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Are S.S. Van Dine’s Rules for Writing Detective Stories Still Accurate?

Hello amateur sleuths!

Welcome to the start of May of Mystery, an entire month dedicated to mystery writing. Two years ago, I broke down Ronald Knox’ Rules of Mystery Writing. Surprisingly, he’s not the only author who has created rules for mysteries. In 1928, S.S. Van Dine published “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories”.

Are these guidelines still relevant to today’s detective fiction? Or are they outdated? Let’s investigate, shall we?


1. The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery. All clues must be plainly stated and described.

Absolutely. A mystery story is not only a tale for readers to enjoy, it’s also a puzzle for readers to solve. It’s a game. All the clues must be on the table. Both the sleuth and the audience must have equal opportunity to unravel the mystery in the end.

2. No willful tricks or deceptions may be placed on the reader other than those played legitimately by the criminal on the detective himself.

Red herrings and plot twists are one thing. Misinforming the readers intentionally is another. Readers are counting on you, the writer, to tell it to them straight. If the antagonist tricks the detective, they are tricking the audience as well, and that’s fine. Withholding information, lying to, or just messing with readers for laughs? That’s bad. It’s a disservice to the audience.

3. There must be no love interest. The business in hand is to bring a criminal to the bar of justice, not to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar.

I disagree with this one. Stories can be multi-layered and fall under more than one genre. A love interest never killed nobody… Wait, let me rephrase that. Having a romance element mixed in with a mystery plot is not impossible and need not be discouraged. Heck, it could even add to the suspense of the plot, if done correctly. You don’t have to be chained to one genre. Balance is key. A love interest, or a spark of romance, in a murder mystery is fine, in my opinion.

4. The detective himself, or one of the official investigators, should never turn out to be the culprit. This is bald trickery, on a par with offering some one a bright penny for a five-dollar gold piece. It’s false pretenses.

True. The detective cannot be the culprit. That’s like saying the protagonist and the antagonist are the one in the same. That actually makes no sense. Like, where’s the conflict? He’s right, it is false pretenses.

5. The culprit must be determined by logical deductions — not by accident or coincidence or unmotivated confession. To solve a criminal problem in this latter fashion is like sending the reader on a deliberate wild-goose chase, and then telling him, after he has failed, that you had the object of his search up your sleeve all the time. Such an author is no better than a practical joker.

For a clue to accidently fall into the detective’s hands? Where’s the fun in that? Coincidence very rarely happens in an investigation. Sure, that may happen in cartoons, but that’s taking the easy way out. Think of real life investigators. I’m sure they’d love a murder weapon to just fall from the sky. Make sure the evidence is found by means of detection and deduction, not gift wrapped with a bow for the sleuth.

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6. The detective novel must have a detective in it; and a detective is not a detective unless he detects. His function is to gather clues that will eventually lead to the person who did the dirty work in the first chapter; and if the detective does not reach his conclusions through an analysis of those clues, he has no more solved his problem than the schoolboy who gets his answer out of the back of the arithmetic.

You need a detective in detective fiction? Shocker. Well, you don’t necessarily need a professional detective, an amateur sleuth or private investigator works too. I do agree though, whatever the main character’s job is, they do need to detect. No matter their profession, the protagonist must dissect clues and actively investigate the crime.

7. There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel, and the deader the corpse the better. No lesser crime than murder will suffice. Three hundred pages is far too much pother for a crime other than murder. After all, the reader’s trouble and expenditure of energy must be rewarded.

For a minute, can we just appreciate “the deader the corpse, the better” line? Pure gold.

In my opinion, this point shows its age. The central crime of a detective novel doesn’t have to be a murder. It usually is, but it doesn’t need to be. There are plenty of mysteries out there focused on a kidnapping or a robbery or another major crime. Those can be just as compelling as a murder mystery.

8. The problem of the crime must he solved by strictly naturalistic means. Such methods for learning the truth as slate-writing, ouija-boards, mind-reading, spiritualistic seances, crystal-gazing, and the like, are taboo. A reader has a chance when matching his wits with a rationalistic detective, but if he must compete with the world of spirits and go chasing about the fourth dimension of metaphysics, he is defeated ab initio.

I understand where he’s coming from with this one. In the real world, yes, a detective must find clues by rational means. However, if a mystery does dip its toe into other genres – say, fantasy or supernatural – them magical means could be plausible. But, for the most part, sleuths should be grounded in logic. Finding evidence in such a mystical way does cheat the audience a bit, unless a fantasy element is heavily present in the plot.

