Character Driven Fantasy

Hello friends and welcome to another self-reflective and, may I say, stylish edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.

This last weekend I finally conceded defeat to the book I had been attempting to read for the last five or six weeks, a big name book by a big name author that I just… couldn’t get into. Though the writing was good and the premise interesting, I ultimately put it down because I never connected with either of the POV characters.

I then picked up a different book and immediately tore through it in less than two days (looking forward to getting a review out of it on Tuesday). 

Perhaps something sort of weird about me is whenever I finish a book, I like to and look at some of the reviews other readers gave it, particularly reviews that hold the opposite opinion I did. If I loved the book, I seek out one stars. If I hated it, I look for the glowing ones. I don’t know why I’m drawn to this activity, but maybe it’s just because I want to understand how people read and enjoy their stories. 

Today, after I finished my latest binge, I did what I always do. I googled the title, and clicked around, looking for the most scathing reviews I could find. As with all novels, I found plenty and though some had good points I had not considered, I noticed a trend with a lot of the unfavorable comments. They didn’t like how much of the narrative spent inside the main characters head. 

While I’ll get into the details during my review next week, it is true that this particular story was balanced more toward the characters than the world building and the vitriol that engendered made me sad a little. Because that’s how I write. 

I have long expounded on my own weak worldbuilding and how I am much more of a character driven writer than a setting based one, but this book and those reviews kind of drove home for me how difficult it might be to take that approach in the fantasy genre. Certainly, many fantasy readers enjoy fantasy because the setting engages them, the characters moving through that setting are secondary to that pleasure, which is why there is such a broad market for sci-fi/fantasy IPs (think Forgotten Realms, Warhammer, Star Wars, Dune, etc.). And while I would never say there’s no market for character driven fantasies, I do wonder if it’s a smaller niche than I previously thought. 

Is it possible to be excellent at both? And be succinct? I wonder. I guess I have a new higher ideal to aspire to.

But first, I gotta fix my worldbuilding problem. Anyone got tips on how to change their entire writing style? 


As I mentioned in my Monday Motivations post this week, I’m (hopefully) heading into some brighter days with my mental health. Which, in turn, I hope, means that I will be getting back into the swing of writing weekly blogs. Please look forward to it. 

Until then, my friends, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.

Kerry Share

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Monday Motivations; TMI

Hello friends. Last week was exceptionally trying for me. Not long after writing that blog post about rising above the difficulties I had been facing at my increasingly stressful job, I had the opportunity to put my newfound determination to the test.

Suffice it to say I failed, and was afforded a discomfiting look at how poorly I had been managing my mental health, not just of late, not just since the pandemic, but for years. The good news is, I’m taking steps to address it now. However much that means for my writing, I can’t wait to find out.

Speaking of which, I am officially back in the saddle again with the freelance writing, and as much as I enjoyed the break, I think the routine of writing every day is important for me to maintain. But this weekend, as I settled into the first few pages of my new project, I was reminded of how… dissatisfied I would be if my writing career never evolved beyond my current output. And how, even though time is a precious resource I never seem to have enough of, it is ultimately up to me to squeeze whatever personal writing I want to do into the creases.

So that’s my motivation this week. At the end of the day, after I’ve gotten my freelance words done but before I completely shut off my brain, do a little bit of writing on my personal project. Even if it’s just a few sentences or jotting a few story ideas down in my notebook. A little bit every day.

Until next time my friends

Kerry Share

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Monday Motivations; Just Keep Swimming

Hello friends. Last week was another exceedingly busy one at my day job and this one is looking only marginally better.

I don’t like to talk about my work too much, mostly because there’s an element of privacy involved and because, though my specific job is administrative and desk bound, the industry in which I work can sometimes off put people when I talk about it like, well, a job. Suffice it to say it is health care adjacent and, as such during this pandemic, busy. The burnout among industry professionals has been very real and the emotional toll for those of us left has been quite taxing. I love my job. I do. But I do not love the position my extremely understaffed firm has been left in.

Last week, even though I had just come back from vacation, I found myself rather quickly short of patience and goodwill thanks to the overall vibe of negativity in the building. We none of us had the time to be especially considerate of each other as we went about our respective duties, some of which strayed far beyond our original job description. By Tuesday I had already begun to feel as though I had had no time off at all.

