Writer’s Corner: Writing strong female protagonists

We are well into the swing of the Kickstarter for Delilah and the Women in the West adventure series. One thing that stands out with the books in this series are its strong female protagonists and female historical characters which make appearances in each one. But it takes finesse to create a tough female character that is believeable.

So how do you write a strong character? According to the Six Figure Author Podcast’s (episode 108 “Are Your Craft Choices Hurting Your Booksales?”) Jo Lollo strong characters are well defined, but not necessarily one who can win a fight, but they must be an imposing and vital character to the story. Andrea Pearson adds that strong characters should have inner strangths, which can become weaknesses in certain situations. Lindsay Buroker says that they need to be believeable, especially with female characters.

I’m as big a supporter of women and women’s rights, etc… as the next guy or gal, but let’s be realistic. Readers are not going to believe that an average woman isn’t going to beat a man in hand to hand combat, because females are naturally smaller and have less physical strength than men do. That’s not realistic. Don’t make your female character go to walk into a biker bar and kick everybody’s butt unless you’ve given her superpowers, or magic, or some reason, like being a Karate expert or an Amazon warrior, that she can do such incredible things. And of course, your characters need to be flawed so they have room to change and grow by the end of the story.

I gave Delilah a background which explains why she is so tough and gritty, after growing up with abuse and surviving two years in the territorial prison, readers know she doesn’t take things lying down, so it comes as no surprise when she sets out after the two men who raped her and left her for dead, and abducted her 14 yeaar old ward, Sarah. In the first chapter, she is practicing with a handgun, because she knows this is a weakness which needs to be turned into a strenghth for her to survive. So when, later in the book, she makes an amazing shot, we know she earned that ability through hard work and practice.

The other women in the series, Sarah and Marta, are introduced in the first book, but they too are flawed in ways which allow them room to grow stronger. Sarah is fourteen when she is abducted, but by the time her story is through she will become a strong woman who readers will root for. Marta is a mild mannered Mormon woman, travelling across the Colorado frontier when her family is killed and she is taken in an Indian raid – all experiences which will change her life and make her stronger for when she is the protagonist of her own book.

The protagonist in the book I’m working on now, The Rockstar and the Outlaw is also a female with strong inner strength and many flaws. She is a singer, a rock star, with an addictive personality, which includes adrenaline as well as drugs, who finds herself in a situation which she knows she can’t win. Amaryllis escapes with the help of a time-traveling outlaw from the old west, but finds that trouble awaits her, no matter where or when she goes, and when the tables are turned the outalw can depend on the rock star to have his back. She also has a backstory, living a life od drugs, sex, and rock ‘n roll, which makes her strengths and weaknesses both realstic and believable. Her inner strengths allow her to save herself and do what is needed when called upon, in a fashion that readers can buy into.

So, you see, a character’s flaws can be used as building blocks to make the character’s actions believable, or you can give them a backstory which validates their strengths, in order to make their daring feats more believable. It is the inner strengths we are referring to when we talk about strong characters, although characters may need to be physically strong to back up their inner strengths. But you do have to take care that the strengths that you give them are realistic and believable. Of course, if you’re writing fantasy, giving her superpowers or magic might be believable. But if your protgonist is an ordinary woman, you shouldn’t give her extrordinary abilities. Readers are smart. They won’t buy it.

You can still join in to support the Kickstarter campaign for Delilah and the Women in the West adventure series here, if you haven’t already: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kayelynnebooth-wcp/delilah-women-in-the-west-adventure-series

Your support is greatly appreciated.

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For Kaye Lynne Booth, writing is a passion. Kaye Lynne is an author with published short fiction and poetry, both online and in print, including her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction; and her paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets. Kaye holds a dual M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing with emphasis in genre fiction and screenwriting, and an M.A. in publishing. Kaye Lynne is the founder of WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services and WordCrafter Press. She also maintains an authors’ blog and website, Writing to be Read, where she publishes content of interest in the literary world.

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Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


Lessons learned from NaNoWriMo

Let me start by saying, I did not write 50,000 words in November. I can’t say that I accomplished the goal, but I did come out with a manuscript of over 50,000 words, so I didn’t walk away empty handed.

