Justice (Deck of Lies, #1)

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Hope's Rebellion

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Writing 101: Should You Be Using Grammarly?

If you haven't already heard of Grammarly, where have you been? This is a browser app that advertises heavily and has managed to spread through the online writing community like wildfire. So as an author...should you be using it?

Built-In Grammar Help

If I'm being honest, I'd make lots more mistakes if it wasn't for built-in spellchecking. Sometimes, I feel when I make a mistake and ignore it because I know the spellcheck will pick it up. But does that mean using apps and built-in help is always a good idea for writers? Take a look at the light side and the dark side of using Grammarly.

The Grammarly extension catches much more than your standard auto spellchecker. It highlights many ore grammar errors than Google Drive, Word or any of the other popular word processing programs. It can even help you with punctuation. Once you've got the extension installed and enabled, you can simply forget about it and do all the writing you want. The extension will catch all sorts of errors.

Simply by highlighting basic grammar and punctuation issues, Grammarly can be a big help when you go back and proofread that first draft. However, like every other similar program, Grammarly isn't always totally right.

Sometimes, you might need to bend or break the rules just a little to make a point or create a certain feeling in the reader. Lots of authors have played with the basic rules -- or ignored them altogether -- in order to make the prose flow more beautifully. So you can't simply make every single correction that Grammarly suggests. 

Grammarly has become so popular that some editors now require professional writers to use it as a standard practice. It's a useful tool that any writer or author can use to catch errors but it also shouldn't dictate how you craft your prose. As always, use our judgment and rely on your own sense of writing style above all else.

Writing 101: Re-Writing the Rules

There are certain things that every fan knows about zombies, vampires and werewolves. You probably have some ideas about what elves are supposed to be. Everybody knows what a hobbit should look like. And if you imagine a dragon, it's probably going to breathe fire at some point. There are certain creatures and creations that have their own lore and mythology. But here's the thing: some writer made all that junk up. So if you're going to include a mythical creature or human-like thing in one of your books...who says you can't re-write all the rules?

Sparkly Vampires

There are certain accepted "facts" about mythical creatures and beings. For instance, everyone knows that sunlight kills vampires. But here's the deal: vampires are made up! Vampires were the invention of a writer. Doesn't that mean that new generations of writers can re-write those rules?

After all, it has been done before. In the uber-popular "Twilight" series of books, author Stephenie Meyer made up a whole new set of rules. Her vampires didn't die in the sunlight, they sparkled. And while purists poo-pooed at this idea, it's hard to argue with the success of 100 million copies sold and five feature-length films. 

So should your hobbits be tall? Should your trolls be sexy? Should your zombies break the most well-known rule of them all...and actually talk? Yes! If you want to write it, write it. As an author, you're always allowed to re-write rules, make up your own lore and go ahead and create brand-new traditions. After all, dragons exist only in stories. So who says that your dragons can't be as different and unique as you want them to be?

Sometimes, re-writing all those "rules" of lore works really well. The secret is to be committed and to be fearless. After all, it's your story. You make the rules.

Writing 101: Killing Your Darlings

"Kill your darlings" is common advice that people who don't write give to writers. What does this expression mean...and should you be following it?

There's a lot of different advice out there for writers. Apparently, just about everybody knows how you should be writing your novels. "Kill your darlings" is one extremely common expression that's told to writers all the time. Basically, it means that you should kill off your favorite characters.

Killing Characters

The philosophy behind it is that the plot will make a bigger impact on readers when you kill off your favorites, because your favorite characters will be the audience's favorites, too. 

It's true that the death of a character should create a visceral reaction in readers. You want them to feel it. You even want them to cry...at least a little. But when it comes to writing, nothing is ever as easy as a cute little motto or a pat piece of advice.

Killing Them Softly

Because "kill your darlings" can be done badly, too. And the trouble is, by now everyone's heard this advice. Even non-writers have heard this incredibly common expression and they know what it means. Readers are savvy to all the tricks that writers attempt to pull off. If you work too hard to make a character likable, you might as well just name the character Hi I'm Going to Die. 

You never want readers to sense the plot that's coming. You want to keep them guessing, shake them up, twist them and shock them. And if you create some super-lovable character that they're patently supposed to like, it's pretty guaranteed that they won't like that character. When the clear "darling" dies, readers will turn the page with hardly even a sigh.

Die, Die My Darling

There are some "right" ways to kill your darlings without spoiling your own plot. With an audience of sophisticated readers who won't fall for a simple trope like "kill your darlings," you're going to need to be a bit more clever.

  • You can always make a character so darling to readers, they think you'd never kill them off. Don't just make them like the character. Make them adore the character. Once the audience thinks that person is definitely safe, drop the hammer...so to speak. 
  • Make them darling later. Turn the idea upside-down by making readers like a character only after death. This way, the death will continue to resonate with readers as they learn how likable an already-deceased character truly was. When they read the book a second time, the death will be even more powerful than it was to them on the first read.
  • Kill someone who seems really important. Killing a character who feels like a main character can be shocking and devastating when it's handled the right way. Your main character's love interest or best friend, for example, can become a shocking death on the page. Kill a character that seems like a solid, integral part of the story.
It's every writer's task to find a way to twist plots and take old tropes and turn them into something new. You can follow the standard advice of killing your darlings...but try to do it in a way they won't see coming, or it won't have the effect you want.