9. There must be but one detective — that is, but one protagonist of deduction — one deus ex machina. To bring the minds of three or four, or sometimes a gang of detectives to bear on a problem, is not only to disperse the interest and break the direct thread of logic, but to take an unfair advantage of the reader. If there is more than one detective the reader doesn’t know who his co-deductor is. It’s like making the reader run a race with a relay team.

Clearly, this man did not live long enough to see the animated wonder that is Scooby-Doo and Mystery Inc. You can have more than one detective on the case. Many great mysteries have dynamic duos or reliable Watson-types in them. Multiple characters can work together and share the glory of solving a case. A team of sleuths can share the spotlight, each member bringing something different from the investigation.

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10. The culprit must turn out to be a person who has played a more or less prominent part in the story — that is, a person with whom the reader is familiar and in whom he takes an interest.

Agreed. Don’t introduce the culprit halfway through the story. That’s cheating. The reader must have an opportunity to solve the case alongside the detective. The antagonist should appear in the beginning of the story and be actively involved in the plot, one way or another. Otherwise, you risk duping the audience, in an unfavorable way.

11. A servant must not be chosen by the author as the culprit. This is begging a noble question. It is a too easy solution. The culprit must be a decidedly worth-while person — one that wouldn’t ordinarily come under suspicion.

True enough. ‘The butler did it’ is a bit cliché. When you have a line-up of suspects, think about who, on the surface, looks least likely to commit the crime. That character might be the best choice for a compelling antagonist.

12. There must be but one culprit, no matter how many murders are committed. The culprit may, of course, have a minor helper or co-plotter; but the entire onus must rest on one pair of shoulders: the entire indignation of the reader must be permitted to concentrate on a single black nature.

Keep in mind, this list was written in 1928, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express was published January, 1934. That being said, it is possible to have more than one culprit. Typically though, yes, there is a main criminal performing the crime in a given story. Someone has to be the bad guy, right?

13. Secret societies, camorras, mafias, et al., have no place in a detective story. A fascinating and truly beautiful murder is irremediably spoiled by any such wholesale culpability. To be sure, the murderer in a detective novel should be given a sporting chance; but it is going too far to grant him a secret society to fall back on. No high-class, self-respecting murderer would want such odds.

Personally, I’m not a fan of stories involving secret societies and mafias. At the start of any mystery, the suspects need to be on the same level of suspicion, the same playing field. And yes, if one of the suspects is a freaking crime boss or hit man for the mob, that does not bode well for the plot. It may even fall into the ‘too cliché’ category.

14. The method of murder, and the means of detecting it, must be be rational and scientific. That is to say, pseudo-science and purely imaginative and speculative devices are not to be tolerated in the roman policier. Once an author soars into the realm of fantasy, in the Jules Verne manner, he is outside the bounds of detective fiction, cavorting in the uncharted reaches of adventure. 

Again, I believe a mystery can dabble in other genres, even fantasy. In any world – real or otherwise – the murder must make logical sense. I do think the means of murder and detection must be realistic. When things feel too farfetched, readers will lose interest.

15. The truth of the problem must at all times be apparent — provided the reader is shrewd enough to see it. By this I mean that if the reader, after learning the explanation for the crime, should reread the book, he would see that the solution had, in a sense, been staring him in the face-that all the clues really pointed to the culprit — and that, if he had been as clever as the detective, he could have solved the mystery himself without going on to the final chapter. That the clever reader does often thus solve the problem goes without saying.

When it comes to evidence, you must be upfront with the audience. All the pieces of the puzzle have to be on the table. They don’t have to make a crystal clear picture, but all the relevant clues must be gathered before the ending. Remember, timing is everything. Be aware of when and how the reader and the detective learn the facts of a case.

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16. A detective novel should contain no long descriptive passages, no literary dallying with side-issues, no subtly worked-out character analyses, no “atmospheric” preoccupations. Such matters have no vital place in a record of crime and deduction. They hold up the action and introduce issues irrelevant to the main purpose, which is to state a problem, analyze it, and bring it to a successful conclusion. To be sure, there must be a sufficient descriptiveness and character delineation to give the novel verisimilitude.

Well, too much description can be boring. No one likes a word vomit. Details set the scene and paint a picture for the reader’s imagination. On the other hand, subplots can actually benefit the story as a whole. Also, flushed out character are important. Character must have depth and feel genuine if an audience is going to connect with them.

17. A professional criminal must never be shouldered with the guilt of a crime in a detective story. Crimes by housebreakers and bandits are the province of the police departments — not of authors and brilliant amateur detectives. A really fascinating crime is one committed by a pillar of a church, or a spinster noted for her charities. 

