Creating Rich Characters Using Worldbuilding

January 25, 2023

What the Heck is Worldbuilding, Part Two!

Establishing the History of Your World

December 25, 2022

You're writing a fantasy novel, and you've established a little bit of your world building so far...but you've run into a  problem. You don't know why your world is the way it is! This is when you start thinking about the history of your world.

Some great ways to establish history is to start asking yourself certain questions. Some that helped me begin to establish the history of my world:

I've found creating children's stories or folktales is the easiest place to start when trying to establish historical events for your world. They're simplified, and often boiled down or twisted versions of the truth.  Start with trying to establish one or two common folktales and expand from there. Where did this story originate? What details have been left out or glossed over? What lesson is it trying to teach kids, and why pull it from that particular event? Has the story been pushed by your world's government? Do different countries tell the same story differently? All these are questions to ask yourself in order to get a grasp on why stories for children may have developed the way they did.

Propaganda is another great way to establish depth in the history of your world, too. History that is taught in schools isn't always correct - it will probably be the same in your world, too, especially depending on the government and how they choose to rule their people. Propaganda-ed history may have some similar traits to the folklore or children's stories you've established. What details were purposefully left out? What has simply been lost to time? Why did they twist the truth to fit a certain narrative? What is that narrative? 

Of course, you won't necessary divulge all these details while writing your story. Sometimes, the history you create won't ever make its way into the pages of your book. But it's still a good exercise in making your world richer, and can even help you build more believable and unique characters. After all, we are all influenced by our world whether we want to be or not. The history you create can help shape your characters motivations, desires, and flaws.

With that being said, next time we'll talk about how world building can affect your characters and how to incorporate all that hard work into building unique and interesting characters people will love.

I hope you have a wonderful new year!


What the Heck is Worldbuilding, Part One!

The One and Only Time I Feel Like an Expert

November 28, 2022

World building is a necessary part of every novel. Yes, EVERY novel. Not just fantasy or sci-fi, even contemporary novels need worldbuilding!

World building is the art of establishing your world's rules, restrictions, and boundaries. It involves everything from the world itself (are you writing in the established world, or are you making up a new one?), to technology, magic, laws, religions, races, creatures, and lands. These things still apply in contemporary novels, but I'm focusing more on how to build a new, fantasy world in this particular post.

So where do I start? This is always the toughest place to figure out. For most people, starting small is the best way to go. If you're writing a fantasy novel, there's a few ground rules you need to establish to start out with. Magic or no magic? What kind of technology do they have? How big is your world, and how big is the scope for your story? Establishing a few ground rules like this will give you some direction to travel in.

Now, I don't believe in establishing every single thing about your world before you begin drafting. Plotters will disagree with me on this, but I find discovering things along the way to be a more satisfying way to build and round out my world. As I come across things I need to fill out my world, I can establish them right then and there.

What are some questions I can ask myself to get started? Oh this is my favorite. Here's a non-exhaustive list of some questions you can use to start the worldbuilding process.

Of course, these are only starting points. You can get pretty specific within each of the questions above and continue to flesh out the details of your world as you dig deeper. Some of the first things I established were the government and the technology in OBBT. This helped shape the direction of the story of the entire series, and gave me a good place to start for motivations of characters. 

What about the little things? Sure, the small details are also important in worldbuilding. Things like common folk tales, unique plants, or interesting rock formations. They can be a fun exercise for you as the author to establish, but unless they have some sort of plot significance, it's likely they won't come into play in your story. And that's okay! Establishing the little things can sometimes make your world feel richer, even if it's just in passing.

World building is extremely fun for me, and I could easily talk about it for a very very long time, but I'm going to reign myself in this time. I hope this is a helpful topic, and that I've at least given you some insight into how I started worldbuilding for OBBT!

Next time - I'm going to dive deeper into establishing history for your world. Let's continue the worldbuilding train!

Happy holidays!