It was that morning that I made a conscious choice. Although my coworkers were stressed and even at times taking that stress out on me, I realized that responding in kind would help no one. No matter how justified I may have felt (or even been) to react negatively, it would in no way change the situation we were all faced with but would simply serve to sour the mood further. So, I decided that no matter the difficulties I faced, I would simply approach what at times felt like an insurmountable and never ending list of tasks with a positive attitude.

It sounds so simple and even a little woo woo, especially to someone who’s brain chemistry so often betrays them, but… it worked. Though each day proved just as stressful and frantic as the last, by simply refusing to let the negativity into my heart, at the end of the day I just felt better. Tired, certainly, and weary to face it again the next day, but less inclined to brood and bitch about that which was outside of my control. And with the extra mental space that cleared for me, I was able to spend my off duty hours actually relaxing rather than working myself up in anticipation of another slog.

How does this all relate to writing? Well, truthfully, it doesn’t. But as my freelancing hiatus is due to expire on Friday, meaning a lot less free time and a lot more work, I expect this pointedly positive outlook to be more important than ever going forward. I don’t imagine it will be easy, but it will be necessary.

Here’s hoping I have it in me.

Kerry Share

Monday Motivations; Never Not Working

Hello friends! I’ve been absent these last two weeks thanks first to being absolutely slammed at my day job, and second to a planned and much needed vacation. The fall and winter seasons always tend to be the busiest for me both at work and in writing, so a break from both was just the respite I needed to get my mind right for the blitz.

But I’m back now and thinking about that shampoo commercial with Troy Polamalu and Patrick Mahomes. You know the one. More specifically, I’m ruminating on its signature phrase: never not working.

I had a lot of downtime this last month, the most I’ve had since (still miraculously, to me) landing my freelancing gig in April. And while I definitely needed a bit of a breather, I still found myself feeling… restless. Itchy. Like I needed to be doing something. Writing, preferably. Drafting, even more specifically.

As someone who has struggled a lot as an adult with anxiety and depression, who slips all too easily in time wasting but oh so comfortable activities and bad habits, the desire to use my limited free time to work came as something of a surprise to me, but a welcome one at that. It has long been a goal of mine, impossible it though had seemed at times, to turn that itchy part in my brain that makes me write into a career, yet my worst nature to deprioritize that which is not strictly necessary in my day to day life has forestalled meaningful progress toward that goal for as far back as I can remember.

Yet, the distinctly unsettled experience I have been — ahem — enjoying this last month tells me that maybe I am ready to take that step. To think of writing not as a hobby or a passion project, but as a job that deserves to be taken every bit as seriously as my 9 to 5. And if that is the case I need to prepare myself for the hustle. Because if I’ve learned anything about professional writers, freelancers, self-published, and agented a like, it’s that they are Never Not Working.

So today, that’s my motivation.

Speaking of which, time to get back to it. Until next time!

Kerry Share

Monday Motivations; Delayed and Decluttering

Good morning friends and welcome to a slightly belated Monday Motivations.

I woke up yesterday in a bit of a slump, though I hesitate to even call it that. It was more of a… mundane feeling. I didn’t have anything interesting to say, I thought, and though I spent some time staring at this blog page, wondering what updates I could share with you all, truth was: I just wasn’t motivated yesterday.

I still got plenty of stuff done, don’t get me wrong. But it all felt very rote, routine, not worth mentioning. Hence the lack of update.

Today, on the other hand, could not be more different. I sat down at my desk and at once felt very strongly that I needed to declutter. Not my desk, though it is a pretty busy place, but my life. I just feel inexplicably but determinedly ready to shed whatever I’ve been holding onto that is actually holding me back. Anxiety, old ideas, self doubt, the urge to procrastinate.

(I’m actually kind of mad I’m at work today and don’t really have anything I can purge here. Guarantee if I was at home I’d be a flurry of activity. But I’m not so here I am writing this blog post instead.)

