Another gorgeous cover!
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams is a historical novel recommended to me by a friend. It's about a woman and her contributions to the Oxford English Dictionary in the late 1800s - early 1900s. Being an etymology nerd, and knowing it had a feminist bent, I was excited to dive in.
The novel focuses on Esme, daughter of one of the men tasked with collecting and organizing words for the dictionary. After her mother died, she spent most of her time with her father in a place called the Scriptorium, where the words were sorted and compiled. Esme found a slip of paper on the floor with a word and realized it had been lost and decided to keep it. As she grew older, she learned that some words weren't lost by mistake, but left out on purpose--often words related to the poor and especially women. She must decide what to do about it, continue to help a dictionary that loses words on purpose or save those words left behind.
This book had a lot of interesting elements. I'd never thought about what it took to make the first dictionary or the thought process behind words to include or exclude. I thought Esme lived during an interesting time in England, which included the movement for women's suffrage and WWI.
Something frustrating about the book was that Esme took a long time to start on her character arc, so the beginning felt too slow for me. However, a lot of what was happening around Esme was interesting enough that I kept going.
Overall this book was an interesting read. This book is for you if you like Victorian-era historical fiction, etymology, and early 20th century feminism. It's not for you if you are looking for a super active character, if you're looking for a romance, of if you're not in the headspace to read about pregnancy/adoption.
Have you read the Dictionary of Lost Words? What other historical novels have you enjoyed? Let's discuss in the comments!
A visual representation of a developmental edit. Made on Canva by Kate Ota, 2023
This week I'm discussing a new experience my writing group engaged me in: a developmental edit. I'd never done one before, so I read about what they entail and what to look for before starting the process and did another refresher after I finished reading the manuscript. I thought sharing my experience could help someone else who either has been asked to do a developmental edit, wants to attempt to developmental edit their own work, or is curious about what this entails.
What is a Developmental Edit?
A developmental edit is what I think of as an "early stage" edit, so you're not polishing sentences, you're polishing structure and plot and character arcs. Big picture stuff that could cause you to change huge sections of the story. No point fixing a sentence in a scene that's about to be removed. A dev edit is performed after drafting (at the earliest) but before line/copy edits. In the case of my writing group, it was done in lieu of a beta read. If you hire a professional to do a developmental edit, it is generally done after beta reading.
How Do You Developmental Edit?
As I read, I tried to keep in mind the big picture items: plot arc and character arc. The story was pretty linear, so structure wasn't a big concern in this case. However, if reading a non-linear story, be sure to keep an eye on structure too. I made some notes in line, but not as often as I do for beta reads. I didn't correct every small typo I came across unless it affected my reading/understanding.
After reading, I put together an edit letter. There are lots of outlines online for what an edit letter should contain, so I followed one of those to make sure I hit the big points: positive feedback, setting, characters, character arc, pacing, dialogue, and plot holes. I kept my feedback a big picture as possible--don't write an entire page about one setting's single problem, or one line of dialogue that didn't fit.
Elements of the Edit Letter
Positive Feedback: This is huge to include in a developmental edit. Since this writer was going to get edit letters from the entire group of us, that could lead to an overwhelming amount of suggested edits. It's crucial to include what worked well, so that the author knows what NOT to change, and so they don't feel disheartened if the edit letters are long or require a lot of work.
Setting: Even if set in the real world, the setting will still matter to the reader. Include if you could picture the setting in each scene, what elements were often missing (think sights/sounds/smells/tastes/touches), and if you understood when the scenes took place (night/day, years, seasons, etc.). Feel free to call out great things here too, of course, especially settings you felt worked well in contrast to ones that didn't, so the author can look at their own work to see what they did and pull that into the less successful scenes.