Character Arcs Vs Plot

You Really Shouldn't Be Listening to My Advice on This One

October 26, 2022

Hello my friends, time for me to attempt to explain this particular topic absolutely horribly, because I too, have no idea what the heck I'm doing.

What I can tell you is that I am absolutely, 100%, no holds barred, without a doubt, a plot-focused writer. If something is not happening in any single scene that drives the plot forward, I feel like it doesn't belong. I save the emotionally charged scenes for last and write the fight scenes first. I cower in fear of having to clean up well why does this character feel this way and why in the world would they do that? I dread the process of having to fill in the character-based gaps between plot points.

Because really, y'all, plot can't move forward without the characters. They are the heart of your story, the reason anything is happening. Sure, events can happen to your characters, but that makes for a real boring story no one is going to be invested in. 

So how do I manage to balance the two? Badly, that's how. But I'll attempt to explain.

Using my 5-act structure that I detailed below (see: Plotting & Drafting), I'm able to not only plot out important story beats, but I can coordinate character development using those acts. Now, I don't get specific at all in this stage of plotting. I usually will give myself one or two sentences about where the character needs to be in their personal journey at that point in the book. I don't tell myself how they'll get there or why. That comes out during drafting, and usually changes throughout the editing process. Getting too attached to a certain method of development stifles your characters and doesn't allow them to grow naturally. 

I said it before that I tend to leave the heavily character-based scenes for the end. And for the most part, I do. 

With OBBT, there are two scenes in particular that I left towards the end. 

To be honest, I didn't know I needed these scenes, which is why I left them to the very end. But my beta readers were having a hard time grasping why they should care about my characters, and that was enough to tell me that I needed to give them a reason.

And that's the heart of why writing character arcs is so important. Sure, plot is interesting and is the whole reason you might tell a story. But people aren't going to resonate, connect, or fall in love with your story if the characters delivering it are flat and uninteresting. Spend time with them, give them personality, and don't be afraid to show it in your story, even if nothing else is happening.

This was probably mostly incoherent, but I hope it made sense and resonated with some of you hardcore plot-focused writers. It's tough to balance the two, so don't be afraid to practice writing short, character-driven stories to work that character writing muscle.

Next time, we're going to talk about worldbuilding, my favorite part of the creative process!

*Kissy noises*,


Plotting & Drafting

A Pantser Attempts to Explain (and does a terrible job)

September 22, 2022

We're back again to talk about my writing process, and this time I'm going to tackle the arguably hardest part of my process in conjunction with the easiest—plotting and drafting.

Obviously, this works differently for everyone, and no two writers have the exact same processes. Mine is... chaotic, at best. But during the process of writing Of Blood, Bones, and Truth, I've learned a lot about me and what works best. 

I tend to find the first draft the most exciting! As I said in my previous blog post, my ideas usually form during this first "half-draft." I let myself daydream, I dump everything I can possibly think of in that draft and I don't hold myself to a specific set of scenes or plot points. I just write. For the ADHD side of my brain, this is helpful because it lets me cool off the little tangents my brain wants to go down when I'm writing. I get the itch for those out, and sometimes even help myself narrow down the plot.

But once that half-draft is written? I need to narrow the focus. With OBBT, I used a technique I learned from the queen herself, V.E. Schwab called the story skeleton. This involves writing a massive laundry list of all the scenes you want to include in your story at the most basic level. This worked great for OBBT, but it also left me with a lot of questions and gaps. 

As I began more fine-tuned edits of OBBT, I discovered a new drafting process (thanks to a beta reader, Gina!) that works even better than the story skeleton, and helps me focus on character arcs rather than plot (which I am guilty of focusing on the plot more than the character, oops). This 5-act structure gives me prompts to figure out character arcs while framing it within the lens of plot—a perfect balance for me.

The 5 acts are as follows:

I find the 5 acts much easier to break down than the 3 act structure. It's more detailed, yet still high-level enough to let my pantser brain feel like I'm not totally corralled. It helps me focus on character arcs within the plot, rather than trying to figure out arcs AFTER I've already written the plot.

