so whether you’re worried about finances, your house needs a thorough bath, or your DVR is about to overflow and erase all your favorite shows (No? That last one’s just me? Awesome), face the demon. Take the time you need to deal with that particular set of worries. Balance your checkbook; figure out where all your money is going and how to stop bleeding green. Clean your house. Watch those shows. (I really want you to be a couch potato, don’t I?) Do whatever you have to in order to clear your head. Then get back to writing, when motivation isn’t being buried beneath six feet of stress.
  • Take a nap/bath/shower: Creativity is akin to dreaming in many ways, so doing things that promote that state of mind always helps. For me, those activities are sleep (which is also beneficial if you’re a walking zombie and can’t even function, let alone write), or anything related to the shower. Don’t ask me why the combination of hot water and bubbles cues up the movies in my head, but I swear, the shower is the best place for me to write. If only they made waterproof laptops I could install in the tile wall. Point is, whatever location is most conducive to your imagination, go there. Maybe it will trigger something.
  • Force it: This rarely works for me, as evidenced by the somewhat lackluster drivel of this post, but for some people, it’s the only answer. If I try to force it, kicking and screaming like a kid about to go to the doctor for a shot, I spend the whole day staring at a blinking cursor and end up with four sentences I delete later anyway. So this is a last resort kind of thing for me. But maybe you’re the kind of person that can grit your teeth and force your muse to play like a bully forcing an unlucky victim into a locker. If you can, then more power to you. My muse is too fragile for that kind of brutality. It would leave me forever if I tried that approach.
  • Give up and wait for the Blahs to pass: Sometimes you really just need a day off. I’m an admitted workaholic, so I take a true day off once every 3-4 months. (A “true day off ” meaning that I plunk my butt on the couch and watch as much TV as I can in a single day.  See?  You wouldn’t be alone in couch potato-land. Come join me; it’s fun!) And I immediately feel guilty for it. But sometimes, you really just need to recharge the batteries. Our beloved phones can’t run on empty, so why should we? Remind yourself it’s okay to be a slacker every now and then, and give yourself a break. The Blahs will pass once your battery hits full and motivation will return with a vengeance.

Now, it’s your turn. What are your strategies for jump-starting motivation? Maybe you have some nifty tricks up your sleeve that I haven’t tried yet. Feel free to share in the comments below.  😉

Featured From the Archives: My Love Affair With Complex Narratives

Confession: I was going to use today’s post to wax poetic (or completely fangirl gush, I hadn’t decided yet) about one of the books I finished recently. But then I realized that next week already has two book reviews scheduled. So instead of subjecting to you to four straight posts of reviews, I figured I’d pull something from the archives. You’re welcome.

This particular post (which I can’t believe was written over TWO YEARS ago already) does have a certain relevance, though. Not just in my own work, but for what I look for in general. I suspect that a large portion of you out there are writers. And I further suspect that most of you, if not all of you, are aware of my position as Head of Acquisitions for REUTS Publications. (That’s not my official title, by the way, but you know what I mean.) And I would hazard that of those who both write and know I actively cull the query trenches for new victims (did I say that? I meant authors —  talented, amazing authors) there are even some who have heard or seen the #MSWL tag/site.

In case you haven’t though, that’s short for Manuscript Wish List, and yes, I have a profile there detailing what I’ve been tasked with finding. In it, you’ll see that I list “intricate, multi-layered narratives” as one of the things most likely to tickle my fancy. Some have even submitted with that particular desire mentioned in their query. But it seems not everyone really knows what that means.

Which brings us to today’s topic: defining exactly what I mean when I say “intricate, multi-layered narratives.” Keep in mind that this was primarily written in reference to my own work, but the definitions toward the bottom are certainly useful for querying authors. (And to those thinking of submitting to REUTS/me: bonus points if you use the correct terminology in your query. 😉 )

My Love Affair With Complex Narratives

by Kisa Whipkey

Originally Posted on 3/29/13

I had a revelation this week — I’m completely infatuated with complex narratives. More than infatuated, I’m like an obsessed stalker. I already knew that my WIP was a complicated son-of-a-gun, with layers upon layers of intricate plot threads. But when my “simple” rewrite of The Bardach suddenly decided to morph into a complete overhaul with an added web of complexity, I started to wonder if it was a pattern.

