Shaelin Writes

fiction writer — garamond enthusiast — typo maker — em-dash overuser // currently writing: holding a ghost & honey vinegar // (she/her)

Last update
2020-09-27 18:55:09

    Shae I need to tell ya, you create such beautiful prose with every sentence but I feel like your uniqueness as a writer lies in these few sentences that I can only describe as wise. Like, just look at the excerpts on your pareidolia page. They sound like enigmatic truths engraved in some ancient monument. I can almost hear dramatic orchestra music swelling when I read them. Just never stop writing, FEED US THE WISDOM

    This is what I aspire to do with my writing but I never know if it’s conveying or working so you have no idea how much this means💛 I will go cry now 😭😭😭


    Your latest writing update video near the end reminded me of a wine tasting. I'm noticing hints of surrealism. Am I getting fantasy? What is that not so subtle taste? Genre?! Oh, how pretentious of it. It's subverting my tongue. Which is in my cheek. MFAs would be fools not to let you in. Persevere my dear. The now is not forever. What is it that the Koreans say? Pighting (but softly so as not to upset others close by who are just as deserving of encouragement or who don't think you deserve it).

    Haha thank you for the encouragement and supporting my pretentious ways!


    Can you recommend any short stories that are pretty surreal? I need help for a short I wanna write.

    I recently readFairy Tale by Alexandra Kleeman in her collection and it’s really surreal and cool! Karen Russel, Kelly Link, Daisy Johnson, and Samanta Schweblin all have some weird freaky surreal stuff in their collections as well.


    heya! do you have advice on working on writing projects you have to do that you don't really wanna work on? say, school assignments and stuff? i've gotta write pieces that fit within certain requirements and it's kinda hard to work on them when i'm way more passionate about the other things i'm working on.

    Sometimes with school, unfortunately there are just going to be assignments you care less about, it’s the nature of the game. Sometimes you have to write something that isn’t a passion project, it’s merely that: an assignment. It happens. And in those cases, you kind of have to just bite the bullet and get it done, just like you would with a paper you aren’t fascinated by, or study for an exam where the content doesn’t rivet you. School is full of work that you might not be deeply passionate about, so use whatever techniques you normally use get schoolwork you don’t love done for creative projects you’re less passionate about. It’s not the most fun thing in the world, but it is a part of being a student and it’s kind of inevitable. 


    Hey Shaelin! I know you're writing a short story where the POV is a collective 'we', so I wanted to ask - any advice for how to do this well? Specifically, how do you go about establishing a coherent voice when it's multiple people with different personalities and voices and opinions? Also, any tips for how to subtly show some level of discordance or conflict within the voice? I'm doing the collective we for two different characters, so any advice is appreciated!

    I think it’s important to remember that collective 1st person (we POV), is very uncommon, and pretty much always going to feel experimental in some way as a result. And, as a result, there aren’t really any rules or guidelines you’ll find on how to use it well, and it’s hard for me to advise on because every case will be very unique. Whenever you’re in experimental territory and essentially constructing your own POV (which in a way you’re always doing, but it’s more applicable in cases like this), it’s important to think of how to do it well for your story, rather than in general. Because, well, there isn’t an in general in this case, it’s a very rare POV and it’s always going to be used differently depending on the case.

    So how to do this well? What does your story need from this POV. What internal logic do you need to create for the POV to make sense in this specific case? This is what’s most important--find the internal consistency and logic in your POV based on your own story. 

    Specifically, how do you go about establishing a coherent voice when it's multiple people with different personalities and voices and opinions?

    Again, this depends on the case you’re using the POV in, but normally a collective POV is used for cases where a group of people can speak as a single unit, meaning that the group has the capability of unifying their opinions, personalities, and voices. Especially in a short story where we don’t really need defined characters. Most collective stories don’t have individual characters, rather, the group itself is a character, so you’re still just constructing one voice as if it was one person, that ‘one person’ is just...more than one person?? Even if as individuals they wouldn’t all speak the same, you need to find the overarching qualities they all share in order to create a consistent voice, and the reason they’re all speaking together is because they probably have a shared experience/viewpoint. If they don’t have significant overlap in some area of their voice, then I don’t know how much this POV makes sense in that case. 