My ramblings when I try to talk about writing tend to go off the rails, but I hope this was focused enough for you to get a grasp on my chaotic writing process. And maybe I've given you a new drafting process with the 5 act structure? One can hope.

Next time—character arcs vs plot!


What's My Writing Process?

Where Ideas Come From

August 12, 2022

Ah, the age old question: what's my writing process? Well. This is a rather tough question for me to answer, and it's definitely not because I'm chaos personified (spoiler alert, it absolutely is).

So in order to break it down, let's start from the beginning—how do I come up with ideas? How do I know when these ideas are ready to be pursued, and how do I tackle the challenge of narrowing those ideas down to make a cohesive story?

Inspiration comes from a lot of places for me. For OBBT, it was inspired by a few things. Namely:

My main goal with this series was to satisfy my own desperate need for queer-centric fantasy with unique settings. And not hinted-at queerness. No, I wanted queer fantasy stories that are so in your face with the queerness it's never a question if they're queer. After queer characters being relegated to side characters and brief mentions for so long, I was desperate for more stories with canon queer main characters. 

With that need now a central focus, I finally had somewhere to start. 

I get really excited about a blank document. Enough that first drafts are my favorite, even though they never get beyond halfway through the second act before I have to stop and go back to the beginning. 

This first "half-draft" is what helps me narrow down ideas. I'm writing on autopilot by this point, brain dumping everything I want to try and include in this story in an attempt to be cohesive. But more often than not, it becomes obvious about halfway through that I can't possibly include everything I want to include this way. 

This is when I'll stop, reread everything, and figure out what works and what doesn't. If I'm cutting out ideas, I'll sometimes save them for later, or get rid of them altogether. This is a really chaotic process for whittling down ideas, I know, but it works well for me!

Now how do I figure out if the idea is worth pursuing at all? It becomes pretty obvious in those first few chapters of a first draft whether or not I'm excited about it enough to continue. And it becomes even more obvious if I stop to plot and have no idea how to continue. But that doesn't mean it's not worth pursuing ever, it usually just means it's not right now.

I hope this little bit of insight was interesting to read, and gives you at least a semi-decent idea of the constant chaos that is swirling inside my brain at all times. Stay tuned for more of these posts as I try to describe what in the world my writing process even is. Next time—drafting and plotting!

*insert winky face here*,


Onwards, to Self-Publishing

July 25, 2022

I've been slacking on the blog part of this website as I've been polishing up my manuscript and booking partners for the scariest and most exciting endeavor I've undertaken yet.


Querying and trying to get an agent was a great experience, but I realized about a month and a half into the process that I wasn't really enjoying myself and that I am not cut out for the waiting game. I'm sure if I'd persevered a bit (read: a while) longer, I may have been successful in getting an agent. But getting an agent isn't a guarantee to publication, and frankly, I just wasn't in the mood to hurry up and wait.

Besides, as I undertake the journey to self-publication, I've realized that this was a better path for me all along. I have my own deadlines to follow. I get complete creative control. I get to choose the cool stuff I give out to readers as thanks for ordering my book. It's honestly much more comfortable for me than traditional publishing would have been!

Now, I don't want anyone reading this and thinking, well, you just didn't have the patience for trad publishing. Your work wasn't good enough. You're not cut out for trad publishing. No no no, that's not it. 

These days, self-publishing is a very conscious choice. It's not because I've failed, or because I wasn't good enough for traditional publishing. It's because I want that control, that closeness to the process beyond just my writing. I want to determine how my book is marketed, how I interact with readers, the whole kit and caboodle. I haven't failed. I have succeeded.

I'm extremely excited for this next step in my author journey, and I can't WAIT to share more with you about Of Blood, Bones, and Truth, about Ileron, and Kellan and Cassian and Vaida and this crazy universe I've been thinking of for years now. 

Of Blood, Bones, and Truth is publishing in April 2023! Mark your calendars!


Querying - What is it?