Characters: For this section, I talked about all the characters except the main character and their arc, which is the next section. Here is where you should things like the number of named characters (overall or in a particular scene were there too many? Too few?), the names of characters (were any too similar? Did the author accidentally use a celebrity/infamous/famous character name?), and the purpose of side characters (could any be combined? Did you mix any up? Was there someone you felt was missing?). Positive feedback can go here too, like naming a favorite side character and why, mentioning a great character moment, etc.
Character arc and pacing: I followed Save The Cat Writes a Novel as my guide for when certain beats should have hit, and used that to inform me on pacing, though often I could tell by gut if anything was running too long or happening too soon. Save The Cat acted like a nice quantitative measurement to back me up and help the author figure out how much to move their beats. The same is true for pacing plot and pacing the character arc. They should be two separate sections in the edit letter, despite the similar method. Character arc is the beating heart of a novel, so be sure to pay special attention to it: did the character complete their arc successfully? Did they have a lowest moment? Was the character arc driving the plot arc or vice versa? (The "correct" answer for that one will depend on genre, though agents right now love to talk about character driven stories.)
Dialogue: Feedback here should include whether the dialogue felt natural in general (there will always be exceptions, like a character who is using a second language might be a little more stiff), if dialogue from different characters felt too similar, and if the dialogue to narration balance felt correct. That last one will depend on genre and taste, but go with your gut. This is also a place for positive feedback: did anyone have a great one liner that made you laugh? Did any character have stand out dialogue in general?
Plot Holes: A little more general than the plot beats discussed in the pacing section, the plot hole section is where you discuss other problems with the plot or world. Even if set in the real world, there can be holes (for example: you may have to tell your author that Interstate 80 doesn't go through Colorado, it goes through Wyoming). More often, you'll need to point out questions that come up around "why did the characters do X and never even thought of the much easier method Y?" You may, but you don't have to, suggest possible solutions. However, don't get attached to your ideas, as the author may come up with a different solution that works better for them.
If there are other thoughts or comments you have left over, feel free to add more sections. For different genres, you may need other sections such as Romance, Magic System, Alien Culture, Mystery Elements, etc. Every story will be different, so feel free to write an edit letter that best suits the manuscript you're editing.
In the end, you'll send your edit letter to your author and hope for the best. Keep in mind, everything you're written in your letter is a suggestion, not a legal requirement. If the author loves and incorporates all of your feedback, hooray! If the author ignores every word you wrote, well, it's their novel. Odds are, something in the middle will happen, and that's great too. All you can hope for us that the author takes away at least one thing from your letter to make their book better in their eyes.
Some Quick Don'ts
Have you ever done or received a developmental edit? Was it worth it? Do you recommend your editor? Let's discuss in the comments!
Not one but two new books in the world of Percy Jackson and the Olympians (PJO) dropped in 2023: The Sun and the Star (Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro) and Percy Jackson: The Chalice of the Gods (Rick Riordan). As a longtime PJO reader, I had to read these. I've been bad and skipped the Apollo series and I think these books spoiled a couple key events in that Apollo series, so if you're not caught up and don't want spoilers, finish the Apollo books before reading these two. The Sun and the Star published first, but is later in time. If you want to maintain total surprise in the timeline, read The Chalice of the Gods first.
The Chalice of the Gods is a classic PJO story. Percy needs three letters of recommendation to get into the university in New Rome with Annabeth. To get a letter, he has to do a quest. We're back to the classic trio of Grover, Annabeth, and Percy getting into trouble with figures from Greek myths. It gives the vibes of the first two or three PJO books but with older protagonists. Nostalgia galore.
The Sun and the Star follows Nico, Hades's shadowy son, and Will, a child of Apollo, as they travel to Tartarus to retrieve something very important left behind when Percy and Annabeth visited in The House of Hades. While Nico is immune to many of Tartarus's dangers, his true love Will isn't so lucky.
Both books were nostalgic, lightly/sweetly romantic, and a great read overall. A little older than readers who are just starting on the world of PJO (book 1 is Middle Grade after all), but it's perfect for readers who have read all the books up to this point.
