It begins

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And so it begins. While I have enjoyed writing all of my life, I started taking it more seriously years ago. And, like any idiot, I started by trying to write a book. The story was good, but after a … Continue reading

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What Publishers Want

My Kindle Scout Campaign has got me thinking about this again. I covered it a bit back in my posts on writing query letters, but it’s back on my mind. I’ve been very active on the KBoards forum during my campaign, talking to a herd of other active campaigners, and watching which books get chosen. Some excellently written books with wildly successful campaigns have not been chosen. I’ve come to a serious conclusion.

It’s a crapshoot.

Now, that’s not really true, but it is how it feels to the writers of books who are trying to get their projects picked up. Any publisher has criteria for what they are looking for, and no writer can be aware of all the criteria involved. So, let’s take a look at some possible criteria.

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Figuring out what publishers want is akin to figuring out why this flower is blooming in December. You may never know all the variables involved.

-They want their submission guidelines followed.

It doesn’t matter how awesome and shiny your book is, if you can’t follow their submission guidelines, they may never look at it. Look at their website. Find what they want, and only give them that and exactly that. If a publisher wants a query and no pages, send them a query only. If they specify that they do not publish horror novels, then it doesn’t matter if your horror novel is the coolest book since Jaws, that publisher doesn’t want it. It doesn’t matter what your justification is, if you don’t follow their simple instructions, it’s as if you showed up to an important job interview in a dirty t-shirt and ripped jeans. Follow the guidelines.

-They want a book that’s exceptionally well written.

You just finished the first novel you’ve ever written! You do a quick re-write, and you are ready to send it out to publishers! How exciting! Hold that phone. I can guarantee you that the first book you have ever written has a 98ish percent chance of not getting published. It takes practice and critique to develop excellent writing and excellent voice. To excel, you need more practice than one book. Critique helps you find the issues with your work and overcome them. Unless someone tells you “Hey, do you realize you use the word ‘that’ too much?” you may never notice it. Get more practice. Seek out informed critique. Learn and adapt. Thanks to the ease of the digital age, everyone and their dog is writing a book. There’s a lot of first efforts getting in the gigantic slush piles of publishers. Your book has to be a diamond to get noticed.

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This rhubarb cream pie is not the first pie I ever baked. It came from decades of practice and critique.

-They are tired of (insert very trendy genre here.)

Paranormal Romance thrives as a genre, especially those involving vampires and werewolves. Readers love a good tale of quintessential bad-boy vamps and their chosen loves. It’s quite true. The genre remains popular because readers enjoy it. You’ve just written an awesome tale of vampire love. An experienced writer with beta readers to help you polish it until it is the sparkliest of vampire romances, you don’t understand why publishers aren’t beating a path to your door to beg you to let them have this masterpiece. Then no one rings the bell. While your book may be sparkly-awesomesauce, there’s a problem. Publisher A has 938 well-written vamp love stories in his slush pile just for today, and he’s sick to death of all of them. Publisher B just published a vampy romance and the plot is too similar to yours, so she doesn’t need a spare. Publisher C specifically stated “no paranormal romance” in their submission guidelines, and you didn’t notice. Publisher D has just deleted his entire slush pile because he can’t look at one more vampire story and is desperately wishing someone would send him a quirky story about sirens.

That said, a book recently chosen on Kindle Select was a vampire romance. It was not like all the other vampire romances already out there. I salute the author for making that genre uniquely their own.

Writing to current trends can be dicey. No one knows when the trend will end, and publishers see so many similar projects that they get glassy-eyed. If you write to a trend, you had better make sure that something about your story is unique and interesting compared to all the other trend tales in the slush pile.

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There are millions of black and white cats in the world, but Pyewacket was unique.

-The publisher has criteria you will never know.

Don’t lose heart if your exceptionally written novel is not getting picked up. It doesn’t mean the book is not crafted well. For example, while romance is always a strong part of the publishing industry, some sub-genres might not be what’s selling. According to the Romance Writers Association, the most popular sub-genre in both print and eBook form is romantic suspense. It is a large chunk of the romance novel pie. Contemporary friends to lovers is hugely popular. Not as popular, according to Amazon sales, are sports romances and Gothic romances.

As a romance writer, you could pen a brilliant story about two Goth kids who play soccer. It might be the best book written all year. It also might not get any attention from publishers. While it is important that your book has elements that are unique, writing for a sub-genre so specific it is considered niche might work against you when sending it to publishers. If they are afraid they won’t sell enough copies, they won’t pick it up, no matter how excellent it is.

It’s a fine line between unique and niche. It’s not always apparent where your particular book stands. All you can do is write the story you most want to tell, write it the best that you can, and refuse to get discouraged if it doesn’t get picked up.

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I will never know how many leaves are in this pile, and that’s okay.

Don’t Get Discouraged.

