Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Finishing a book

I'm writing this moments after finishing the first draft of book four in my Lost Ancients fantasy series. The Sapphire Manticore is alive!

This is a seriously big book, currently at 400 pages. I know it will shift a lot with rounds of editing, mine and others, but right now it's a very big, bouncing, baby book.

I have mixed feelings right now. I'm glad it's done- been waiting this week to get there, and finally hitting it was amazing.

But I'm also a little sad. Yes, I'll be re-reading it until I'm blue in the face, and editing like mad the next month or so, but it's not the same. This book I really pushed. Since the end of August I've been hitting 5 or more pages a day- for a writer with a full time day job, that's pretty good (at least this writer ;)). That type of rate builds a closeness to the story I wasn't expecting.

And it's left me a little sad. But like I said, there will be edits, and book five and six will be waiting :).

Sleep well my little drunken hooligans, another adventure has been recorded.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Push it...

Yeah, okay, so sorry if some of you now have Salt & Pepper's song in your head. But today I wanted to talk about pushing ourselves--in this case for writing, but it's true for most everything.

It's easy to believe we are driving ourselves as hard as we can. That we're doing the most we can do. This is especially true if we're trying to do more than one thing with the bulk of our time--in my case, a full time day job and building a writing career.

I would love to say that I am a naturally driven person, that I set goals before the sun comes up and have them weeping in the corner before breakfast.

But that would be a lie.

I'm naturally very lazy. REALLY lazy. Unless I'm trapped somewhere I don't want to be, I am never bored simply because I am that good at doing nothing.

Yet, I have written more words since the end of August than I probably did for the six months prior. And, as noted in prior blogs, it's not because my day job slowed down--I work at a college and the start of the semester is intense. 

It's because I made a conscious effort to stretch myself, to increase my writing goals in the face of intense madness at the day job. I started with a goal of 1500 words a day in The Sapphire Manticore (the fantasy series), and if I hit that, I could start working on Victorious Dead (space opera trilogy) at 500 words a shot.

With a few weeks of that under my belt, I increased to 1600 a day--these are work days mind you, the weekends are between 2000 and 3000 depending on what is going on. But I am writing every day. If I'm sick, I might write less, but I am still writing something. It keeps me set in my worlds, so even when I'm not working on them, part of my brain is thinking about them.

I've been at 1700 words since October first, and am now going to bump it to 1800 (aka about 6 pages a day). I am actually kind of surprised at this pace, but I've noticed that I feel much better when the words are done. And I feel better about the books in question.

When we push ourselves, even just a little at a time, we stretch what we're able to accomplish. Right now, stand up. stick your arms out from your sides, and twist one direction. Go as far as you comfortably can. Note how far you go, then turn back to where you started. Now do it again. Your "as far as you can go" is a little further. Because you stretched yourself, and can now reach further.

That's why things like NaNoWriMo (Google it ;)) can really help some folks, they make you stretch further than you thought capable. 

Pushing what you think you can do by constantly stretching just a tiny bit further will get you closer to your goal. And will help you realize just what you're capable of.

If it works for a lazy person like me, it will work for anyone.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

#IWSG- Is it done yet?

Welcome to the monthly blog collection from the Writer’s Insecure Support Group! 

Today, a question was suggested—How do you know when your book is done?

Well, kids, here at the Butterball School of Writing, all works in progress come with a handy little pop up device. Once you’ve run through enough drafts, editing, beta readers, more editing, more readers, etc—the button pops up and voila! You have a finished book!

