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Welcome to my blog. Every month I publish insight into my writing and editing experiences as an independent author.

If you’re looking for my official author website, you can find it at Kyrija Publishing’s Mikhaeyla Kopievsky page. There, you can sign up to become a member of my VIP Street Team and gain access to exclusive content and priority status at special reader events.

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Author Spotlight

I’m over on Writing Without Limits for an author spotlight interview. Come on over to hear about I became enamoured with writing and what pushed me into writing professionally…

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We here at Writing Without Limits have been honored to host such authors as Hugo award nominated writer, Brian Paone, up and coming writer, Tricia DiSandro and many others. Today, we bring you a lovely interview with Mikhaeyla Kopievsky who is here to promote her latest book, Resistance – Divided Elements: Book 1.

So now, let’s get to know this amazing up and comer, Mikhaeyla Kopievsky!

How long have you been writing?

I still remember writing my first story as a child. I had a short attention span, so it wasn’t a tome of War and Peace proportions, but it was a classic three-act structure effort with a nice hook ending that left the door open for a sequel. If my memory serves me correctly (read that in your best Iron Chef voice), it was a cracker of a story about a dinosaur that was set for certain doom until he somehow managed to turn things around and escape (there may have been a deus ex machine moment…hey! I was six years old!). I still remember the ending – “Was it the end of the dinosaur? No. But it IS the end of this story.”

I finally got back to writing stories when I hit high school and my parents splashed out on a Commodore 64. I loved that thing. The hours I would spend on it playing California Games, designing random (and probably very dodgy) pixelated artworks in paint, and writing the first pages (sometimes first chapters) of a new story…

For a long time, that was my problem – I would always start stories, but never finish them. It wasn’t until three, maybe four, years ago that I finally found out why I was afflicted with this problem. Turns out I always stopped because I never knew where I was headed. I had understood the three-act structure as a six year old, but had long forgotten it in my adult years.

Rediscovering story structure completely changed my writing life – Finally I had the tool I needed to craft stories I wanted to read. I no longer needed to rely on (and inevitably be disappointed by) the stories out there that almost sated my thirst for a certain type of story, but never fully delivered.

…Read the full interview at Writing Without Limits

 

Aside

Your First Act is not a plot device

By Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Lately I’ve read a few stories that had something not quite right about them. At first it was difficult to place the troubling gremlin – these stories had great characters, nice pacing, interesting conflict. It was only when I reached the end of these books that I realised I still had a lot of unanswered questions. And then I realised – most of these questions were the ones that were raised in the First Act.

It hit me: These stories were introducing tension in the First Act not as the central theme or core conflict, but as a plot device – a way to get the protagonist to where they needed to be in the Second Act. 

Imagine a story where all your protagonist wants is to protect her little sister – from their incapable mother, from a dangerous and unforgiving world, from nightmarish memories of their father’s death, from poverty and disease. Then imagine this character gets the ultimate opportunity to do this – by volunteering to take their little sister’s place in a macabre and brutal spectacle that pits child against child in mortal combat for the general entertainment of the masses. This act sends the protagonist away from their little sister and thrusts them into a entirely different world.

And then imagine that the ensuing conflict has absolutely no relevance or reference to that stated goal and tension – where the little sister is forgotten and thoughts of protecting her from the big bad world are no longer plaguing her. Where the central conflict of Act One was just a means to an end – a way to force the protagonist into this new world, and nothing else. Where the Third Act answers a completely different question to the one posed in the First.

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Thankfully, in Hunger Games, this is not the case. Katniss ‘adopts’ a surrogate sister, Rue – an action that helps to maintain her humanity in an inhumane situation. The need to protect her sister, Prim, also permeates throughout the series (to varying degrees) and eventually evolves in a need to protect/save everyone. Especially those closest to her.

There is something deeply satisfying, for a reader, in following the evolution and resolution of the core conflict established in the first act (and, indeed, the first book of a series). Stories that forget about this central question – will Katniss save her sister from the evils of Panem? (Hunger Games). Will Mark Watney be able to ‘science the shit’ out of his lonely and tenuous existence on Mars? (The Martian). Will Montag succumb to his Fireman role or break free from it? (Fahrenheit 451). Will Anaiya break free of her legacy and bring down the Resistance? (Resistance (Divided Elements #1)) – are in danger of ‘losing their soul’ and creating forgettable stories with no emotional resonance or connection.

 

What do you think? Have you read (or written) a story where the First Act conflict was forgotten by the time the Third Act rolled around?

 

Image courtesy of Emily via Flickr Creative Commons
Your First Act is not a plot device

Vote Now for Divided Elements | Resistance on Goodreads!

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Divided Elements #1: Resistance is now up on Goodreads! You can add it to your “Want to Read” shelf and join the conversation with other readers excited about its release on 30 January 2017.