April 15, 2022

I recently ran a Q&A on my Instagram about the querying process, and it felt like a good opportunity for a blog post.

What is querying, anyway? Long story short, if you're looking to be published by one of the big U.S. publishing houses (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster), or any of their imprints (smaller publishers that are still technically part of the big 5), you first need to find a literary agent to represent you and your work to those publishers. Of course, there's much more to the process than that, but that's the basic idea.

So what does the querying process look like? Well that's where it gets slightly more complex. Your first step is to finish your manuscript! This is, arguably, the hardest part of the process. You want to have a pretty polished piece of work. Of course, this doesn't mean it needs to be perfect. You don't have to hire an editor before sending your work to agents. What polished really means is that you've gotten your work to a point where you feel like you can't take it further on your own. Some agents will give feedback, which can help you polish it even more. Don't count on this though - your best bet is to find critique partners and alpha readers who can help you polish before you send it off.

After you've finished the herculean task of finishing a whole book (omg pat yourself on the back, that's HARD!) you now need to prepare a querying packet. In general, your packet should include:

These items are not the rule, but rather, the common items I've found while making queries. Some agents will ask right away for snippets of your work (the first 5 pages, the first 2 chapters, etc) and some won't ask for anything at all. Make sure, before submitting to each agent, that you read their query requirements closely! They're working through thousands of manuscripts on a regular basis - adhering to their requests makes their work go faster.

But what happens after you get an agent? This is the fun part. Once you've found an agent for your work, they will represent you and your book to publishers! If you're writing a series, sometimes they'll try to sell a multi-book deal on your behalf, or they'll only sell the first and hope you get picked up for more. Here's a super important tip to remember - an agent will never ask you to pay them. They get paid only when your manuscript sells to a publisher. If someone is asking you for money to represent you, run.

So what happens if you don't get an agent? Keep trying! First, analyze what you've been including in your queries. If you find you've been getting a lot of rejections with no requests, something might be wrong with your query letter. If you've been getting lots of requests, but no offers of representation, it might have something to do with the story itself. If you've had a full request from an agent, some will offer feedback if you ask kindly. Even the smallest bit of feedback from an agent can spur you in the right direction.

Overall, querying can be a super stressful process as you're dealing with a lot of rejection, because not every book is to every agent's taste. You have to tailor your requests to people who you think will love your work, and who you would love to work with in return. A great way to find agents you might enjoy is to look in the acknowledgements of comp titles and books you enjoy in the same genre as your own. Since those people have represented similar books in the past, it stands to reason they might want to represent you.

There's a lot of information about querying, and I'm definitely not an authority. All my knowledge comes from doing a lot of research, spending hours on literary agency websites, and obsessing over querytracker. You'll learn what works and what doesn't as you jump in, and asking other writers how they've done things is always an option!

If you're considering querying but have been unsure where to start, I hope this helps you in your querying journey!

Best of luck!


The Importance of Writing and Critique Groups

February 21, 2022

Over the last four months, I've gotten very, very lucky.

I've been part of a writer's group of people I met through Instagram, and honestly? They've become one of my biggest support systems.

I'd like to think I'm a lucky person when it comes to people I meet. It's been especially true through this journey of novel-writing. First, it was a few friends I met through Instagram who eventually became my very first alpha readers. Their critiques, general ramblings, and suggestions helped me reshape and smoosh back together a story that was infinitely more believable, fun, and interesting. They are, without a doubt, the most important people in my first baby steps as a writer.

And then, I got doubly lucky to be part of yet another group of amazing writers. Every single one of them is so insanely talented it's kind of wild we just so happened to come together like this. And what's better? It NEVER feels like a competition with any of them. It's just support, love, and the best hype squad a girl could ask for. 

I finished my edits to OBBT over the weekend - this was the fourth full rewrite, and the first edit to this version of the story. Ultimately, it's helped make the story into something it was always meant to be. now that it's here, I can't help but thank everyone along the way who's helped it get to this point.

