Happy Tuesday!

Today’s post is very exciting – I have another opportunity for an author guest post. Canadian author S.M. Beiko is on the blog today for a guest post with some advice for new writers!

I know a lot of people following book bloggers and reviewers are interested in the writing process. A lot of people I chat with would like to write their own book but just don’t know where to start! Hopefully today’s post will help with that!

S.M. Beiko’s final book in The Realms of Ancient series, The Brilliant Dark, releases on September 24th! A very special thank you to ECW Press for this opportunity and for asking me to join the blog tour!

Guest Post

People often ask me how I ‘got started’ in writing. I’ve given entire lectures on ‘where do you get your ideas’ as well. But when it comes down to it, an idea is a fine thing, but if you don’t have the skillset or framework to execute an idea into something fully realized and accessible, there is no start point at all, no motivation to push away from the dock into the foggy, interesting sea of creating. 

I sort of dove into that sea, though, without a map much less a seaworthy boat. Extended metaphors are just the start of my advice to those writers out there looking to cast of … 

I started creating when I was very young. I was an artist before a writer, drawing Sailor Moon characters for hours, getting the bright idea that I’d ‘make a Sailor Moon comic’ in first grade and become ‘very famous’ without realizing the show, itself, was based on a manga made by a woman who was far more skilled and realistic than I was.

But what this taught me was that I wanted to make things, and I was fortunate, as I got older, that my writing program in middle school was rigorous. I was challenged to read and write something new each week, and this extreme exposure to books made me want to make one of my own. To create a world and the people in it, something complex, with high stakes, brooding heroes, destined romance, supernatural creatures, magic powers …

Mostly I had very early onset delusions of grandeur. 

Another aspect to this writing program was journaling. Sounds mundane, but hear me out. The mundane aspects of everyday life are the cornerstones of relatable, accessible writing. Writing takes a lot of insight, of thinking about things, of asking yourself random questions and interrogating the answers—all in your own brain. After all, a book itself is a series of observations from a character’s perspective about their surroundings, their general goings on, as the action of the story either happens to them, or they make choices that incites the action. We do that every day in our mundane lives. When you journal, you learn how to describe the world around you, exciting or not. You eke out your ‘voice’ of seeing the world.

I did a lot of ‘mental journaling’ as well, honing my observational skills by taking notice of little things that might be of use when telling stories. I catalogued details, narrated the goings-on around me in my mind as it happened. This was a game I used to play with myself to pass time on long car or bus rides, before the age of cell phones. Knowing how to tell others about the world around me influenced how I talk about my fantasy worlds in prose.

You’ll notice that my first foray into creating was that I was a big Sailor Moon fan, and I wanted to play in that sandbox because I loved it so much. Nowadays, we call the pursuit of creating stories in already established stories/franchises fan-fiction. When I do school visits and I talk to would-be teen writers, they always giggle when I mention how formative writing fan-fiction was to my writing my own original work, but there’s nothing wrong with this. What better way to see what kind of writer you are by taking the pressure away of having to do a ton of foundation work? Pick a show or a movie you love, and write your own version of it. Learn how you tell the events, what kind of twists you would’ve taken with the story if it was in your hands. There are whole communities built around re-imaginings of beloved stories. It’s not for money, it’s for practice.

And to be a writer, you need to practice. A lot.

All of these seem like disparate anecdotes, but they come down to 3 skills I used to get started as a writer:

  1. Looking at the world around you (Observation)
  2. Recording (journaling)
  3. Execution (fan-fiction)

The execution part is the writing part. Anyone can be a writer if you sit down to write. But you can’t write unless you learn how your inner voice sounds, which is what you record on a page based on not just the things you’ve seen in the world, but how you’ve seen them. That’s what makes each book special; every author has a different way of describing the same events, so imagine the possibilities of your way of seeing the world.

But you need to write. It’s a magical experience and it’s also work. It’s never going to be perfect, and it can always improve, and the way you see the world changes remarkably the more experiences you have in it. There are many nuances to writing and everyone’s processes are different—but you can’t discover the process that works best for you without trying a few things first. 

As for where I get my ideas, that sort of happens as a hidden layer to step 1’s observing. My ideas usually come out of seeing something, literally anything, and I ask myself a hypothetical question, which leads to more questions, and then all of a sudden there are characters and conflicts there in my head seeking to answer them. I do my best, and my process has changed quite a lot since I wrote my first novel, but I try not to think too hard about it. I just write. 

The sea may be foggy, but that’s part of the fun. The answers are not always there at the get go, they are arrived at by just going for it. My final word of advice is: just do it. Don’t wait. Don’t over-plan. Just write. See what horizons the boat takes you to; you will be surprised. In a good way. 

And most of all, enjoy the ride, because if you can imagine the maelstroms ahead, you can also imagine the sort of vessel you need to get through it.

About the Book

The Brilliant Dark by S.M. Beiko - The Contented ReaderThe highly anticipated final installment in Beiko’s thrilling YA fantasy trilogy.

It’s been seven years since the Denziens, an unseen people with elemental powers, were unmasked, and seven years since Roan Harken and Eli Rathgar disappeared into the Brilliant Dark.

Marked by Darklings and Death alike, Saskia is a mechanically minded Mundane, raised by Barton and Phae on daring stories about Roan Harken. But the world Roan left behind is in turmoil. The Darklings now hang in the sky as a threatening black moon, and with the order-maintaining Elemental Task Guard looking to get rid of all Denziens before they rebel, Saskia’s only option is to go into the Brilliant Dark and bring Roan back.

But nothing is ever that simple.

The Brilliant Dark is the final, thrilling chapter in this series about gods, monsters, and the people who must decide if they’re willing to pay the ultimate price to protect the family they found … in a world that may not be worthy of saving.

About The Author

S.M. Beiko Author Photo - The Contented Reader

S.M. Beiko is an eclectic writer and artist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

She also works as a freelance editor, illustrator, graphic designer, and consultant in the trade book and comic publishing industries in
Canada and the U.S. Her first novel, The Lake and the Library, was nominated for the Manitoba Book Award for Best First Book as well as the 2014 Aurora Award.

Buy the Book

Let’s Chat in the Comments!

What are your writing tips and tricks? Do you hope to write a book one day?

Victoria @ The Contented Reader

Victoria @ The Contented Reader

Avid reader and tea drinker. I read and review young adult books on my blog, The Contented Reader!

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