I truly can’t stress this enough. If publishers don’t want that Goth soccer teen romance, self publishing might be the way to go. Somewhere out there, there’s a Goth soccer playing teen who is seriously jonesing for that story. You may not get big sales numbers, but the people it speaks to are going to love it. After that, start the next book. It’s not going to write itself.

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It’s time to vote!  I submitted my book, Descending, to Kindle Scout.  Descending has to get nominated to be noticed by the Kindle editors.

What to do:  If you have an Amazon account and you want to help, go to this link  https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1GSTCATCKN5TS   and nominate Descending.  Each Amazon account holder gets 3 votes for books they’d like to see published.

What’s in it for you: If Descending is chosen for publication, every person who votes for it gets a FREE advance copy of the e-book, and an opportunity to review, if you wish, before anyone else.

How you can help: Vote, if you can.  Share this post with friends if you are willing.  Vote now!  Get a free e-book!

Posted in getting published, Kindle Scout, writing, Writing Advice | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

In Defense of Fanfic

In the world of fiction writing, fanfiction seems to be the red-headed stepchild. Despite the fact that there are published books of authorized fanfic (like every Star Trek or Star Wars novel ever published) as well as fanfic that has been published with names and places changed to separate it from the original work, (Twilight/ 50 Shades of Grey) fanfic retains a reputation of being useless, bad, and a waste of time.

Waste of time? Not for me. It’s how I learned how to write.

Not everyone can afford to take classes or get a degree in order to improve their writing. Certainly practice improves one’s work and much can be learned through personal study. However, at some point one needs feedback and critique in order to grow as a writer. You can’t fix issues if you don’t realize what the issues are. Writing on your own can only take you so far.

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I could write a 100k word saga about the picnic of the geese, but without feedback, I’ll never know if it’s any good.

So why fanfic?

Fanfiction gives untried writers a unique opportunity to work on the basics. The world of the stories has already been defined, as have the main characters. Playing in that existing world gives writers who are starting out a chance to focus on the basics. Plot and Subplot, grammar and style, can be focused on without becoming mired in world building and character building.

It also has another huge advantage. The world of fanfic is peppered with brave souls who actively wish to be beta readers. In working with a knowledgeable beta, all those issues in your writing that you did not know you had can come to light and be dealt with.

Many years ago, I started writing a book. I got about five chapters in and I was pleased with it. Then I got some feedback and realized that while I liked the story, my writing needed work. I shelved that project, and thought about what the best way for me to improve my writing would be. At that time in my life, I had little money for books and classes. I needed an easier answer.

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I couldn’t see the forest for the trees!😀

A friend of mine had turned me onto fanfic, and I read some very well-written stories. Why not try to write one of my own? I ended up with a goddess of beta readers, one who had a degree in literature and experience in editing. Editing fanfic was something she did for fun. With her gentle advice, my writing improved by leaps and bounds. When she gave up beta reading fanfic because she was starting a family, I worked with three other beta readers during my fanfic writing journey. Each had different strengths and each taught me new lessons.

If you read my fanfic in chronological order (which I am not suggesting you do) you can watch my writing improve amazingly. You can see my style and voice develop. My time in fanfic was an incredible journey and one that I remember very fondly. I wrote three novel length fics, several novellas, and a herd of short stories.

Eventually, I felt ready to write without a net, and began writing original fiction. I never turned back. Until yesterday.

Last night and this morning, I wrote my first fanfiction tale in about ten years. I think that after my grueling schedule during NaNoWriMo, I just wanted to have a little fun. I did have fun. I had 11k words of fun. I don’t think I’ve ever written so much in less than 24 hours in my life. It was fun, and easy, and it practically wrote itself. While I live in original fiction world now, I missed fanfiction land. It was nice to have a visit, and fun to post a new story on my old archives. I might even do it again sometime.

In this digital world where aspiring writers write their very first book and publish it immediately, I wish they would consider taking some time to write fanfic and work with a few beta readers. Not only is it fun, their writing would benefit from the experience.

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It’s time to vote!  I submitted my book, Descending, to Kindle Scout.  Descending has to get nominated to be noticed by the Kindle editors.

What to do:  If you have an Amazon account and you want to help, go to this link  https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1GSTCATCKN5TS   and nominate Descending.  Each Amazon account holder gets 3 votes for books they’d like to see published.

What’s in it for you: If Descending is chosen for publication, every person who votes for it gets a FREE advance copy of the e-book, and an opportunity to review, if you wish, before anyone else.

How you can help: Vote, if you can.  Share this post with friends if you are willing.  Vote now!  Get a free e-book!

Posted in Fanfiction, Fiction, writing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Subplots and What to do With Them

Subplots are secondary issues or conflicts that the characters in your story have to deal with. All stories have a main conflict; in Star Wars they have to defeat the Empire, in Harry Potter they have to defeat Voldemort, in Hansel and Gretel, they have to defeat the witch. A main conflict doesn’t always have a big bad to defeat, but it’s a common theme.