How can I translate this to writing? Well, the easiest answer would be: time to start editing! Alas I have nothing to edit. Instead, I am choosing to let go of my pre-conceived notions about this idea I am working on. I am releasing those concerns I have long harbored about the story. And I am freeing myself of the doubt that I am capable of being a real, Grown Up writer.

Today (and going forward, I hope) I am going to write without fear.

That’s my motivation.

Kerry Share

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O Story, Where Art Thou

Friends, it has been a week of ups and downs. My mental health has been all over the place, it’s been insanely busy at the day job, I’m stressing hard about sending my kids to public school in a state where masks have been forbidden from being mandated. 

But it hasn’t been all bad. I pretty quickly on Monday got an idea for one of my two pitches I plan to submit next month, and on Tuesday after some serious thinking, I finally decided which idea I wanted to tackle for my next attempt at a fantasy novel. 

It’s an idea that’s been in development in my brain for about a decade now and I even attempted to write it at one point, but didn’t manage more than about 10,000 words before giving up.

The reason for that is pretty simple. While I have, I feel, a really great cast of diverse characters and, I hope, a setting with fairly interesting deep lore, what I do not have is an actual… plot.

I mean, sort of. Like I said. I have the characters and I have the rough outline of their quest. I know how it ends. But actually getting there… that’s another, heh, story.

With every other idea I’ve ever even attempted at writing, I’ve known the general path the plot would take from the opening scene to the end. The middle, as always, is a bit murkier and tends to develop as I outline and experiment, and even then new ideas crop up while I draft. But, planner such as I am, I do not start writing until I have a firm grasp on the lay of the land.

So the fact that I still don’t really know how to bring these great characters through this interesting world to reach this particular climax… is concerning.

(“But wait,” I hear some of you say, “just pants it! It’ll be fun to discover what you never knew you had in you!” To which I reply…)

no

Now, it could be that this idea (or, perhaps more accurately, this hodge podge of characters and setting) just isn’t meant to be. If, after all this time, I still can’t come up with a way to move the characters through the world, then maybe I’m just looking at the whole thing through the rose colored glasses of nostalgia.

And if that’s the case, I’ll take my medicine. I mean, that’s why I shelved it in the first place. But I’m older and a bit wiser since I last critically looked at this idea. The way I approach my craft is radically different than when I was a 25 year old baby writer making her first attempt at writing a grown up novel. Rose colored glasses or no, I think these characters and the world they reside in deserve a fair shake.

But this will be the last one they get, because I’m not getting any younger.

So, in the wise words of one Lin-Manuel Miranda:

Come on brain. Think of things. Come on brain. Be so smart.

Kerry Share

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Monday Motivations; No Rest For the Working Writer

I’ll admit it folks: I was pretty darn tempted to forgo blogging today (or this week, or even this month). After all, with no active freelance project to inform my writing needs for the next four or five weeks, what could I possibly have to talk about?

Well, as it happens, I’m still a working writer, even if I’m not “working” at the moment.

In fact, when I sat down with my journal this morning to outline how I would like to spend this non-working month, a surprising amount of writing related tasks came up.

For starters, my next pitch due date is September 6th. I’ve already determined that I’d like to do two pitches this quarter (three being too many and one not enough), which gives me two weeks (each) to put together and refine an idea into something sellable. Should be plenty of time, but I also wouldn’t be that surprised if I completely lost track of things and ended up with just a few days to throw things together.

Which is sort of the point I’m dwelling on here. It would be really easy for me to take a month long vacation from writing here. Spend my after day job hours loafing around playing video games or watching tv or all those lovely time wasting activities I do so dearly miss. But what good would that do me? Truly? None. I would only be putting myself in the unenviable position of having to get back into the habit of writing every day. Which, for me, a person who struggles mightily with habit formation and maintenance, would be… uh, shitty to say the least.

So I’ve got to keep after it. But I can’t expect two pitches to keep me occupied an entire month can I?

Which leads me the second big writing related task I want to tackle this month: figuring out what the hell personal project I want to try and tackle. I have so many ideas at so many different stages of development, and, truthfully, all of them and none of them feel like… the correct choice.

