Charting new territory… literally

Who loves maps here?

Who loves to soak in the location in which a story takes place? Read over the locales and cities and countries?

I do.

I love fantasy maps. I think they’re not only beautiful and fun, but an invaluable tool for both writers and readers. For readers they help orient you in this new and unfamiliar world. For authors, they ensure your tale is consistent, cohesive, and makes sense. For me, I drew several maps when planning Seregn, to get a feel for the layout of cities, palaces, and countries. Also, to make sure I was giving realistic times and distances for my characters’ travels.

But I realised recently I didn’t have a final, complete, ‘locked-in’ map for the main country in which my story takes place. Oh I had rough sketches mapping out the geography, distances, and landmarks, but not the kind of map I could place in the front of a book and call a finished product.

So that has been part of my quest this weekend. It’s been both fun and challenging. Fun because I get to be creative, challenging because I need to learn to draw a map well, while also figuring out more detail to add in.

I was *quite pleased* when I had my first draft of the final map locked in yesterday!

You see, while I know roughly the ‘big-picture’ of my world, what countries are where, some of the history and such, I haven’t filled in a lot of detail, except for exactly where my story takes place. Why? Because, while it would be fun to know everything there is to know about this world, I don’t yet. There could be plenty of other tales set here that I haven’t fully crystallised in my mind, and might not for some time.

I believe setting – especially in fantasy – should be deliberately constructed to serve the plot, the theme, the characters… and I don’t want to be locked into a strict geography that could constrict some of that narrative freedom for stories I haven’t even told.

Overall it’s really not a worry, my map will really be focussed on the story of Seregn anyway, and I know enough of that area to fill in some detail and come up with more interesting features. But it was a new moment to realise I need to come up with this sort of detail – walking the fine line of creating enough to make the map realistic and interesting, but not too much that it didn’t make sense geographically or would impact future story-telling.

It’s been fun! And I’m fairly confident I’ve got it pretty well mapped out, and very soon will be able to start drawing the final version. I can’t wait to share the completed map with all of you!

Who else here loves maps – fantastical or otherwise? Or even world-building in general?

What is your approach to building a world? Or, what is your favourite fantasy world and why?

The Heart of a Tale (and the Doubts of an Author)

What is the heart of a story?

Is it the meaning behind it? Or the emotion you feel as it surges and rises and falls? Or simply the chance to desert this broken world for a short spell?

Well, on Tuesday I had my second mentoring session and was asked to describe and consider the key message of my book. I’ve thought of that before of course, it was integral to my story planning before I started writing the first chapter.

Love is as strong as death.

There’s no greater love than sacrificing oneself for your friends.

Even if we make mistakes, there’s always grace.

That last one grew in the telling of the tale, but I know it’s there.

But then, my mentor pushed further. Why am I writing this story? What will people get out of it?

It was actually wonderful.

As someone who’s struggled with whether I *should* write, and *should* publish (both in general and this book specifically) being reminded of the heart of what I was trying to achieve was amazing.

It somehow encouraged me that my book is not bad, nor will it detract from or even harm the lives of those that read it. It’s not evil, a dark hole…

As a Christian, those are the thoughts that sometimes come into my mind, and while I believe God has said I can do this, it’s hard to believe sometimes when the doubts creep in. What if God doesn’t want me to do this? What if I’m being stubborn, and disobedient?  

So, besides my times of prayer to God, that reminder was a real encouragement to me. Why? Because it forced me to confront those thoughts. Asking myself:

Q. Why could my book possibly be ‘bad’?

A. Because it’s fantasy? (The doubts say.)

BUT fantasy books are some of the most moving books I have read!

Q. Why would it harm people?

A. It wouldn’t – if my message is of love, forgiveness, sacrifice and grace, how could it be discouraging?

These realisations snapped me out of those worries for a while, and while I’m sure they will come up again, I have the weapons to fight against them. To stand firm against the doubts, the ‘what ifs’, the fears, the gnawing voice that tells me this is somehow irrevocably wrong.

