Monday, November 30, 2015


Well, today marks the last day of NaNoWriMo. How did everyone do? I'm finishing up an editing project this afternoon, which means I'll have completed everything I set out to do in November. *pats back* I won't say it was easy though. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Now that this project is almost done and I've finished writing book 12, what am I supposed to do with myself?

I suppose the answer is obvious. Write book 13.

But! I thought it would be fun, this Christmas month, to give you all a little extra insight into what I do when I start a story. This week, it's all about...


(part one)

How do we make characters? Well, we've been over that before. But today, I'm not just going to tell you. I'm going to show you.

See, that's what we're doing this month. I'm going to show you three of my characters, describe some entities that will be necessary for the story (such as settings, background "characters", etc), and then show you three simple plot points and how they might play out. At the end of the month, I'll then post a short story based on everything we've discussed this month.

That short story, by the way, will be submitted to Mavguard Magazine. Check them out if you haven't already — they're accepting submissions through the end of the year.

To give you some background, I'll be working off characters I've written with before. They're in a series that takes place on Earth and in our own solar system, plus a bit beyond. It's a futuristic setting, but I have yet to set a specific date. I don't like dates. They spoil the fun.

But let's get started on our first character! 

  • Name, Occupation, Role in Story

Those are the three things you'll need to start out, the three things that will define the rest of your character. Now, like I said, I'm basing this off an existing character (because the short story I'm using for this example centers around her). But for me it's a little different, because the short story will be taking place before the events I've already written.

  • Kaylen Stevens, newly appointed Specialist aboard Spacecraft Apollo, Main Protagonist

Now we know who we're working with. But what does she look like?

  • Light brown hair, cut short to avoid as many haircuts as possible
  • Plain brown eyes, nothing special about them
  • Cute, slightly crooked smile, imperfect teeth
  • Round face
  • Caucasian skin tone, closer to olive than "pure white"
  • Physically fit appearance, as much as possible with recent lack of gravity
  • Average height for a woman, around 5'7"
  • Always wears "flightsuit": a fire retardant spacesuit worn by everyone currently working for ES (Earth-Space, a NASA-like operation that involves everyone on Earth, not just the US)
  • Wears her wedding band on thin chain necklace, only takes it off to sleep

Those are pretty much the basics, wouldn't you say?

But then, there's a lot more we'll need to know about her. For instance, what does she like? What doesn't she like? What does she act like? How does she feel about living in space?

Let's see how many of those questions we can answer.

  • She's wanted to live in space since she was a child. It's all she remembers wanting to do, and now that she's finally there it's like a dream. 
  • She left her husband of eight months behind on the planet, while she's been shipped out for a ten year tour aboard ISS7, the newest of the International Space Stations, orbiting Neptune. Her new assignment is to the Apollo, working under Captain Cornelius Madhran. She's been on assignment now for a little over two years.
  • She had top marks out of any student ever when it came to flight and landing of small vessels (like the Apollo), even in storm conditions like that of Mars landings, but she doesn't consider herself to be anything special. She feels lucky to even have the opportunity to work with ES at all, after growing up in a poor family. 
  • She's one of the few people who actually likes freeze-dried food, so long missions aren't a problem for her. She thinks it's fun to not really know what she's eating, and to try new things. 
  • Being that this is a new assignment for her, she keeps her head down as much as possible. People already know her as the girl who got top marks in her classes, but she doesn't want to be treated differently from anyone else. 
  • She doesn't like having to shower in front of other people, but she's getting used to it over time, what with the cramped nature of the space stations. Showering fast isn't an issue, which is good since they aren't allowed much water use. 
  • She gets annoyed by racism issues that still come up in Earth-Space, and she wishes there was something she could do to prevent it, but she doesn't know how. 
  • She's afraid. She's deeply afraid that she'll get sent home, which she doesn't want to do. If she gets sent home, she's afraid her husband will leave her. If she doesn't go home, she doubts that he'll stay faithful. She's afraid that she won't live up to expectations, that she'll be burden, and that she'll make her ship an easy target for the enemy. No matter what she does to calm her emotions, it all boils down to the fact that she's always afraid, and she doesn't know how to make that go away. 