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Mushu had to defeat the dastardly Octopus.  Sadly, the Octopus seems to have won.  For now.

What makes Harry Potter a richer and more in depth story than Hansel and Gretel is the variety and interest of its subplots. H&G’s subplot consists of the kids wanting to find their way home. That’s pretty much it. But Harry Potter? Will Harry fall in love? Will he do well on the Quiditch team? Will he find out about his parents? Will he survive the Triwizard Tournament? I could go on and on. Subplots are all those other things the main character has to deal with on the way to killing Voldemort. Without subplots, you’re writing Hansel and Gretel, and it might end up being a short book that only deals with the surface of what’s going on in your MC’s life.

Say you’ve got your main plot all figured out. You know what the character wants and what he has to do to get there. Now it’s time to work in some subplots. They may have to do with what your secondary characters want, or they may be additional issues that your MC has to figure out, or deal with.

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Just as I had to figure out what this hummingbird moth was before I could do anything else.  I mean, look at it!  Crazy, right?

In the project I’m working on right now, the MC thinks he’s been cursed. The main plot is finding a way to break the so-called curse. In the main subplot, the MC has to help a friend who is in danger before he can deal with his own issue. He also has to discover and define his feelings for the secondary character. And then there are the daily hurdles he has to manage because of his ‘curse.’ All these things add up to show the reader the MC’s complex life, and also let you get further inside his head. They add to the tapestry of the book and keep it from being a rectangle of one color.

As a writer, it can be all too easy to become so tunnel-visioned on the main conflict that we can forget to flesh out the world of the story. Think of your day today. Did everything go according to plan, or did it seem like everything went wrong during your main quest to go to the grocery store?

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How can I even get out the door when Butters is sitting in the way, looking all cute and wanting petting?

So, how do you decide what sort of subplot to add to your tale? Some simply create themselves as you delve into your story. Sometimes, you have to ask yourself some questions.

Things are going too smoothly for my MC. What else can get in her way?

I have this awesome secondary character, what does he need out of this story? How will he get it? Will his goals be at cross-purposes with the MC, or will they work together?

Does my MC have a crisis of conscious about what he needs to do to achieve his goals? Is he working against himself?

Are my MC’s friends and family on board with her goals, or working against them?

Is my MC’s environment working against him? Are there wolves? A blizzard? Rabid wombats? A dead cell phone, a closed road, a dragon?

Is there a secondary thing the MC wants or needs? A love interest? The truth about his past? Justice for a slight, real or imagined?

These are only a few of the secondary plot-lines that your MC or other character might have to deal with on his way to kill Voldemort. If you are having trouble working subplots into your writing, stop, take a breath, and ask yourself some questions.

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It’s time to vote!  I submitted my book, Descending, to Kindle Scout.  Descending has to get nominated to be noticed by the Kindle editors.

What to do:  If you have an Amazon account and you want to help, go to this link  https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1GSTCATCKN5TS   and nominate Descending.  Each Amazon account holder gets 3 votes for books they’d like to see published.

What’s in it for you: If Descending is chosen for publication, every person who votes for it gets a FREE advance copy of the e-book, and an opportunity to review, if you wish, before anyone else.

How you can help: Vote, if you can.  Share this post with friends if you are willing.  Vote now!  Get a free e-book!

Posted in Subplots, writing, Writing Advice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

CreateSpace- Holiday presents have never been easier

 

For those who don’t know, Creatspace is Amazon’s online platform for self publishing. I did a blog awhile back about using Createspace for non-traditional purposes, and I’m back to remind everyone that it’s a great place to create personalized presents for the holiday season.

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I love Christmas!

The website is pretty user friendly, and there are tons of articles out there to help everyday folks learn how to format their book. I myself learned it pretty easily, it’s not hard. I have only self published one children’s book, but several personal projects, including a memorial book when my father passed away. That was an emotional project, but ended up being a lovely thing to give to my Dad’s family and friends.

Now it’s the holidays, and it isn’t too late to get a project done if you don’t mind proofing it online. I myself have recently completed two projects to give away as gifts. Both are books of personal pictures and recipes.

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The first one was to send to my sweetie’s family. Years ago, we met them in Gatlinburg, Tennessee for a gigantic family reunion. The recent fires in the area had me thinking about that wonderful trip, and a memory book with recipes from the area was born.

I used Word to write, format, and set up the pictures. Then I used CrateSpaces cover creator for the covers. Many of the templates can be personalized with pictures and color choices. I can make a cover from scratch, but it takes me some trial and error in judging the spine width. The cover creator makes it easy.

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List price, just under 10 bucks. Price for me to order copies of this full color, 26 page book of recipes and awesome memories? $3.65. That’s right. I have a gorgeous, full color, personalized book to give my sweetie’s family for Christmas, and each present cost me only some time and less than four bucks. With my limited budget, this is an awesome thing. We sent Brian’s family a picture memory book last year, and they all loved it.