Me finalising my last-minute edits before the editors got to it.

It encourages me that maybe those doubts, fears, what-ifs, not only aren’t of God, but in fact simply of myself, my own anxiety. Or, they might even be the enemy trying to distract or deter me.

This was reinforced for me this morning, as I read 1 Peter 4:10-11:

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

What wonderful words – if you’ve been given a gift, USE IT, and to GOD’S GLORY.

I think that can be done both with allegory, and more subtle themes and messages – but that’s a tangent.

For now I’ll keep moving forward, forcing myself from my comfort zone, ignoring the voice in my head that wants me to do nothing with my life, my time.

All this is especially timely I think, as the editors are getting started with my manuscript today. I’m pretty excited, and really nervous, to hear what they think. I’ve been advised it should be a couple of weeks before I have the first round of edits back.

The great thing is I’ve been able to raise the concerns/questions I have about the manuscript beforehand too, so they can keep it in mind. Great right?

So how about you? Have you ever struggled with whether you “should” or “could” do something? How did you figure out what to do?

A week of words

Well, it’s been busy in the Martin household this week!

After my first marketing mentorship session last Monday, I also heard from my publishing coordinator, who advised me there was about a week before the editors reached Seregn in their queue. She offered me that time to go over the manuscript once more for any minor changes based on some tips she provided. And I thought “why not?”

Besides writing, life has been busy too – I’ve had a Zoom catch up with friends – one of whom is overseas (and has been since the start of 2021) and finally coming back to visit, a full time job work, a social event scheduled for the weekend, being part of the worship team for church on Sunday, and a nasty migraine with aura striking without warning halfway through the week!

So, all in all, it’s been a bit chockers.

Hubby and I took a much needed break last night to spend time together and play some Scrabble. Who do you reckon won?

On the plus side, it’s nice to be rereading Seregn again, in a faster way. I’m just looking for the small things at this point (before the editors get it anyway). And so far, I think it’s reading pretty well, with a few tweaks and such. My only problem is that, at this point, I know the story inside out. I’m struggling to feel the drama, the conflict, as words I’ve read over so many times lose their urgency and excitement. Not to say I’m bored of Seregn, but I look forward to the day I can pull it off the shelf after leaving it alone for a few years and take another peek.

It reminds me of a funny moment. When I was doing my last round of edits, it had been several years since I read over the manuscript. I was sitting at the kitchen bench one evening, editing away while my husband watched Top Gear, and without warning I GASPED.


I’d forgotten what happened in the book! Of course I knew the overall story, but I forgot a super dramatic moment and a couple of sentences before I reached it I saw it coming and gasped in shock!

It’s an amusing anecdote, but also encouraging to know that if I can surprise and engage myself, hopefully I can do that for others too!

It’s going to be another big week – another mentoring session, trying to go through a 162,000 word manuscript by Wednesday… but fingers crossed I get there!

What you need to write your first draft

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you have an interest in writing (or maybe you just think I’m nice – in which case thank you!). Anyway, whether you’re just thinking about writing, vigorously planning your book, or even amidst the throes of writing or editing – I can guarantee it hasn’t all been easy.

I’ve known plenty of people who’ve wanted to write books, but very few have actually completed a full draft. So! I thought I’d share a bit of an overview of what I think it takes to get that first draft on the page.

1. A Love of Reading

Look, it might sound obvious, but if you’re going to write a book, you’re going to need to have some interest in reading. Especially for fiction, if you’re going to tell a story you need to know why we love the art of telling a tale, and how they ought to be structured. One of the first ways we see that is through being a reader. Besides, writing a book is a huge commitment – mentally, physically, and emotionally. If you’re unable to emotionally connect with writing, something is missing.

Maybe you do want to tell a story but don’t want to write a book – maybe short stories, or writing plays, or screenwriting, or poetry, is more your style. Each of these are unique and different to a novel.

