Seeking Inspiration at the Beginning


Four years ago, I sat at the dining room table in my grandmother’s house. It was a cold, humid day in Lima, Peru.

I could not stop thinking about the ocean; it’s only a short drive from her house, and 80% of my inspiration that year came from seeing the crashing waves. Thinking of the ocean, I began to write the first real draft of what would later become Dissonance—I say real because there were other drafts with the same characters.

The characters had different names and played different parts, but they were the same. It’s difficult to explain, but those characters evolved into what they are now in the published works.

I rewrote that first draft of Dissonance—then called Crashing Melodies—so the storyline also changed, like a child growing up. The location shifted into place until Serenade, my fictional seaside kingdom, looked and felt just right.

When I got home, I edited and published Dissonance. Then I wrote and published the second part of that series, called Serenade.

 

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I’m back at my grandmother’s house, four years and two books after that foggy winter day!

 

It’s fitting that I should be in Peru to write the third book (perhaps even more.) Two chapters of it were written at home, but I’m certain that when I see the ocean this story will thrive, like it did the first time.

Getaways help with writing.

Have you ever found inspiration for a story by leaving your comfort zone? I would love to hear what happened!

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The Late Serenade Announcement


My second book, Serenade, has been available on Kindle for a few weeks now, but I didn’t want to write a blog post about it until you could get it on paperback. Now it’s all set up (get your paper copy here!) and I can finally gush about it.

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This is the second book following Allie’s adventures–the second of many books, because I’m not good at coming up with endings. I keep coming up with subplots and different ways to expand on world-building. I’ve been working on Serenade all year; it’s so strange to be holding it as a paper book! It finally feels real.

I had a lot of help from friends and family (hi, Mom!!) Special thanks go to Kristia S. for the lovely cover. Thanks also to my editors, Alex and Sarah. Then there are all the beta readers–some of which even read the book twice–including Syd, Rae, Faith, Phil, Alex (she has been such a great help!) Jennifer and Chris. Briana has also been a great encouragement. I wasn’t able to mention everyone in this blog post, but know I could not have done this alone. You’ve all been very patient with me; I am blessed to have so much support for this journey.

Here’s what the story is about:

Months after her narrow escape from death, Allie feels incomplete. She is weakened by Dissonance, a music-based illness which drains her strength every day; she struggles to feel useful, living a quiet life with her family in their Florida apartment.

As faery tales begin to fall, an unexpected death drives them back to Serenade, a kingdom where many see them as traitors. Facing new responsibilities, Allie must prove she has the strength to be a Muse and finally beat her Dissonance for good.

Read it on your Kindle by purchasing it here! And remember, each time you buy a book, you help me fund my coffee obsession. :D I’m already working on book three! (And a couple more.)

I hope you’ve had a good year, and when you read Serenade, I hope you enjoy it!

-Mariella

On Mermaid Tales & Short Stories


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I may have completed edits for Serenade (which I still expect to release sometime in October,) but that doesn’t mean I’ve stepped away from these characters and their adventures.

It has been a fun week of world-building and character profiling. My personal copy of Dissonance is currently full of sticky notes! They were placed to mark facts I would like to expand on in future books. The first book focused more on characters than setting, leaving plenty of room for creativity in future installments.

In the process of taking notes for backstory and character personalities, I accidentally worked out a rough outline for Book 3. I have always wanted to write a world involving mermaids, and can finally get to that when I work on Allie’s next adventure. With the help of some friends, I have worked out some of mermaid culture, and it’s more complex than I had anticipated.

It would seem backstory is a lot easier to work on than a blurb for Serenade. I will try to have it ready this weekend, though; in the past I have been very good at procrastinating, but want to change that. There will never be a blurb if I don’t sit to type it up.

Another habit I’ve been working on is writing a little every day; a lot of that random fiction has been shared on this blog. It’s a way to control plot bunnies and make sure my Muse doesn’t get bored. Short stories are an interesting new form of writing; I look forward to practicing and getting better. I’ve been reading collections of short stories, starting with a book of Mark Twain’s work, and for Halloween I’m going to try Lovecraft.

How have your stories been treating you? Do you have a specific method for world-building? Do you work on detailed character profiles?

I would love to hear your advice!

On Finishing Serenade & Old Clichés


There is a curious emptiness many writers feel when a project is finally done. I’ve finished editing Serenade, and find myself searching for ways to pass the time—plotting a new novel, or working on my TBR pile.

It’s tempting to keep searching the document for things to edit, but I’ve already made all the changes suggested by my beta readers. I checked for typos and inconsistencies; I mended paragraphs and smoothed out sentences. Any changes I could make now would be for the sake of doing something to the manuscript, which wouldn’t necessarily help it. I have to sit back now and work on something else, because Serenade is as close to ready as it’ll ever be.