I know I normally list negatives here, but honestly, no notes.
The Sun and the Star and The Chalice of the Gods are for you if you like the other PJO books, if you've been waiting for Nico and Will to get more narrative attention, or if you like Greek mythology. The Chalice of the Gods is a good entry point for readers new to the world, if you're intimidated by the backlog of other books in the series. These books are not for you if you're not going to be onboard with a gay romance, if you dislike PJO books (let's not discuss the live action movie), or if you need your books to take everything very seriously.
Since Goodreads removed Middle Grade as a category in their Best Books of 2023 awards, shout out your favorite middle grade books in the comments to shine some much deserved light on them!
Look at that sphynx! With a cover like that, I couldn't say no!
I stumbled on Poisoned Primrose (Motts Cold Case Mystery, Book 1 ) by Dahlia Donovan when looking for an indie published cozy mystery to read. My goal this year was to read nine indies and I was behind, but I also wanted an indie in a genre I hadn't read indie before. When I saw the cover of Poisoned Primrose, I knew I needed to read it. It is book one in a series which also includes Pierced Peony, Pickled Petunia, and Purloined Poinsettia.
This book follows Motts, an autistic and asexual middle-aged woman and her sphynx, Cactus, who move into a late relative's cottage in a small English town. She knows the villagers, as she spent many childhood visits there, so there's a strong returning-to-small-town vibe. As Motts redoes the garden, she finds a very dated dead body. Motts pokes around to learn more about the victim and those who knew her, but the killer doesn't appreciate Motts's interest.
I liked the portrayal of the sphynx cat, Cactus, it was 10/10. The author either has or has lived with one, I'm sure. Cactus was my favorite character. I liked that the main character was written by an autistic author. I've read a couple books now about an autistic main character written by neurotypical authors and they get quite cringey with the stereotypical portrayals. I liked that this book avoided that! I also liked how Motts's asexual identity was respected and represented.
Unfortunately, the mystery was not clear enough to me. I didn't even have a sense of the age of the victim or why she was buried in Motts's garden at all. I was left without the sense of satisfaction that a solved mystery normally leaves me. I also had no idea what most characters looked like, so it was hard to picture some scenes.
Overall, this book is for you if you're looking for authentic autism or asexual representation, if you want to fall in love with or learn what it's like to own a sphynx, or if you prefer mysteries about cold cases. It is not for you if you want all your questions answered at the end of a mystery, want a romantic subplot involving spice, or a prefer fresh dead body in your mysteries.
Have you read Poisoned Primrose? Do you recommend other indie cozy mysteries? What other books have great autism rep? Let's discuss in the comments!
Image made on Canva 2023
As promised last month, I'm going to share lessons from my first DNF (did not finish) of the year. And just in time for Halloween! Nothing scarier than a book full of promise falling flat on its face, right? I will not be naming the book, but to give context, it was on a list of best indie books of the year it was published, and the premise sounded fantastic. In fact, I'd hoped to use it as a backup comp to one of my novels. It's a self-published adult near future scifi, specifically biopunk. I stopped reading on page 120 out of 438 pages (27%). Rather than forget this and move on, I choose to take away lessons from books I didn't enjoy.
1. Choose Your Editor(s) Wisely
If you're going indie, choose your editor or editors wisely. Some folks choose to forgo an editor, and that's your choice. However, if you pay someone to edit in any capacity (developmental, copyedit, line edit, etc.) make sure you choose someone who does a great job. Take advantage of offers to do a sample edit before you commit. If your novel is riddled with typos and plot holes, your readers will not stick around.