My second book was for my family. Pictures from our life paired with favorite family recipes. Piece of cake. Price for me to order copies of this one? $3.65. I love this!

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Searching for a nice gift, but don’t have a lot of money to spend? Consider making a memory book!

Posted in CreateSpace, Holiday Gifts, writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Writing News- NaNoWriMo is Finished.

November was busy, busy, busy. I put my YA dystopia on hold to take part in NaNoWriMo for the first time. I wanted to do it right, write 50k words on a new novel, though there are plenty of rebels who continue existing projects. For the first time I actually wrote down my outline, since I couldn’t start writing until the 1st of November. Usually I keep it in my head. I like the written outline. It was loosely written, with plenty of wiggle room, but it kept me pushing through on the word count.

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Shiny!

I did it! 50K in one month. The book isn’t finished yet, I think it will take at least another 20k, but 50k in one month was great for keeping me focused. I also think the outline helped keep me from getting burnt out. When I did the July WriMo camp, at the end I felt like I never wanted to write again. I don’t feel that way this time.

The book is Nick of Time, and I’m really liking it. It’s a bit of a mystery with some speculative fiction thrown in. I think it’s going to be cool. My next plan is to finish it up, and then head back to working on Crucible Station while I give Nick some breathing room before the first re-write.

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In the middle of NaNaWriMo, because I’m insane, I started a Kindle Scout Campaign. (Details below.) I don’t know what I was thinking. I didn’t know about Kindle Scout, and I got excited to try it, I guess. I’m enjoying the experience, but it requires nominations, and I am not the best self promoter. The campaign started great guns, but has hit some doldrums. I still have big hopes for it. A smaller campaign does not mean you won’t be selected, and a big booming one doesn’t mean you will be, but I do wish I was better at self promoting. Nope. That’s not really it. I wish I was more interested in it. It doesn’t come naturally to me and I’m simply not sure I want to take the time it would take away from writing my books to spend the sort of time it would take me to be good at it.

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And I have to have time to do things like this before the leaf-eating dragon makes the rounds.

That’s what it all comes down to, isn’t it? How much effort it would take you specifically to get good at something, and how much it will take you away from what you really want to do. My opinion at the moment is that yes, I am willing to spend time building a social presence because it’s important and it can be fun. But only so much time. The time it would take me specifically to become a social media guru is not efficient. I’ve got two books to finish.

I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed for my KS campaign, and I spend some time on it every day. That’s where I am right now, and for now at least, that’s all right.

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It’s time to vote!  I submitted my book, Descending, to Kindle Scout.  Descending has to get nominated to be noticed by the Kindle editors.

What to do:  If you have an Amazon account and you want to help, go to this link  https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1GSTCATCKN5TS   and nominate Descending.  Each Amazon account holder gets 3 votes for books they’d like to see published.

What’s in it for you: If Descending is chosen for publication, every person who votes for it gets a FREE advance copy of the e-book, and an opportunity to review, if you wish, before anyone else.

How you can help: Vote, if you can.  Share this post with friends if you are willing.  Vote now!  Get a free e-book!

Posted in Kindle Scout, NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writers Month, writing, Writing challenge | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

As Part of My Childhood Burns

I stayed up until four in the morning last night, my eyes glued to my computer screen as I watched a beloved part of my childhood go up in flames. Part The Great Smokey Mountains National Park burned and burned. I had seen the fire on The Chimney Tops earlier in the day, and that was enough to break my heart. Years ago, I climbed that mountain with my Dad, brother Joe, and my cousins. Last spring, my brother climbed that trail again to leave part of my Dad’s ashes at the very top.

Now the entire mountain is ashes.

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Photo Credit: Chris Higgins of Knoxville, TN

 

Then the sorrow continued last night. A long drought, embers from the burning mountain, and winds gusting to sixty mph combined to set Gatlinburg, Tennessee on fire. Authorities fought over forty separate fires in the area and had to evacuate people who had become trapped. Some had to be evacuated on foot, due to the fallen trees blocking the roads. It happened so quickly that everyone was caught off guard. Forty people stuck in a hotel watched as flames surrounded them. A father begged on twitter for people to help him find his wife and daughter. A chilling video of people in a car trying to escape, driving down a road with fire on both sides. A haunting picture of an aquarium holding ten thousand animals that could not be evacuated with fire creeping up behind the building. A news report where one of the aquarium workers wept, so upset that he had to leave his charges. I could not look away from my computer, and I could not stop crying.

Information was hard to find. The major news networks were talking politics and ignoring citizens whose lives were in danger and whose homes were burning. I took to Twitter and local news from Sevier County to try to find out how bad it was, and if any progress was being made. News was spotty, and it was all grim. Eventually I went to bed, worried that there would be no Gatlinburg when I woke up.

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Gatlinburg still stands, but so much is gone. The Mayor of the city was on the news telling me that half the city burned. Hundreds of homes, cabins, and businesses are completely destroyed. Much of the main drag survived. The iconic Needle remains. The aquarium was spared, and it’s denizens getting by on generator power.