2. An Idea

Again, it may sound obvious, but sometimes we know we want to write something, but we’re just not quite sure what. And that’s ok! I don’t know of any author who had a full and complete story spring into their mind in an instant. But what you do need is a spark, an idea, which you can craft your story around.

I’m reminded of the classic tale of C.S. Lewis just having the image of a faun at a lamppost in his head. From that one image sprung one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time. Maybe it’s the same for you, or maybe it’s a bit different. Perhaps you hold a theme close to you heart – the value of friendship, the honour of sacrifice, the struggle of addiction. Maybe there’s a setting you’ve visited that absolutely captured your heart and you felt it was worth weaving into a tale. Use these things, people, places, ideas, images, art… all these things you love as sparks to enlighten your brainstorming. Perhaps you have a love of the beach, and want to tell a tale about a struggling friendship as two people grow apart. Perhaps they can live at the coast, and the waves crashing against the rocks are almost a metaphor for their rocky relationship.

3. A commitment to learning

Writing a book is not easy. No matter how prolific a reader you are, you will still need to learn the craft. Be willing to adopt the attitude of a student and soak up all you can. Structure, pacing, character arcs, inner and outer conflict, themes… there’s so much to know and learn and interweave to create a satisfying story. Hunt down resources – whether writing books, workshops, even other writers or a writing buddy with whom you can hone your craft. You’ll never learn everything.

I recommend C.S. Lakin’s blog and Jenna Moreci’s YouTube videos as a great place to start.

4. Planning (for me at least)

This ties in with the previous point. You see, I’d tried writing stories my whole life, but it was only after I’d successfully planned out an entire tale and knew exactly where it was going that I managed to finish one.

I wholeheartedly believe that was because I knew the tale from start to finish. For the first time as I wrote I knew exactly where my characters were, and exactly where they were going. I was excited – eager to write the scenes that thrilled me most – and I knew they were coming – I just had to keep going! I didn’t have to stop and think about what to do next, because I already knew.

Now, I’m a firm believer that there’s no one right way to write a novel, but for me, planning it out first was the key to success. I had a book full of notes planning out character arcs, locations, distances. I had palm cards with scenes written down stuck to my wardrobe door to go scene by scene. It was all there in front of me. That doesn’t mean it didn’t grow and change along the way, but it made it so much easier to get the story down on paper.

My wardrobe door – this isn’t even when it was complete – the red sticky notes were places I needed to add scenes as my tertiary plot great in the telling.

5. Commitment – and a willingness to not be perfect

If you’re writing a whole novel, you’ve got to be committed to it. It’s an entire story, and to achieve it will, inevitably, take TIME. I’m not talking a few hours, I’m talking weeks and months (potentially) of consistent brainstorming, planning, writing, editing. It’s a mammoth task. But as Vincent Van Gogh (supposedly) said “great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together”. You CAN ABSOLUTELY do it, you just have to be persistent, persevere in you craft. And this, by the way, is where I think planning really helps – because you can see the path in front of you!

Also, don’t be afraid for your first draft to be bad. Because it almost certainly will be. But that’s ok! That’s what editing is for! You’ll get there. The first step is just to Get. Those. Words. On. The. Page.

So what do you think? Would you agree? Disagree? Is there anything you’d add?

I’d love to hear from you!

Manuscript: Complete. Stress Hiccoughs: Activated.

I did the thing.

That’s right! On Tuesday night I put the finishing touches on my manuscript.

I finally, on a whim, came up with some chapter titles, and added one stanza to a supplementary poem. It’s a lullaby for one of the main characters which has a lot of underlying symbolism and foreshadowing.

And on Wednesday morning I sent it all to the editors.

Oh my goodness! What an experience!

I was on my morning tea break at work at the time, but I stay at my desk in case the phone rings, and so I was brimming over with excitement and emotion and soooooo just wanted to squeal and jump and get it all out, but (for the sake of my colleagues) I just sat grinning like an idiot.