2. Don't Info Dump
We all know not to do this, but in our own stories we always worry if the reader knows enough. Our beta readers might wonder about specific questions or ideas and we think we have to answer every one of them. However, if you info dump, your readers will know and will not be happy. We all need a certain amount of information to keep reading, but a trickle is better than a firehose to the face. Give enough to avoid confusion, hold back enough that they want more. We all do so much worldbuilding in the background, and it's tempting to shove everything in the novel, but remember the iceberg principle. Show enough worldbuilding to prove to the reader that there is much more below the surface--whether or not you actually wrote more below the surface doesn't matter. The book I DNF'd had such a giant info dump that I ended up skimming it--which is the beginning of the end for me when I read.
3. Avoid "As You Know, Bob"
As you know Bob, or maid and butler dialog, is when two characters discuss something they both already know for the benefit of the reader/audience. This is made even worse when it's used to info dump. Your reader will know it's happening, they'll wonder why this conversation is happening, and they'll soon realize it's for them. That ruins the illusion of the reading experience. The book I put down had so much of this that I stopped trusting the author to tell me a good story. Maybe the plot was going somewhere interesting, but how the story is told is most of the battle.
4. Know Your Stuff
If you're writing about something technical, let's say gene editing, you better be up on the latest developments. People who love scifi tend to also love science. Especially if you're doing a near-future setting, you need to know what's already happening. Otherwise, you end up sometimes creating an entire plot around science that's out of date, and your plot problems could be solved with science available right now. Your readers will know and will be annoyed. This was my biggest factor in putting down the book I DNF'd this time. It got science wrong that I did in grad school, and it was so wrong it made me cringe reading it. This lesson can be true outside of scifi too, for example people who know horse stuff will complain about horses written poorly in fantasy (there was a whole chapter about horses in Putting the Fact In Fantasy.) So if you include anything in your book that you don't know a lot about, be sure to do your research!
Those are the big takeaways from the first book of 2023 that I didn't finish. What are some things that make you put a book down? Have you improved your writing by seeing what doesn't work? Let's discuss in the comments!
A retro cover of I, Robot depicting a scene from one of the stories within.
Isaac Asimov is a famous mid-twentieth-century scifi writer of both novels and short stories. Aside from I, Robot, his most famous work is the Foundation series (which won the one-time Best All Time Series Hugo Award in 1966, kind of a big deal). He won many awards, and now some awards, magazines, and even robots are named for him. Most of his work includes robotics, and his three laws of robotics have been at the very least considered if not adapted by many who include robots in their own writing. If you're writing robots, cyborgs, or even AI in your scifi, you need to read iRobot. Plus, it's got some thriller and horror elements, and robots fit the Halloween vibe, right? So it's the perfect time to read it.
1) Just like Frankenstein, don't be afraid of a unique structure
I, Robot, as it sits on a shelf today, is not how the contents were first presented. Now, it's a series of stories with an external story woven through that connected them all. Initially, these stories were published solo from 1940-1950. If all of the stories had been presented in chronological order with no external structure to guide me, I would have thought this was very choppy and didn't flow. The structure being handed to me up front made it easier to understand these were short stories stacked on each other in a trench coat. It may be a challenge to put together, but a unique structure could be just what your complex novel needs.
2) Play with your worldbuilding
Each of the short stories delved into a different aspect of how the laws of robotics worked, or could inadvertently fail, and also included what was going on socially with how the world viewed robots. It was a really cool way to see how this world functioned and it was fun guessing at how the three laws of robotics would get messed up in each tale. If your story world has set laws (socially or physically), see how those laws interact, if they can fail, or if they can bend. Maybe your characters don't even understand the laws fully, so what they consider a rule is actually much more complex. Feel free to play and even write short stories about your world to get to know it more deeply.