You'll notice how I made her a good person. She seems nice, doesn't she? Maybe she's a little insecure, but that's fairly normal in new recruits, I would think. But then she has to have a flaw. Everyone has a flaw, and frequently they come out when we describe their personality.

Kaylen is deeply and purely fearful. That's her flaw. It may not seem like much now, but it comes to mean something later on. Trust me, I've had characters with this flaw before.

But there you have it. That right there is the basis of a protagonist. Name, description, detail. That's all there is to it.

Next time, the antagonist!

By the way, everything here is officially Copyrighted by RAD Writing, who owns the rights to the novel series from whence this short story came.


{Rani Divine}

Monday, November 23, 2015


Happy Monday!

This week, today is the only day I'll be posting anything in the blog. I've decided that I would rather spend more of my holiday time with my family this year, so I'll be taking most of the week off from work and from the internet.

I'll check in from time to time, don't worry. *wink*

But since today is Thanksgiving, it seemed only fitting that I present you with my Top Eleven things for which I'm thankful:

  1. My savior, Jesus Christ
  2. My counselor, the Spirit
  3. My Father God
  4. Love 
  5. My mother, a woman I'm honored to spend time with each and every day
  6. My father, a man whose grace and giving knows no bounds, a man who loves with all of his heart
  7. My brother, a man after the heart of my God
  8. My sister-in-law, a woman who reminds me often what it is to be beautiful
  9. My sister, a woman whose spirit stays with me despite any distance put between us
  10. My friends, people I count myself fortunate enough to have met, blessed enough to call mine
  11. My fans, for always supporting me, for reading about my writerly life, and for being an epic encouragement to keep on writing 
  12. Life, everywhere around me, in every person and in every creature
  13. Imagination, because without it I'd be out of a job and the world would be far more boring
  14. Music, for bringing extra inspiration to cloudy days
  15. Reeses. Because, chocolate and peanut butter

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Go out and eat a lot of turkey this week, spend time with your loved ones, and thank the Lord for all He's put in your life. Even chocolate and peanut butter.


{Rani Divine}

Friday, November 20, 2015

Press On

Happy Friday-before-Thanksgiving, everyone! Are you guys ready for the holiday? I'm ready for some bourbon pecan pie, I'll tell you right now.

Today, however, we're talking about the third most popular question people (writers and non-writers alike) ask when they find out what I do and how many books I've written.

Question #3: How do you keep your story going? 

Well, that's a good question. And it's also one that takes a little more time to explain.

1. Know what you're writing

I told you on Wednesday I'd tell you how I can tell what I'm writing, even when all I have is a basic idea and a single page of text. It's also one of the best ways I keep myself going. As long as I know what I'm writing, I know how much I need to do and how much I need to put in.

But, to put you out of your misery, I tell between novels and short stories by the characters. If they have a lot they want to say, if even after a page I see that their story is going to take more than twenty pages or so, then I'm writing a novel. If there's not a lot going on, if there's not much that the character wants to cover and they're more inclined to summarize, then it's a short story.


2. Headlights-Style

As most of you know if you've paid attention to my blogs, I'm a deer-in-the-headlights style writer. I don't like to know everything that's going to happen in my stories, at least not from the beginning. For me, that takes all the fun out of it. It's more fun if I don't know what's going on — and it's important for me to be having fun with my story, or else I'll get bored and be more likely to walk away.

Again, simple.

3. Don't give up

Obvious. The biggest part of it is that I can't allow myself to give up. I'm not a quitter, not by a long shot. I finish the things that I start, almost all of the time. I do admit that I've given up on five or six novels after a time, but I'm not very happy about it.

Really, this is the biggest thing that I keep in mind. I don't want to give up, I don't like to give up, I don't need to give up. I push on, I persevere, and I keep going.

That's all there really is to it.

[love and pecan pie]

{Rani D.}

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Good afternoon readers! You're looking mighty dashing today, if I might say. I realize I can't see you, but I still say you're dashing.

How did you like Monday's post? Today I'm going to expand on it a bit, to explain a little more of my process.