Rambling aside, my point is, critique groups, support groups, and just general writer friends are SO important to have. I never would have gotten this far without them. Because writing is hard,  you guys. So freaking hard. And it truly does take a lot of willpower to continue to edit and cut apart and delete and rewrite your brainchild over and over.

Having a support team to cheer you along makes the journey all worth it.

With lots of love,


Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

NaNoWriMo 2021 and First Drafts

November 28, 2021

Heya, it's been a bit.

I'm actually proud to say that mostly this is because I've been hard at work writing for NaNoWriMo. I'm also really proud to say I've written every single day of my goal this year so far (I've still got two days left but I'm confident in myself to keep it up!).

I think NaNo is a great exercise in consistency, especially for people like me who write when the mood strikes. Has all of my writing this month been amazing? Absolutely not. In fact, I'm going to have a lot of work to do when I finally finish Brimstone and Fire book 2, because it is GARBAGE. 

But you know what? That's okay. First drafts aren't meant to be pretty or polished or frankly, even make sense. What they're meant to do is get you into the story, to give you a foundation to work off of, and to give you a direction. For pantsers like me, first drafts are especially important because they determine what works and what doesn't in terms of your story.

I think people get a little too down on themselves sometimes when it comes to first drafts - they want them to be a finished, polished product with just one shot. And that's unrealistic! I love the drafting process, but I agree that I can also get frustrated when my drafts aren't that great.

Nano is fabulous for getting those first, crappy, unpolished, messy drafts out of the way. You have a consistent goal each day to write something, to get something down on paper. And once you've gotten over the first draft hump, rewriting and editing isn't nearly as horrific (although sometimes you have to write an entire POV character out and then it becomes a mess again... I'm not speaking from experience).

The art of the first draft is that there isn't one. First drafts are going to look different for everyone. Some people can accomplish a great draft in one go, and that's incredible. Most of us, however, will take a few tries to get a solid piece of writing that doesn't totally suck. And I am no exception. In fact, the first draft of OBBT was so bad, I scrapped the whole thing and ended up taking an entirely different route with it. And you know what? It came out better in the end.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that Nano is a great practice for accountability with writing, but don't be disappointed when churning out all those words gives you something you cringe at. That cringey bunch of words is a first draft - and it's something to be proud of.

Happy writing, and see you next time!


Photo by Ocean Ng on Unsplash 

The Art of Waiting

October 21, 2021

The waiting game is the worst, honestly.

I'm writing this mostly for myself, but I figure my ramblings might help someone else out there if they're also waiting on submissions, queries, or whatever else.

Waiting is an inevitable part of the publishing process, and learning to be okay with waiting is a tough thing to do. Especially for someone like me, who has the patience of a squirrel and the attention span of a goldfish. I'm too jittery to be patient most of the time, but approaching this with the knowledge that I will be waiting has helped.

Going into waiting for Pitch Wars announcements with the frame of mind that I may not be picked and that's okay has done a lot for my mental well-being during this time.  

But how do you make this waiting time not feel like a month-long torture session? Personally, I've been working on other projects. OBBT 2, an entirely new project I dreamed up (quite literally), and letting myself relax.

The most important thing to remember when playing the waiting game is that this is the time to take care of you. You need to rest, relax, and if that means stepping away from the project that has consumed so much of your life for the past few months or years, then it's important to do so. I haven't touched my MS since submitting to Pitch Wars, even though I was so sure I'd be doing small edits during this time. It didn't feel right. And you know what? I'm really proud that I haven't.

American society has put a lot of pressure on "relaxation." You feel when you are taking time to relax or refresh or simply let the creative well refill that you aren't doing enough. That is a lie. Relaxation and rest is just as important to the creative process (and I'd even argue more important) than forcing yourself to write when you just simply can't. Letting yourself rest can give you more energy when you do hop back into the writing game. Giving yourself grace is such an important act of self-love, and when playing the waiting game, it's the perfect time to take advantage of time.