    That said, it seems your specific case of collective POV is a different one, and you want to use collective POV in a situation where the collective isn’t unified. This is actually very very difficult to write, because it’s not really conducive to what the POV is meant to do. This POV is usually used in cases where a group of people can speak as one, and have a specific reason why they’re speaking as one. So, if you have a group of people who can’t speak as one, it’s incredibly difficult to try and make them speak as one when fundamentally, they can’t do that, and so why are they doing that?

    That doesn’t mean you can’t use this POV for your story--you can do pretty much whatever you want with POV--but it will require a lot of thought. As a rule of thumb, this POV is more and more difficult the fewer characters you have. Writing the POV of a whole town will probably be easier than the collective POV of two people--because in the later case, these two people will be more defined and it’s much harder to merge them into one voice. I tried to write a story in this POV with two characters once, and it didn’t work because their voices simply couldn’t mesh into one voice. They didn’t have enough overlapping experience and option to merge into one voice, as their experiences on the same event were drastically different. That’s why you typically see this POV used for groups that share primarily the same experience, such as a town or a family with unified experiences.

    Also, any tips for how to subtly show some level of discordance or conflict within the voice?

    Of course, you can still split the group and have them speak as one voice. For example “Some of us walked home, while some of us went to the lake.” or “When we found out the fisherman was dead, most of us found this tragic, but some of us were pleased to hear because we’d never liked him.” As you can see, the group in this case isn’t always doing the same thing or believing the same thing, but they’re still speaking as one unit in one voice. Often the answer to the question ‘how do you do [whatever thing]’ is to just...do it in the narrative, quite simply. So if you want to show conflict or discordance, simply have conflict in the narrative by simply showing disagreement.

    There are also cases of this POV where specific characters emerge, and sections will read as 3rd person, so you can also try that technique if it’s what makes most sense for you. So for example: 

    “One of us, Sally, volunteered to break into the museum. That night, Sally dressed all in black crouched in the shadows, waiting for the security to guard to lock up for the night... (etc etc.)”

    If you want an example of this technique, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides does it. For a more seamless example of a unified collective POV, “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner is probably the most famous example of this POV. There are also sections of the The Water Cure by Sophie MacIntosh that use this POV to great effect. My friend @coffeeandcalligraphy also has a very clever story in this POV, where disagreement between the narrating collective (a trio of siblings) is shown through dialogue, while the narrative still speaks as a whole, called “The Species is Dead.”

    As you can see, there’s no one way to use this POV, think about how you can construct your POV in a way that best communicates what you want to say, and showcases your reasons for using this POV.


    Writing My Obituary Update

    Hello good people of the internet, it is my pleasure to announce that Writing My Obituary is live and published through Pure Print Publishing! I’m probably going to make a video about it after my copies come in but wow, this is absolutely insane. 

    Anyway, if you want to purchase copies, you can do that here, it’s 3.99USD through kindle and 9.99USD for a paperback copy!

    I would like to add that most of the stuff you’ve seen from me in the last couple months aren’t in this book and will go in another collection, but there’s a lot that hasn’t been read yet! This book has been my life for over three years, and even though there’s a lot of me that’s upset with this book and isn’t satisfied with it, there’s a lot of me that knows that no matter how much work I put in, I’m never going to feel fully satisfied with it. 

    Additionally, I’m probably going to figure out a way to offer signed copies eventually, but my post office has strict hours due to COVID-19 and I’ll also probably have to charge more in order to make that happen due to shipping costs. But hey, she’s here!

    I guess this is the part where I tag the people who’ve been a part of this project/helped me out in some way/are on one of my tag lists so that’ll be under the cut. Thank you so much to everyone who’s been a part of this journey, I wouldn’t be here without you.

    Keep reading




    Hi Shaelin! I hope your day is going well, and I understand if you don't answer this question, but I have been wondering if you ever published Melting Point or have been wanting too? Would you ever consider having it published in the future?

    Melting Point will be in my collection, but I won’t be trying to publish the story on its own anywhere. I think I submitted it like two times, way back when I first wrote it, but I decided it was one I wanted to keep just for the collection.


