This month marks three years since COVID-19 rocked our world. Undoubtedly, it has been a challenging time, and we are still seeing the effects today. Businesses are slowly recovering, while specialists assess the impact on the younger generations. You may have discovered a few hobbies or activities to make the past three years easier. For me, that was my second novel, The Sword of Sorenth. I began writing it shortly before COVID hit and published it in August 2022. It took roughly three years to create, most of that during the COVID season. This blog post highlights my experiences writing a novel during the pandemic and tips for pursuing your passion through struggling times.
Passing The Time With Things You Love
When everything shut down, there wasn’t a lot to do. Restaurants only served takeout, schools moved online, and most companies had employees working from home. Finding things to pass the time became tricky when you couldn’t leave your house. Everyone’s Netflix consumption skyrocketed, and when we became sick of watching The Office repeatedly, everyone started looking for new hobbies. Even now, many use hobbies as a brief escape from the real world. Maybe you don’t plan on making a full-fledged career out of it. But if that activity helps get you through those tough times, like COVID, then it’s worth pursuing. Since publishing my first book in 2019, I knew I wanted to continue with The Jewels of Fate series and build a career out of writing books. But on the tough days when the city was in hardcore lockdown, creating a fictional world was also a welcome escape. Taking these projects one day at a time is essential, though. Don’t set expectations for yourself you can’t meet. If you’re serious about growing this hobby to something more, implementing business strategies is important. But if it’s just a hobby, have fun with it. Do it because you want to, not because you think you should.
For me, reading became another form of escape from the craziness of COVID-19. Reading was also an activity I was doing more of because of the many days stuck at home. It was a way to relax before bed and get inspired to write The Sword of Sorenth. Of course, I didn’t realize the books I read inspired me until I saw how my novel developed over time. In my last blog post, I talked about how reading can help you learn how to write. But there’s another reason reading is so beneficial. Whether you realize it or not, it fuels your imagination. Over the pandemic, some of my favourite reads included the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas, One of Us is Lying by Karen M Mcmanus and The Guest List by Lucy Foley. When customers ask me where I get my inspiration, I tell them about the books I read in my childhood. It would be hard to pinpoint exactly how these novels impacted The Jewels of Fate or The Sword of Sorenth but it’s so much easier to write well when you enjoy what you’re reading.
Working With The Family
Another question I get asked often is what it was like writing a novel while cooping up at home with my family. Yes, my parents and my younger sister were working at home then. Yes, occasionally, that made working on a book a little challenging. These circumstances forced me to figure out how to create my own “office” space where I could focus. My office became the desk in my bedroom where my laptop sits. Whether doing schoolwork or book stuff, I’d go in my room and try to maintain regular office hours…as much as possible. It was also necessary to figure out when it was time to focus on the book, when it was time to focus on school, and when it was time to do neither. My biggest challenge became treating school and the author business like a job. Working from the house is much harder than being at school or in a formal office because we can get distracted by all the pleasures of home: TV, a kitchen, a bed etc. One of the first blog posts I ever published offers a few tips on working from home.
Marketing The Jewels of Fate
When COVID hit, my strategy for marketing my first novel changed drastically. One fun fact I enjoy mentioning in presentations and podcasts: the first novel launched as a paperback the same day COVID-19 hit the Niagara Region, where I live. I had one day to deliver any pre-orders to my high school. Any other marketing and promotional efforts were entirely online. I learned how to run my social media, build a website and start this writing blog. I did virtual presentations. It wasn’t easy, not only due to the challenges of running a business online but because that excessive amount of screen time can take a toll. Take breaks and have a routine that allows you to do the best work possible, whether for yourself or the organization you work for, without facing burnout.
So yes, writing a novel during the pandemic has its challenges. But there were also opportunities not available otherwise. The pandemic taught me the digital side of marketing a book and how to create a routine even when working from home. And when things are tough, take it one day at a time. Moving forward just a bit is better than not moving forward at all.
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Want Tyler to speak at your school, library, youth group, organization or conference about the challenges of writing a novel during COVID? Click the icon below for more information about Tyler's author presentation "Coping During Stressful Times by Pursuing Your Passion."
Reading has been around for thousands of years. In the olden days, they used scrolls and parchment to debate the philosophical ideas of others, which was the most popular genre at the time. Since then, reading has become an activity that spans many genres and formats. Paperbacks, hardcovers, audiobooks, eBooks, graphic novels…they are all different methods of telling stories. But reading is not just an enjoyable pastime, it’s also very healthy for your mental and emotional well-being. There are many added benefits to reading other than enjoying a great story; this blog post will unpack a few of them.