3) Anticipate future social norms
One thing I appreciated about I, Robot was that the main character, the robopsychologist being interviewed in the external structural storyline, was a woman. This was put together in 1950, and that character appears in the short stories too, so she wasn't just slapped in there for fun. While she was the only woman prominently featured as a scientist, she was so necessary. If I'd read this book and it had been all men in science despite the mid-to-late 2000s setting, I wouldn't have enjoyed it. If your writing is set in the future, think about how it will read in the future. Will that joke you made still be funny, or could it be harmful? (The gauge here is to "punch up, not down" i.e. make fun of the powerful not the people with equal or less power than you. Satire about the president: will probably age well; joke about the poor: no.) Will your inclusion of different genders (and think full spectrum here) be appreciated? Probably! So don't be afraid to think of the future socially just as much as technologically.
(Though Asimov wrote a woman in STEM as a prominent character, note there were plenty of people reporting his sexual harassment of women during his lifetime. So, write as he wrote, but don't do as he did.)
Those were my big writing takeaways from Isaac Asimov's I, Robot. If you're looking for the plot from 2004's I, Robot with Will Smith, you may end up disappointed. However, just think of that movie as another short story that would fit right in to the collection. It didn't surprise me that the Hollywood version was so different from the book, the same was true for Frankenstein!
Have you read I, Robot or other Asimov novels and short stories? Have you learned any good writing lessons from him? Let's discuss in the comments!
Wilbur loved to rub his face on this one, so I think he enjoyed it too. Photo by Kate Ota 2023
I know it’s hard to believe, but until recently I hadn’t read anything by Sarah J Maas, the bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, the Crescent City series, and the NSFW fae series A Court of Thorns and Roses. This author first made a splash when I was trying to survive grad school and keeping up with reading trends fell off my radar. However, one of my close friends and fellow book lovers recently told me I’d love Throne of Glass, so trusting her judgement, I bought it.
What is Throne of Glass anyway? Isn’t SJM the fairy lady?
Fairies feature in the distant past in Throne of Glass (book 1 out of 8 in the series). It focuses on (human) assassin Celaena, who is brought out of a labor camp prison to compete against a ton of other killers (not all assassins specifically) to become the King’s Champion. Win, and she gets a four-year contract and then freedom. Lose and she’s back at the labor camp where she’ll definitely die. Along the way she meets and has sizzling chemistry with the crown prince and the captain of the guard. However, as the competition progresses, dark secrets come to light.
Does it live up to the hype?
I picked it up on vacation (I’d been searching every indie bookstore at home and had never spotted it) and devoured it. It was exactly my jam: strong female protagonist, a little magic, some chemistry to keep things interesting, twists, and language that was invisible. I know some people read for deep turns of phrase to savor, but I want the words to fade away so I can watch the movie in my head.
After a bad day at work, the day before I finished this book, I went to Barnes and Noble and bought the rest of the series at once. So, yeah, you could say I liked it.
Things I didn’t like were few and far between. I mean, in any competition book, you pretty much know who’s going to win, right? So there wasn’t much tension there for me, but the other twists introduced along the way really helped. The other downside is I have no idea how to pronounce the name Chaol. Is it Cole? Kay-ole? Kale? Ch-ole? I’m going with Cole in my head. I read this on paperback, but if you read it on an e-reader, be advised the map is very detailed and you may not be able to read it. (However, you won’t really need it.)
In conclusion, yes. It lives up to the hype. I’m already 200 pages into Crown of Midnight (book 2) and loving it! However, I’m going to try to read other books between entries in this series to better keep up with my goal of having 50% or more of the authors I read be from different backgrounds from mine.
You’ll enjoy Throne of Glass if you like deadly competitions, magical secondary worlds, and badass female protagonists. It’s not for you if you’re looking for literary style fiction, high spice level romance, or a real-world setting.
I liked reading such a popular book and deciding if it was actually that good, so I may do more posts about popular books and decide if they’re worth all the hype.
Have you read Throne of Glass? What about other books by SJM? Do her other series live up to the hype? What hyped up book should I do next in this series of blog posts? Let’s discuss in the comments!
The Space Needle. Photo by Kate Ota 2021
One week has gone by since the end of the PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writer's Association) conference in SeaTac, WA, and I'm ready to discuss my experience.