    How do you know when your writing is good? I know that's subjective and all, but I feel that since I've never done writing "properly", I have absolutely no sense of what is good or not. While I do try and read a lot of "good" writing, I can't compare it with my own because my style feels too distinct - whether that's because it's bad is up for debate. Is there any way of knowing, or do I just have to hope so and submit somewhere so I can get feedback, even if it is in the form of rejection?

    The more and longer you write, and the more you seek feedback on your work and implement it, the more you’ll be able to evaluate the quality of your own work. It can be very hard, and sure you’ll never have the same perspective as an outside reader, but the main thing you want to ask is: “Does this accomplish what I wanted it to? When I read it, does it aligned with what I envisioned?” The more you develop your skill at writing, the closer the end product you write will get to your vision for the story, because you’re improving your ability to communicate and translate what was in your mind into written word. 

    I understand this concern--for years, all through my teen years basically, I was worried that I was a terrible writer but just couldn’t see it. And sure, some stuff I wrote was terrible haha, but my biggest worry about writing was that I had an inability to see that my writing was awful. I think this is a natural anxiety to have, evaluating your work is hard, it takes a lot of time to hone that skill. I think it’s especially hard when a lot of new or young writers are mocked, especially online, for celebrating their work and thinking it’s good when other people think it isn’t. It can instill a lot of anxiety in a writer, and  it’s why I struggled to celebrate my own work for so long. I was worried if I did, I was playing in to false over confidence. 

    For me, I’ll be honest, I realized my writing was good when I had external success with it. I didn’t think I was a good writer until I had professors tell me it was good, and even then that confidence was shaky until I’d had multiple stories published. Even with the first few, I kept thinking, maybe this is just a fluke. I don’t think it’s good to rely on external praise to validate your skill, but my confidence was so shaky and I had so many layers of insecurity and coped with that with self-sabotage, that for me, that external success is what helped me gain confidence. Once I had confidence in my skill set, I was able to more accurately gauge the quality of my drafts because I didn’t automatically assume everything I wrote was awful. So confidence made me a much more adept and objective judge of my own work, because I could evaluate without layers of insecurity getting in the way.

    Ultimately though, what matters isn’t the opinions of others, but your own assessment. If when you read your work, it reads how you want it to, then that’s rad. That means you’re onto something. That means you’re accomplishing what you wanted to accomplish, which is the most important thing. There isn’t even really ‘good’ in writing, there’s merely a strong attempt at achieving a specific vision. 


    Hey Shaelin! I hope I‘m not wasting your time: Do you have any advice in relation to dealing with plot in a very character driven novel and “methods“ for building the plot around / for the character and not the character for / around the plot but in a way where there‘s still enough conflict? And have you ever have to deal with the feeling that don‘t have enough plot when you actually have enough plot but the novel is just very character driven? Thank you!

    If it was a waste of my time I wouldn’t have this blog, don’t worry!

    A character driven story should never be an obstacle to having conflict--it’s just a different kind of conflict. I did a video on character vs plot driven stories at Reedsy that might help, but here’s the gist of it.

    I think the biggest key is going to be understanding:

    1. what your character’s flawed belief system is

    2. what they want

    3. how their belief system informs what they want and simultaneously prevents them from getting it

    These things will inform your character’s goal, which is going to push the plot and guide the plot development, as well as inform their flaws, and how these things are all interlinked. 

    In a character driven story, the plot is fuelled by your character’s internal conflict, rather than the other way around. So the character’s flaws will cause the plot to move forward, rather than the movement of the plot causing internal conflict. 

    Ultimately, a character driven narrative shouldn’t be the cause of not enough conflict or not enough plot, though I understand how it may seem that way, but the underlying issue is probably something else. If you’re struggling to think of enough plot, it’s probably not because the book is character driven, but simply because the story doesn’t have enough tension or stakes at the moment. Because the story is character driven, if you don’t have enough conflict, it may be because your character isn’t being challenged enough or there aren’t enough stakes or obstacles to them getting what they want. 

    It might seem obvious, but if you’re struggling to move the plot in a character driven narrative, the root of the issue is going to be with the character, that’s where things like stakes, tension, and conflict will take root. So try to dig deeper into your character’s mind and find the internal conflict there, and use that to elevate the stakes. Find extra layers of conflict you can explore and that will add more heat to the story within the character, since they’re the core fuel of the story. The more complex your character, the more plot material you’ll have to unpack said character. 