Basically, the culprit should be someone the audience least expects. That makes for an ever so satisfying plot twist. This relates to the point regarding mafias. If one suspect in the lineup is a rogue with a long crime record, that character being the killer may come across as predictable.

18. A crime in a detective story must never turn out to be an accident or a suicide. To end an odyssey of sleuthing with such an anti-climax is to hoodwink the trusting and kind-hearted reader.

What an anti-climatic ending that would be. All that investigating and clue hunting for nothing. An actual waste of time, for both the reader and the detective.

19. The motives for all crimes in detective stories should be personal. International plottings and war politics belong in a different category of fiction — in secret-service tales, for instance. But a murder story must be kept gemütlich, so to speak. It must reflect the reader’s everyday experiences, and give him a certain outlet for his own repressed desires and emotions.

Before you ask, gemütlich means pleasant and cheerful. I had to google it. Although, there’s not much cheerfulness in a detective story. Every suspect needs a solid motive. Whether those are personal means or not, that’s up for debate. Thinking about it now, I suppose people are driven to crime due to personal reasons. Make sure each suspect has a clear motive or carries an ounce of suspicion, like any one of them could have performed the crime.

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Last point is the lightening round!

20. And (to give my Credo an even score of items) I herewith list a few of the devices which no self-respecting detective story writer will now avail himself of. They have been employed too often, and are familiar to all true lovers of literary crime. To use them is a confession of the author’s ineptitude and lack of originality.

  • (a) Determining the identity of the culprit by comparing the butt of a cigarette left at the scene of the crime with the brand smoked by a suspect. With modern day investigation techniques, I’m sure this is possible.
  • (b) The bogus spiritualistic seance to frighten the culprit into giving himself away. Yeah, I don’t think that would work. No good.
  • (c) Forged fingerprints. On the fence with this one.
  • (d) The dummy-figure alibi. Sure, that’s probably fine, right?
  • (e) The dog that does not bark and thereby reveals the fact that the intruder is familiar. Love this! Saw it happen in an old noir film. Made me laugh. 10/10.
  • (f)The final pinning of the crime on a twin, or a relative who looks exactly like the suspected, but innocent, person. Evil twin trope, a classic.
  • (g) The hypodermic syringe and the knockout drops. Somewhat overdone in fiction, however, knockout drugs do exists. I’m on the fence with this one too.
  • (h) The commission of the murder in a locked room after the police have actually broken in. Has this guy never heard of a locked room mystery?
  • (i) The word association test for guilt. Not sure what this means, but I’ll take his word for it.
  • (j) The cipher, or code letter, which is eventually unraveled by the sleuth. Hate these. Nobody has time for that.

What do you think of Van Dine’s rules for writing detective stories? Do you agree or disagree with any of them? Talk about it in the comments.

Stay safe, keep writing and happy sleuthing!

Love,

Lady Jabberwocky

Thank You to 900 Followers!

Hello Writer Bees!

Exciting news! The Lady Jabberwocky blog just passed the 900 follower mark. Which means my humble little blog is nearing 1,000 followers. This is not a drill! Seriously, I never could’ve imagined so many of you tuning in every week to read my nonsense posts.

Thank you all so much for all the love and support.

Thank you for every like and comment.

Thank you for following my journey as a writer.

Frankly speaking, I’ve been feeling a bit burnt-out lately. Work is overwhelming sometimes. Dealing with writer’s block and self doubt can be overwhelming too. You have no idea how much I appreciate all the kind words and positive vibes from you amazing readers. If it’s alright with you guys, I’m going to keep this post short, curl up with a book and sleep. Some sleep sounds pretty nice. Haha.

But, I may need your help brainstorming something else. You guys are way smarter than I am. Recently, I’ve thought about creating some sort of virtual writing workshop / writers room. It’d be cool to have a space where writers could talk about their work, ask specific questions on their stories, gain some feedback and help each other. I want to reach more writers and encourage their creative endeavors. Not exactly sure how to go about that yet. Maybe a Discord? Maybe a Skype group space situation? Maybe an old-fashioned advice column? I don’t really know. Sorry if that doesn’t make sense, my brain is still trying to figure it out. Feel free to pitch your ideas.

Don’t forget! May of Mystery starts this Monday. I’m dedicating an entire month to writing mystery fiction. Prompts and posts with have a mystery spin to them. Detectives and femme fatales and clue hunting, perhaps a little murder. If you have any questions on detective fiction or any ideas for mystery themed posts, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Once again, thank you all so much for the support. You lovely readers keep me blogging. Hope you all enjoy your weekend. Stay safe and keep writing.