The wedding chapel where I hoped to get married one day is gone, burned to the ground. The mini-golf course, Hillbilly Golf, where I played with My fiancé and his entire family is no more. This bonfire of treasured memories and dreams hurts my heart. Even so, I know that I am lucky. I cannot imagine the sorrow of those who have lost their homes and their livelihoods.

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Social media last night was heartbreaking. People begging for help. Folks begging mainstream media to pay attention. People trapped and frightened.

Then came the support. Gatlinburg I love you, please be safe. Gatlinburg, my prayers are with you. Gatlinburg, I’m nearby and I have a horse trailer if you need help to evacuate your animals. Please everyone pray for rain. Gatlinburg we love you.

Sure, there was the odd political rant or crazy conspiracy theory, but those were far in the minority. The vast majority of Americans band together when the unthinkable happens.

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And so I ask you to continue that support. Some of Gatlinburg’s people have lost everything but the clothes on their backs. They’ve lost homes, possessions, cars. Some of them have no job now that thier place of employment has burned. They need our prayers and they need our hope, but they also need our help.

This website has a list of ways you can donate money, clothes, etc to the people in need in Tennessee. Please help. Gatlinburg will re-build, but people need our support now.

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Posted in Gatlinburg, Great Smokey Mountains, writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Writing- Three Ways Life Gets in Your Way

Writing- Three Ways Life Gets in Your Way

Across the world, most artists are fighting to make space in their busy lives for their art. Certainly there are artists who make a living with their art alone, but the vast majority have day jobs. Even those who make their living as artists have periods where life issues take precedence over art. However, this post is written for those of us who have to try to fit time for our art into whatever space is left after the job, the kids, the leaf raking, and the myriad of other thing that take precedence over what we most want to do.

Even when the job is done, the kids are asleep, and we finally have the time to sit down at that keyboard or in front of that blank canvas, life gets in the way. We are going to explore some ways to stay focused and also some times to forgive yourself for not being productive.

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Even the fact that it’s fall can seriously cut down on the writing time.

Too Many Things:

Your sweetie is sick and needs chicken soup and NyQuil from the store, you’re boss asks you to stay an hour late at work, the kid has to be dropped at dress rehearsal for Oklahoma and picked up afterwards, ant the cat just puked up a hairball on the carpet. How in the world are you going to make time for your art?

You’re Not.

Yes, it is important for you to be dedicated to your artistic work and do your damnedest to find time to fit it into your life on the daily. It’s not going to happen every day. Even if days like this end with you watching a half hour of TV before you fall asleep on the couch, you should not feel guilty for that half our of “I don’t have to do anything” me time. You need time for yourself, away from all the things you have to do, even your art. Take the time, and don’t beat yourself up about it.

However:

If you exercise two hours a day, play WOW with your guildies every Tuesday night, go to Bridge Club on Fridays, and then there’s your shows that you just have to watch… You get the picture. If what’s keeping you busy are activities that are voluntary in nature and you want your art to be important, then you need to do some pruning and make time for it. You have to scale back all the other things that aren’t mandatory and make quality time to work and grow in your artistic pursuit. I’m not saying ditch them all together, everyone deserves some time to have fun, but you have to scale them back if you want your art to be important. Make a commitment.

 

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So many furry babies through the years.

Grief:

My fiancé and I have been together nearly a quarter century. We don’t have kids, we have pets, and we have lots of them. Mostly cats and ferrets, but there’s been rats and rabbits too. Years ago, we had some bad luck with the babies. Some were old, some were ill, but in the space of six months we lost five of our babies. Two were in the same week. One was a new baby that we’d had less than a month, but he was a rescue, and had a serious issue the vets missed. I felt like all of my children were dying. I know it isn’t the same as losing a human child, but emotions are fuckers. It felt the same. I stopped writing completely, and it was months before I could write again. The same thing happened when I lost my father two years ago. I loved my Dad like only a daddy’s girl can, and when I was dealing with that, I couldn’t write at all.

Take the time you need.

Everyone deals with grief in different ways. Some people may lose themselves in their art, and not want to do anything else. If that’s what happens, then do it. If you can’t face your art, then give yourself permission to grieve and take the time you need. I don’t care if there’s a deadline, or a contest, it doesn’t matter. Grief doesn’t fit into nice little pigeon holes with start times and finish times clearly labeled. It’s wildly variable and messy. Do what you need to do.

However:

Don’t use grief as an excuse to give up on your art. When you can, get back to it. Try every now and again, while you are grieving, to take your art out and see if it’s time to take up the journey again.

 

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I used to work near here, and it ate my brain. I like my drama on the stage, not off of it.

Work:

The boss is a jerk and they have singled you out for extra negative attention. Work is fast paced and it seems like everything is coming down on your shoulders. Deadlines are approaching and  you are the only person who knows how to get things done. You’re working too much overtime, or you’re working too many jobs, and even when you are not working, you are so mentally drained that you can’t string two words together. You just want to quit and dedicate your time to your art.