Question #2: How do you get started?

If the first question people ask me is about how I get ideas, then the second by far concerns how I actually start to get that idea down onto paper.

Firstly, note that it's easier for some people than it is for others. A lot of the writers I know, my friends, take a lot longer than I do to get going. But if you ask me, I take a while too. I like to get things done at a faster pace. Don't ask me why, because I really don't know.

1. Write down the basics of the idea.

Obvious, isn't it?

I start out by writing it down in its basest form. This mostly involves writing down anything and everything that had to do with the idea, like where the story takes place, what year or era it takes place in, and what's going on around the story at the time it takes place. This is usually the easiest part, because it's all about getting it down.

For me, this only takes a matter of 5-10 minutes tops. 

2. Figure out the first character.

This takes a little longer. If you have Scrivener, then you have a good start — they have character sketches worked into the program, so you'll have a decent idea of how to create your character. Decide whether they're male or female, what color eyes and hair they have, even things like the length of their nails and the timbre of their voice. All of these may come into play in the story. Also, note things like their characteristics, things they like and don't like, things that would push them into whatever role you want them in, what they might be lacking in their life, etc.

Generally, this process takes about half an hour — just for the first character.

3. Get crackin. And if you fail, crack again.

Last but not least, I start writing. Usually I start with the idea that this is probably going to be a short story, and then when I get deeper in I find out whether it's a short story or a novel (I'll go into detail on Friday on how to tell the difference when you start writing a short story or novel).

Frequently, this process needs to be started multiple times. Just starting a story generally takes me a day or two. Once I get the first scene down in the way I like it to be, things go far more smoothly.

But from what I understand, a lot of people take even longer — and that's not a bad thing. The point is, you have to try.

If you don't try, then you've basically given up from the very beginning.


{Rani Divine}

Monday, November 16, 2015



How's everyone doing in their NaNoWriMo work? I'm just about to finish this book, which likely means I'll be starting another before too long, which likely means I won't be participating in the next NaNo... *sigh* anyway.

People asked me questions this week, and here, I'm going to answer them.

Question #1: 

Where do you get your ideas? 

This is one of the first questions anyone ever asks me when I tell them that I write for a living. They look me in the eye, tilt their heads to the side, and say, "Where do you get all those ideas?" And I smile back and say, "They just come to me." which I'm sure you all know isn't exactly the case.

Ideas come in more than one form. Bet you couldn't have guessed that one.

1. Dreams

If you know much about me at all, then you know Telekinetic and the entire Advanced series started because of a dream. I went to bed thinking about this guy that I had a crush on (not really sure at this point who it was), and by the time I woke up the guy was out and Reem and Jameson were in. At that point in my life, I had no intention of being a writer. It wasn't at all something that I wanted to pursue. But as the day progressed and I couldn't stop thinking about the dream, I eventually decided to write it down. The rest, as they say, is history.

All that to say that about a third of my novels and short stories are based off dreams. Some of them are greatly tweaked because my dreams tend to get a little crazy, but the fact still remains. 

2. Ambitions

This one applies more to my short stories than it does to my novels, I think. But a lot of my work is based off ambitions. I'd like to learn how to fly, so I'll make a character who knows how and describe how it feels through their eyes, to be so free. Some days I'd like to be able to read people's minds and know what's going on in there, so I'll write a character like Reem, who has the ability to do it.

You could say that this is also a dream, that these are things I've dreamed about, but in this sense "dream" takes on a different meaning. It's not something my sleeping mind cooked up, but something my very awake and very lucid brain thought of. 

3. "Fears" 

I don't like to use this word, because I never say that I'm afraid. I just don't do it. Because if you say you're afraid, then you're gripped by it and it's harder to get out. I'm never afraid, and I never have reason to be. But I've seen other people get afraid. I've seen it in their eyes. I use those things I see people being afraid of, and I make a story out of it.

In fact, that's partially how the Druid novels came to be. I was having a theoretical discussion with a friend, who thought it would be utterly terrifying to meet a humanoid species that was not at all actually human. So I took that idea and I ran with it, I made it happen.