And. funny story, I get stress hiccoughs.


In workplaces that I’ve found stressful (and before that, maths class) there would be phases where, almost like clockwork, I would get the most persistent hiccoughs, and all my classmates or workmates would hear these hearty hiccoughs on the daily. Depending on my mood, that would either make me laugh – which would make the hiccoughs worse – or angry, which would just make me more angry the longer they hung around.

Guess what struck at work.

As I sat at my desk, the initial waves of thrill and excitement subsiding a little, the nerves rose fluttering in my belly, and the hiccoughs started. For the most part they were ignored, and after a minute or two of desperately trying not to laugh or hiccough too loud I managed to get them under control.

But then, later in the afternoon, they struck again.

This time, my (admittedly laidback, kind) boss was in the room. He turned to me and said:

“You hiccoughing over there?”

“Yeah, I get them when I get stressed or really emotional,” I replied.

“Which one is it?” My colleagues asked.

“Well, I’m just really nervous because I submitted my manuscript this morning!” I said.

They thought it was pretty cool!

Now, all that to say, oh my goodness the nerves! I’ve been so focussed on getting the manuscript done and submitted, I didn’t think much about what it would be like to give this story that has been close to my heart for YEARS to a stranger for critique.

All these thoughts ran through my head. Thoughts like “will they think it’s too cheesy… too violent… that I’m messed up, weird…”.

Me in my natural habitat… because apparently even though I have a desk my lap is preferable.

But really, I know they’ve probably seen manuscripts far worse than mine, or, at least I hope so. This is their job, and I’m just so curious to see what they say. It’s such a vulnerable thing. This is my first book, so I’m sure it will get better with time if I go on to publish more. But for now, this is a tale into which I’ve woven my heart and soul. These characters are people I know intimately, their tales threaded together with my utmost care. This world is one I see in my mind’s eye, the tale itself a story unravelling into themes I believe in with all my heart.

What if it’s terrible?

Of course, I have had others read it who said they enjoyed it, and I know I enjoy the book too. So I think that should be enough. But I know it can be better. So I will wait patiently, and see what happens next.

In the meantime, I start my book marketing mentorship on Monday, where I will learn how to market myself and my book. I’m both excited and a little apprehensive. Why? Because I know it’s gonna mean work – and even more vulnerability – on my part. But hey, all worth it right?

What was the last time you felt you had to be very vulnerable? Where you had to share or present something that meant so much to you for critique? OR when you found a bunch of eyes suddenly fixed on you? Let me know in the comments!

How I got here…

Hi there!

For me it’s currently Monday night. I’m curled up in my writing chair with a blanket, tapping away on my laptop as my husband watches old episodes of Top Gear while cooking dinner, and rain patters down outside. It’s quite delightful.

And I’m almost finished self-editing the last few chapters of my manuscript.

I’m so excited. And nervous.

But for now let’s just focus on the excitement. It’s been a long process for me, writing a novel. And now I’m achingly close to finishing another step along the way. It’s still early days, but I feel as though, within the week, I’ll have this book about as good as I can get it for now without any aid.

And that means soon it will be off to an editor.

An editor.

It’s kinda crazy, and I’m already anticipating what a massive job it’s going to be for first the editor, then me, to go through a 163,000-odd word fantasy manuscript. But as I prepare for this next step, it’s nice to reflect on how I got here.

I’ve gone through many phases with figuring out how I’d like to publish my book, for now tentatively titled Seregn. Traditional publishing is of course what most think of when the words ‘book publishing’ come to mind, and I suppose that’s what I would have imagined when I was a child. Pitching to a publisher, getting plenty of rejections, finally securing the deal.