There is a point where you know you’ve done all you can for a book, that it can stand on its own, and it’s almost time for a book release. This is an exciting feeling, for sure, but it also brings the emptiness—the sensation that you need to be working on something, writing something. There’s almost a feeling of betrayal—why isn’t your manuscript around to help you anymore?

It’s attachment, it’s habit, and it can be bittersweet. It’s also liberating, because now I can start plotting my next novel.

Thank you for providing support on this journey as I went through the beta rounds, made edits, and even procrastinated work! I don’t know exactly when the book will be out. It’ll probably be in October, because that’s my favorite month (Halloween!)

Also—Serenade is shorter than Dissonance by a couple of chapters, and I feel perfectly okay with that. A struggle I had throughout the writing process was fear of not making it the length I wanted. I read the manuscript this morning, though, and feel that it said what it needed to. It’s not worse because of those couple thousand missing words. Quality over quantity—it’s an old cliché, but a lesson I learned, and a piece of advice I will keep with me whenever I am working on a new book.

How do you deal with the emptiness after you finish writing a project? Are there specific ways in which you pass the free time?

Edits & Expectations


I’ve been on hiatus for several weeks now. Yesterday, it took a long time for me to muster the courage to open Serenade and start final edits. Perhaps I was afraid it would need rewriting.

In the past, I could only make my stories better by rewriting entire chapters. This time, it’s not the case. I worked hard to shape it up before the second beta round, apparently with good results!

Once I got to work, I managed to control my impulse to over-edit. I don’t need to rewrite every sentence. Some need deleting, sure, and a word has to be changed here and there. Nothing drastic, though.

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With three chapters edited, I’ve managed to pick out some quotes that stayed in place throughout the drafting process, like the one above. Sometimes, though, it feels like I’m reading a chapter for the first time.

That hiatus helped. Space is necessary if you want to make progress, once the time  comes to edit. It’s important to see your manuscript with fresh eyes. I’m happy with edits so far, and not scared like I was earlier.

Do you follow a specific routine during the editing process? Is paper necessary for you to spot errors in your manuscript, or do you work better with the flexibility of a Word document? We all go about it differently; I’d love to hear your point of view!

Road to Serenade – Day 1


When you’re a writer, time goes by slowly. Maybe it’s because we play with time in the stories we tell; everything appears bigger and full of mystery.

It feels like years have passed since I started drafting Serenade. I completed the first version in early January, and in the time since then, I’ve learned a lot about writing and the story itself.

I’ve been on a writing hiatus for several weeks, but it’s time to get back to work. Because of the second beta round, I have wonderful feedback to work with. Some friends were patient enough to read the manuscript twice, for the spring and summer beta rounds. I don’t know where I would be without them!

On the first day of edits, I’m going to spend a lot of time rearranging my desk (hahaha…) and figuring out how to organize the critique. Each reader commented on different aspects of the novel, so I got to see it from many perspectives; I realized books take shape depending on the reader.

I’m confident that, once combined, all the feedback will help me turn Serenade into a novel many people will enjoy. I already think it’s better than Dissonance, and the next book will certainly be better than both of them.

I will be blogging as I edit, sharing excerpts and venting frustrations. Thank you for having accompanied me all year as I worked on this new story. I hope you get to read it soon!

Dealing with Manuscript Fright


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Writing a book is one of the most difficult things in the world. Having just finished a novel this week, I feel like it’s the most difficult thing.

Even now that I have an almost-complete draft, putting it away for a month remains a challenge. My mind won’t settle; it keeps insisting that I have one more change to make, a change that can’t wait until my hiatus ends.

To make matters worse, Serenade is a sequel. I have to check the first book, Dissonance, to make sure I don’t publish a sequel with contradictions. Because I’ve spent the last six months editing my work, I can’t even seem to get through my first novel without correcting each sentence, and it’s already published!

Over time, our writing styles change. I don’t hate my writing, though—it’s more complicated than that. Sometimes I come across lovely passages and surprise myself, thinking, “Did I write that?” Other times, I struggle with the impulse to rewrite and edit everything.

In theory, I could rewrite everything—it’s a benefit of being an indie author. That doesn’t make it the right choice, because no matter how many times I rewrite a novel, I will never be satisfied with my own work.

If you’re a writer, you probably won’t be, either. Most writers struggle to recognize our own talent, because we are always comparing ourselves to other authors. It’s a wall we can’t get past.