Every writer has their go-to storytelling device, and apparently, this is mine. Like some kind of virus viciously mutating my fluffy little ideas into beefy, hulk-like variations with mental disorders, complex narration has spread through almost all of my plot bunnies. I suppose that really shouldn’t be a surprise, given the type of entertainment I tend to gravitate toward (they do say writers should write what they love to read), but still.

Why do I feel the need to complicate everything? Is it to push myself out of my comfort zone, testing my limits as a writer and forcing myself to rise to the challenge? Or is it simply that those are the stories I most enjoy as a reader? I’m honestly not sure, but I suspect it’s a little bit of both.

I’ve been writing for a long time now — over 20 years if you count the embarrassing grade-school attempts my mom continues to mortify me with whenever she gets the chance. (Love you, Mom!) And I’ve been an avid reader for even longer. So maybe it was a natural progression that I would grow past the simple narratives and start searching for things that were more complicated and therefore interesting.

I think all of us start to feel storytelling overload in this entertainment-soaked digital age. Eventually, storylines become predictable, plot twists become stale, character archetypes become as familiar as our siblings. So when a book/movie/show/game manages to keep us on our toes with an unexpected curveball, we are instantly intrigued. I know I go from only halfway paying attention to fully engaged in T minus 2 seconds when I run into a story that is different, refreshingly intricate, or surprising in some way.

Complex narratives add that extra depth to a story, regardless of medium. When done well, they’re almost invisible. The only thing readers notice is total immersion in the experience. We’ve all felt it. It’s the difference between mildly enjoying something and being so hooked that you’re glued to the edge of your seat, riveted until it ends; finishing a book and then promptly forgetting it, or being consumed by the need to share its brilliance with everyone you know. In short, it’s exactly the kind of reaction every content creator hopes to elicit from their audience.

What exactly are these complicated creatures I simply cannot live without? Well, there are several types of complex narratives, including these fine specimens:

  • Flashbacks: The interjection of a past scene or memory that illuminates the current situation or provides insight into the character’s backstory.
  • Dream Sequences: Similar to flashbacks, this oft-scorned device introduces atmospheric foreshadowing, additional information, or mystery for the reader.
  • Repetition: Just like it sounds; the literal repetition of a scene, clue, theme, etc.
  • Swapping POVs: We should all recognize this one. Head-hopping has become a pretty popular method for providing readers with multiple perspectives inside one plot. Just make sure you keep the identities clearly separated, generally with a scene or chapter break.
  • Converging Plotlines: Two seemingly unrelated, simultaneous plotlines that converge at the end, where the connection and overall message of the piece is finally revealed.
  • Circular Plotting: The story circles back around to the beginning.
  • Backward Storytelling: The end is shown first. We then work backward toward it, explaining how the characters got there in the process.
  • Framed Narration: A story within a story. Or in my case, a story within a story within a story. It’s up to you how many layers deep you want to make it. As long as you can keep it all straight and clear enough for the reader, it’s all fair game.

I’ve used them all in some form or other without even realizing it. You probably have too. Even my first forays into storytelling (I’m not counting those frightening grammar-school moments, no matter how much Mom insists they’re legit) contained flashbacks, dream sequences, and framed narratives. Those of you who have read my short stories know that I graduated to a hybrid of backward storytelling and circular plotting with Confessions, and have now gone even further to converging plotlines in the new version of The Bardach and a combination of about 5 techniques, including repetition, in Unmoving. It’s taking an exhausting toll on my muse, that’s for sure, and has me screaming, “What’s wrong with a little simplicity?”