I’m sure there’s some analysis paralysis at play here. I would medal in the Overthinking Olympics. And I know that continuing to try and force it would only make it worse. But, with how much time and oxygen the freelancing gig has eaten up, I’m worried that if I don’t take this brief moment of downtime now to advance my personal writing, then those ideas will forever and always be on the back burner. And as much as I have loved this freelancing thing, my goals for my writing career extend far beyond it.

So that’s my motivation this week month. Sort through my feelings on each of these ideas I’ve got and figure out which one lies at the cross section of inspiration and aspiration. Then develop it. Nurture it. Prepare it. Outline it. And heckinf write it.

Oh, yeah. And I’d also like to finish this book I’ve been tryna read all summer.

Until next time friends.

Kerry Share

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Monday Motivations; The Final Countdown

*cue guitar riff*

Friends, the time has come. In five days I will submit my fourth freelance manuscript, whereupon I will be not under contract for the first time since April, and I will take a very much needed break.

When I first signed up for this gig, I had an idea that it would be a bit of an ass kicking. I wasn’t used to writing that much that quickly with a hard deadline to adhere to, but… I also knew that I was capable of it. And so I was. I haven’t yet missed a deadline and all my edits have been not just complimentary, but educational, helping me improve my craft and building up my creative muscle with each new project I tackled.

It’s been an awesome experience, even when I was at my lowest moments (of which I had only myself and my penchant for procrastination to blame). I’ve gotten to work as a freelance writer, dabble in a genre I hadn’t touched since I left fanfiction, work with editors and practice working on a deadline. As much of a hustle that it’s been, I can genuinely say I’ve loved it.

But, friends, I am friggin tired. As much as I’ve enjoyed this gig, it has been an asskicking. Everyday day has felt like I have no time at all to relax, that every waking moment not otherwise engaged must be spent furthering whatever project I was currently working on, if not actually tapping out the words but brainstorming what I would need to do next.

It has made relaxing a guilty pleasure, having outside obligations a matter of stress, early bedtimes or days off nigh unthinkable.

In short, I’m ready for this break. God, am I ready.

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s only temporary. In six weeks or so there will be a new pitch period and I’ll dive back in headfirst, ready to further refine myself as a writer. But this time I’ll be smarter about it. I’ll pare back how many projects I pitch to give myself the breathing room my ambition robbed me of these last few months.

And I’ll keep rolling. Can’t wait.

But first, I’ve got some unfinished business:

  • 10000 words to round out the manuscript
  • Edit the first 3 chapters
  • Quick and dirty proofread

If all goes well, I’ll check back in Friday to let you know how it went. If you don’t hear from me, you may assume I was working right down to the wire. Either way, until next time…

Kerry Share

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Trunk It or Try Again

Hello and welcome to another Border Towns-centric edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.

Well, friends, I’m back on my Border Towns shit.

With some time opening up in my writing schedule after I wrap up this current freelance project, I’ve been doing some thinking about which personal project I want to tackle next.

Before freelancing took over all my spare time, I was working on an epic fantasy MESS code named the Nexus. I look at the Nexus as my “IDGAF” project. It pulled me out of a very long, bleak writing draught and while it is really fun to work on, I also recognize that it would be a tough sell to an agent or editor as a debut author.

Meanwhile, I realized a little while ago that I’m ready to confront the major revisions Border Towns will need if I ever want it to see the light of day. I have come to terms with the fact that it will not look in any way like I originally wrote it, and, more than that, I have come to see those changes as a good thing. Which naturally has me wondering if this upcoming break in freelancing is the right time to put serious effort into the New and Improved Border Towns.

But, this is Just Another Struggling Writer, and here we like a healthy dose of anxiety brain with any and all ideas we have as it relates to our writing.

Border Towns was the first novel I ever finished. Sure, it was a shitty first draft in which I skipped writing scenes that were giving me trouble altogether, convinced I would come back to and add them later (spoiler alert: I did not), included very little description and proper worldbuilding, where the plot was weak at best. But… I finished it. No matter how bad it was then, and how bad it still was when I finally shelved it to brood over the aforementioned revisions, it is precious to me for that reason alone.

But is it so precious that I cannot see the forest for the trees? Has Border Towns always been meant for the trunk, but I’m just too infatuated with the idea to let it go. Am I preventing movement on new, better ideas because I’m so hung up on this one? If I move forward with revisions, do I risk becoming, or am I already too far gone, the person who is constantly writing and rewriting one idea over and over, unable to admit that it’s fundamentally broken?

