Putting the Truth in Fiction

Great questions raised here. Drop by and leave your thoughts.

Medley of Mo

Can you put too much of your personal life in a work of fiction?

This is the question that is currently hanging over my head. It comes with three problems.

  1. Does the familiar, realistic element of the character/story have a negative impact on the writing?
  2. What happens if someone recognizes him or herself in your work?
  3. Are you giving away too much of your personal life?


Aside from journaling, I write fiction. Telling the truth can open the door to a world of problems in your personal life. Personally, that’s not something I want to think about when I’m writing. (Kudos to those of you that do it.) Still, to say that we fiction writers don’t pull from our lives to write our stories would be a lie. The novel I’ve been working on for the last two years developed because of one of my obsessions. From there, it…

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On Girls Doing Stuff

I now have a new fantabulous way to characterize my favorite heroines and the heroines I hope to write: Girls Who Do Stuff

Hot Key Books Blog

katiecoyleToday’s blog is by one of our Young Writers Prize winners, Katie Coyle. You can follow Katie on Twitter or Tumblr. Look out for her prize-winning novel, VIVIAN VERSUS THE APOCALYPSE, which comes out in paperback on 5 September. To read an extract of her novel, click here.

The only thing I knew for sure when I started writing Vivian Versus the Apocalypse was that I wanted my heroine, Vivian Apple, to be a Girl Who Does Stuff. This my very professional literary term for my favorite kind of female character—the kind that goes out into the world, thinking and fighting and asserting herself, rather than the kind who sits primly at home being pretty, while her boyfriend does the adventuring.


There’s room in this world for both these kinds of girls, but it’s the Girl Who Does Stuff that has always sparked my imagination. This girl goes…

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The Literary Calling – Why Do You Want to be a Writer?

Listen to my girl here. You want to know why I want to be a writer? Because I can’t hack it as a rockstar.

Medley of Mo

“Why do you want to be a writer?” I have been asked this question more times than I can recall, but I’ve always had to answer quickly. I’m so thankful to have escape these situations unscathed that I forget them and move on. I never stop and think about it, and I mean really think. That may sound strange coming from a creative writing major, but how much did you know about your future at eighteen? (If your plan worked out, kudos to you! Honestly, kudos!)

With that said, I wanted to take a time out and ponder the question. Why do I want to be a writer? ….

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I was born to be a writer,” “I eat, sleep, and breathe writing,” or, “I’d die if I couldn’t write.” Well, not me. In fact, I say that’s crap. You eat food…

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Adventures of Aria: Necromancing the Snow

Currently Playing: Black Veil Brides, Devil’s Choir (on repeat)

I have finished my second manuscript—the first that will see the light of day—and as I re-read it for the hundredth time I’m still stunned that I actually wrote these pages. I can’t believe I sat in Cathy Day’s (http://cathyday.com/) novel writing class a year and a half ago and, from the depths of my mind, created these characters and the world of Tiger, Tiger.

I. Cannot. Believe. It.

It’s far from being perfect, every read through I find something that could still use more polishing and tinkering, but at this point every time I try to fix it I make it worse. And if I learned nothing else through four and a half years of college writing courses, author interviews, and literary agent blog posts it’s that this is actually a good thing. I’ve reached the limits of my current skills and it’s time to ask someone else to lend their talents and skills to this manuscript.

You know, writers like to think the blank page is scary, but the terrifying part has only just begun. After months of writing, editing, crying, screaming, and moping it’s time to send my baby out into the world. The query letters are written, months of combing through agents via social networking and google searches have finally come to a head. I can’t put it off any longer. If I want even a chance of making some kind of living off my imagination, other eyes must see it. Fortune favors the bold, right?
I haven’t slept more than three or four hours a night since I wrote my first query. I’ve gone over those eight letters four and five times, re-read the submission guidelines, picked up every book I could get my hands on that felt like it fit with the world and characters I created.

I Am Terrified.

I know agents aren’t big scary creatures. I talk to them on twitter and I’ve met a few at the Midwest Writers Conference (http://www.midwestwriters.org/). They’re good people who love reading and writing just as much as I do, hence their occupation.

I’ve been telling myself for a year to brace for form rejections and, really, I thought I was ready. But now the time is here to send my manuscript into the world, as prepared as my beta readers and I can make it, and I’m not ready at all for that rejection. I could cry just thinking about it.