For NaNoWriMo this year, I decided to work on my Western time-travel romance adventure, The Rock Star & the Outlaw. I already had a start on this story of 21,175 words, so I figured if I did manage to do 50,000 words, I would damn near have a full novel. And I did that, so I’m pleased with the results of this experience.

I’ve known that I am not a prolific writer like some authors I know. I will never crank out four or five novels in a year’s time, and I’m okay with that. But NaNoWriMo did teach me a few things about my own writing process which help to explain why I’m not prolific, which is like to share with you.

Time Management

I began this endeavor with the idea of trying out some of the writing strategies offered in Booked to the Gills, by Aisley Oliphant. It’s one of the books included in the valuable Writer’s Career Toolkit Bundle, curated by Kevin J. Anderson. (By the way, this is the lady day that you can get that bundle here.)

Her time blocking strategy was of particular interest to me, and I did find it to be useful. I found that when I put in the time without distractions, I was able to get a lot of words on the page, which was cool. But for me, the time blocks didn’t always work because life kept getting in the way, and things kept coming up that had to be tended to, so my blocks got cut short, or canceled. I found that it worked better for me, if I used smaller time blocks, with short breaks to do non-writing activities in between.

Although I did make the daily wordcount once on a workday by waking in the early morning hours before going to work, for the most part I found that I shouldn’t expect too much productive writing for these days. I found that these days, I’m generally too tired in the evenings to manage much in the way of productive writing, often only managing somewhere undr 500 words per day. Trying to time block my evenings on workdays didn’t work well and I was forced to accept that lower word counts were the norm on these days.

I was surprised to realize this, because I used to be able to write after work into the late night or early morning hours, and I did so frequently when I was earning my degrees in genre fiction and screenwriting. I must be getting old. Other things I used to be able to do, that no longer work for me include writing in the car while someone else is driving. I now get car sick when I try this tactic. Also, writing in bed. I can no longer stay awake into the late night hours, so I end up dozing off with my computer in my lap. But I also found that I am often awakening in the early morning hours and not being able to go back to sleep, and I am able to use those times to effectively write.

I also found Ms. Oliphant’s suggestion to take frequent breaks helpful. I used to be able to sit at my computer for hours on end, but it wears on me more as I get older. Frequent breaks to do other things allowed me to keep my head clutter free and improved my focus when I was writing. And I was surprised that most of these lessons are more about time management than they are about writing.

The Rock Star & The Outlaw

Writing Process

After compiling two Ask the Authors anthologies and organizing two virtual writing conferences, and working with over fifty authors, there’s one thing I’m sure of. Not every writer’s process is the same, and it is important for you to understand your own process. Some writer’s are pantsers, writing blind and allowing the story to develop organically, while others are plotters who outline down to the last detail, but most are somewhere in between. Some writers need quiet while writing, and others like to write while their favorite playlist plays in the background. Some writers are binge writers, who lock themselvews in a room and don’t come out until the book is finished, or they set crazy word counts for themselves each day and write like mad, while others take their time pecking out every word and editing as they go.

Now I know that for NaNoWriMo the idea is to get out a first draft, which is supposed to be rough. I get that. It doesn’t have to be perfect. There will be time to refine it later. However, my writing process doesn’t work like that. Try as I might, I repeatedly ran into scenes where I had to go back and add in foreshadowing for the story to work. Binge writing without editing as I go simply is not part of my writing process. I’m not wired that way. This could be a part of the reason that I am not prolific, but for me, editing as I go is essential.

I started with a rough outline for this story that I hadn’t looked at in almost two years, and 21,175 words already written, so I really only wrote about 24,000 words when I reached the 50,000 word mark. What I ran into early on was that my outline had a logic error which I had to go back and fix, so this quickly became a working outline, which changed as the story progressed. But that meant that any time I changed something in the story, I had to go back and change the outline, too. Again, this takes extra time away from the actual writing, but it was necessary to keep my story moving smoothly.