The fact is, there’s nothing wrong with it. The standard three-act structure with no fancy trappings has been the traditional storytelling format for thousands of years. But complex narration builds on that, creating a richer, more engaging experience for everyone. Isn’t that what every writer wants? To connect deeply with their readers? I know I do. I want to make people feel the way I have when reading some of my favorite books — nearly all of which utilized at least some of the techniques listed above. Maybe that’s where I learned it, emulating my favorite authors while searching for my own literary voice. In the end, who really knows? All I know is that my stories would feel extremely lacking without their complexity. And that’s as good a reason as any to keep including it, even if, as I strongly suspect, it’s at least partially responsible for my slacker status on the prolific-meter. 😉

How about you, do you prefer simple or complex narratives? Sound off in the comments below!

Featured From the Archives: Believability; It’s Not an Option

Yeah, I know — it’s still not the post on “voice.” Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about that one. But I did forget that I’d started a duology of posts with The Devil’s in the Details a couple weeks ago. They weren’t written as a duology originally, but they’re definitely related. And in fact, they make a great precursor to the aforementioned (and forthcoming) post on “voice.”

So bear with me a little a longer; I promise you’ll have the much-anticipated post next week. 😉

Believability; It’s Not an Option

By Kisa Whipkey

Originally Posted on 1/25/13

This week, I started work on The Revision Project, as I’m dubbing it. For those of you just joining us, The Revision Project refers to the massive overhaul I’m giving my previously published short stories before re-releasing them. I won’t go into the details of why I’m doing this again, so if you’re curious, check out the post where I explain my reasoning at length. (2015 Addendum: that’s a project I still haven’t completed. In case any of you were wondering.)

Anyway, reading these manuscript dinosaurs in preparation to give them their much-needed face-lifts, I’ve realized just how much I’ve learned about myself as a writer and about storytelling in general over the past year. Largely thanks to this blog (and editing; definitely editing). Nothing makes you understand a process faster than having to break it down and explain it to someone else. I learned that during my martial arts training, but apparently, it’s equally true for writing. Which is why seeing those old works through the filter of fresh perspective brought to light a common theme that plagues them — a distinct lack of authenticity.

This is particularly true for The Bardach, which was my earliest endeavor and admittedly the weakest of the three. But there are moments in all of them that feel superficial to me now. Like we’re just grazing the surface, floating over the action, we’re peering down at it through a snow-globe. And it got me thinking: why is that? When I wrote them, I didn’t feel this lack of investment, even after the rose-colored glasses of creation had worn off and the overly critical ones of the editor returned. So what’s changed?

I said in my article about storytelling for demo teams that story is about conveying an emotional message. That’s a dramatic difference from the way I used to view it. I used to focus primarily on plot. The characters were an integral part, of course, but the narrative focused more around the action than anything else. I wrote like a film director rather than an author, worrying about how to convey the cinematic dance of camera angles instead of creating fully realized, three-dimensional characters. (2015 Insert: Oddly enough, that talent right there — viewing story the way a film director does — is what lies at the heart of my supposed “Editing Superpower.”) That’s not to say that I wasn’t able to weave a story that had impact. I think Confessions managed that. But emotional depth wasn’t necessarily my strong suit. Then along came Unmoving, a story so completely focused on the inner turmoil of the lead character that it forced me out of my comfort zone. It made me grow as a writer. It made me redefine my idea of storytelling.

I feel this is a common journey for newer writers and, especially, younger writers. When we first start out, we try so hard to mimic the examples of storytelling we’ve been exposed to — film, TV, video games, books — that we end up missing the point. We manage to learn the basics of narrative — how to craft an action-packed plot, write witty/natural-sounding dialogue, paint settings with just the right amount of detail — but we never learn the one thing that really resonates with readers. Believability.

There are two types of believability in storytelling. The first, making sure all the details and logistics of your story make sense, is a pet peeve of mine and has already been ranted about in a previous post. So we’ll jump right to the second type: emotional believability. This is what turns a good story into a great one.

Take a moment and think about all the books that have ever moved you. Now think about why. I’m probably not far off in guessing that the answer had to do with feeling invested in the characters, in their struggles, their emotions? That’s what I mean by emotional believability. It’s an authenticity that speaks to the core of human nature, to themes that transcend genres and are universally understood. It’s the ability to translate personal experience onto the page, and it only seems to come with maturity.