Because, if I’m being totally honest, I think I’m scared to really commit to a brand new project. Starting the Nexus was spur of the moment, because it was in my head at the moment and inspiring creativity I hadn’t felt in months, but since taking a break from it to work on freelance stuff, I’ve realized that I probably should have let it percolate a bit longer and do some more worldbuilding before diving into something so dense and all over the place.

On the other hand… do I just think that because I’m scared to start fresh?

Is the call of Border Towns simply the comfort of knowing I have a strong foundation to build from? I hate worldbuilding, I’ve said it many times before. I think I’m pretty terrible at it and tend to get bogged down in the nitty gritty details, unwilling to move forward if there’s even the tiniest gap in logic. So, even getting to some pretty substantial worldbuilding related revisions, having a foundation to build from is incredibly comforting.

That said… is it time for me to get a little, dare I say, uncomfortable?

To be fair, all novels need revisions, some even major revisions like Border Towns. This would only mark my third draft (if that, since the second never got finished) of the thing, and it’s not like I’ve spent a decade of my life on this with still nothing to show for it (coming up on three years, but I haven’t really been working on it that whole time either).

So is this anxiety over being too committed to the idea all for nothing? Or is it time to dip my toes into something fresh? Something that, unlike the Nexus, I can feasibly sell?

I genuinely don’t know, but the time to decide is pretty much now. My freelance break is coming up in two weeks and will likely only last a month or two. If I don’t want to totally waste that time asking myself these same questions over and over until it’s time to write for money again, I better sort out how I feel and fast.


So friends, what would yall do in my position? Trunk it or try again? Let me know in the comments. Maybe you can help me sort out the way I feel about the whole thing.

Until next time! May your writing be plenty and your struggles be few!

Kerry Share

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Monday Motivations; Late But Feeling Great

Hello friends and welcome to another wonderful writing week. I am off to a slow start thanks to a first-thing-in-the-morning dentist appointment for my daughter. But I’m at my desk now and ready to get to it.

Last week, I am pleased to say, I started off pretty strong. Then Thursday hit and along with it a pretty serious anxiety attack that derailed my schedule. I’m not panicking though. I got off to a great start today and I’m looking forward to getting back on schedule.

But while I’m thinking about it, I always seem to start off a new week great and tend to flame out by Thursday, even on days I can’t blame mental health. Which gives me to wonder if I’ve front loaded my writing schedule a bit too much.

To be fair, Mondays are my best writing days because, thanks to the way my kids’ extra curriculars work out, I have a surplus of sitting around without access to all my usual distractions time. I figured out years ago that I can use that time to write, and it’s been a big help now that I’ve got deadlines to adhere to.

Tuesdays I have a little bit this same sort of time, but Wednesday evenings I’m at home and have to keep myself on task. Thursdays are the tough ones because I have on out of the house activity smack in the middle of the evening that I have to stay mentally engaged in. Then I get into the weekends, when I inevitably find myself playing catch up from not writing (enough or at all) on Thursday and Friday.

I’ve been wondering for a while if there is a way to rebalance my workload, to take a little heat off the end of the week. Obviously, in the life of a working mother who also happens to be a writer, all days are not equal, and trying to treat them as if they are is giving me some pretty skewed expectations of myself.

So, that’s my motivation this week. Figure out how to ease some of the pressure on my less productive days by utilizing my time more wisely at the start of the week when I’m feeling fresh and have more time in the first place.

As for last week, while I didn’t make my word goal (working on playing catch up at the moment) I did get my reading done. Working on correcting my thought patterns so that whenever I pick up my phone to check Twitter, I open my kindle app instead. It’s a slow process, of course, but every little bit matters.

Alright I better get back to it. Concrete goals for this week are almost identical as last week:

  • Add 8500 words to my current project, bringing the total to 15000 by Friday
  • Read 5 chapters
  • Blog, darn it, on Thursday and Friday

Crazy to think that in two and a half weeks I will be without a freelance project to work on for the first time since April. What the hell am I going to do with myself?

Kerry Share

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