Reading Helps Your Vocabulary
According to the University of Rochester, parents who read to young kids motivate them to independently read as they get older. Reading from a young age boosts kids’ belief in themselves and increases their confidence in their vocabulary. This makes sense…the more books you are exposed to during your younger years, the more new words you gradually become familiar with. I feel this is why many authors claim their writing inspiration came from a love of reading. Although we may not have realized it back then, we were storing away fresh ideas and new words to use for the day we became faced with a blank page.
Reading Improves Your Mental Health
The benefits of reading are not just for students or young kids but anyone of any age. Numerous studies show the positive effects reading has on your mental health. Psychology Today talks about “bibliotherapy,” which basically means using books to clinically combat mental illness. Fiction, in particular, evokes something called reader empathy. You know that feeling you get when your favourite character suddenly dies, and you throw the book across the room in frustration? That’s reader empathy. Your brain feels real emotions for someone who does not exist in a situation that never really happened - unless we’re talking about non-fiction. Although fiction readers absorb make-believe, this process helps them relate to our world and the real human beings in their life. So, the common myth that bookworms are introverts who don’t know how to properly socialize is wrong!
Reading Helps Us Escape Reality
Ever heard the phrase, “sometimes reality is stranger than fiction?” Whoever made this quote knew what they were talking about. Reality can be a weird thing. I’m writing this blog post at the beginning of 2023. If you’re aware of current events during this time, you’d know we just lived through almost three years of the COVID-19 pandemic and are seeing the rise of artificial intelligence and Web 3. Is it just me, or does that sound like a sci-fi novel? Putting the global concerns aside for a moment, we all live through daily challenges that can be extremely tough to navigate. One of the best ways to cope is by reading, especially fiction, because it allows us to walk in someone else’s shoes for a little while. Reading helps us see examples of overcoming adversity, as most storylines revolve around the protagonist facing obstacles that block them from achieving their desired goal. Books like this can show us that if they can overcome their struggles, so can we.
You Can’t Be A Writer Without Being A Good Reader
Of course, reading has many benefits for individuals who have no interest in writing. However, reading is critical if you want to be a good writer. Many other authors will tell you the exact same thing. Reading a wide variety of books will show you what ideas have already been used and what good writing techniques are. Sure, there are dozens of books created to help authors, but reading fiction allows you to see those strategies in action. For writers, I’d recommend reading both non-fiction writing books and fiction. Learn how to properly use dialogue, and then see how characters interact in a bestselling novel. Read about the importance of setting, and then observe how an author builds and expands upon a fictional world throughout a series. Think about it this way: which do you feel would be more productive? Reading about how Tiger Woods perfects his golf swing or watching the golfer swing repeatedly? Both are very beneficial, but the second option would be more so. The same goes for writing. You can read about writing and read authors who know how to write.
While reading is enjoyable, there are many more health benefits than most people realize. Reading can help anyone at any age and in various professions too. Although you might not consider yourself a “bookworm,” consider becoming a “reader”...the future you will thank you down the road. And for those who already love books…now you can use this article as ammo next time someone questions why you spend so much time reading.
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The publishing industry has had a massive shift in the last twenty to thirty years. Before, you could only call yourself a proper author if you had signed a deal with a traditional publishing company. The term “self-published author” has become much more common recently. Amazon has grown to be the marketplace for millions of books and, when you think about it, is still relatively new. Since officially starting in 1994, the platform is not even 30 years old. That being said, it has completely changed the literary industry and created new ways for authors to publish their books. There are many pros and cons to both self-publishing and traditional publishing. The choice to pursue one or the other depends on your unique circumstances and personal goals.
Why Traditional Publishing Might Be Better
Traditional publishing has a far wider reach right from the start. Publishing houses have strong relationships with bookstores (especially the big chains) and distributors. If you sign a deal with Harper Collins or Bloomsbury, it’ll be only days until your novel is available in dozens of bookstores across the country. Traditional publishing is great if you only like to write and not get involved in marketing or website design. Typically, these are aspects of being an author that one rarely wants to do. The term “author” has come to mean many different things in recent years. It refers to somebody who’s only written one book, as well as a writer who has ten books for sale. An author can be a business owner writing a book related to their pre-existing business, and it can be a side hustle adjacent to another career. Generally speaking, traditional publishing can be much more helpful to an author with limited time because publishing companies have a team of people ready to help with each step of the publishing process.
The Creative Freedom in Self-Publishing
There are more aspects to my business than just the books I sell. My website has a personality quiz, which can tell you what character you are most like. I also give authors presentations and maintain a blog. There is much more creative freedom when it comes to self-publishing. I can choose how I want to sell my books, where I want to sell them, and create a variety of freebies to offer to my customers. Working with a publishing house is much more structured and regulated. Once again, this might be great if you are looking for clear direction on the marketing and publishing process. This allows publishing companies to ensure the books they produce are on brand with their own company. But suppose you are looking to pave your own direction and constantly find yourself pivoting and changing your brand. In that case, self-publishing could be a better fit for you.