Onward to 1,000 followers!

Love,

Lady Jabberwocky

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Do You Need a Writing Degree to Be a Real Writer?

Hello writer bees!

Today, I’m posing a possibly controversial question.

Do you need a degree in writing to be considered a “proper writer”?

To some, getting a college degree makes you a bonafide writer, or a better writer than most. Others feel they can be storytellers without the diploma to back them up. And some young writers have a hard time choosing what they want to study, and if a degree in writing is even worth it.

I want to share my experience. Hopefully, it can give younger writers a bit of insight. Goodness knows I needed some insight when I was just a fledgling. For those of you who don’t know, I graduated from Hunter College with a B.A. in English. What do you do with a B.A. in English? How did that experience impact my journey as a writer? I’ll be diving into everything, the good and the bad.

Why I Chose to Pursue an English Degree

Let’s backtrack first. When I was in high school, I discovered my love of writing. I had an amazing teacher who encouraged my artistic aspirations. Without her, I probably wouldn’t be a blogger or an aspiring author right now. As I decided what college major I would pursue, no other subject could compare to English and creative writing.

I had a lot of ideas for a potential novel. Writing stories in various genres really interested me. I loved fantasy and mystery and historical drama and everything in between. Ah, to be young and full of inspiration. Wanting to narrow down my focus and find my niche, I thought going for a English degree would help me find the genre I’d eventually publish in someday. Like “Congrats! Here is your diploma! Also, you are a mystery writer! Now go write a whodunit and be on your merry way.”

Earning my B.A. in English was a wonderful experience. It wasn’t easy. Lots of late nights, lots of reading material, lots of stress. And I don’t regret a single minute.

Writing Workshops

While in college, my fiction writing classes were full-on workshops. Gathering around with fellow writers, discussing each other’s stories. I learned how to constructively critique someone’s work and became more mindful of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. We read each others short stories and offered feedback in a really safe and sensitive environment. Don’t get me wrong, I was so nervous letting others read my work. But once you realize we’re all in the same boat, it’s not so scary. That was my first taste of a greater writing community.

Also, the very first draft of my current WIP sprouted in that class. Sharing that story in particular with my classmates was like the ultimate test run for my work-in-progress novel. Let me know in the comments if you want to hear more about that particular workshop session.

Reading Everything

Remember when I said I was looking down to settle with one genre to write in? It didn’t quite work out as I expected. In college, I read everything. And I mean everything. Like I was reading Beowulf and Arthurian legend in the morning and Hemingway and Christie in the afternoon. Real talk? My narrator was born after reading an Edgar Allen Poe story. If anything, my horizon only expanded. Once I graduated, I was even more undecided about what genre I wanted to publish in. I really gained an appreciation for literature across all genres. By reading various genres and styles and time periods, a sturdy foundation was built under my feet. Maybe it’s strange to say, but I felt like I had a wealth of source material I could refer to and be inspired by. If that makes sense.

Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, is it?

Hard to Find a Job

After I graduated, It was tough finding steady work. I applied for many publications and ended up with a pile of rejection letters. Apparently, a bachelors degree in English isn’t enough to prove you are good at writing. That was a newsflash to me. I wanted to make a living as a writer, and it just wasn’t happening. Frankly, It was a dark time for me. Finally, I fell into freelance work, starting out as an unpaid intern. Around the same time, I started this blog. Then, more freelance opportunities opened up. And today, even though I’m stuck in a cubicle at an office day job, the passion for writing has not ceased. I’m still working on my goal to write a novel, after office hours, of course.

Final Thoughts

The B.A. in English gave me a solid foundation. My brain thinks differently about literature and storytelling because of my time as an English major. It was a valuable, rewarding experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Well, maybe a finished novel.

Do you need a degree to be a proper writer?

In my opinion? No.

You know that quote from Ratatouille, Anyone can cook? I believe anyone can write. A degree doesn’t make me, or anyone else, a genuine writer. We all have imagination and creativity inside of us. Anyone can write a story and be considered a writer.


Do you think you need a degree to be considered a proper writer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. And if you earned your degree in English/Creative writing, how has that experience impacted your journey as a writer? As always, I love to hear from you guys.

Also, get your magnifying glasses ready! May of Mystery is right around the corner, less that 2 weeks!

Stay safe and keep writing,

Love,

Lady Jabberwocky

3 Easy Ways to Gain Your First Blog Followers

Hello Writer Bees!

Hope all is well in your world.