All those pesky “what-ifs” I could shoo away while immersed in the world are now coming up hard and fast. It’s time to take a critical business eye to my work; is it saleable? What audience am I aiming for? What genre? What sub-genre? Are these first ten pages good enough to hook?

A lot of the agent profiles I looked at said they were looking for “excellent” writing, “wonderful” worlds, “endearing and complex” characters. Their Bestsellers are listed, their authors and all their awards are proudly displayed.

And then there’s me.

This is my first novel. I don’t have any awards. The only things I’ve submitted were three poems to Ball State’s Broken Plate magazine and received a polite form rejection for all of them. Is my writing excellent? Is my world developed enough? Are there too many details? Not enough? Does my character properly show off her many sides or is she only one dimension?

I don’t know if I have the ego to handle eight and more form rejections for something I’ve spent two years pouring blood, sweat, and tears into.

This is beautiful. Everyone, male and female, needs to read this and let the words settle in your heart.

Edrie Corbit

To my dearest Belle, I would never have guessed that at only 10 months I would have to tell you this, but you are not safe. More specifically, your body is not safe. And since your body is the house for your soul, all that you are perches dangerously close to jeopardy.

You live in one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to women’s rights. Moreover, you live in one of the most progressive states in that progressive country. Yet, yesterday, the California Court of Appeal relied on an 1847 law to say that a man who snuck into the room of an unmarried woman and had sex with her, while pretending to be her boyfriend, did not rape her. Because she was unmarried and Victorian law was like that, the court said she was not raped. And because no one cared enough to revisit…

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Lovely pictures of a Shinto shrine in Mishima Taisha. Follow the rest of the adventure!


So, as promised, here is a look around Mishima Taisha. I apparently had the same idea as everyone else in the city, which was to go take pictures of the sakura (SAH-koo-rah, not suh-KOO-ruh) as they were at their peak bloom and just beginning to fall. I went fairly early in the morning, and so I got breakfast at the shrine.

I’m not sure what exactly it was, but it was basically rice, battered and fried on a stick, and then doused in mayo, soy sauce, and green onions. It was DELICIOUS. (It was also probably terrible for me, but this was the day that I learned that shrine food seems to be pretty much the same as fair food in the States- mostly fried, and kind of expensive.)

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The Sound of Madness: The Beginning


            It being the start of Camp NaNo, I thought I’d really kick this blog off with what I’ll be occupying myself with this month. I’ve spent several months, even years, with the idea percolating in the back of my mind; there are scraps of paper with random words and short phrases jotted on them scattered in journals and drawers, and when I look out my window I see the characters on the street.

Now, either it’s time for medication or it’s time to write.

Music is a part of who I am. I’m always listening to something while I type. A lot of people use background music, this isn’t something new. This has never had much of an impact on my writing; it’s just something to occupy my mind when I hit a snag or to block out background noise or a way to set the mood for a scene. But this manuscript, this storyline, these characters; they’ve proven to be quite different from anything I’ve ever written.

The story wriggled its way into my head after I got Black Veil Brides’ album Set the World on Fire. Track number six has become something almost sacred to me. It’s the song that hit the top of my “Songs that will get me Fired” playlist for work. It’s the song that gave me the courage to flip my major from anthropology to creative writing my final two semesters of college. It’s the song that told me to look beyond this dying town and go. If you’re a fan, you’re probably humming the chorus by now, if not; the song is called “Rebel Love Song”.

This song is freedom. I can’t fully express the buoyant joy the chorus fills me with, the teeth-grit determination the verses give me and the inexplicable feeling of flying I get when that guitar solo kicks in. And it’s that whirlwind of emotion, that impact that goes deeper than skin when you hear the words, that my newest manuscript is built on and why it’s working title is Rebel Love Song.

I’m writing my character to embody these songs that—through my own hectic life—have become pep talks, shoulders to cry on, hands to pull me up, and a friend to sit with me when I start to break.

I have tailored a song list to fit this storyline. Every section, every chapter, right down to the paragraphs; correlates with a song. And I hope I can find the words to do these songs and these feelings justice.


P.S. It’s not too late to join Camp NaNo this month! You can sign up at www.nanowrimo.org or www.campnanowrimo.org. You can find me there as Writing_Fiend. Happy Writing!