Don’t Quit that Day Job Yet:

A day job pays the bills. A day job is necessary for most writers, I imagine it is needed for other branches of the arts as well. A lot of actors wait tables, work in retail, and other jobs when they aren’t performing. Many of them continue working a day job even when they have a gig. Unless you are in a branch of the arts where what you do is in huge demand, and there aren’t too many other people doing it, it’s a small percentage of artists who make enough to live comfortably on their art alone. There are certainly authors who made enough money, consistently enough, to live comfortably. Most published writers don’t.

However:

If you hate that job, if it’s eating your brain, maybe it’s time for a different job. A less stressful workplace might give you the peace of mind you need to get back to your art. Another option is to quit, if that’s possible financially. I am not working at the moment. It may not be forever, but it’s doable for now. My fiancé makes enough money that if we scaled back our lifestyle, we could get by without me working, at least for the time being. I take care of things at home and help my mother who is getting older, and I write. It can be frustrating to have less money, but if the sacrifice is for your art, sometimes it’s worth it. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m lucky. Not everyone can quit their job and have time for their art. Not everyone has a partner that is as wildly supportive as my sweetie. I’m lucky and I know it. If this is a possibility for you, and you are willing to make the financial sacrifice, consider it.

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It’s time to vote!  I submitted my book, Descending, to Kindle Scout.  Descending has to get nominated to be noticed by the Kindle editors.

What to do:  If you have an Amazon account and you want to help, go to this link  https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1GSTCATCKN5TS   and nominate Descending.  Each Amazon account holder gets 3 votes for books they’d like to see published.

What’s in it for you: If Descending is chosen for publication, every person who votes for it gets a FREE advance copy of the e-book, and an opportunity to review, if you wish, before anyone else.

How you can help: Vote, if you can.  Share this post with friends if you are willing.  Vote now!  Get a free e-book!

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Top Five Ways Writers Sabotage Themselves

Top Five Ways Writers Sabotage Themselves

Writers are interesting beasts. As Robert A, Heinlein said: “Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” It is the nature of our art to be solitary for a goodly chunk of each day. We sit in our living rooms, in coffee shops, or in a local park with our eyes glued to a notebook or a keyboard. We snap when someone interrupts our train of thought at the exact moment we were about to remember that perfect word. We forget to eat when the words are flowing like melted butter off a stack of pancakes.

Writing is a solitary pursuit. Because of this, when we fail to reach our goals, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Here are five common ways that writers sabotage themselves, and what to do about it.

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I could blame Fred here for the status of my writing.  But the truth is that toads don’t type.

1- Looking too far ahead.
It’s so easy to do. We tell stories non-stop and we sometimes tell ourselves stories as well. Picture this: you’re in the middle of writing your first book. You daydream about getting the call from an agent that wants to represent your book. You see yourself in a local bookstore having a party on the day your book hits the shelves. You imagine selling the movie rights and mentally decide what actors will star in your story.

Then you send your story baby out into the world and no one is interested in it.

“I’ll never write again! What’s the point if no one will read it!”

Don’t Panic. We all go through this. Even published writers have some projects that no one is interested in. If you are an unpublished author, it’s even harder to get anyone’s attention. Carrie wasn’t the first book Stephen King wrote, and he had exactly two tons of rejections before anyone picked it up.

What to do Instead: It’s fine to daydream about that ultimate success, but don’t let that be your main goal. Let the writing be the main goal. Writing a book is never wasted time. With each project you finish, your writing gets tighter and your voice becomes more clear. Trunk that book that didn’t get attention and start the next project.

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Where, oh where can I find some inspiration?

2- Waiting for Inspiration to Strike
When the ideas and words are flowing so fast  your fingers on the keyboard can hardly keep up; that’s one of the most awesome feelings in the world. It’s addictive, that feeling. You love it so much, that when you aren’t inspired, the writing feels awkward and fake. You’ve been working on your novel for years. You see other writers that complete several projects a year, and you don’t understand how they do it. Are they more inspired than you? Do they have a team of sneaky ghost writers?

Don’t Panic. All writers enjoy that inspirational high, but it’s important to realize that giving it too much attention is holding you back.

What to do Instead: A writer that waits on inspiration to strike is a writer that is not using their time effectively. Theatre has an expression, “Butts in Seats,” that means producing a great play isn’t going to get you anywhere unless you get people’s butts in the audience to see it. I’m going to steal that for writers and tell you to get your butt in the seat and write some words. Try to do it as often as you can, as much as your life and day-job allows. Sure, you might not write as much as usual that day, but every word you write adds up. Say you want to write a 100,000 word novel. If you wrote 550 words a day, every day, for six months, that 100k novel would be complete. In addition to that, if you set yourself a goal to reach 500 words on a day you aren’t feeling it, you will often write more than that. The act of putting your butt in the seat and writing builds momentum as you go along. Don’t worry if it goes slowly and awkwardly. The purpose of a first draft is to get words on paper. You can pretty it up in rewrites.