You Are Your Own Boss
For better or for worse, you are your own boss when you choose to self-publish. You are responsible for not only writing the books but also handling the formatting and printing of your books and the promotion. There are many available resources to help you, and there are likely many people in your inner circle willing to assist you along the way. Ultimately, though, it is up to you to figure out how. You, the author, book your own podcasts, interviews and events. Not only that, but you decide which ones were worth your time and which weren’t. Most authors also don’t have a background in marketing or know how to create a website. Learning these skills is necessary and could mean taking an online course or summit. I am currently taking a book marketing course called Author Platform 101 and enrolled in the Book-To-Script online summit. While it may seem daunting, being your boss also has some attractive benefits, such as making your own hours, traveling, and working from home.
Whether you should self-publish or pursue traditional publishing depends on your lifestyle, budget and goals. Only you can make that decision based on these factors. However, I recommend continuing to research all the different opportunities available to authors, including the types of publishing packages and costs involved. It’s essential to stay informed in any industry you are working in. But I hope you now realize the massive potential there is in self-publishing and why it is certainly worth considering.
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The Jewels of Fate series has two key locations: the magical kingdom of Acanesia and New York City. If you’re interested in learning how Acanesia was built, check out my author presentation on “How to Build a Fictional World.” Although Acanesia is a fictional world full of magic, New York has many remarkable characteristics that make it a great setting. Want to learn more about The Big Apple? Keep reading!
Did you know that New York is home to 8 million people? It’s a diverse city with residents from many different ethnic backgrounds and cultures. Five boroughs form New York: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. The main character in The Jewels of Fate, Chuck Kingsley, lives in the Upper East Side: a prominent neighborhood in the Manhattan borough. He also lives close to both Central Park and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which are just a couple of the tourist destinations New York is known for. It’s easy to incorporate these landmarks, shops and atmospheres into your story. For example, in The Sword of Sorenth, two of the characters are having a conversation in a coffee shop, loosely based on the hundreds you can find in Manhattan. Afterwards, a chase scene throughout the busy Upper East Side highlights the lifestyle and extreme busyness of this part of New York.
People Can Picture It
Maybe one of the reasons why New York is such a popular setting in stories is because it’s so familiar. It’s one of the most common travel destinations in North America. If you haven’t visited New York personally, you probably know someone who has. But for writers, New York’s popularity is such a huge tool. Your readers can easily picture the streets, skyscrapers, and greasy food carts lining the roads, allowing them to follow along with the plot much easier. Many different movies and TV shows will give a glimpse into New York life too. If you’ve seen Friends, Elf, Home Alone 2 or The Godfather, you know what New York looks like. No other city on the planet is used in film, TV or books as much. For instance, name me one book or movie set in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. I’ll wait.
While one could argue that this makes New York an overused setting, I’d say that it’s how you use the city in your writing that makes the difference. You must put a unique spin on it and try something no one else has done before.
My Personal Fascination with New York
I’ve always been fascinated with New York and have wanted to travel there since I was a kid. Partially because I’ve read a lot of books that take place in New York. Series like Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan and The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare inspired me to set my books in this vast city. I was supposed to finally visit New York on my Grade 12 grad trip, but a little thing called COVID cancelled that. Someday I’ll be able to go and be that tourist who pushes all the elevator buttons in the Empire State Building, just like Buddy the Elf.
So how is New York portrayed differently in The Jewels of Fate and The Sword of Sorenth?
With a few exceptions, nothing is different about New York other than the characters who live there. Since I already had an entirely made-up fictional world called Acanesia as the center of this series, I wanted to make New York as realistic as possible. In other series I’ve read though, New York is a changed version of the actual city. Maybe one of its iconic landmarks is the hideout of the main character, or perhaps it’s a dystopian version of the city after a war has occurred.
While most of my two stories take place in Acanesia, the city of New York becomes crucial even after Chuck travels across realms. This place is not just the starting point of the series but Chuck’s home that he fights to return to. It is not only featured at the beginning of The Jewels of Fate but is constantly mentioned throughout the rest of the series. New York becomes even more critical in The Sword of Sorenth, as Chuck now tries to defend his hometown against enemies from Acanesia.
Whether you live in New York, have visited it, or only know about it from books and TV shows, there’s a lot of features this city offers that can be used to make your storytelling much better.