So for those of you who wanted to know, and those of you who are looking for some ideas of your own, there you go: three places you can look for, and surely find, the pesky little eureka thoughts.


{Rani D.}

Friday, November 13, 2015

Pr vs Po

Well, today is the final day in our week-long comparison mini-series, part of the month's Back to the Writing theme in honor of NaNoWriMo!

That being the case, I thought it would be good to save the best for last:

Prose vs Poetry

Ah yes, the age old question. Which is the better of the two writing forms? Or can one even be called better, when the two are so different?

Again, we the nerds resort to pros and cons.

Prose pros: 

  • No confinement of words (i.e. no rhyme schemes)
  • No confinement of format (i.e. no sentence breaks)
  • Easier to format for dialogue and exposition
  • Higher ability to share details (i.e. setting, character thoughts, etc)
  • No constrictions on length (because let's face it, people will read a long book before they'll read a long poem these days)

Prose cons: 

  • Less structured, easier to fall out of rhythm
  • More difficult to get everything down on the page (due to mass of subject matter)
  • Requires more time to write the first draft, and more time to edit
  • Not generally immediately gratifying
  • Can easily be bogged down by amount of wordage

Poetry pros: 

  • More structured, harder to fall out of rhythm
  • Easier to get down on the page (die to minimalistic subject matter)
  • Requires less time to write first drafts, and to edit
  • Tends to be more immediately gratifying
  • Not as easily bogged down by wordage (if you know what you're doing)

Poetry cons: 

  • Stronger confinement of words (i.e. rhyme schemes, rhythms [even in free-verse])
  • Stronger confinement of format (i.e. more sentence breaks, etc)
  • Difficult to format for dialogue and exposition
  • Lesser ability to share details (i.e. strong settings, character thoughts, etc)
  • More constrictions on length (because let's face it, people will read a long book before they'll read a long poem these days)

Now, do note that you may or may not agree with me on all of these points. These are just examples of the whole, parts to what cannot possibly be contained into one short blog.

But also note this: 

The pros for prose are the cons for poetry, and vice versa all the way around.

What I find good about poetry, is something that's bad about prose. What I find good about prose, is something that's bad about poetry.

Similarly to dialogue and exposition from Monday's post, these two simply go hand in hand. There's no one that can be called the greater of the two, because they're both so very different. They both have things they're good at doing, and they both have things they're terrible at doing.

But, here's what I really wanted to tell you: 

If there are any of those things on that list that you're bad at (say, you're bad at writing settings, even though you're writing prose), try doing them in the other format, to bring out some new ideas (write those settings in as few words as possible, by using poetry).

You may not think so, but doing this unlocks more than a few ideas in the back of your head, freeing up your mind to new and possibly unending possibilities when it comes to writing!

Try it. You might like what you see.

And for those of you who wanted to know: 

Yes, I occasionally write poetry when I'm feeling a little stuck finding the right word through prose.
No, I won't let you read any of it. It's that bad. ;-)


{Rani D.}

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

S vs. W

How'd you guys like Monday's post? I'll tell you, I had a lot of fun writing it... 
Today though, I'm talking about something that applies to me every day of my writer life.


Because I still haven't decided which one I like better.

Scrivener vs. Microsoft Word

If you've been reading my blog for any significant amount of time, then you've seen how often I talk about Scrivener. It's great. I've been using the software for about two years, and I haven't looked back... except when it comes time to edit.

Which is when I start to wonder, which one really is the better software?

Being the little nerdy girl that I am, I made pro/con lists.


  • Organized interface
  • Easy (one-click) to jump between book sections and/or chapters
  • Built-in character and setting sketches
  • Auto-formatting for manuscripts and eBooks
  • Ability to export from .scriv into practically any format
  • Easy to maintain formatting throughout manuscripts

  • No built-in thesaurus
  • Infrequently updated (and British) dictionary
  • No ability to track changes while editing
  • No ability to insert comments on specific phrases while editing
  • Less powerful spell-checker

Microsoft Word

  • Simple easy-for-beginners interface
  • Built-in thesaurus
  • Frequently updated dictionary
  • Ability to track changes while editing
  • Ability to insert comments on specific phrases while editing
  • Powerful spell-checker
  • Ability to grammar-check

  • Unnecessary and distracting features
  • Unorganized interface
  • No easy way to jump between book sections and/or chapters
  • Less comprehensive export feature
  • No built-in character and setting sketches
  • No auto-formatting for manuscript or eBook
  • Difficult to maintain formatting throughout manuscripts

See what I mean? 

