Thursday, December 27, 2012

Steps to reaching your goals for 2013

Well its a few days before the new year, hopefully everyone is thinking about, writing down, and or actually getting a jump start on their 2013 goals :).

Studies have shown that the more concrete the goal, the more likely the person is to complete it. So saying, “I want to lose weight”, “I want to get published”, aren’t valid goals. Well, they might be valid, however, they have two things wrong with them 1) too vague, 2) the goal is not directly controllable for the person.

So the first step in our little goal blog today is:

Define the goals:

Work backwards. Where do you want to be in a year from now?

In as concrete terms as possible put down exactly where you want to be.  Then map your way to it in nice, easy to digest chunks. (I like weeks personally ;))

Control the goals:

If I want to lose 30 pounds, and I break it up into nice little x-pounds per week chunks- I could still be messing things up because my body may not lose weight at that ratio. There are many different variables that make up weight loss- such as our body type, our fitness level, genetics, age, etc. So to say, “X-pounds per month” is setting things up for a big disappointment. Then you get depressed, give up, and go eat a pint of rocky road. The trick is to make as your goal something you CAN control. For weight loss this could be “I will work out for 30 minutes a day 3 days a week, and go for 45 minute walks 6 days a week.” This is something YOU have control over- if you fail, regardless of the reason (no time, things came up, etc) the onus is on YOU to fix it. Plus, in terms of weight loss- when you get enough healthy goals lined up you WILL lose weight ;).

For the goal of getting published- again break things down. For most folks still looking at the traditional model, an agent is a good idea. Now saying, “I’ll get an agent this year.” isn’t a viable goal either. The agent does have a say in things- after all, free will, etc. So the better goal is one in which control comes back to you. Something such as, “I will submit a query to 25 agents this year.” That is in your control completely and hopefully will lead to an agent, which will lead to a sale, which will lead to being published.


Responsibility for the goal (or failure):

The problem for many folks is that they place the “success-o-meter” for their goals in the hands of something other than themselves. Psychologists refer to it has an external locus of control. My happiness, or success, is in the hands of someone else, whether it be fate, luck, some higher power. If a person has an external loci of control, they see that their happiness, sadness, success, etc is out of their hands. "I'm not happy because (outside action, person, event)." Or I’d do that “wonderful thing to change my life BUT”. These could be called the ‘because’ and ‘but’ folks.

It's also true for responsibility of ones life and actions- external locus of control folks are never to blame for their own failures or mistakes. It’s not their fault their life isn’t what they want, or they can’t reach their goals- it’s always the action of something far beyond them.

Folks with a more internal locus of control see themselves as the steering action for their lives. If they succeed at something- it’s through their own hard work. They fail at something? It’s them who dropped the ball. And it's up to their to get back on course.

Now guess which group has more control in changing their behavior? In succeeding in their goals?

Like all personality and social behaviors, people range from one end of the spectrum to the other- probably no one is at the extreme end for either side. But as people who want to gain control of our lives, one of the first things we need to do is take responsibility. Develop your internal locus of control ;).

Future Time Perspective concerning goals:

This is a psychological theory about people’s ability to delay gratification now in order to achieve a goal or desire in the future. Aka, how much are you willing to suffer now to reap future rewards. Like locus of control, people range on this scale. Some folks are close to zero. They’re the 'I want it now, I don’t want to set aside time to advance my goals, I want to watch tv because it gives me immediate enjoyment' bunch. Those folks have a hard time making the reality of those future goals concrete in their heads (and most are going to be on the external locus of control end of the game too- if you can’t control your future, why should you give up current pleasure for it?).

People with a strong sense of future time perspective have trained themselves to see what they want (define their goals), adjust those goals as needed, and can connect their current actions with those future goals. They adjust to dealing with getting up at 5am, to watching less tv, playing less with social media, giving up some time with friends (not too much, social contact is vital for mental health ;))-because their future goal is real to them and they see they have control over it.

Notice I said train themselves. Through upbringing people may be at one end or the other on both of these scales. BUT they can train themselves to be better. To realize they have control over their lives (both good and bad events), that sacrifice now is important for success later on.