Tips for Creating a Memorable Setting (RECAP)
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Tension is the part of a novel that makes the story memorable and is guaranteed to keep your reader frantically reading until the very last page. Whether or not the author uses this element of storytelling could be the difference between a "just OK" book or one that keeps you on the edge of your seat. All of my favorite books have used different forms of tension to hook readers and their techniques have sucked me right in. While there is no strict formula that every author should use, here are few ways to build tension in your own novel.
Include a Ticking Clock
No, I don't mean literally to write about a clock. Although, many find the sound of a ticking clock very alarming and it can make people physically tense. But in terms of storytelling, countdowns of any kind can make your writing all the more exciting. If your main character doesn't accomplish their quest by a specific time, something terrible will happen. For instance, if the fantasy hero doesn't defeat the villain, the world will be conquered. Or, if the Western cowboy doesn't stop the train robbery, the little town will lose millions of dollars. Although the stakes might not be huge, the "terrible thing" that occurs should be personal to the character involved. In other words, failing to stop a train robbery might not mean the end of the world, as seen typically in sci-fi or fantasy genres, but it should feel that way to the protagonist. Deadlines also make us act differently and they should force your character into making some rash decisions. In real life, deadlines pressure us into working harder and making irrational decisions because we're not thinking clearly. Think back to when you were in school. How did you act when that massive term paper was due the next day? The more irrational your main character, the more tension there is in your story. The fact that your main character feels pressured to complete a task by a particular time will also urge your reader to fly through the pages. If your character has all the time in the world to achieve the quest, then your reader may subconsciously feel they have all the time in the world to read your book.
Let the Characters Have Disagreements
For those who enjoy watching reality TV, chances are you appreciate it because of how entertaining the arguments can be. Whether staged or genuine, audience views go up the more contestants fight with each other. The same principle applies to books. Most genres operate within the premise that the "good guys are fighting the bad guys". But the protagonists can also fight, or at least disagree, amongst themselves. So can the villains. Disagreements are efficient ways to create tension because they drive the story forward and make the reader want to know how things will play out. One of the best things to remember when planning a story is what a character wants and it will be achieved. Based on the protagonist's personal desires, they may ally with one character and become at odds with others. When you know what each character wants, it's easier to see how they interact with other personas. For example, a character who believes pineapple belongs on pizza might disagree with someone else who believes fruit has no place on pizza. Disagreements also make the characters and story more relatable because we've all had arguments with other people. Essentially, the more reality you put into your world, even when you're writing fiction, the more you draw readers in. You might be thinking, does a character need to win the argument? In most cases, no. Nobody needs to be right and nobody needs to be wrong. Furthermore, the argument doesn't even have to be that relevant to the story. What is crucial is that it feels important to your character at that moment.
Play with the Idea of Plot Twists
Everyone knows that a plot twist is the part of a story where something completely unexpected happens. It can display itself as the big whodunit reveal, a central character dying, two characters suddenly falling in love, and so many other things. Nowadays, many people expect the unexpected and pointedly look for a plot twist near the end of a book. Whenever I read a novel, this is how I think - and I'm sure many others feel the same way. But who says there has to be only one plot twist? Who says it has to be at the end of the novel? Creating the unexpected is the best way to build tension and the best way to hook readers throughout the entire book. So if your readers expect a major plot twist near the end of the book, why not change things up? Many popular novels have used this technique to their advantage. Recently I read The Guest List by Lucy Foley. Her book has a clever and unique twist on the whodunit storyline. Not only are you reading to find out who the killer is, but you're also reading to find out who the victim is. Lucy Foley's choice to include two major plot twists allowed her to write more tension into her story.
So take a look at some books on your shelf and see how they use tension. Do you notice any of the techniques mentioned above? Do they use something entirely different? The more you intentionally try to fill your writing with tension, the more likely you will draw readers in and keep them reading until the very last page.
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If you're not used to them, book reports can feel super scary. How do you write one? How long should it be? What kinds of things should and shouldn't be included? Even if you like creative writing, that doesn't necessarily mean you enjoy writing book reports. Since book reports are the predecessor to writing essays, it's essential to know how to write about the book effectively before trying to prove something. If you're in school, you know that it's the time of year when all those assignments are starting to come due. So, we wanted to give a few book report/ISU tips to help make your report or presentation stand out!
Tip #1: Make Notes While Reading
Making notes allows you to keep track of everything you're reading and highlights key scenes or chapters you might want to return to. You might have a good memory, but it's a lot harder to remember where a character said a specific line if you didn't write it down or mark the page. Finding examples in the book can also back up what you are saying. If you mention how you didn't like the novel's overly long descriptive paragraphs, maybe choose one and include it in your report. That way, your teacher and anyone else can see that extremely long paragraph themselves. Making notes also gives you an idea of what you might want to talk about in the first place. If you've highlighted six different plot twists that you didn't expect, maybe others will like this story because of how suspenseful it is!