There’s a reason they always say “write what you know.” Personally, I never subscribed to that. I’m a fantasy writer, so how am I supposed to write what I know when what I know is too dull and ordinary for the worlds I like to hang out in? It’s not like I can go to the zoo and observe the behavioral patterns of a unicorn, now can I? So I always threw that phrase out like wasted salt. Until now. Now, I get it. It’s not about writing what you know in the literal sense, (although it can be, depending on what you’re writing); it’s about using your experiences to infuse believability into your story, to fully immerse your readers into that character’s existence, to move them.

Now, I’m not saying that younger writers can’t craft a great story. I’ve read well-done work written by all ages. What I’m saying is that there is a definite difference between the way someone writes when they’re new to writing, or life, or both, and the way they write after they’ve been around the block a few times. But rather than argue theory, or semantics, or what-have-you, how about I just give you an example from my own writing. Examples always trump convoluted discussions in my opinion.

As some of you may know, I’ve had the privilege of being stalked by a panic disorder for most of my life, but it wasn’t until about two years ago that I actually suffered what can be officially declared a “panic attack.” As in a complete freak-out, hyper-ventilating fear-fest of doom. (I know, I make it sound so dramatic, huh? 😉 ) But panic attacks have appeared in my writing far longer, making them the perfect candidate to help illustrate my point.

Here is an example from The Bardach: (Note, this was written before I had suffered one myself.)

Amyli shook her head to try and clear it from the fog that suffocated her thoughts and followed her study partner down secret corridors she had never known existed within the Temple’s simple construction. Even encased in the thick stone of the walls, she could hear the screams of the dying. And suddenly the walls themselves seemed to be closing in, the air thick and stifling. She stumbled and clutched at Calinfar’s hand.

“Wait, I can’t!” she gasped, trying to breathe, one hand against her chest. Calinfar stopped immediately.

“What’s wrong? Amyli?” He grabbed her shoulders once more, releasing the injured one quickly when she winced. Welling tears glistened in her vision as she gazed into his concerned face and suddenly everything that was happening washed over her with the force of a burst dam.

Aside from the various other quality issues in that excerpt, did you notice how superficial it was? You get the idea that she’s having a panic attack through my attempt to describe it with overused, clichéd phrasing and imagery. But you don’t feel it, do you? It’s over too fast to really elicit more than a shoulder-shrugging “meh” from the reader. You’re not invested in Amyli’s emotional state, even if you had read the context leading up to it. You could take it or leave it at this point. Nothing about that moment will stay with you past the ten seconds it took you to read it.

Now, here’s an example from Unmoving: (Yes, that’s right, a rare tidbit from my work-in-progress.)

The resounding clap as the wood violently met its frame shuddered through me, and I knew what was about to happen. In an effort to avoid the oncoming storm of remembrance, I stared at the flurry of peeling white paint her exit had sent drifting to the floor. But that only made it worse.

Instantly, the images I had tried so hard to forget crushed me like an avalanche. I saw snow swirling in the darkness, heard the squeal of tires trying to find traction, the snap and whipping sound of the seat-belt, smelled the sickening mix of burning rubber and dirty slush. Her screams pierced the memory like a relentless soundtrack, echoes of terror I could never outrun.

I braced myself and waited for it to pass, for the tightness in my chest to diminish and the invisible stranglehold on my throat to ease. Every time I felt the wave of adrenaline crash over me, I wondered if this is what it felt like to drown.

See the difference? That was written after I had experienced the horror of a panic attack for myself. You can feel it now, can’t you? (I hope so anyway.) The words have a sense of urgency, the descriptions are more realistic, the emotions believable. Even without the context prior to this, you can sympathize with him. That’s the difference a little life experience can make.

So the point of this long-winded ramblethon is this: believability isn’t an option. If you want to write something that resonates with readers, you have to learn how to create that deeper level of immersion. How you go about learning that depends on you: you can wait for life experience to cast the slant of a more mature perspective on things; you can mooch off other people’s life experience, using research and interviews to beef up your knowledge; or you can fake it ’til you make it, as they say, and just keep writing, letting practice hone your ability for you. However you go about it though, strive for authenticity. You’ll know when you find it, and your readers will love you for it. Guaranteed.