The conference went from Thursday September 21st through mid-day Sunday September 24th. It all took place within a hotel by the Seattle-Tacoma airport. The conference offered some master classes (for extra cost), seminars on various topics, quick 20 minute discussions, pitch sessions (speed-dating style and 1:1), dinners with some infotainment, a raffle, and a movie night (for extra cost). There were 4 publishers and 7 agents who took pitches, and many published authors, both traditional and indie/self-published who presented.
I stayed at the hotel holding the conference and packed all my own food because little about the conference indicated any food was included (dinners were, as well as one brunch). My hotel room had no microwave or fridge though, so this became an ordeal. However, I do recommend packing your own lunches (and breakfasts if the hotel doesn't offer it) because the pre-ordered food was extremely expensive and the traffic around the airport made getting to or from a restaurant a daunting task. Food that was included with the conference was decent, no complaints.
I didn't pay for any master classes, so I can't confirm or deny their value. Most of the seminars I attended were a little too basic for me, but I'm sure were great info for others. I took notes and did write down some great nuggets of info. Though I will say the two sessions about prepping pitches (one how-to and one practicing with others) contradicted each other often. One class that everyone raved about, taught by Damon Suede, I missed for my pitch session. There was also a great class about mystery taught by an ex-spy. Many presenters had their books in a mini-Barnes and Noble, and they were all happy to sign books. (Excellent for gift shopping!)
One pitch session came free with conference registration, and you could select ahead of time which of four sessions to attend. The pitch session itself was crowded and required standing in line to pitch to who you wanted. I was able to pitch three people, since I was first in the room. Many people only had time to pitch two. I found this more chaotic than the format I've had at other conferences, where all the pitches are 1:1 and scheduled every five minutes. Eventually, there were 1:1 pitch sessions, and I stumbled into a free slot (they were supposed to cost extra). This was much smoother and removed the stress of wondering if or when I'd be able to pitch who I wanted. I got four requests from my four total pitches!
Like my experiences at other conferences, meeting new people was the most valuable part. I worked hard to make sure to small talk with anyone I ended up around--in lines, waiting to pitch, at meals, between classes. Everywhere. I'm not an extrovert, but I pretty much just pretended to be one. I met writers in my area and connected with so many people I want to keep in contact with. This is the truly most valuable part of any conference.
Is It Worth It?
I'm going to answer this question in two ways.
First: is a writing conference in general worth the cost?
Look at a couple items: what does the cost of admission include (example: food, pitch sessions, contests, how many days, are any big names going to be there, etc.)? What does it not include (example: hotel--although there may be a room block discount, food, master classes or special events)? What is the cost of travel to get there?
Do that math and then ask yourself if that price is worth the experience on offer plus the people you'll meet.
Second: is PNWA specifically worth the cost?
Registration: $425, since I am a member and registered early. ($575 for non-members by the time the early-bird pricing ended)
Hotel: over $800 for four nights (I checked in the night before to avoid commuter traffic heading toward Seattle.)
Food: $0 (packed it)
Movie night: $30, it was very entertaining and honestly on par with the price of a theater. Free snacks.
Extra pitch slots: $0, though I lucked my way into a free one.
Books: $50 at the mini-Barnes and Noble and got one signed
What I got: lots of good notes, four requests for pages, and invaluable connections to local writers who I never would have met otherwise. (Struggle with finding friends as an adult? Go to a conference for your hobby/passion and you'll make some!)
So is PNWA worth the cost? Will I go again next year (assuming life doesn't throw a wild curveball)? Yes!
*Caveat: I realize those are some high prices. Boy am I glad I have a nice day job! If those prices are not worth it to you, please note that all of the agents and most of the publishers who were at the conference take cold queries. Most of the classes were from people who also teach online or have a book version of their class for much cheaper. If you want to network with other writers in your area but can't afford a conference, check out what critique groups might be meeting, or what free or lower cost events might be hosted by groups like PNWA. Attending a conference is not a requirement to get published!