Flexibility of goals:

Goals should grow and change as you do, don’t hang onto a goal just because you wrote it down.  Take a look at your goals regularly, and change them as needed.


Hope all of you have some great goals for 2013!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Writing is like making cookies...

Now yes, the title of today's blog is a bold and possibly rabble rousing statement. How can I compare cookies to writing a novel?! Well, it could be that I’ve blown out my last brain cells during the great cookie baking week-end of 2012.

Or I may have a point. ;)

Let’s start with cookies (always a great place to start ;)). I make a lot of different types, most all have folks for whom THAT cookie is their favorite. But they don’t all agree. What one person loves in my frosted pumpkin spice cookies, another may find too sweet.

So which person is “right”?


Cookie taste is subjective, I like all the cookies I make to varying degrees or I wouldn’t make them. I do use my friends as litmus tests- if everyone finds a cookie too sweet, or too something not good- I’ll modify that cookie recipe. But if person A loves them, person B thinks they are too sweet, and person C likes them but likes a different cookie from my collection better- I don’t change the recipe.

I make my cookies to the best of my ability- over the years I’ve created and modified recipes to suit my tastes. I am the first consumer of the cookies- if I don’t like them, others won’t either. But you are never going to have a cookie that EVERYONE universally loves.

Cookies are subjective.

And writing is subjective.

Ah, you knew I’d get back to the point—right? ;)

As writers the ONLY things we must do are to keep writing and to keep learning our craft. We can’t worry about making everyone who sees our work love it- that simply won’t happen.

All we can do is make the best cookies—er, books— that we can and keep an eye out for an ‘everyone hates the same thing’ mark. Otherwise, take feedback with a grain of salt, if it feels right to you- make the change. But don’t change every little thing because one person didn’t like it.

Believe in yourself.

Believe in your writing.

Don’t give up.

And make lots of cookies! J

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

GUEST: RACHEL AARON- author of the Eli Monpress series

I’m lucky enough today to have the wonderful Fantasy novelist, Rachel Aaron as my guest. Rachel is the author of the Eli Monpress novels and one of the fastest writers around!
 I’ve started her off with some questions and she’s really given a wealth of answers- if you’re a writer or a reader-READ ON! (Then go check out her books ;)).


How did you get started writing?

I always wanted to be a story teller. Ever since I can remember, I've been full of stories, but it wasn't until college that I fixed on writer as the way to get them out (as opposed to manga or movies since I can't draw and have no visual artistic sense what so ever). Even then, though, I didn't get really serious about writing until I finished college and started a very boring job as a secretary/graphic designer for a Methodist church.


By this point, I was starting to get really serious about being a writer. I was researching publishing and trying on and off to write, mostly at work, but I wasn't really getting anywhere. Then, one day, I found this quote from Ernest Hemmingway "Those who say they want to be writers, and aren't, don't."


This was the shot across the bow for me. Because I did want to be a writer, but I wasn't writing, and if I wasn't writing, I'd never be one. Also, I knew I was in a rare position. I was newly graduated, no responsibilities other than feeding myself and paying my dirt cheap rent. I had a boring job with several dead hours in front of a computer, if I couldn't write under these conditions, I never would.


So I got serious. I started trying to get 2000 words a day. Most days I didn't, and sometimes I'd have whole months where I didn't write a word (especially when Warcraft was really going). But the point is I never stopped for good. I always came back. I got a new, much harder job, but I still got up in the mornings and wrote, and about a year after I got serious, I finished my first book... and it got rejected EVERYWHERE. But I had the bug now, and I wrote another book that became The Spirit Thief, which was the book that got the agent, the book deal, and started my career.


From the published authors I've talked to, my story seems pretty typical. There's often this moment where you shift from thinking "I want to write" to really doing it, and that moment is the moment where your career as a writer really begins. For me, it was in 2004. For reference, I sold my first book in 2008. Four years and 2 books after I got serious, I made it. Some people take less time, some people take WAY more (Bestseller Lynn Viehl famously took 10 years to make it). The point is we all made it not because we're geniuses and writing came easy to us, but because we didn't give up.