It also made the second half of the month a blind writing process, requiring time to think through things and figure out what came next. You can’t write fast when you don’t know what you are writing. And many of the events added later required me to go back and foreshadow the new event, or change things which had come before and no longer worked.

Although the goal was to write 1,677 or more words per day, very seldom was I able to meet that goal. Binge writing works for some, but it doesn’t work for me. However, it did help to make the story a priority. Not one day went by that I didn’t add at least a little, even on workdays. My lowest day was 123 words.

When I set out to get my M.F.A. in 2012, I thought I was a pantser, mainly because I hated outlines and prefered to just write. Unfortunately, that process left me with several stories which went no where. Then, I learned that outlined could offer my story direction which I didn’t have otherwise, and it helped to have some idea of where my story is going. So, it turns out that maybe I’m a plotter, and I’ve gone along believing that ever since, which is why I already had an outline for The Rock Star & The Outlaw.

Fortunately, outlines can be changed, since the trajectories for my stories frequently change. My characters often do things that were unexpected, which change the direction of the story, and I must go back and change things in both the story and in the outline. I now view my outlines as working outlines and change them as the story changes, and I changed this one frequently. I guess that makes me a plantser, which is somewhere in between a plotter and a pantser, because I plan, but remain flexible enough to adjust things as I go. It probably takes more time, but that’s how I roll.

Although this story was inspired by the music of The Pretty Reckless and others, I did not try listening to music while I wrote. I did however, listen while I was commuting or cleaning, or ironing, because this is when I do my pre-writing, thinking out the story as I did these mostly automatic tasks. Music is what inspired this story, and it plays a huge role, but if I try to listen while I write, I often catch myself singing along instead of writing.

The Main Take Away

I think what is important to take away from all of this, is that you have to do what works best for you. Every writer’s process is different, and what works for one writer may not necessarily work for the next. The advice offered in Booked to the Gills is valuable, but some of it just didn’t fit my lifestyle. However, I was able to find ways to adapt it by creating smaller blocks that worked better with my busy life and many obligations. Binge writing didn’t work for me either, but I was able to apply some of the same dedication that binge writing requires. And I adjusted my process when my outline wasn’t getting me to where I needed to be, and I went back and revised the story when I felt it necessary, because that is the way my writing process works.

Every author needs to explore different avenues until they find the methods which work with their life and writing styles. Then they can develop a writing process that works for them. There is no right or wrong way to write. Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, or somewhere in between, whether you’re a binge writer or edit as you go, whether you listen to music or talk your books on a mountain trail. Whatever works for you is the right way for you, and don’t be afraid to try new methods and strategies.

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For Kaye Lynne Booth, writing is a passion. Kaye Lynne is an author with published short fiction and poetry, both online and in print, including her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction; and her paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets. Kaye holds a dual M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing with emphasis in genre fiction and screenwriting, and an M.A. in publishing. Kaye Lynne is the founder of WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services and WordCrafter Press. She also maintains an authors’ blog and website, Writing to be Read, where she publishes content of interest in the literary world.

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Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


WordCrafter News

A look back at 2022

Before we begin to look forward to the coming year, we must first look back to assess the successes and failures of the past year. It’s been a busy year, and we’ve accomplished much

For WordCrafter Press, we published 5 books in 2022.

In April, we released Poetry Treasures 2: Relationships, with an eight day blog tour, which did well enough that I’m looking forward to the release of Poetry Treasures 3 next year. Robbie Cheadle hasn’t shared with me what the theme will be for 2023, but I’m sure it will be a good one.

In May, we released Ask the Authors 2022: Writing Reference Anthology, with a ten week long blog promotion series. Seven of the contributing authors for this book, including me, editor Kaye Lynne Booth got together for a round table discussion on the Stark Reflections Podcast to share writing wisdom and promote the book, here. And it is still available in Kevin J. Anderson’s Writing Career Toolkit Bundle, which you can purchase here. The bundle is only available until December 1, so be sure to grab one while you can.