The most important thing I hope you take away from this is that it's okay not to be working on your MS or WIP constantly. That it's okay for you to give yourself a break, that it's okay to use the waiting period to not work on anything else. That listening to what you need is the best thing you could do while waiting.

See you later!


Photo created on Canva, Pitch Wars Logo by  Isabel Ibañez Davis.

Pitch Wars Time

September 27, 2021

The submission window for Pitch Wars opened yesterday, and although I spent the weekend celebrating my friend's wedding, I submitted my pitch to four wonderful mentors! I'm BEYOND nervous and I'm sure there are some similar sentiments from my fellow Pitch Wars hopefuls. 

If you don't know, Pitch Wars is a yearly event in which volunteers from the publishing industry (other agented/published authors, editors, etc.) read submitted pitches from people like me (un-agented author hopefuls) and select someone to work with on revamping their manuscript! It's a really cool program that's been around since 2012, and I'm a little blown away that I felt ready enough to enter this year.

Of course, my entire writing career doesn't rest on being selected in Pitch Wars. It would certainly help, considering many Pitch Wars mentees get agents after the showcase in January, but it's only a stepping stone on my path to become a published author.

What am I looking forward to the most in Pitch Wars? If I do get lucky enough to be selected by one of the mentors I submitted to (please please please), I'm really looking forward to being able to make a new contact (and possible friend) within the publishing industry! I'm excited for their expertise, and to rip my book baby apart and put it back together in a way that makes it even better for my future readers. Having an industry professional take the time to look over my work is simultaneously terrifying and absolutely thrilling, and I can't wait to experience that myself!

I'm really excited to hopefully be selected and have someone who is not my friend or family read something I've spent so long creating. I am absolutely jazzed to have the chance to make my writing the best it can possibly be. This is a fantastic opportunity to really make my author dreams come true, and the little girl in me is screaming at this chance.

Until next time!


Photo from Instagram, @tiamae.books

Meet Me - Tia Ledvina!

September 17, 2021

Hello! I'm so glad you found your way to my author website. As you've gathered from it being  plastered everywhere, my name is Tia. I'm a millennial writer from Wisconsin, and I'm here to share a little bit of my writing journey with you!

It all started when I was a kid. My mother loved reading and books, and I soaked that love in through her. My obsession with fantasy began with the Tamora Pierce books about female Knights and mages, of love and country. I'd tell anyone who listened that I wanted to write books just like that.  

My first attempt at writing was an absolutely awful attempt at my own chosen one story, about a girl named Maddie who gets chosen to attend a secret and mysterious monk academy. Suffice it to say while the pitch sounds interesting, the execution was terrible. Maybe I'll revisit that someday.

I wrote short stories after that mostly, dabbling in all different kinds of fantasy and magical realism. Although I was never able to complete a full-length manuscript, I have dozens of started stories that never saw the light of day.

In college, I majored in English with an emphasis in Professional Writing and Publishing. The cool thing about this major is that it was one of the only programs like this in the entire country, so I was really lucky to be able to slap that on my very expensive piece of paper from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Janine Tobeck really knocked it out of the park with that major, and I'm really grateful I was able to learn all I did during those four years.

Now, nearly 7 years after graduating college, I've finally finished my first, full-length novel! Of Blood, Bones, and Truth is a really special story. I began writing it during the first months of the pandemic, when most of my extracurriculars were cancelled and I had nothing better to do.

This story has been under my skin for more than a year now, whispering in my ear to keep going, to finish our story. My characters are alive in my head and heart, and the fact I'm able to tell their story again and again is an honor. Kellan is an extension of me, although I didn't realize it at first. This story has helped me recognize myself, my sexuality, my identity, and work through who I am as a person and author. 

All I can hope is that others will connect with this story like I have, and that when they read Kellan, Cassian, Selwyn, Pontius, and Mina's story, they'll see into my heart just a little bit. 

Anyway, thank you for sticking around and getting to know me! I'll be updating here occasionally with my progress through Pitch Wars, the editing and revision trenches, and the querying process when that finally comes around. 

See you next time,