You know what question I’ve been asked a bunch of times in the comments lately? How do you gain a following on your blog? Some of you seem genuinely interested in building an audience, which is great! Part of the fun of having a blog is growing a readership. I’m happy to help as best I can.

Bear in mind, in no way do I consider myself a professional blogger. I’m just a lady with a blog, who writes posts every week and likes to connect with the writing community. But If my personal experience enlightens you, then I’m willing to share what I know and what I’ve experienced. So today, I’m talking about some easy ways to increase your blog follower count.

Post Regularly

Have a schedule and be consistent with it. If your posts are unpredictable, readers won’t know when to stop by your blog. They won’t know when to hop on the bus if the bus arrives at different times. Construct a timetable that works best for you. Whether it’s once a week or everyday at noon, commit to posting on a specific day and creating content on a regular basis. That way, readers will know when to tune in and can rely on you for consistent content. And overtime, the audience will gravitate towards your chosen “post day”. Another quick tip, consider having themed days. I’ve seen a lot of creators do “fiction Fridays” or “speed build Sundays”. It may seem a bit gimmicky, but those can also draw a crowd.

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Blogging schedules are also great for bloggers too, not just the audience. They help get you in the routine of blogging. No need to be incredibly strict with it. Schedule’s can be changed and be flexible. Life happens. When I first started out, I posted whenever I felt like it. Not many folks checked out my blog. Soon enough, I realized this sporadic schedule wasn’t working for me or potential readers. I had to make a change and really think about a proper schedule for the Lady Jabberwocky blog. How often do I want to post? Twice a week was a good fit for my content. I do my best to get a post out every Monday and Friday. And that works for me and my readers.

Stick with a Subject

I dedicated an entire post to finding you blogging niche for a reason. When your blog topic is unfocused or covers varying subjects, it may be difficult to grow an audience. However, if the topic is too specific, you won’t gain much traction either. Balance is the key. When you are clear and concise with the blog’s subject matter, readers with notice. No matter your blogging niche, there is a target audience who’d really enjoy your content. Tags are super important, by the way. They help wandering readers find posts they’re interested in. When you write a blog post, make sure there are a bunch of tags attached. Honestly, the more, the merrier. You can really grab an audience’s attention with the right tags. Tags are a way for readers to find you and your content.

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I write about creative writing. Some days, I’ll share my personal journey as a fiction writer and freelance writer. Some days, I’ll share writing advice and words of encouragement for fellow creators. Some days, I’ll share a story. All of these different bubbles are all covered under the umbrella of ‘creative writing’. And in every one of my posts, there’s at least a dozen tags. Sure, some words may seem silly or repetitive, but I think of it as tossing a wide net. Whatever draws readers in, am I right?

Connect with the Community

Connect with others in your online community. On WordPress, search tags and words that are relevant to your niche. See what other bloggers are writing about. Make sure to like, comment and share their posts. Find and follow blogs centered around your blog’s topic. It’s a good way of meet and connect with bloggers swimming in the same waters as you. When you subscribe to another blog, they might subscribe back to yours. I don’t want it to sound like an ulterior motive, but it has worked for me. ‘Follow for follow’ tactics do work, especially when you are starting out.

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Also, consider joining other social media platforms. Spreading your blog on multiple platforms means more eyes are looking, which means more potential readers. And it’s easier to connect with people that have similar interests to you on social sites. If I knew then what I know now, I would have joined Twitter when I started this blog. It wasn’t a big mistake, in the grand scheme of things. Frankly, I sometimes wonder if my follower count would be different if I have expanded to other social media platforms sooner. Just some food for thought. Hindsight is 2020.


At the end of the day, it’s not about how many followers you have, it’s about creating awesome content. Don’t start a blog with hopes of becoming some famous influencer. Start a blog because you have something to say, because you have something you love and want to share with the world.

I started this blog to share my writer experience and to encourage others in their creative endeavors. That motive keeps me blogging. And for the record, I wrote this post during my lunch break. And I’m quite pleased with it. See? Make the most out of your time.

Shout outs are in order. Thanks to thereallydimoo and Faye Arcand for reaching out and asking about building a following. Hope I answered your question. I did my best.

Stay safe and keep writing, writer bees.

Love,

Lady Jabberwocky

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The Charlatan (Fantasy Flash Fiction)

“Excuse me, kind sirs. Could I borrow a moment of your time?” A plump gnome woman approached a table with three half orcs clad in leather armor. Cradled in her arms were three cork-topped bottles, filled with burnt orange liquid. The opal ring on her finger winked at the weary adventurers. “I’m selling home brewed health potions.”