    Reading you a chapter of my novel! | New Video

    Hellooo! I've had this video ready for months but was too nervous to post it but here we are! In today's upload I'll be reading you the first chapter of Feeding Habits! I cut the last scene to keep things appropriate for the channel but check out the writing update if you want to read some excerpts from the last scene!


    This is a GIFT


    I have untreated depression and I haven't written in a while. I recently started again & I realize I associate writing/drafting/revising with pain and frustration. I did a degree in creative writing but was depressed the whole time, so writing lost all joy, became about grades & assignments, and made me anxious bcoz of brutal self-criticism. Now I miss writing, but the actual process feels awful & I feel guilty for hating it. Have you ever wanted to write but didn't enjoy it? Any advice?

    I’m sorry for what you’re going through, sending you good vibes. I know I don’t know you, but you’re in my heart!

    I had a bit of a ~mental health crisis~ a few months ago, and it taught me something so valuable about these situations. This is a pretty common type of question for me to get (questions from people struggling to write because of depression), and it’s become clearer and clearer to me that you can’t address the problem with your writing before you address the cause, which is your mental health. Struggling to write is an effect of your depression, and so the way to work on that is to put care into treating your mental health, since that’s the cause. It’s very hard to resolve the small effect (struggling to write) without looking to the root. The way to start writing again will be to take care of your mental health, separate from writing. I don't know anything about your situation so I don’t want to preach about what you should do specifically, but whatever that means for you and is in your capability, whatever forms of help are accessible to you, is going to be the most helpful thing. So I really think the most important thing is to focus on managing your depression and finding whatever resources or strategies will help you improve your mental health.

    That said, I don’t want to deny the importance that creating can be in managing mental health--sometimes having a creative outlet is an important part of self care. I learned that about myself very young. It can be a really powerful way to manage stress, and the feeling of creating something can be really positively impactful when your mood is low. A few things to consider here that might be helpful:

  • Remember that your mental health is always more important than your productivity or your writing. Despite what some might say, a bad mental health day is a perfectly valid reason to not write (it’s not an excuse, just like you might not go to work if you were sick, sometimes you need to rest your mind) so I think it’s good to stay away from 1. strict schedules or tight deadlines and 2. any influence that makes you feel guilty for not producing. Setting daily word goals can be hard because if you don’t feel you’ll be able to reach it on any day, it’s easy to not try at all, and it also gives you a bar of what’s a ‘successful’ day or a failure of a day, which I think can be really hard when you’re trying to write while depressed. 
  • It’s okay to celebrate little bits of progress! Sometimes writing one paragraph is all you’ve got in you for the day, but it can still be something to celebrate. It can be hard to find the energy to write among depression when the bar for success is a high amount of output, so know it’s okay to write one sentence and be proud of that one sentence.
  • Find ‘no energy’ ways to engage with your writing. Sometimes you want to write but you don’t have the energy to...actually write. What I do on those days is find a way to engage with my book in a way that feels like it takes no brain power. For me this can be making a moodboard, making picrews of my characters, making a playlist, or reading over parts of my book I most enjoy. These things can be a nice pick me up if you want to spend some time in your book’s world but don’t feel up to actually writing. A lot of the time, this will make it easier to come back to writing the next day.
  • I hope something in here helps, take care!


    Any advice on how to balance two very different tones in one story? I'm writing a ghost story novella)a that explores trauma & how it affects memory/identity. I also want to make the story have some whimsy to it, akin to a modern fairy tale or a studio ghibli film, with moments of comedy & absurdism. How do I figure out how to write a story about something intense/heavy like trauma while also making it about 2 wholesome queer ghosts who live in an attic and like to scare people?

    It might help to not think of the story as having two tones, but one tone that is multifaceted. A story’s tone can be a unique blend of many different ingredients, if anything, all stories will have that. I don’t see any reason why your story can’t have all these elements all at once, while still feeling like it has a cohesive mood. You don’t need a heavy tone to explore intense topics, either. Sometimes these topics can be explored in allegorical ways, or with a more subtle take, and sometimes that’s the most effective. Look at how children’s books and movies often explore heavy topics like grief and death, they do so in a way that might be subtler, but is often even more poignant. Your story sounds super cool and personally I think all these different facets you have seem to create something really interesting and compelling. I can’t really tell you exactly how to write it, because this is a very specific mood you’re creating, but don’t get hung up thinking it can’t work. It totally can. Just write it to your vision as best you can. 


