New Ideas & Learning from the Pros

I used to think that working on more than one writing project at a time would lead to hundreds of unfinished stories. In a way, I still do. But after trying to write the same novel for almost 2 years, I needed a break.

While at work, I came up with a ‘what if’ that evolved into a story idea:

What if humans are incapable of seeing perfection?

A bunch of other questions popped up after that, until I ended up with a high fantasy story idea (I’m calling it HFI until I find a better name) that feels like a fairy-tale. A dark fairy-tale if that’s possible.

This all sounded great—to me at least—until I realised it needed to be written in 3rd person.

I have very limited experience with writing in 3rd person. I needed help, so I decided to learn from authors with a few books under their belts. I could’ve chosen any experienced writers, but I wanted their books to be in the same genre as mine. It also helped that their characters are around the same age as the ones I’m writing about. I ended up picking Garth Nix, Kristin Cashore, and Sarah J. Maas.

Below are a few notes I made while flicking through their books. (Please remember that the notes taken are not a reflection of the writer’s work. I wrote whatever thoughts ran through my head at the time, including things I needed to remember during the first draft—I get bogged by all the ‘rules’ and forget that I can break them whenever I want).

Sabriel – Garth Nix

  • Allow yourself to use as many adverbs and adjectives as you want in the first draft. Include empty words. Most can be removed during editing. Don’t delete all, or it will feel stilted.
  • Break rules. Use was, had, did, has, etc.
  • Determine the character’s voice and use it. Don’t let the writing be stiff just because it’s 3rd
  • Everyone sees things differently. Let the character’s view of the world speak.
  • Allow yourself to write paragraphs of history and information. It doesn’t all have to be used in dialogue.
  • Include plenty of description. Don’t imply everything and hope the reader is paying attention. Make the world vivid and real in the reader’s mind, even if you have to make it real in yours first.

Graceling – Kristin Cashore

  • Make the writing reflect the character’s mood, task, or motive. When the character is focussed on a task, give the writing tunnel vision.
  • Every character will use a different vocabulary and pause at different places. Some will use long sentences; others will speak in short sentences with very direct content. Includes using contractions and the Oxford ‘and’.
  • The characters will keep track of the weather, season, and time of day if they don’t have access to clocks or calendars. Weather will affect the difficulty of a task and possible outcome.
  • Vary sentence length and syntax (where commas are placed).
  • Give the character an opinion about their superiors, inferiors, and equals. Bring it up when describing scenes with these people.

Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas

  • Make the writing feel personal. Imagine you’re writing in 1st person, but with ‘she’/’he’ and character names instead of ‘I’. If that is too difficult, write it in 1st person and convert it to 3rd during revisions.
  • If writing with multiple POV characters, make it clear which character is speaking within the first paragraph. This is especially important when both are in the scene.
  • Doesn’t have to mention a name. Could use a feature, an action, a setting, surrounding characters, or unique voice/quirk of that character.
  • Every character will have their prejudices. They will all be unreliable narrators in some way. Don’t let a character be perfect or have a clear view of the world.
  • Look into their history. Their experiences will shape how they see the world and the people around them.
  • A minor villain can simply be misunderstood. Let the enemy of one character be understood and respected by another
  • This also applies to POV characters. The actions of one POV character will not always be understood by anther POV character.
  • Don’t explain the motives of one character to another unless there is a severe disagreement and they feel obligated to explain themselves. Some may lie to avoid vulnerability.

Have you ever done something similar to this? Do you have any advice or want to include something I missed? Tell me in the comments


“You could rattle the stars,” she whispered. “You could do anything, if only you dared. And deep down, you know it, too. That’s what scares you most.”
― Sarah J. MaasThrone of Glass

Umm, Hi

I’m not new to blogging. In fact, I’ve had a account since 2011. Though, that doesn’t mean I’m any good at it.

Truth be told, I suck at posting regularly.

I feel like my life isn’t a particularly interesting one, so I don’t want to bore you with weekly posts about life on a cattle property. Maybe I’ll do a monthly update or something… (kidding–sort of)

Since this is my first post here, I should probably tell you a bit about myself. I’ll give you ten facts as I don’t feel like dragging this post out too much.

  1. I live on a family owned and run cattle (beef only) property.
  2. Since graduating high school in 2013, I’ve worked full-time on said property. My Granddad passed away during my senior year, leaving my Dad to run it. Instead of going straight to university, I decided to give him a hand. This is the only reason I’m still here. If he wasn’t my father, I would’ve quit after a few months.
  3. I’m applying for university next year. I’m looking at a few options (Vet Science, Speech Pathology, Psychology, or English) but I’d like to start with a general diploma to get back into the swing of studying.
  4. I write books. Two have been published, but they were collaborations with many other authors. I have finished one for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but don’t intend to publish it.
  5. Last year I started the One Year Adventure Novel course. I’m still writing the novel, so I guess for me it’s the Two Year Adventure Novel course.
  6. I’m raising two poddy (orphan) calves.
    The left is Elmo, right is Dexter
  7.  I currently own 543 paper/hardback books. While ebooks are easy to carry around, I don’t count them. If they’re any good, I’ll buy them in physical form anyway.
  8. Just in case 7 wasn’t clear enough: I have a SERIOUS book buying problem. My record for most books bought in a single day is 32. I plan on reading everything, but I need to find the time.
  9. I’ve kept a diary since 2010, so I don’t know why I’m so inconsistent with a blog
  10. My favourite authors are Richelle Mead and Sarah J. Maas. The first made me want to write, the second introduced me to the fantasy genre (I had an irrational dislike for it until I read THRONE OF GLASS). Now I want to write fantasy.

Okay, I think I’ve gone on for long enough. Time to go feed the calves.