Did you attend PNWA or another conference this year? Want to tell other people to come to your conference, or warn them away? Let's discuss in the comments!
Hello blog readers and people visiting this site after meeting me at PNWA 2023!
I am exhausted after PNWA's wonderful conference, so this is the tiny little blog post I can wring from my brain this week. Next week I will talk about if the cost of the conference is worth it to help you decide if it's something you'd like to attend next year. (Or even if a conference more local to you is something you'd like to attend!)
Other upcoming posts I can currently tease:
A review of Throne of Glass from a newbie to Sarah J. Maas: is the hype worth your time?
Lessons from a Classic: Asimov's iRobot
Lessons from my first (and so far only) DNF of 2023
I was also recommended some amazing writing resources at the conference, so I'll be reviewing those as well, including the one I'm most excited for, the Trope Thesaurus by Jennifer Hilt.
Don't forget the Judging More than Just the Cover Book Club podcast is currently reading Fourth Wing. Get ready for my hot takes on the Murder College trope!
See you here next week, readers! If you're here because we met at PNWA give a shout out in the comments!
The Amazon cover for the book features the green classic monster, not as described in the book.
Fall is spooky season and one of the main Halloween monsters is of course Frankenstein's monster, sometimes called Adam. Since it is a foundational text to scifi--the very first scifi, in fact--I decided to read the original Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Rather than review it, I decided to write about what I learned about writing irom this classic novel (or really a novella, it was about 110 pages).
1) Don't be afraid of a unique story structure
Frankenstein is actually a letter written by a sea captain to his sister about meeting Dr. Frankenstein and that man's story. So the meat of the book is "story within a story" since you know in the end things will circle back to that boat captain. At one point, the story becomes the monster's story being told to Dr. Frankenstein being told to the captain. Like Russian nesting dolls. However, this complicated structure was made very clear and even acted as foreshadowing of excitement when the start of Dr. Frankenstein's tale got a little dry.
2) Don't overdo the backstory
While it may have been the style of the time, modern readers now don't need Dr. Frankenstein's life story to begin with his parents meeting. When I saw that was how the story began, I was dreading the rest. It didn't get interesting until Dr. Frankenstein left for college. So while it's good to read classics, keep in mind how very different the market is today, and don't accidentally pick up on very out of date style choices.
3) Build sympathy by showing what your characters wants most
We were all a little afraid of Frankenstein's monster after his first kill, naturally, because he's not on the page much to defend himself. However, he makes it clear exactly what he wants: a lover. He is so intensely lonely and in need of contact that after he explains it, you can't avoid sympathy. There is even some sympathy for Dr. Frankenstein when he just wants to protect others. Get your readers to choose sides by showing a deep want and explaining why--and why they can't have it (yet).
4) Keep up with the latest innovations
Mary Shelley was inspired by Galvanism and advances with electricity. If she'd only stayed aware of what was going on in the literary world, she wouldn't have run into the concepts that allowed her to conceive of Frankenstein. When looking for inspiration, look at innovations in fields that excite you: space, medicine, engineering, environmental science, oceanography, etc. Even keeping up with new historical finds in archaeology or anthropology, if you're more of a history/fantasy writer. You never know when you'll run into something that will inspire, so get out of your typical bubble.
Those are my big takeaways from Frankenstein for writers. I will admit I was very surprised that a lot of classic Frankenstein tropes weren't in the original book--no castle, no Igor, no villagers with pitchforks and torches. He literally made his monster in his dorm room. (Try explaining that mess to your R.A.) I think he was even described as yellow, not green. So the Hollywood-ization of Frankenstein has clearly overshadowed the original for my entire experience. Kind of wild!
Have you read Frankenstein? What were your writing (or reading) takeaways? What are some of your spooky season favorites? Let's discuss in the comments!