What words of wisdom would you want to tell that early version of you as a writer?

PLAN BETTER! I'm a huge plotter now, but at the beginning I rushed into things head long and often ended up painting myself into corners or making dumb plot decisions simply because I was trying to play everything by ear. If I'd just taken the time to figure out my ending and the plot twists, much of my in book angst could have been avoided. Planning will set you free!


Who were your biggest influences?

 In terms of my writing, probably anime, weird as it sounds. I love the way anime/manga handles drama and pacing, and I try to incorporate that same addictive excitement into my books. I take my prose sensibilities from Peter S. Beagle (for the pretty stuff), Elizabeth Moon (for the fights), and Frank Herbert (for the spiritual/magical stuff).

 For my writing life, though, I'd be remiss if I did not mention Holly Lisle. Her website was my window into how publishing worked when I was first starting out, and I loved her for it. She was the one who taught me to "Pay it forward" and her influence is a huge part of the reason I take the time now to help new authors as much as I can. We're all newbies at some point, and I feel it's my duty as an author to reach back and help others with the climb just as Holly helped me.


What would you say has been the most difficult writing lesson to learn?

If something isn't working: stop. This is a lesson I'm still learning, actually. In many writing circles,"finishing what you start" is a sacred creed, and for a good reason. You'll never sell a book if you can't finish one. But this saying often leads writers (or at least, lead me) to try and just power through scenes that aren't working in the name of "just get it done." But it doesn't work. Cliched as it is, you can't force art. If you're not interested in writing a scene, if the words aren't flowing, you can't make them. And believe it or not, this is a good thing. Your brain is trying to tell you that something is wrong, and when that happens, the best thing to do is just stop (even if that means missing your words per day quota) and figure out what's gone sour.

 This can be really scary. Often it means throwing out words and rewriting. But if I've learned one lesson so far, it's this: writing should be enjoyable. If you didn't have fun writing your scene, no one's going to have fun reading it. So instead of sitting there desperately trying to wring words into an unwilling scene, just stop and ask, why don't I want to write this? What's wrong? The answer is often the solution to problems you never even knew you had, and it almost always makes your book better.


What have you enjoyed the most about your Eli Monpress series?

Completing the meta-plot. The Eli Monpress novels were always planned to be five books. Right from the beginning, I knew how the overarching story was going to end. I knew what the Shepherdess was and the secret of the world, but I didn't quite know how to get it out there. As the series went on, unfolding the meta-plot of the larger world and Eli's role in it became this enormous balancing act. I was telling a huge, background story over five books, one I couldn't show too much of for fear of spilling the beans but I still had to make sure readers noticed things so that when the revelations did come, they'd know what they meant. This was a really freaking ambitious stunt to pull on a first series, but I did it, and I think I did it really really well. Pulling off the end of Eli is probably the single thing I'm most proud of in my career so far, and Spirit's End is my favorite of the Eli books by far.


Other than that, though, I LOVED writing Eli. His voice is one of the strongest character voices I've ever had, and spending 5 books with him talking in my head was an absolute delight. Ah, Eli, I miss you!

Now that your series has ended, what is on the horizon? Where do you see yourself five years from now writing/book wise?

I'm currently finishing up the third book of a new SciFi trilogy for Orbit Books. It's a much more R rated series than Eli, more Romance, sex, cursing, and violence. The main character is a very badass female powered armor mercenary and I love her to pieces. I'm kind of on the fence about whether my Eli fans will like it, so was Orbit, which is why the books are coming out under the name "Rachel Bach" instead of Rachel Aaron. But I think the series is a hoot. So if you like adventure romance mixed with hard core armored combat and space adventure, my new series might be right up your alley. Book 1, Fortune's Pawn, comes out in May 2013.

What is the most important thing (or things ;)) any writer can learn to improve their craft?