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Inspiration is the icing on the cake of writing.  It’s nice and all, but without it you still have cake. And cake is pretty awesome.

3- Fear of Failure
You are working on the best novel you have written to date. When you re-read it, it’s so good that you can hardly believe you have written this story. Then you get bogged down in the middle and can’t seem to work on it at all. Maybe it sucks. Just because you love it, doesn’t mean it’s any good. What if everyone hates it?

Don’t Panic. All writers, no matter how experienced, have times when they look at the words they have created and see only suckage. This is normal. It does not mean the work is not good.

What to do Instead: You are in your rough draft stage. Focus on that. It’s not supposed to be its shiny best yet. That’s a job for re-writes. Focus on the work, not the end game. Remind yourself that it’s normal to have these “My writing sucks!” moments, and power through.

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Baby swallows judge you.  They’re just trying to help.

4- Fear of Criticism
You are writing your first book. You’ve completed a passage that you believe is the bees knees and you can’t wait for others to read it. You post it to a writer’s forum online, and wait expectantly for the accolades to roll in. Then the constructive criticism begins as they pull it apart.

“Oh my God! They hate me! They think I’m stupid!”

Don’t Panic. Don’t take it personally. The vast majority of people giving you help are trying to do one thing and one thing only. They are trying to help you improve your writing. All writers, no matter how experienced and awesome, have editors to give them advice and make their work shine even more brightly.

What to do Instead: Put the comments away until your initial reaction has calmed down. Remind yourself that critics are trying to help, and it’s not personal. It’s about the writing, not about you. Writer’s say you have to develop a thick skin, and this is what they are talking about. You must be able to look at criticism of your work with a professional attitude, not with your emotions. Now, once you have calmed down, look at those suggestions. Decide which ones have merit, and which ones do not. Try changing the passage to reflect the advice you decided was useful. Look at the new version of your words. Is it shinier? Is it even more awesome now that you’ve done a re-write on it? Consider the specific lessons you learned, and apply them to the rest of your writing. This is how we learn and grow into more polished writers. You can’t fix the issues if you don’t know what they are.

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Mom and Dad swallow might not be looking forward to letting go of their babies, but their babies are made to soar.

5- Fear of Letting Go
You are getting closer and closer to the end of your novel, and you find that the words are getting slower and slower. You don’t understand why. You know exactly what happens at the end and you’ve pictured it a thousand times in your head. Why can’t you finish the book?

Don’t Panic: It’s common to get stalled close to the end. Focus on why you are stalled. We pour our souls into our books. We become attached to our characters. It can be hard when that relationship comes to an end. We don’t always want to say goodbye.

What to do Instead: For me, it’s difficult to finish a book until I have the idea for the next project. It’s much easier to say goodbye to your cast when you have a new cast waiting in the wings. Figure out what project you want to write next, and get a little excited about it. Remind yourself that you can’t start the new project before you finish the one you are in the middle of. Sometimes looking forward to the next story gives you what you need to finish the one you are in the middle of and say goodbye.

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It’s time to vote! I submitted my book, Descending, to Kindle Scout. Descending has to get votes to be noticed by the Kindle editors. The final decision is up to the editors, a lot of votes don’t get you published, but you won’t get published without a lot of votes.

What to do: If you have an Amazon account and you want to help, go to this link https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1GSTCATCKN5TS and vote for Descending. Each Amazon account holder gets 3 votes for books they’d like to see published.

What’s in it for you: If Descending is chosen for publication, every person who votes for it gets a FREE advance copy of the e-book, and an opportunity to review, if you wish, before anyone else.

How you can help: Vote, if you can. Share this post with friends if you are willing. Vote now! Get a free e-book!

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What is “Voice” in Writing?

Recently, on a writing forum, a writer who was just starting out asked what “voice” was, and how could they get some. This question wasn’t about giving your characters unique voices, that’s a whole other kettle of colored horses. He was talking about a writer’s voice. The “voice” of an entire work.

“Voice” is a particular writer’s style of writing. It can be the style they write in all the time, or it can be project specific. Think about Neil Gaiman, or Tom Robbins, even Cormac McCarthy. These are writers with a strong and unique voice. Chances are, if I put up examples of all three (assuming you had read them, of course) that you could tell with little difficulty who wrote what piece. That difference is voice. They are all well written, but each has unique qualities that make it “sound” like a certain writer’s work.

Let’s try it!

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Know what time it is, Millie!  It’s time to play name that author!

“Hey,” said Shadow. “Huginn or Muninn, or whoever you are.”
The bird turned, head tipped, suspiciously, on one side, and it stared at him with bright eyes.
“Say ‘Nevermore,'” said Shadow.
“Fuck you,” said the raven.”