While Scrivener is amazing for writing, in my deductions I've determined that Word is better for editing. But if I'm editing in Word, I can't easily jump between sections in my book to make sure I'm maintaining style or plot points. Instead, I have to use the search function to find them.

So what's the answer here?

Or is there an answer at all?

Today's lesson of the day: there is no real answer. Until or unless someone puts together a software that combines the editing and grammar processing functions of Word with the interface and writer-designed tools of Scrivener... There may never be a winner in this battle.

Nobody wins, and we'll go on using both softwares.




Monday, November 9, 2015

D vs. E

Well everyone, welcome to NaNoWriMo week two.

In keeping with our Back to the Writing series, this week's topic is...


In every post this week, I'm going to take two things relating to writers or writing and discuss as many angles as possible in the hopes that we'll be able to reach a conclusion on which thing is better — or at least on which thing is better for each of us.


Dialogue vs. Exposition

I've talked a little bit about this in the past, but I'd like to go a little more in-depth with it today. Straight to the point, let's look at which one is the better one to use in which situations.

1. Dialogue

There are two main things you need to know about dialogue.

#1: Dialogue almost always points to the characters, to their knowledge, and to their mindset and emotions.
#2: Dialogue can very easily become a crutch for writers, when we'd rather have our characters talk about it than simply explain it.

2. Exposition

Again, two main things you need to know.

#1: Exposition almost always points to setting, to what's going on around your characters rather than what's going on inside them.
#2: Exposition can quickly become a crutch for writers, when we'd rather explain it than allow our characters to tell us what they think about the situation.

See how quickly those two related to each other? 

That's because in reality, they're intertwined. It's incredibly difficult to have a story with no dialogue and all exposition. But it's also incredibly difficult to have a story with no exposition and all dialogue. I won't say it's impossible either way, but it's difficult and most of the time annoying for your readers. So unless it's what you feel most called to do, I don't recommend it.

Instead, you'll want to aim for something right down the middle.

See, here's what you really need to know about dialogue and exposition:

When you're writing, you're writing with the intent of someone reading it. That means you're writing to someone. You want them to be immersed in your story and to see it as well as you do, which means you'll want them to get to know both what you're characters are like on the inside and what they show on the outside, what's going on inside their heads and what's going on around them.

Get it? 

We need both dialogue and exposition, working in unity together, if we're ever going to achieve good storytelling.

While many writers sit and argue over which one is better, what we should be doing is learning to master both so that we know how to write our stories from every possible angle, so we don't get caught in the crutches of either exposition or dialogue.

That's the real truth. They're both a crutch. But when they're working together, they're a set of legs.


{Rani Divine}

Friday, November 6, 2015


It's the end of your first NaNo week! How many words have you guys gotten in so far? I'm rooting for you all the way!

(and if you were wondering, I edited 24,000 words and wrote 10,000 so far this week, so I'm write on track with you. Get it? Write?)

Today I want to talk to you about the one little punctuation mark that I hate, the one that I wish didn't exist... except in the few and far between times when I need it.

Exclamation Points

I don't like these things. I just don't. They peeve me. They make dialogue sound silly, they make exposition look childlike... And too many writers use them in their everyday adult fiction.

Please, for the sake of my sanity (and your readers'), stop.

I have a rule: only three exclamation points are allowed in any given novel manuscript.


That's it.

No more.

(You can do less if you want.)

They're only used if someone is shouting. Not if they're happy to see you, not if they're excited and jumping up and down. No, they're only used for shouts. And they're never used in exposition.


Because exclamation points, more than any other punctuation, draw the eye. And we're trying not to put so much emphasis on the punctuation. In fact, those little marks should all blend into the background of your dialogue and exposition so much that your reader doesn't notice them.