My voice will never be like Bestselling Author #1. My imagery will never be lyrical like that of Bestselling Author #2. I’d like to forget the feeling that they’re so much more talented than me, but my brain won’t allow it.

The only way to get better at my craft is to practice, ignoring those thoughts.

I keep writing, even though I never feel good enough. I keep writing, even though I can’t see my own progress. I keep writing, because I have stories to tell. I may not be poignant as Bestselling Author #3 now, but I’ll never improve if I give up.

Besides, those bestsellers I compare myself to struggle with this, as well. Most writers are haunted by the very same conflict. In the end, it’s our choice—will we let the ghosts silence us, or will we continue on the storyteller’s journey?

I’ve made my decision. It’s your turn.

Writing Update: The Spontaneous Novella


As I stated in this post, when I am immersed in a writing project my blog suffers. It’s been weeks since my last post; every day I had the intentions of writing a review, since I did quite a bit of reading despite the writing and edits, but there never seemed to be time.

Since my last post, I’ve made a surprising amount of progress with projects. Serenade went through heavy edits and will soon begin the second beta round. Not only that, though—in my free time after I finished the round of edits, I started a novella.

Perhaps I had the story in me for so long that all I needed was an outline to help gain momentum. A couple of weeks after I started the project, I finished with a 41k manuscript. It’s a first draft nobody can read yet, but it was refreshing to know I could start something new and make progress.

It’s related to Dissonance and Serenade—it’s a novella based on the character Meredith, whose backstory is powerful. It seemed fitting to give her a spotlight. I learned how different a character can look when seen through the eyes of another protagonist.

Every writer should try seeing their characters from new angles, discovering strengths and weaknesses. It’s not necessary to write a whole book, but you learn quite a bit by exploring a different perspective for a few paragraphs.

Later I will write a blog post about this. Today I just wanted to update the site so it isn’t so dead—I promise I was doing something productive! There are two manuscripts on the way now.

I hope you’ve had a good summer so far! What books have you enjoyed most over vacation?

Writing Update: On Short Novels


I’m taking another break from editing Serenade, and thought this an appropriate time for an update. I get so caught up in the editing process that I forget to tell people how I’m doing.

I’ve learned many things since editing began, but perhaps the biggest lesson is that my books tend to be short. It’s been a cause of frustration, since I’ve always thought books should be longer as the series progresses (looking at Harry Potter as an example.)

It means I fell into the comparison trap. If the Fallen Faery Tale series winds up being a collection of short, well-written books, I’ll be happy. Future readers will be happy, too!

I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about what to do for my word count to increase. Whenever I focus on my book length, the story quality decreases. Not only that, I stop enjoying  the storytelling process.

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What should I do? I’m going to let the story be. I can’t make a tale longer than it wants to be. It takes away from the magic of writing! Besides, some of the best books written are short.

I’ve created a rule I’m struggling to follow: I’ll only worry about writing the amount of words required to tell a good story. It is not my goal to write a long story, but a good one.

Don’t get me wrong—long books are wonderful, too. I just haven’t come up with a plot that could comfortably stretch into one. There are some plot bunnies whispering “it’ll be me!” but I’m refusing to look at them yet, as they would become distractions.

My goal right now is to release Serenade. I’ve been working hard, which is why my blog lost momentum in the last two weeks. It’s all for a good cause.

Until Serenade is ready, why not give Dissonance a try? Find it here!

What Art Teaches


Someone dear told me once that art is about learning.This applies to writing as well—but we aren’t just learning how to improve our craft or tell a story; we’re learning how to prioritize projects.

Right now I have two novels to edit and a little something I started in a notebook today. I’m learning to keep the plot bunnies at bay so I’ll actually put books out when I finish writing them. The Autumn Prince and Serenade both need work; if I give those plot bunnies the attention they want, I’ll be writing and writing without publishing anything.

I was going to launch another serial this spring, Daughter of the Forest, but I don’t think I’ll have time. I’ve been working on the draft, but it won’t be done by April; it might become a summer project. I’m eager to dedicate my blog to storytelling again; however, I’m going to do it when I know I can give it my all, like I did in October with The Autumn Prince.

Art is about learning to tell stories, no matter what your medium—but you have to figure out your limits. How much can you handle at one given time? It’s important to allow yourself a breather to binge-read a series or stare out the window at nice weather.

The Autumn Prince (novel) and Serenade should both be presentable by the end of the year if I learn to manage my time. I will keep you updated; I am so excited to have more books out!

If we don’t take the time to rest and reflect, our art will sound lifeless and forced. It took me this long to accept that truth. Each story will have its turn, but right now I have to focus more on editing than writing new manuscripts.

What are your plans for this spring? How do you handle demanding plot bunnies?