The group exchanged looks, grunting and crossing their arms. “100 gold for the whole lot.”

A sigh in surrender as she glanced over her shoulder. “Well, I didn’t want to say anything but… See that fellow over there?” Stationed at the lonely table near the tavern door was a figure wearing a dark cloak and a crow like mask. He appeared to be entranced by the lute playing bard across the room.

The trio of warriors leaned closer, now intrigued. Her tragic tale of woe began. “Would you believe it? A bolt of lightening set his house on fire. Left his home a pile of ash.” After setting all three vials on the table, she dabbed the corner of her eye with a handkerchief. ” Left his face severely burned and hideous scarred. 100 gold per bottle would greatly help him get back on his feet.” Coins clattered onto the table.

….

Hooking her arm in the crook of his elbow, the two strolled into a secluded alleyway, embracing the shadows. “Severely burned and hideously scarred,” He mocked while he counted the coins in the pouch. “You really laid it on thick this time, Poet. Those poor fools.” His cape enveloped her, eyes faintly glowing silver behind glass windows. Autumn leaves skittered across cobblestone streets.

For a brief moment, the opal ring shimmered. Her entire body transformed. A sly grin spread across burgundy lips as she snickered like a conniving witch. Lavender painted her skin. On both sides of her head, ram horns curled. No longer a mere gnome, but a roughish Tiefling.

“The world is built on poor fools.” Poet kissed the beak of his mask, her devilish tail swishing like a pendulum. “Come along, Endymion. We need to make a new batch of Poppy flower tea.” With her masked companion trailing behind, the charlatan disappeared into the night.

“On to the next town.”

————————————————————-

Since our DnD is suspended until further notice, I’m reposting this short story I wrote during quarantine. Inspired by the game and characters my boyfriend and I plan to play, someday after the pandemic.

Stay safe and stay healthy out there, everyone.

Lady Jabberwocky

Writing During Lunch Break: My New Favorite Writing Time

Hello Writer Bees!

Last week, I celebrated my 800th follower milestone, which I still can’t get believe. You guys are so amazing and supportive. Some of you were curious about my writer experience. So today, I’m sharing something new that makes me happy. With all the struggle going on in the world, it’s nice to be reminded of the small things in life that make us happy, right?

I started a new job back in August. A 9 to 5 cubicle job in an office. And as someone with no prior experience, being an assistant is tough work. The stress can be overwhelming sometimes. I’m managing as best I can. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we were given the option of eating lunch at our desks. And the socially awkward introvert in me was thrilled by this. Don’t get me wrong, everyone working in the office is super nice. But, I like a little time to myself now and then. Translation: I like to hide from society now and then.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been working on my WIP during my lunch break. It’s like this quiet, hour long vacation, in the middle of a hectic day. Did I forget to mention eating while writing is my favorite combination? Seriously. What’s better than munching while making fiction happen? I absolutely love it. I look forward to this short lived writing time everyday. Maybe it’s the change of scenery, or me being away from home distractions, I actually get some writing done. Sure, it might only be 100 to 200 words a day. Still, I’m slowly creeping towards my goal of a finish novel.

Frankly speaking, I’m a night writer. Always have been. I prefer to write during the nighttime. To burn the midnight oil, as they say. My brain just feels more creative in the wee hours of the evening. Not sure why. And now, I can’t stay up as late as I used to when I was a freelance writer. However, writing during my lunch break has been a nice change of pace. I’ve fallen into a new routine. And I’m excited about it. This is a same small window of time, everyday, dedicated to writing and editing and outlining. Maybe that’s what I needed all along, to shake off my writer’s block.

For now, I’m making the most out of this pocket of time and appreciating every second.

Moral of the story, find the time to write, no matter the time of day. Even if it’s only a half hour. Even if it’s only 100 or so words. Progress is progress. Little by little, we all reach our goals eventually.


What time of day do you write in? And be honest, do you sneaky work on your WIP at your day job? Talk to me in the comments!

Keep writing and stay safe!

— Lady Jabberwocky

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3 Tips on Finding Your Blogging Niche

Hello Writer bugs!

Want to start a blog? Don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place. When you are just starting out, it can be hard to choose a blogging niche. You can pretty much create a blog about any topic. From dogs to donuts to drawing, the sky’s the limit. How do you find the right blogging niche for you? Check out some of these tips!