But as I’ve grown self-publishing has come into its own, and I was inspired by the likes of Jenna Moreci on YouTube and JF Penn to investigate the potential of self-publishing. A couple of years ago I was so very on top of things, and learned a lot about the self-publishing market. But as life has ebbed and flowed I’ve fallen out of the loop. As any aspiring self-publishers out there may know, there’s a lot that goes into publishing a book yourself. Beyond the writing there’s the title registration, formatting, cover design, editing, marketing, book production, book launch… the more I have learned, the more I see just how much there is to it. It’s a lot to try to do – and learn – by yourself. Of course it can absolutely be done, and for a long time I expected that would probably be the path I took.

Then, in the midst of covid, a Queensland publishing company held a seminar at my local library. I live in Toowoomba, Queensland, and several years ago now they knocked down our old library building and built a new one. The exterior is lined with copper panels, which was quite the controversy at the time. Personally, I love them, and they actually inspired (if I’m remembering correctly) one of the locations in my manuscript.

I decided to go along to this seminar, held after work on a chilly evening, and listen to how this hybrid publishing company operated. And honestly, I was impressed. After that hour or so sitting in the library as the evening grew dark and the excitement set in, I was pretty sure that company were the ones. I liked that they offered the full suite of services I rattled off above, but didn’t take ownership or control of your novel.

Of course there’s a cost, which I knew would need to be saved for, but if it meant I could create a high-quality product, I felt it was worth it.

Fast forward a year or so, and as my new husband and I sat down to go over our finances, I realised I needed a more concrete figure on exactly how much this would all cost. I reached out to the company, Ocean Reeve Publishing, and the rest, as they say is history.

So here I am, getting antsy to be finished so they can get their editorial team onto it, and I can get the ball rolling on something I’ve dreamed about since childhood.

It’s a mammoth task, but I’m trying not to think about it too much, and just relish these final days of my first edit, when it’s all simply me and my words. Of course it still will be afterwards, but there’s something delightful about working on something in secret, trying to perfect and enrich it.

But soon, it will be ready for the world.


Hi there! My name is Brooke Martin and I want to be an author!

I’ve loved reading since I was a child. There’re so many images etched in my mind of reading – hot summer days lounging all over my bed reading page after page, or sitting in my little cushioned reading corner to read The Chronicles of Narnia, or my Dad bursting into my room when I was in Year 7, asking what had happened after I cried “he’s a idiot!” while reading The Lord of the Rings.

I also remember sitting in my swivel chair in primary school, busy at work tapping out my first attempt at writing a story – all about a girl transported into a fairyland, by falling through a secret portal hidden within a massive tyre lying in an abandoned junkyard.

For years writing was always something I wanted to do. I came up with ideas and the start of tales, but never quite was able to stick with them and figure out how it ended. But in high school I came across the author C. S. Lakin, whose website can be found here. By reading her blog and her book The Twelve Key Pillars of Novel Construction, suddenly I had an excellent framework upon which to build my story, and by the time I graduated uni, I had my full first draft of my new adult steampunk-fantasy novel.

Since then it’s been five years. I’ve edited it myself a couple of times, but for the most part it’s sat in the proverbial desk drawer. In the meantime I’ve moved cities twice, changed jobs, faced covid, and got married.

But I’ve always hoped to have it published. There’s something about opening a book, being drawn in, and becoming utterly captivated with the tale and the characters and the world, losing yourself in a world of ink and imagination. The emotion, the adventure, the bittersweet moment of reaching the end, knowing it is over, yet the story touching your heart even as you close the cover and feel the ache of it within you. I hope my writing would be worthy of such a response from others.

So here I am. Finally ready to start the process of getting this manuscript professionally edited, and, one day, published! It’s exciting, and scary, and full of unknowns and potential. Publishing can be a scary and uncertain road, so I thought I’d share my story here. I figure, if this little record can help anyone else on their publishing journey, then it will be well worth it.

So stay tuned! Next time I plan to share how I’ve decided to go about publishing, and why.

For now, let me know, are you a reader? Writer? If so, do you dream to be published one day?