Otherwise, they're just not doing their job.

So, no more exclaiming. Add descriptors instead, if you want someone to be overly jolly.

There are times when we need exclamation points. I'll admit that. But those times are very few, and very far between.

Trust me, I'm an editor. And a writer. And a reader. 

[love and punctuation]

{Rani D.}

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


How's the first week of NaNoWriMo going? I hope you're keeping up -- I know how difficult it can be!

Today I'm going to tell you a little about my favorite punctuation marks, and how to properly use them. I may have an addiction to these, and if you've read any of my work you probably already know that. If you didn't notice, I thank you.


1. Semicolons;

I had a teacher once who told me we no longer use semicolons in the English language. I promptly found two examples in our textbook and proved her wrong. Bwahaha!

You should note that it always connects two complete sentences (or a sentence to the list that it points to).

It works like this: (see what I did there?)

Sometimes I wondered; what was the world coming to?

2. Colon :

The basic purpose of the colon is to point. At least, that's how we use it in fiction. It's also used for lists, but those are used more rarely in this line of work.

Anyway, they work to connect two partial sentences (fragments, frequently, or a fragment and a complete sentence) that have something in common with one another, that have a unified goal.

Sometimes I wondered what the world was coming to: it couldn't have been good.

3. Em Dashes — (if you're on a PC and trying to make one of these, the alt code is 0151)

I have an em dash fetish. I've had it for years. People occasionally pick on me when they beta read my novels and realize just how often I use them.

They're used almost the same way as either colons or semicolons, except that they tend to add even more emphasis to a point, and are intended to add dramatic flair. Here's how I generally use them:

I needed to get out of here—now.

My time was coming to an end—and I didn't want it to.

Em dashes can also be used to add a point to the middle of a sentence, which I also do quite frequently.

Sometimes I wondered what the world was coming to—whether we were all about to die or if there was a way to get out alive—and I was afraid. 

One last thing before I let you go, is that you should never use a hyphen in place of any of these. That is a completely different punctuation mark that has nothing to do with any of these breaks.

I sincerely hope that this helps you in your writing adventures this month, and that you won't judge me too much when you read something I've written and count the break-marks.


{Rani D.}

Monday, November 2, 2015


It's NaNoWriMo!! 

Are any of you guys taking part? I won't be this year, but it's because I'm already working on two novels and editing a third. :-P No project to set aside as my NaNoWriMo novel. 

For NaNoWriMo, I thought it'd be fun to go Back to the Writing for this month's series! So we'll be talking all about the writing essentials that I think every writer needs to know, and some pros and cons between different styles of writing. 

Let's start the fun! 


This is seriously one of my biggest pet peeves.

There is a right and wrong way to format dialogue, and I'm going to show you the basics in how to get it right.

1. How not to format

"Hey." He said, "How are you?"

How many things are wrong with that sentence? Approximately three. We'll call it two and a half.

Here they are:

a. The first period should be a comma.
b. "He" should not be capitalized.
c. The comma should be a period OR "how" should not be capitalized.

He said, "Hey, how are you?" 

How many things are wrong with that one? Only one, but it's major:

Dialogue tags should never precede dialogue

2. How to format

"Hey," he said. "How are you?" OR "Hey," he said, "how are you?" (it depends on whether your character is saying it as two short sentences or one longer one broken by the dialogue tag)

Essentially, the basic rules of dialogue formatting are as follows (and it's not as hard as they say):

  • All dialogue should be contained within quotation marks. 
  • Dialogue tags should only be capitalized and put in a separate sentence when they do not involve descriptions of the words spoken. (i.e. "Yeah, yeah." He sighed. and "Yeah, so?" he asked. are both properly formatted. "Yeah, yeah," He sighed. and "Yeah, so?" He asked. are not.)
  •  Periods at the end of dialogue denote a shift from dialogue to exposition. (i.e. "Yeah." He turned away from her.
  • Dialogue tags always follow the dialogue, they never lead into it
  • Only use dialogue tags when you absolutely must.  

So, while you're NaNo-ing, remember these.

Also note that rules are made to be broken... but tread lightly. Some people don't like when you mess with their language.