Write What You Love

Choose a topic you are genuinely interested in about, that you can talk forever about. Your passion will shine through your content. And by expressing what you love, you will find a community of others with the same passion and goals. Trust me, you can find a blog on just about every subject, from movies to making bird houses. If it’s “your thing”, write about that. Don’t pick a subject because it seems “profitable” or “popular”, or your voice will sound forced and eventually, you will lose interest. Blogging can be a fun, enjoyable experience if you pick a topic you care about.

Need to jog your brain a bit? Try these…

  • Write a list of your likes, your interests and your hobbies. What occupies your time?
  • Consider subjects you are knowledgeable about. What’s your area of expertise?
  • Think about the people and businesses you look up to or the websites and blogs you visit often.

Want to know the real test of a good blogging niche? Brainstorm some potential articles ideas. It could be 10, it could be 50. If you can think of possible posts about your topic, you may have found your subject matter.

For me, I love creative writing. I have a Bachelors in English, I’ve been writing stories for years. Although I’m not a published author yet, my heart is in every post. When I was deciding what to blog about, writing was the obvious choice for me. I wanted to help other writers while sharing my experience. And at first, I didn’t think anyone would be interested in what I had to say. And now, I have over 700 amazing followers.

Write from the heart and your audience will find you.

Narrow Down Your Niche

Finding your blogging niche is like a balancing act. If the topic is too broad, you will face a tremendous amount of competition. Also, you may be lost in a ocean of other blogs with similar subject matter. On the other side of the coin, if the topic is too specific, your blog may not gain traction. With a focus that is too narrow, you will have some difficulty creating content and will hit the wall, running out of post ideas.

For example, let’s say you wanted to start a blog on cooking. That’s great, however, this is a very general idea. How many blogs about cooking are out there? A million? Pear it down. Instead of cooking, think ‘vegan baking’ or ‘all things pizza’. See what I mean? Choose a blogging niche wide enough to write many posts about but specific enough to have you stand out from the crowd.

And I understand the temptation to write about multiple topics. People have many interests. However, this ideal works better for magazine publications than blog sites. A blog with different subjects may come off as unfocused and frankly, unprofessional. Think of it like this, I love tacos and cats and bike riding. Should I combine all three of my interests into one blog? Seems a bit scattered. Probably not the best idea. Could I have three separate blogs dedicated to those interests? Absolutely.

I’ll give you a real world example, from my freelancer writer days. My first internship was writing for a blog centered around the Disney theme parks. From travel tips to restaurant spotlights to the rides, there was a lot to write about. Yet it all stayed under the same umbrella. All the content had a common theme, a common vibe. When you find your blogging niche, make sure you find the focus of the subject.

Do the Research

The real question is, is your blogging niche profitable and will it actually earn views? That’s a tough one. No one can guarantee how much money a blog can make. It’s a shot in the dark and fortune favors the brave.

When you have plans for blog monetization, you need a blog topic that has a potential market. Search for businesses, brands and products that relate to the subject matter. By doing a little research, you can better prepare your blog for affiliate marketing. Let’s use that ‘vegan baking’ idea from before. I have a (hypothetical) blog about vegan baking. If I wanted to dip my toe into affiliate marketing, the blog could advertise products like cooking utensils, cookbooks and even vegan snacks. I could also spotlight services or classes on vegan baking.

Now, how will you know your blogging niche will earn views? Another shot in the dark. With the help of a little research, you can gain some clarity on what folks are searching for. Test out terms pertaining to your topic to see the average views and searches on certain sites. Vary the wording so you find the best results. For the Lady Jabberwocky blog, not only would I search the term ‘writing’, I can try other phrases like ‘creative writing’ or ‘fiction writing’ or ‘writing tips‘ as well. Try Google Trends, it’s a tool that can come in handy when choosing a niche.

Bottom line; If you know what potential readers are looking for, you can gear your content towards that target.


For all my fellow bloggers out there, how did you choose your blogging niche? What other topics did you consider? And if you are thinking about starting a blog or just starting out, what do you want to know about blogging? I might write a post about it. Talk to me in the comments, I love to here from you.

Stay safe and keep writing!

Love,

Lady Jabberwocky

This is BEN-G567 (100 Word Sci-Fi Story)

This is BEN-G567. Robot of Earth.

1,340.50 miles to target.

Total duration of flight since launch: 199 days, 20 hours 36 minutes. 24 seconds. 25 seconds.

986.72 miles to target. Energy levels sufficient.

Probability of successful landing: 95%.

Incoming unknown mass. Brace for impact. Impact. Emergency. Emergency.

Plutonium power source damaged. Leak detected. Wheels down.

This is BEN-G567. I am lost.

Navigation damaged. Current distance from target: Unknown.

Propulsion engage. Engine failing. Repeat. Engine failing.