*waits for the laughter to die down….okay, gives up on the attempt at humor*

Homage to Thanksgiving and comparing our books to cooked poultry in an attempt at humor aside, this is a tricky question. Far more so, the more you look into it. Like most all aspects of writing, it depends on the individual to know when their book is done, there’s no one size fits all program.
For me personally it’s still an “it varies” answer, as each book has a different cooking time. But there are some components that follow through on each book.
I throw a lot of stuff on the page (I’m a pantser folks) and my first draft is sometimes pretty wild. I do little edits/re-reads as I’m working on the first draft, but nothing really big. Then I print it out and edit. I slice and dice for story and character arcs first. Something doesn’t actually go somewhere (or set something up for another book in the series- so if you see something touched on in say book two- it might not have an impact until say book five) it’s out. I may cut and save it, if I really love it, but I’ve learned to be brutal. If it’s doesn’t move things along- it’s outta there. Your “darlings” (the words) lose individual strength when compared to the entire piece. Move it or lose it my little wordy friends!
After a few edits, I send it to my developmental editor. She calls me on anything I may have missed, or just refused to see was a problem. Then my beta readers have a whack. I am totally lucky to have some insanely talented friends who are willing to point out where I’ve screwed up, typos, and major “WTF?” issues. Then a nice line/copy edit for clean-up. I also go through a few passes before and inbetween all of these.
At each of these stages, I’m keeping an eye out for anything major, something that tells me the story isn’t doing what I need it to do. If it flies through after all these folks poking and prodding it, and feels solid, I pronounce it DONE!
Told you the pop up button idea was better ;).

Happy IWSG day!!!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Making it "real".

Beginning writers often fall into the same traps, one of which is to describe the hell out of EVERYTHING.   What people looked like down to the smallest details, places, houses, kitchens, closets, stores, how to drive a car…you name it, I can promise it has been described to death by thousands of writers.

Writers do it because, especially when we’re just starting, we’re trying to make it real for the reader—to do that we need to make them see it, right? Every last button, lace, design on the dagger?

Ummm- no.

Good writing has a trick to it—it implies real life, it gives the illusion of real life, but it’s not real life.  Use dialogue as an example.  We may eavesdrop on folks to pick up on things, but you’d never use real conversation in a book (and if you are, stop it. Please. ).  In real conversation people are repetitive, they use fillers (um, ah, etc) they talk over each other, hop subjects, are boring, and a whole lot more.

So, we don’t write like people speak-- we write what feels like how people speak.  Our dialogue needs to give the illusion of real conversation, but in a much tighter and structured form. 

The same thing with description.  A laundry list filled with tiny details might make for a happy writer in some cases, but it’s not going to make for a happy reader.  As writers we have to give an impression of our characters, their homes, their lives.  Give enough detail to anchor the reader a bit, then let the reader’s imagination do the heavy lifting- let THEM determine what everything looks like.

I had a friend ask how I pronounced one of my character’s names once.  I shrugged and told her.  She frowned and said she thought it was something else.  To which I said, “Yep, you’re right too”.  I know how my characters look, sound, move, and react.  It’s in my head all the time.  But once a reader meets them, those characters are theirs now as well.  If they build that character based on your words and their own imagination, that character becomes far more real to them than if the writer forced a list of descriptives down their throat.

Heavy lists of what things look like actually slows down the reader as they try to pull the very detailed image together.  It ruins the pacing and pulls them out of the story.  A death sentence for any book.

I’ve come across books that gave me no classic descriptives of a character at all.  No eye color, hair color, skin color, height, weight, nothing.

And I can promise you I KNEW what that character looked like just from the writer’s other words.  Now, did my character look like what the writer was thinking?  Maybe, maybe not.  But what’s important was that I as the reader saw the character. I didn't see the writer telling me about the character.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The creative brain divided

I have discovered a secret way to be more productive—work on more than one project at a time. 

Now, before you all start screaming about it being hard enough to get one creative thing down at a time, let alone multiples—just hear me out.

At the end of August—the start of the school year, and the most hectic time of year for someone who works at a college—I started demanding a higher word count for myself. Now, in part, this was an attempt to save my sanity by massively immersing myself in my creative world because the day job was brutal.

As a “gift” for getting the word counts in for The Sapphire Manticore, I allowed myself to start Victorious Dead (the follow up to Warrior Wench). I wasn’t sure how it would work doing two different books in two different series in the same squished amount of time.

It worked!

Since the end of August, I have cranked out the highest level of word counts I’ve ever done outside of Nano.

I even upped the multi-world issue by adding a light read/edit of A Curious Invasion- a steam punk adventure with vampires and aliens coming out next year.