In July, I graduated from the Master’s program at Western State Colorado University with an M.A. in publishing, and I saw the publication of both my student projects, Gilded Glass: Twisted Myths & Shattered Fairy Tales, which I was on the editorial team for, and Weird Tales: Best of the Early Years 1926-27, which I compiled & edited with Weird Tales editor and award winning author, Jonathan Maberry.

In August, WordCrafter Press published the first of three short fiction anthologies, Once Upon an Ever After: Modern Myths & Fairy Tales, with a six day blog tour and giveaway. Featuring contemporary stories in the classic fairy tale tradition which I handpicked.myself, to create an exceptional by-invitation-only fantasy anthology. This anthology has been our biggest seller in 2022.

In September, the second of the three WordCrafter Press anthologies, Refracted Reflections: Twisted Tales of Duality & Deception, with a five day blog tour. Also, by invitation only, these reflective tales may not be what they seem.

October was a big month, with the release of Visions, the 2023 annual WordCrafter Press anthology. In addition to contest entrries from the annual WordCrafter Press Short Fiction Contest, this year’s anthology had more contributions by invitation, making it the largest anthology WordCrafter Press has ever published. We ran an eight day blog tour with three days of double stops. It was quite a production. Then, we joined up with Sonoran Dawn Studios for the big Halloween book event, All Hallow’s Eve – The Web We Weave on Facebook, where we promoted all 2022 WordCrafter Press releases, with games and giveways, music and movies.

In November, I’ve been trying to do the NaNoWriMo thing with The Rock Star and the Outlaw, a time travel romance adventure novel, inspired by the music of The Pretty Reckless and other artists. It’s not finished until the last day of the month, so I’m still hard at it. I’ve written 28,940 words since the beginning of the month, so I’m not even close But I started with 21, 175 words already written, and I passed the 50,000 word mark this morning.

Also in the month of November, Ask the Authors 2022, is available in the Writer’s Career Toolkit Bundle currated by Kevin J. Anderson. Also included in this bundle are writing references by David Farland and Kevin J. Anderson, Joanna Penn, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, L. Jagi Lamplighter and Aisley Oliphant to name a few. You decide what price to pay for five core books and/or ten more bonus books, all valuable author references, and you can still get it for a few more days.

Preparations and plans for the year ahead

December is pretty much dedicated to the prepartions for the coming year, and I have some really cool things planned. This past year, WordCrafter Press published a total of five anthologies involving around 30 different authors, which was amazing. In 2023, I plan to focus more on my own writing, and I only plan to do the two annual anthologies WordCrafter Press publishes each year; one poetry and one short fiction. The poetry anthology features the guests of Robbie Cheadle’s “Treasuring Poetry” blog series, and she also acts as my co-editor of the Poetry Treasures anthology.

The short fiction anthology is connected with the annual WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest. However this last year, for Visions, I combined the contest entries with stories acquired by invitation, and the other two anthologies were by invitation only. I liked the results of including the invitations, and plan to do the same thing in 2023. The themes for these anthologies will be announced after the first of the year.

As for my own books, I have quite a few planned. I plan to re-release Delilah as a part of the Women in the West adventure series, to be launched with a Kickstarter with lots of cool stuff available for your support around the beginning of the year, so be sure and watch for that. If things go well, I may also be able to release Sarah before the end of 2023.

Also, of course, I will be launching my NaNoWriMo project, The Rock Star & the Outlaw, in the coming year. This western time-travel romance adventure will keep readers on their toes. Based on the music of The Pretty Reckless and other artists, it’s a wild ride that will keep readers guessing.

I’m also planning to put together a collection of my own poetry, which I think will appeal to all the poetry lovers out there, and I am working on several short stories which I hope to find homes for. As always, at least one will go into the annual WordCrafter short fiction anthology. And I’m planning to start a Patreon, and I’m thinking of serializing my science fantasy Playground for the Gods series for that.

2022 was a really good year, and 2023 promises to be just as good, if not better. I would love to hear your thoughts on any of my plans for the year to come. Which potential covers do you like or dislike and why? Which books will you look forward to? What would you like to see offered as rewards for my Kickstarter, or my Patreon? Let me know in the comments. Your feedback is appreciated.

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Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.