Patience with yourself. So many of the writers I meet have these strange ideas that they're just supposed to know how to write a publishable quality book even though they've never done it before. This is silly, because writing is a skill. You wouldn't expect to sit down at a piano never having touched one before and just start playing like a pro, would you? Of course not, so why do people expect to be able to just shoot out quality fiction? It's absurd.

Good writing takes practice, patience, and a whole lot of experimentation. Failure is inevitable. You're going to write a lot of bad words before you get to the good ones, and this is totally acceptable and natural. Don't look at a failed book as failure, look at it as practice. Every word, every scene, every chapter, every book you write makes you better. Nothing is wasted. So if you're frustrated with your work, rather than hate on yourself for being a bad writer, remember that you're learning your craft and cut yourself some slack. It's much healthier for everyone involved.

Thank you so much for coming by Rachel! 

Writer folks, along with her amazing Eli  Monpress series- Rachel also has a must read short e-book and improving your writing speed- this book is great regardless of what genre you write!


Her main website:
The Legend of Eli Monpress
 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love (




Thursday, December 6, 2012

Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

Ok, there are two components of this statement- one for us as writers.  A screenwriter friend once told me, “You can never fail, you can only quit”. If we give up on our dreams, on ourselves, without doing all that we want to do- we’re selling ourselves short. You can't fail in this business as long as you keep writing.

But the way I want to look at it today is our characters.

Our characters have to be realistic enough for readers to identify with otherwise they’ll never be able to jump inside their heads for the ride.

But at the same time, our characters have to go a beyond real- they can’t give up even when faced with odds that would destroy “regular” people. (Ok, the argument can be made, and it’s valid, that there ARE people who perform with super human tenacity, but we’ll ignore them for now. If you KNOW someone is going to succeed no matter what, what’s the fun in watching their path?).

We have to create people who are normal to begin with (normal for whatever they are, fae, elf, dragon, vampire, or even just human) but who find that inner power we all wish we had to go beyond who they were and save the day.

These characters have to have plenty of options to walk away, they may even do so once or twice, but something inside of them keeps them going back to the right path. To put themselves in harm’s way to save others, an ideal, or a way of life.

I'm finding that the more flaws I give my characters, the more problems and reasons for them to turn away, the more I believe them when they don't.

Any tricks out there for making characters who go beyond themselves and are yet still believable?

Thanks for coming by!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

And another NaNo bites the dust!


Ahhh NaNoWriMo is almost over for another year, and for me, and others, it’s already done. I was hoping to finish Sunday evening, but too many 0 and low count word days put a kibosh on that. I will settle for finishing last night J.

I think this was my most successful and mind expanding NaNo yet.

I started out with my outline, and while didn’t follow through as closely as intended after the first act, the basic idea was there. I still love my board and my lined sticky notes! I think I am now a full-fledged Plantster, - a half breed. The secret of writing is to find what works for you and follow it. Then when it stops working, go find something else. I found my something else J.

I didn’t skip. No jumping and writing bits and pieces. Now, to be fair, this is sort of violating NaNo since they want folks to finish a book. I already know I can finish a book. Been there, done that (a few times). So for me having a nice solid start was my goal. I think I’ve done that J.

I also learned that going out on location writing might be a good thing for me. I’ve done a few Starbuck’s write ins before, and the counts were decent. But it wasn’t until Thanksgiving day and a speedy 2050 words (in about an hour and fifteen minutes) at a coffee shop that I realized the power of writing out in the real world.

I’ve re-found my mojo J. Been limping along for almost a year or more with a broken writer mojo. This stomped that problem into the ground. I realized that I need goals and challenges to keep my writer powers activated- so next year I’m going to challenge the heck out of myself- and keep moving forward!

My goals are to finish the rough of this book by end of Jan 2013 (The Four Dragons of the Apocalypse- it’ll have a new word count listing up on this site soon ;). Then finish last year’s project, Sakari’s War in Feb and March. THEN start edits for Dragons and you guessed it—start yet another book ;).

If you NaNo’d this year-congrats- even if you aren’t going to finish, you tried something outside of your normal comfort zone and you should be proud! Hopefully you learned something about your writing along the way J.