*****

Hawaii once had a rat problem. Then, somebody hit upon a brilliant solution. import mongooses from India. Mongooses would kill the rats. It worked. Mongooses did kill the rats. Mongooses also killed chickens, young pigs, birds, cats, dogs, and small children. There have been reports of mongooses attacking motorbikes, power lawn mowers, golf carts, and James Michener. In Hawaii now, there are as many mongooses as there once were rats. Hawaii had traded its rat problem for a mongoose problem. Hawaii was determined nothing like that would ever happen again.

*****

They heard somewhere in that tenantless night a bell that tolled and ceased where no bell was and they rode out on the round dais of the earth which alone was dark and no light to it and which carried their figures and bore them up into the swarming stars so that they rode not under but among them and they rode at once jaunty and circumspect, like thieves newly loosed in that dark electric, like young thieves in a glowing orchard, loosely jacketed against the cold and ten thousand worlds for the choosing.

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If Butters had a voice, he would tell you he loves his purple mousie.  As you can tell, Butters’ voice mostly says “Feed me.”

Read some authors that you admire. Note how they put the words together. Is it a bit snarky, like Gaiman? Is it a bit surreal, like Robbins? Is it a bit stream of consciousness, like McCarthy? What makes the writing sound like the writer’s voice?

Honestly, the only way I know to develop voice is to keep writing. As you put hours and hours into your writing, your own personal style will begin to show up. I wrote 5 novel length pieces before my voice started firming up. Then I started writing novels I hoped to publish. I’ve had feedback from agents and publishers that compliment me on my voice. It’s my plots that need work. They aren’t quite unique enough. Living is learning, so that’s what I’m working on now.

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It’s time to vote! I submitted my book, Descending, to Kindle Scout. Descending has to get votes to be noticed by the Kindle editors. The final decision is up to the editors, a lot of votes don’t get you published, but you won’t get published without a lot of votes.

What to do: If you have an Amazon account and you want to help, go to this link https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1GSTCATCKN5TS and vote for Descending. Each Amazon account holder gets 3 votes for books they’d like to see published.

What’s in it for you: If Descending is chosen for publication, every person who votes for it gets a FREE advance copy of the e-book, and an opportunity to review, if you wish, before anyone else.

How you can help: Vote, if you can. Share this post with friends if you are willing. Vote now! Get a free e-book!

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When Your Main Character is a Dick

It happens to all of us at some point. Your intent is to write a well rounded main character, kind but strong perhaps, yet when the beta readers get hold of your MS it’s a different story.

“I didn’t care what happened to the MC. He’s so unsympathetic.”
“I didn’t like your MC much.”
“Why is the main guy such a dick?”

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Billy, for example, is a sweet boy.  This picture makes him look like a dick.

Now, there are times when you want your MC to be dickish. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R Donaldson come to mind. The MC in that series isn’t completely unsympathetic, but he is a dick. He’s a dick on purpose. it’s what works for that story.

But what if you are writing a romantic lead, someone the readers need to feel for, but the readers aren’t feeling it. Often times, the problem is a matter of tone. I have a friend in real life that suffers from unfortunate tone of voice. This woman is a kind and thoughtful person, but she is often judged to be far more negative than she is because her manner of speaking–her tone of voice–is a bit brusque.

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This picture makes me look like I could give a shit that I’m standing at the Grand Canyon.  What’s really happening is that I have “I suck at selfies I’m going to drop my phone” face.

That could be happening to your MC with the sympathy problem.

“You should go by yourself,” Byron said, refusing to look at her. “I won’t help you.”

Pretty harsh, yes? What if the writer’s intent was something less dickish, such as shyness?

“I don’t think I should go with you.” Byron looked at the ground and rolled a rock back and forth with the toe of one shoe. “I mean…it’s not like I’ll be any help. Not with a big group of people like that.”

The tone of the two examples is very different. And by tone, I’m not only talking about how the character says his lines, but also the tone of the narration itself. Both could be written to indicate shyness or insecurity, but the second example is much more clear.

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A slight re-write, and Billy looks like the sweet boy he is.

If your MC is coming off with the readers as less sympathetic than you wanted, do a re-read and check for tone. You may find that a light re-write is all that is needed to make your MC someone that the readers can empathize with. Small changes can make a huge difference.

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It’s time to vote! I submitted my book, Descending, to Kindle Scout. Descending has to get votes to be noticed by the Kindle editors. The final decision is up to the editors, a lot of votes don’t get you published, but you won’t get published without a lot of votes.

What to do: If you have an Amazon account and you want to help, go to this link   and vote for Descending. Each Amazon account holder gets 3 votes for books they’d like to see published.

What’s in it for you: If Descending is chosen for publication, every person who votes for it gets a FREE advance copy of the e-book, and an opportunity to review, if you wish, before anyone else.

How you can help: Vote, if you can. Share this post with friends if you are willing. Vote now! Get a free e-book!

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