While you’re over on Goodreads, I would love it if you would nominate Resistance as one of your 2017 Anticipated Reads by voting for it on these lists:

 

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Vote Now for Divided Elements | Resistance on Goodreads!

Website Launch & Cover Reveal!

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

The website is now LIVE! Check it out to catch the cover reveal and apply for an advance reader copy of Divided Elements (Book 1) | Resistance

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Website Launch & Cover Reveal!

Divided Elements (Book 1) – Resistance. Website Launch & Cover Reveal

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Break out the champagne! The official website for my author brand and debut novel Divided Elements | Resistance will be launched this Friday! Stay tuned for details and don’t forget to drop by and check out the shiny new digs on the day.

(Don’t worry – I’ll be maintaining my wordpress blog to dissect my writing journey as it continues over future works in progress).

A photo by Dave Lastovskiy. unsplash.com/photos/RygIdTavhkQ

 

 

image via unsplash
Divided Elements (Book 1) – Resistance. Website Launch & Cover Reveal

Time for Reflection (2) – What I learned about first drafts

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Recently, I was feeling all kinds of nostalgic about nearing the finish line for Divided Elements | Resistance, and decided it was a good time to reflect on all the big lessons I have learned as a first time author. Last week I talked about the very sage advice of setting up your author platform (seriously, if you haven’t already done this step, add “start wordpress blog” and “set up at least one social media account” to your list of things to do). This week, I want to talk about the lessons I learned (and some I should have avoided) and the things I figured out for myself in writing a first draft.

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Lesson 1: Gnothi seauton. (Or, for the non-ancient Greeks, “know thyself”)

This is a lesson I had to figure out for myself and one I’m still trying to fully figure out. Every writer is different – in what we write, in how we write, in why we write. Inspiration for story ideas will come to each of us differently. There are those of us that start with a character (e.g. I want to write a story about your average suburban girl who has found street cred and a way to brush off her legacy of schoolyard geekery via zombie hunting), those that start with a genre (e.g. I want to write a supernatural dark comedy), others that start with a theme (e.g. I want to write a story about love overcoming prejudice), those that start with a setting (e.g. I want to set my story in post-apocalyptic Australian suburbia), and those that start with a premise (e.g. I want to write a story about a  zombie hunter whose mum has just started dating a zombie).

Each of these starting points represents a key aspect of the story you are about to write. Regardless of whether you are a plotter (someone who structures their story before they write it) or a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants without a roadmap), figuring out each of these is important for determining your story’s trajectory. Knowing your character is a starting point. Knowing your character, and the setting, theme, and tone (indicated by genre) of their core conflict (indicated by premise) – that’s trajectory.

Figure out yourself, figure out the gaps, and figure out the story trajectory. A story about a surburban zombie hunter in a paranormal mystery is a very different story to a one about the same hunter in a coming of age story or a dark comedy.

Lesson 2: Don’t write shitty first drafts

The old adage ‘write shitty first drafts’ abounds in writer circles. I agree with its underlying sentiment – “just write!” – but don’t agree with its call to action.

For me, ‘write shitty first drafts’ belongs in the same proverb bag as ‘he who hesitates is lost’. But, for every pithy idiom is another to contradict it –

“Look before you leap!”

“Haste makes waste!”

“Measure twice, cut once!”

“A stitch in time saves nine!”

I am not one of those writers who can vomit out words and then spend an inordinate amount of time going back and editing that word vomit into shape. I prefer to get my stories mostly right and then undertake strategic edits to fix problems that are the exception and not the rule.

Having your story trajectory sorted will help with not writing word vomit – so will these other awesome tips:

  • Read and watch and listen to good stories. When I get stuck or feel that the quality of writing (or dialogue, or setting description, or exposition) is sub-par, I read a few pages of a writer I admire or a book that I see as a benchmark. It serves as inspiration, motivation and a quick ‘how-to’ guide.
  • Understand story structure. Regardless of whether you are a plotter or pantser, you need to recognise that the human brain is pretty much hard-wired to absorb a story in a very specific way. It seeks out certain patterns and conventions. It’s why romance readers demand their happily ever after, why thriller readers demand their moment of ascendancy for the antagonist, why mystery readers demand their subtle clues and red herrings.
  • Know your end-point and where you want to go. This one is a little trickier (as I note in the next lesson)

Lesson 3 – Don’t go in blind. But, don’t plan too far in advance.

Okay, hard-core pantsers, you may look away at this point – this is one for the plotter-leaning amongst us (like most things, I think it is more accurate to think in terms of a Kinsey-like scale of plotting/pantsing, rather than strict binaries).

I love story structure. I spend each new novel planning stage extrapolating an outline from the bare premise I start with. I think you need a game plan before you run out on to the field. That said, I don’t think you can anticipate everything in advance. If your story writing process is anything like mine, your characters will have a way with assuming control of your story and shifting it along unexpected tangents, or your research will uncover some new and exciting aspect to the story that seems to shift its tone or direction.