    Hi! Have you thought about talking about coming up with and integrating backstory into the narrative or am I just big dumb-dumb and it‘s a question I have to figure out myself and it‘s embarrassing to ask? 🙈

    You are not a dumb-dumb at all I am terrible at backstory myself lol. For some reason whenever I write a short story the backstory is amazing and interesting and cool and when I write a novel it’s,,,,,not. I don’t know if it’s the topic I can best advise on because it’s something I’m not the strongest at myself, but some tips that might help!

  • Add backstory after creating a curiosity about it, not before.
  • Create a causal relationship between flashbacks and the present. So when you flash to the past, that flashback escalates tension in the present as well (it’s hard to explain how to do this I Am Sorry), but ideally, the information you provide in that flashback, escalates stakes in the present when you return to the present.
  • Don’t make the backstory too ‘neat.’ I think backstory that is too clean and tries to explain every core aspect of the character with a singular event isn’t too strong, because people are just too complicated for that. We can’t all trace all our flaws, interests, and values to one single event that shaped us. We’re shaped by many more complex factors, and I think backstory that tries to boil down a character’s development to a single event can feel unrealistic. Sure, we all have events that shape us, and it’s okay to show them, but the whole ‘they are like this because of this one thing’ rarely rings true. 
  • Don’t over tell. Lots of writers (@14 yo Shaelin) feel the need to show....every event from the past. Less is usually more! Too much backstory starts to weigh down tension in the present rather than increase it.
  • Make it interesting! That’s the golden rule for all aspects of writing. If it’s interesting, that’s the first step.
  • anonymous

    have you listened to taylor swift’s folklore album? there’s a song on there called ‘mad woman’ that always makes me think of honey vinegar/sybil when i listen to it ❤️

    I’ve listened to a few songs but not the whole thing! I was never really a Taylor Swift fan, but this seems like an album I’d really like so I’ve been meaning to carve out some time to play through the entire thing.


    Hello Shaelin! Hope you're good.

    I'm Nour from Tunisia 🇹🇳, an undergraduate English student...

    I've recently started reading and writing things in order to improve my language skills,

    Anyway, what I'd like to tell you is as a non-native English speaker, I'm facing some writing problems especially grammatical mistakes, I have many ideas that I'd like to transfer them into short stories and novels, but I'm always haunted by feelings of being rejected by the audience because of my funny mistakes or my "poor" language. So please, could you advise me?

    I'll be waiting for your reply and I hope that you read my message, or please make a video about the non-native writers, thanks for reading and sorry for this long annoying message

    Nour, 🙂

    Hello! Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make a video on tips for non-native English speakers simply because I have no basis or experience there since English is my first language. I don’t have much experience to give advice here, but here are a few things that might help! 

    1. Find someone to swap work with! Creating mutually beneficial relationships with other writers is so great in lots of ways. Say if you find someone who needs help translating something and in exchange can proofread for you. Writers helping writers is a lovely thing, and you might be able to connect with someone through something like a writer’s Facebook group. 

    2. Programs like Grammarly are actually quite good as a free grammar checker. I used them in school myself because I have zero faith in my grammatical abilities (honestly I know nothing about grammar haha) and it’s actually pretty good.

    3. Don’t self reject! I know I always felt anxious letting people read things I wrote in my second language (French) because I didn’t have the confidence writing in that language, so I think it’s natural to feel those kind of worries, but I think everyone has their worries when submitting, so don’t self reject from opportunities just because English is your second language. It might not be an issue at all! 


    Do you ever accept and critique short fiction pieces, especially if they were inspired from a particular short story of yours (I Will Never Tell You This)? 👀 Legit you're one of my current biggest influences when it comes to the writing part of my life.

    Sorry, I don’t do critiques! Even though I’m flattered the story was inspired by something I wrote, it would be impossible to manage all the requests I get for critiques on a weekly basis, so I just have the policy of not doing them.