Now, a few caveats:

1)      There is a very good chance I have a weird brain. I’ve always enjoyed multi-tasking and while I do also enjoy big chunks of magic time to work on a single subject, that isn’t my reality in my day job—nor my writing.

2)       The three projects are all within the SF/F heading, but all different. The Lost Ancients series is a six-book, first person POV, monster. Aka- it is one giant story carved up into six pieces.  The AsarlaĆ­ Wars trilogy, is a 3rd person POV, three book only series- shorter story arc, and third person is a different head than first. The steampunk is also 3rd person, but is an open ended series—all books are connected and build on each other, but they are not a single story. The pacing is different-these people drink a lot of tea. Not to say it’s not as fast paced as the others, but the feel (and my headspace) is very different.

3)      I couldn’t do it if they were all the same sub-genre.

The benefit is an increased vitality for all three stories- I am writing more, but they also act as each other’s palate cleanser.  I’m tracking more of what happens in each because I have to stay focused since I have three going. Sort of like juggling, I need to keep my eye on three balls, so there’s less likely of me getting distracted ;).

Will this work for you? Dunno. Worked for Isaac Asimov. He apparently would have a bunch of typewriters with a different story in each—one gets stuck, move to the next (and yep, I’ve noticed that too ;)).

It’s been a great experiment, higher word counts, more engagement, and stronger stories. I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised.

Folks often try to make time for what they want, you can’t do that. Make the time. Push yourself. Go beyond your perceived limits. You might be very pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I wanna be a KILLJOY!!!

WRITER....Killjoy writer. As in a writer for the TV show KillJoys, one of the best shows to pop on the airwaves in many a year.

There is NO way I'd want to actually be a Killjoy, unlike Dutch, I wouldn't live more than a few minutes in that world. But to be a writer for them? Or even just be hanging out in the writer's room?!  


First, I'll explain for those of how have managed to not hear of KillJoys  go here, watch the first two seasons (they are short seasons, I'll wait.).

Killjoys is an amazingly fun, dramatic, actiony, sexy, SF TV show. But the main reasons I love it are the characters- they are flawed, massively in most cases, but they still pull you along for the ride. The writing is awesome. They don't "explain" the world, or the set up to you repeatedly and they get that most folks who watch SF shows get it- we've seen SF shows, we can figure out the basic ideas as we go along.

I'm rough on shows, I think it's the writer brain, but I am always guessing what is going to happen--far too often, I'm right. With Killjoys I am almost always wrong. But their writers are so tight, that their way makes absolute sense.

So, my dream is to one day sit in a Killjoys writer room, absorbing all the magic....hopefully for their tenth season ;).

So what TV shows have just knocked you out of the park in the last year or so?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Today is the day! A chance for writers everywhere to shout out their fears, worries, conundrums, etc to the world--and hope someone shouts back.

Join us!

There are some times prompts for this wonderful day, no one has to use them, but they can come in very handy. Like today ;).

So, today I will be talking about time to write- it is made or found?

First off, I have a full time day job. Most writers, unless they have a spouse with lots of money, have a day job. That means 40 + hours are just sucked out of my week faster than a really thirsty drunken faery working on her first bottle.

Then you have sleep, food, hygiene, etc, and you don't have a lot of time left.

So, I make time. Waiting for it won't work.

I get up at 5am so I can get words in before the day job (I aim for between 500 and 800). Then after the day job, I aim to get the rest of my 1600 word goal for the fourth fantasy book.
Recently, I started adding on 500 a day for the new space opera after dinner.

I limit my TV time to ideally only an hour, and I'm getting up at freaking 5 am.

But it is so worth it.

I don't do this everyday, these are goals to follow and strive for,  not to control my life. But I know when I hit them, even just getting some words in, I feel better.

I've never had anyone tell me, "I wish I had time to write a book". But I'm waiting. So many friends and other writers in groups have told of these people who think we write just because we have nothing else to do. I have been practicing my look of derision and scorn for when that question happens.

No, we write because we make time to do it.