Tip #2: Don’t Read The Book All at Once
Reading a book for school can seem like a big task, and it's super easy to put it off. "I'll start reading tomorrow" turns into "I'll start reading it next week." Before you know it, you're supposed to finish the book in two days, and you haven't even made it past the first chapter. Many people think that binge-reading the whole novel in one sitting is helpful, but it's the complete opposite. First off, you'll likely strain your eyes from reading that long, especially if you're not used to it. By scrambling to finish the book quickly, you'll rush and likely miss important things. It's recommended to read a little bit each day (maybe one chapter) and take the time to make those notes. It may seem slow and tedious, but trust me, you'll thank yourself once you've finished the book. Another factor to consider is your enjoyment. Depending on the class, you might not have a choice on what novel you're reading. But if you do get to choose, you'll be naturally drawn to a topic you enjoy, an author you've already read or maybe a cover that looks interesting. If you rush through the book, you definitely won't enjoy it, making writing about it much harder.
Tip #3: Remember that Characters are Supposed to be Three-Dimensional
What will make your book report/ISU presentation interesting and stand out is also what makes the book stand out: the characters. Humans are three-dimensional. We have likes, dislikes, achievements, failures, flaws, and strengths. People in books are the same way. If a character seems flat, chances are the book is not good. You might not have enjoyed that action and adventure story but will be guaranteed to draw more people in if you emphasize how the characters are three-dimensional. Don't just talk about how they grew and what they learned; mention where they failed too. Of course, don't spoil the book. If describing their failures means revealing the ending, then that's probably not a good idea. Similarly, talk about the antagonist. They don't do anything for no reason, and they have desires too. Why does the school bully in the coming-of-age drama write mean notes on the main character's locker? Why does the fantasy villain want to conquer the kingdom? Why does the science-fiction overlord blow up an entire planet? If you can answer these types of questions, you'll make your report a lot more interesting.
Tip #4: It’s OK Not To Like The Book!
Many people think that they have to have liked the book that they're writing or presenting on. This assumption is not necessarily true, and it can cause plenty of problems if you believe this. It's much harder to write about a topic from the opposing side than the side you support. If you didn't enjoy the book, it's naturally easier to write from that perspective. The key is to articulate why you didn't like the novel, and if not you, who is it for? Every author writes for a particular audience. If the Western story wasn't for you, it was meant for someone else. At this part of the report, a comparison is a huge help. If you think Harry Potter fans would like the novel you read, then compare it to Harry Potter
Tip #5: Pictures Are A Huge Help
Don't let your reader/viewer wonder if the main character has brown hair or blond hair or if the antagonist is tall or short. Not only do pictures show what you're talking about, but they also make your work more engaging. Especially in a presentation, no one wants to stare at words the whole time. Generally speaking, including images is more accepted in ISU presentations, but if your teacher lets you put pictures in an actual report - go for it! Images are also used to show who the author is. Many writers have websites (like the one you're on right now) that likely include headshots of themselves. Websites are an excellent place to grab a picture of the author because you know it will be a professional image. If your book is well-known, any photo you find is likely either a still from the movie based on the book or fan art. Some authors, like me, have character drawings of their own that they use regularly. Also, if there is a movie, consider showing a scene or two.
By taking it one step at a time, book reports can be simple. Just because you're not a writer doesn't mean you can't ace book reports. If you thought these tips were helpful, then give them a try and see how much less scary those book reports/ISU presentations can be!
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There is no doubt that the pandemic has drastically changed how we learn and work. Education has moved primarily online. The majority of students now work solely on a computer and meetings or socializing is done in the digital world. But technology was a massive part of our lives long before the pandemic had us social distancing. Many high schools, like mine, did a lot of online projects and taught material from online courses. Taking your laptop to school became as normal as bringing a pencil to class. However, working so much with technology has created some heated arguments on whether typing is superior to writing by hand. I don’t think either option is better than the other. Instead, the trick is knowing the best times to print by hand versus type on a computer.
Lecture Notes - By Hand
Many people argue that writing lecture notes by hand is better than typing on a computer or tablet. It’s true - you retain up to 40% more information by printing the information than typing it. Remembering what your professor or teacher is teaching you is kind of important, since you know there will be a test at some point. I’ve heard the debate that many students can keep up with the teacher’s pace easier if they write notes digitally. However, with most information being accessible through the web, the subject details can likely be found online anyway. Many people take notes differently and when writing by hand, you have the option to format your work how you like. You can create subcategories, break down information using dashes, stars, circles, squares - whatever shape you want to mark important points. Written lecture notes are also more easily retrievable for most students. You can transfer them directly to your binder, rather than needing to search through files on your computer.