You need to have a plan, but you also need to be flexible and open to new directions.

My approach goes like this:

  • Figure out my story trajectory and use that to frame the broad parameters for writing. Everything should be consistent with the trajectory, and the trajectory should be wide enough to allow for some deviations within the lines.
  • Outline (and write) in stages. Typically, I outline (and then write) each gap between the five key turning points. This gives me some structure to write to (which makes for much more productive writing sessions), while also allowing for new tangents, developments and ideas to be picked up in the next part of the story. Outlining in stages also helps me to keep fresh the key points I need to be hitting in each part of the story.

 

Well, that was cathartic! Hope you found it helpful🙂

 

Image courtesy of DangerPup via Flickr Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

Time for Reflection (2) – What I learned about first drafts

Time for Reflection (1) – What I’ve learned over the last three years

by Mikaheyla Kopievsky

Inshallah, I’ll be uploading my debut novel Divided Elements (Book 1) – Resistance to the cyber marketplace for pre-orders in the next couple of weeks. It’s a surreal feeling to even contemplate releasing the beast I have managed to tame over many late nights and sleepless hours. Sitting here, after a day spent fine-tuning my marketing plan, I realise just how far I have come since that first day, when a seed of an idea germinated in this chaotic brain of mine.

For some of you – you have seen my musings, trials and errors from the very first post. For others – you stumbled across my words a little later and joined the rest of us for the ride. I realise, however, that I’ve never shared with any of you the ‘real’ process behind this mammoth task of writing a book. Yes, I’ve shared bits and pieces (mainly the good bits), but never have I dished the dirt on the process. 

So, now, for those of you who are interested, I’m having a kind of pre-pre-launch party – a riding on the coattails of the ghost of Christmas past – and opening up the crazy history of a little book that changed my life.

So here is part one – I hope you enjoy it!

When it started…and why.

I had dabbled for years in writing novels. Actually, I was more interested in writing screenplays – I found them easier: the short, choppy exposition; the flurry of dialogue. (Interestingly, I still write in present tense as a throw-back to that habit, but struggled for a long time to find my voice in writing good dialogue). Anyway, back to the point at hand – I was one of those who started a lot of stories but never finished them.

I was a pantser (although, at the time, I had no idea what a pantser (or plotter) was) and a premise writer – what a terrible combination. Basically, I would come up with cool ideas for the premise of a story (e.g. a zombie gang member goes rogue and patches over to the vampires) and the just start writing the story – with no idea about where the story was going or whether it would even work as a story. So, yeah – those years were not my most productive.

And then I got so tired of reading bad novels. I love my literary fiction (most of my favourite novels are contemporary or classic literature), but I also like my brain candy reads. The literary fiction never disappointed, but my late-night chocolate snack of a book invariably would. After one too many bad brain-snack books, I caved in and decided I would figure out how to write a book and actually complete one.

In the beginning, without an idea or a premise, I still knew my writing goal – I wanted to write a book the equivalent of a good gastro-pub meal. Not the ultra-refined, sous vide ocean trout with pickled samphire and sauce vierge literary novel. Not the ‘I’m so very hungover and am dying for a greasy cheeseburger’ fast-food full-of-regrets meal. But the truffled mac n cheese with gruyere and jamon bliss-food that isn’t entirely nutritious or refined, but that feels good and looks good and tastes good, and that is the type of meal that turns a small, non-descript bistrot into your favourite weekend-special hangout.

My first lesson – golden drops of wisdom or a dead-end path?

I still remember that moment – that decision to actually write a real novel. A real novel – one people would read. And I still remember the first thing I chanced upon when researching my next move.

I love research – I am a HUGE research nerd. I love learning, what can I say? So, obviously, the first thing I do after deciding to write (and complete) a novel is consult my bestie, Dr Google, and ask “What do I need to do to write a novel?”

Interestingly, the answer I found (or gravitated towards) was this:

SET UP YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM

I had no idea what an author platform was. (Remember, I had no idea what pantsing or plotting was). But, being the research nerd I am, I went about figuring that out. And that is what led me to starting this blog.

In hindsight, it was excellent advice. Setting up a blog was one of the best things I could have done as a newbie author – it instilled a much-needed ethic to write regularly, it gave me a place to reflect and report on the lessons I was learning as a new author, and it gave me exposure to you – my potential readers – and introduced you to my narrative voice. Win-win.

So, to all the new newbie writers out there – my first piece of advice to you is this:

Start a blog! Grab your free WordPress template. Introduce the world to what makes you tick creatively and tell it in a way that only your unique voice can🙂

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And that was Part One. I hope you join me for the next installment…

 

Image courtesy of Aaron Davis via Flickr Creative Commons
Time for Reflection (1) – What I’ve learned over the last three years