Entering planet atmosphere. 100 miles to target.

Probability of successful landing: Less than 5%. Landing preparation sequence activated.

This is BEN-G567. BEN-G567 programmed to endeavor and discover. Spare jets engaged. Accelerate.

Lost. Lost connection. Lost.

15 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

Hello Writer bees!

Hope you are are staying safe and writing wonderful work. And if you are feeling stuck with your writing, that’s alright too. Sometimes, it can be hard to get the words on the page. Don’t be discouraged. Writer’s block happens to everyone, myself included. So today, I’m sharing some tips for beating the block and rekindling inspiration once again.

Be honest and ask yourself, “how do I break out of this funk I’m in?” and “What’s stopping me from writing?” Depending on what you need, there are three courses of action to take. Whatever route you choose, find what works for you.

See the source image

Push to Writing – the need to shake up you writing habits.

  1. Write in some place other from your usual spot. No need to chain yourself to your desk. Write in a different room of your home. Or outside. A new, quiet place.
  2. Freewriting: Write the first things that comes to mind, whatever it may be. Follow where the words take you. On a time crunch? Take a 5 minute writing sprint and write as fast as you can.
  3. Set deadlines and stick to them. Reach for a daily wordcount goal that’s achievable and works with your schedule. Even if it’s only a 100 words a day. You’ll be 100 words closer to your finished draft.
  4. Try writing exercises and prompts. They can be a fun, well-needed challenge for some writers. But where can you find prompts? I post a Prompt of the Week every Monday. Check them out!
  5. Use a different writing tool. Instead of a keyboard, switch to paper or sticky notes or colorful markers.

Recharge – The need to step back from your writing endeavors.

  1. Take a break! A real one. Relax. And don’t think about your story. A little separation from your WIP is fine. Sometimes, lightbulb moments happen when you least expect. I speak from experience.
  2. Go for a walk. Alone, with music, or with a dog. Walks are great. Socially distanced walks while wearing masks is even better.
  3. Get cozy and curl up with a good book. Fuzzy socks included. Let your mind unwind and dive into a whole new world.
  4. Drink some coffee/tea/alcoholic beverage of choice. And stuff your face with your favorite food. Writing is hard work. Treat yourself to that tub of ice cream or bag of potato chips. I won’t judge.
  5. Sleep it off, or just lounge around. Rest, physically and mentally. There are times when the best ideas can come right before you fall asleep. Keep a notepad on your nightstand ready, in case you need to jot down ideas.
See the source image

Getting motivated and inspired! – the need to get pumped to write again, or find inspiration.

  1. Browse through photos; especially images that relate to your story’s genre. Create an aesthetic board featuring images that remind you of your story. If you are writing historical fiction, keep a folder of snapshots from that time period.
  2. Talk it out. Talking to another person, writer or non-writer, about your ideas can get those creative juices flowing. Find someone you feel safe with and who encourages you. Don’t waste your time with people who judge you harshly.
  3. Read some quotes from some famous authors. Gather inspiration from the authors who came before you.
  4. Connect with other writers. The writing community is a fantastic group of creatives. Make friends, chat about WIPs, support each other through those tough times. It’s nice to have someone in your corner, to have that support system.
  5. Be okay with writing trash. Not everything you write will be perfect. And that’s fine, that’s what editing is for. Instead of striving for perfection, strive for the story that future readers can connect with. That’s the real goal, isn’t it?

How do you get through writer’s block? What’s your advice to a writer who is struggling? Let me know if the comments.

Stay safe and keep writing!

— Lady Jabberwocky.

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Celebrating My Birthday with 700 Follower Milestone

Hello Writer Bees!

28 years ago today, in the middle of blizzard, I was born.

And this year, I’ve received a very special gift; I’ve reached the 700 follower milestone.

That’s amazing! Thank you all so much for all your support. You don’t know how much every comment means to me. I’m incredibly grateful for all of you lovely readers. All of your positive vibes keep me going and keep me writing.

I’ve been immensely stressed recently. Like cry-in-a-bathroom-stall, throat-constricting stress. This new work-life arrangement is overwhelming, at times. And my WIP was pushed to the back burner.

I’m happy I have the Lady Jabberwocky blog. This blog was meant to be a safe place for other writers. Amid the stress, it has also become my own creative santuary.

So, for my birthday, I’m going to take a me-day. Some time off, to relax a bit, sounds good right about now.

Once again, thank you for all the love and support. Still can’t believe 700 humans are interested in my content. Onward to…. 1,000 followers?

Love, Lady Jabberwocky

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