Assignments - Typing
When you have a deadline, it's best to make sure you’re doing the most efficient work in the shortest amount of time. This logic is why it’s probably smarter to use a computer for any significant assignment. Now, I’m not talking about the fill-in-the-blank type worksheets. I’m talking about those massive essays and reports. Most teachers want you to hand them in online anyway, so why would you retype what you’ve already written by hand? There are also lots of tools on the Internet to help with editing, which can be a huge lifesaver. For instance, Grammarly goes through your work and flags any grammatical errors and suggests how to improve your writing quality. Whether you're editing online or with a printed copy, a typed document makes it easier. Red pen marks and notes in the margins make your work a little more legible when editing typed text. Overall, typing on a computer is faster, easier to read and gives you have a better chance of catching mistakes.
Brainstorming/Making Lists - By Hand
While some people might use the Notes app on their smart phone to write a grocery list, I think most of us use sticky notes. Handwritten notes are easier to manage, since constantly reopening your phone to check the Notes app can be time consuming and annoying. When you’re brainstorming or writing a list, the ideas are spontaneous and writing them by hand helps other ideas flow easier. Basically, if you write your grocery list by hand, you're more likely to remember that you need to buy eggs. And if you love eggs, this is very important! As for brainstorming, did you know JK Rowling plotted the first Harry Potter book on a napkin while travelling on a train? Of course, this was back in 1990 when cell phones and computers weren’t as popular as they are today, but it worked. It also makes sense to write lists or brainstorm by hand on paper because your brain is likely used to doing similar activities in school.
Short Story (2-5 pages) - By Hand
This may seem surprising, but it’s considered better to write a short story by hand. Often, you write short stories for fun and have no thought of actually publishing them. Maybe this is how you got started with writing or perhaps it was just a fun hobby for a little while. Whatever the reason you start, typing a short story makes it seem like an actual job and you become less "creative." A creative person tends to pull out a pen and paper and start writing when bored. When writing a short story by hand, you can keep it as a keepsake. Then ten or twenty years down the road, you can pull it out again. It will probably be all yellowed from time passed but have an artistic feel to it. Many books have been created from old handwritten stories. Also, after using technology so much, we know that it can be unreliable at times. There’s always the chance that the file might get deleted or become damaged, and then you've lost your first short story about the barnyard animals who left the farm and went on an adventure! It makes way more sense to keep a short story that was written when you were 10 years old tucked away in your closet or somewhere safe in your basement.
Novel - Typing
Novels are much longer than short stories, so it’s way more efficient to type a book on your computer. You can get a novel finished much quicker by writing it digitally than by hand. If you’re writing for a living, you probably don’t want to wait ten years between each book. Typing means that you can edit as you go, without worrying about smudge marks from your cheap eraser. If you don’t like what you see, you can delete text and replace it with something else. Getting a friend or colleague to edit your typed work is much easier as well. We’ve all been there - someone gives us a piece of handwritten work to read and we can barely understand it. Fonts through Microsoft Word or Google Docs are generally easy to read, so you won’t have to worry about people asking what a certain word is. When editing, a red pen also shows up easier on typed text than grey pencil. The biggest and maybe the most important factor to consider is people who type on a device don’t suffer from hand cramps. Students, we’ve all been there - we scribble down four pages of lecture notes and then our hand kills! Can you imagine doing that for a 300-page novel?!
When it comes to typing or writing by hand, there’s no right or wrong answer. One is not better than the other. But there are different times when it makes sense to write by hand rather than using a computer. At the same time, certain situations call for a computer, not a pencil. It’s important to consider which tool to use in order to be the most effective and efficient at the task you are doing.
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We have reached the final month of 2020, and I’m sure many of us are ready to see this year go. However, let's try to focus on the positives. Staying at home so much has helped me to find so many amazing books! With Christmas around the corner, I’ve been thinking about some of the books I’ve read this year and how they would make great Christmas gifts. So if you know someone who’s putting books on their wish list (or you are that person), here are Tyler’s Top 5 Books of 2020.
5. The Threshing by Tim Grahl
Synopsis: After firestorms devastate the earth, the government must ration the little food that’s left. Factions must compete in the Threshing to win enough food to last a year. Jesse is chosen as her faction’s competitor and master coder but soon learns she is unknowingly part of a conspiracy to rebel against the corrupt government.
The Threshing is marketed to fans of The Hunger Games, but anyone who enjoys dystopian worlds will appreciate this book. The Threshing is an interesting take on virtual reality, and the plot kept me guessing until the last line. The Threshing is Tim Grahl’s first fiction novel, and the book proves that he’s just as good a fiction writer as he is a non-fiction writer!
4. Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
Synopsis: After losing his best friend, Tristan is sent to his grandparent’s farm to recover. While there, he falls through a hole and into Alke - a magical land governed by African gods. Before he can return home, Tristan must search for Anansi, the only being powerful enough to fix the hole that Tristan created.
This book had a perfect blend of action with developing diverse characters. It’s easy to feel Tristan’s pain as he loses his best friend, a unique way to start a fantasy adventure. The action scenes are well written and unexpected. I honestly did not know what would happen at the end, and the book set up a surprising plot twist. Kwame Mbalia also doesn’t follow the typical “quest” pattern. The majority of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky takes place in a reasonably small area, and many of the locations are revisited instead of just passed through. Similarly, the main protagonists meet characters who join them on the quest instead of simply showing up for a scene or two.
3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Synopsis: After Starr Carter watches her best friend Khalil get shot by a police officer, she is forced to stand up against the police officer responsible and fight for justice. While people question and argue over what happened to Khalil, racial tensions begin to rise, and Starr realizes she might be the only one who can stop the violence.
I don’t usually read a lot of contemporary fiction, but I really enjoyed The Hate U Give. Despite its length, the book was easy to read, and the chapters flew by. Angie Thomas did an incredible job dealing with racial tension and contrasting it with everyday life from different racial groups. Starr Carter goes to a primarily white high school but comes from a black community. Showing two opposite worlds and their impact on the main character makes the world of the story so much more realistic.
2. Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas
Synopsis: After surviving the brutal contest to become the king’s champion, Celaena Sardothien travels to the land of the Fae, where she learns to control her magic while trying keeping a dangerous secret hidden from everyone.
This book was super long, but the ending was well worth the wait. If you enjoy a series that leaves you on a massive cliffhanger at the end of the book, Heir of Fire is for you. The story is different from the first book in the series, so it might not meet your expectations if you enjoyed Throne of Glass. On top of that, this is absolutely not a standalone book, and the first two books in the series should be read first to understand what’s going on. The book has multiple POV’s throughout, all mysteriously connected and all building to that massive cliffhanger ending.
1. Monster by Michael Grant
Synopsis: The same radioactive material that created The FAYZ is now hurtling toward earth in meteor form. Instead of being contained inside an impenetrable dome, superheroes are now being formed all over the world. Heroes are fighting villains, and a world-wide war is brewing between those with powers and those without powers.
I’ve never read a book I enjoyed more than the original until I read Monster. It’s the first novel in Michael Grant’s sequel series to the Gone books. While the Gone series was amazing, Monster takes the world of the FAYZ to a whole new level. The premise is slightly different, as it’s no longer about every adult mysteriously vanishing from this small community. Instead, it almost mocks the superhero genre. Having powers is illegal and terrifying to the public, regardless of your morality. Unlike Heir of Fire, Monster can be read separately from the original Gone series and follows its own storyline. It’s fast-paced, easy to read, and each chapter leaves you wanting more. There are a few central characters that continually evolve throughout the book, but in ways that you don’t expect. The cameos from the original series also serve a unique purpose, continually pushing the story forward.
If any one of those books sounds interesting, give them a try! I’m sure the authors would be excited to know that their book is going under the Christmas Tree this year!
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Happy Halloween! Although this year looks very different, we can still celebrate a day full of pumpkin carving, cool costumes and lots of candy eating! Want to know who loves celebrating Halloween? Charms wizards! They love every part of this day, especially the tricks. If you're a Charms wizard, like Daqua, you have a tendency to prank others just for a laugh - and get away with it too. Let's check out the other reasons why it would be so awesome to be a Charms wizard.
Charms wizards make the best costumes
It's been proven repeatedly that you don't need to buy an expensive costume from the local Halloween store to look good. Charms wizards are known for whipping up something great just from what they find around the house. And with magic, it's so much easier! Charms wizards are masters at the Illusion Spell, so they can look like whoever, or whatever, they want, if they really tried. Although it takes a lot of practice and concentration to hold a costume for an entire night of trick-or-treating, it's a great money saver, and their costumes look so realistic!
They can easily impress an audience
This one's pretty obvious but very accurate. If you were able to look like Batman, or maybe a fairy, with the snap of your fingers, wouldn't your friends be impressed? People like Daqua make it look easy. Not only that, but Charms wizards can turn an apple into a flying pigeon and make someone forget where they are. They're a hit showing up to Halloween parties and the life of the party too! Charms wizards are also known for using the Invisibility Spell, which makes them disappear. Unless you already know someone who can vanish at will, you have to admit that would be pretty impressive.
Charms Wizards never have to worry about getting caught
Speaking of the Invisibility Spell, it's the reason a Charms wizard will never get busted for the mischief they get into. If you were going to do something that could land you in detention at school, would you stay visible if you had the choice? Not a chance! Instead of sticking around the crime scene, Charms wizards turn invisible until they've reached a safe destination. Invisibility is also useful for stopping monsters or Zeels. We've all seen movies where the character sneaks up on someone but steps on a branch, and suddenly they're caught! Even if a Charms wizard did step on a twig, that monster still wouldn't be able to see him coming.
They can win a fight without lifting a finger
Sure, Combat Magic wizards can shoot fireballs, and Combat wizards can single-handedly lift a boulder. But why break a sweat when you can win a fight by causing your enemies to hit themselves in the head? Someone like Kimi would argue that this is cheating, but there's not a rulebook for fighting Oglaturantas and Zeels.
Charms wizards get discounts at all the best resorts in Aquana
Aquana, the best vacation spot in Acanesia, gives a 50% discount at every resort to anyone who can prove they are a Charms wizard! Why? Well, Charms wizards are most susceptible to the Fun Charm, which affects people in Aquana. Basically, the longer you stay there, the more you want to have fun, and then you start to forget about your problems. When your only concern is having fun, you tend to spend more money on things you might not necessarily need. Even though Charms wizards get into these resorts for half price, they will likely spend way too much money at the gift shop.
So not only is it amazing to be a Charms wizard, but it's also beneficial to have one around. They're useful in fights, are a fun source of entertainment, and have access to some of the best places in Acanesia. Imagine how boring life would be without them!
Does this sound like you?? Take the "What's Your Field of Magic" quiz to find out if you're a Charms wizard!
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While it would be amazing to have any one of the five Fields of Magic’s cool abilities, there’s something about Combat Magic that is so appealing. Maybe it’s the thought of threateningly waving a Conjurer in your enemies' faces and having them cower in terror. Or perhaps it’s because of all the powerful spells. How great would it be to generate fireballs and ice balls at will? Or blast enemies across the room? Let’s break down some of the other reasons why it would be so awesome to be a Combat Magic wizard.
They’re Not Afraid of Danger
There’s a reason why people in Combat Magic make the best Magical Court members. If your job is to protect an entire kingdom, you need to not be fazed by fear. Magical Court members are up against all kinds of trouble, like Oglaturantas, Zeels, and even those pesky Zamps. Although some Combat Magic wizards falsely believe they’re invincible, they never run at the sign of trouble. Take Chuck, for instance. He willingly boards an old bus driven by a Hyna who badly needs deodorant and a toenail clipper. If you’re not instantly grossed out by this scenario, you may be a Combat Magic wizard!
They Use the Best Spells
Ah, yes. The reason everyone wants to be a Combat Magic wizard. Although other Fields of Magic are perfectly capable of performing spells, if you’re in Combat Magic, you’re much stronger at specific enchantments. Imagine being able to start a campfire by throwing fireballs. Or freezing something during the hottest weather. If you play hockey, how about an ice pond in your backyard - in the middle of summer? And if people knew you could use the Blasting Spell to send them flying across the room, no one would ever mess with you again! Combat Magic wizards are naturally gifted at these types of spells, which makes them powerful protectors.
They Have a Better Chance at Becoming a Magical Court Member
Magical Court members are the most powerful wizards in Acanesia and are sworn protectors of the kingdom. Plus, there are all sorts of benefits to joining like fame, fortune, and even dental coverage! Other people in other Fields of Magic can become Magical Court members, but they wouldn’t be as good at the job. Most Charms wizards would never take the task seriously, and Combat wizards would just focus on the perks. However, Combat Magic wizards have all the skills needed and usually the right personality to protect Acanesia effectively.
They’re Good with Directions
If you’re in Combat Magic, you must be good with directions because of all the quests and adventures you go on. Combat Magic wizards know the importance of being on time, so they understand that when people pull over and ask for directions, they probably want to get to their destination as soon as possible. Drivers don’t want to talk for an hour about wherever they are going, like Power of Knowledge wizards do. They also don’t want to listen to you brag about the car you drive, the way people in Combat can do. The absolute worst is when you think you’re going in the right direction after asking for help, but it turns out to be completely opposite of where you want to be because it was a Charms wizard who gave you wrong directions!
So think about yourself for a moment. Are you easily scared or grossed out? Are you good at giving directions? Would you be able to handle the responsibility of being a Magical Court member? If your answers are "no, yes, and yes", you might be a Combat Magic wizard!
Take the "What's Your Field of Magic" quiz to find out if you're a Combat Magic wizard!
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