And for those of you who finish by Friday night-WOOOO! Rock on, you did GREAT!

Now go finish the book ;).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why all writers should be thankful

       I will be the first to admit that writing can be a very painful and depressing task. Not the words themselves, although many fights have been fought and lost with stories running amuck, but the field of writing for publication. Getting published is truly painful and for most of us that path is filed with a lot of heartbreak. Shear stubbornness is probably the best weapon in any writer’s arsenal.
       But for all of that we have to still be truly grateful. We have the skill and the drive to follow the wild ideas that pop in our heads. Heck we HAVE wild ideas that pop in our heads! I have seen many friends post on FB how bored they are from time to time, I have NEVER seen a writer friend post it (or say it).We are armed with an imagination that knows no bounds. Have nothing to do? Work on a story. Feeling low? Dive into an amazing world of your own creation. Mad at your day job? Take it out on your villain.
       Even if publishing never comes our way--or not the way we dream—we still have to be grateful for this amazing gift- the ability to tell stories.
We must never lose track of that.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Half way into NaNoville...

NaNo is a great chance for writers to find out what they’re worth, and new writers to see what it takes to complete a book (ok, caveat- obviously 50,000 words isn’t a book in 90% of genres…but work with me here ;)).

I love it because it pushes me to write more, to think about my stories in a different manner. This year I really pushed the “something different” issue. I did an outline (light in act 2 and 3 but still way more than I’ve ever done), I’m not skipping (more on that in a bit), and I’m doing a “pre-write” each day.

The outline: Ok, halfway through and I’d say it’s helped a lot, and I think I will incorporate it into my writing style. But, I’m a half-breed now (half pantser/half plotter)- not going to switch completely to plotter, but no long as pantsy as I was. The outline hasn’t been followed as well as one would have hoped however-LOL. I have to say out of all of the changes in my writing this month- this was the biggest. And had to most impact. And probably manages to terrify both pantsers and plotters alike!

See, as a half breed I’ve got the best of both worlds (in my opinion) or the worst of both. I did sit there with my board and my stickys and write down notes for chapters. Act one was blocked with 10 solid (or so I thought), general scene ideas were tossed out for the other two acts. (That sigh you just heard was from all the plotters feeling at peace with at least my act 1).

However, I didn’t stick with the plan. Oh I used the general ideas, but my midpoint of act one is happening way further down that predicted, and my chapters are a might off. As I wrote, my “plan” changed. As I wrote my characters grew and a critter side kick suddenly appeared (the second sigh you hear is from the pantsers who now feel better that I was following my characters and not the other way around ;))

Not skipping:  Ok, this is in a way not being true NaNo- the actual goal of NaNo is to have a skipped/lean 50,000 words that cover the book start to finish (rest to be filled in latter).  This year I’m not jumping or skipping (something I normally do when I write- I often will think of a great scene and jump ahead to do it).  Problem with jumping is sometimes they don’t fit, and you’re left with trying to connect the dots.  Sooo no jumping- almost 80 pages all in order.

Pre-write:  This is all Rachel Aaron, I take 5 minutes before I write and map out that days writing.  It gives me more direction and gets me excited about what I’m going to write!

So those are the main ways NaNo has changed me so far this year- what about you?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

To The Pain...

Now for those of you familiar with the classic movie, The Princess Bride, you know where the title of today’s blog came from. For the rest of you- GO WATCH IT!
Ok, to sum up for you non-believers of the power of The Princess Bride, the line is from a scene where our hero, Wesley, who is recovering from being mostly dead for a while, finds himself facing his very able enemy.
When the big bad prince challenges Wesley to a duel to the death, our hero counters with, “No, to the pain.” He then elaborates how to the pain is much worse than to the death because after disfiguring the bad prince he will leave his ears- so he will hear all of the shrieks when people see him.
Now what has this to do with writing you ask? I am in the middle NaNo madness, ya know…to the pain seems very appropriate ;).
But this is really going that extra step as writers and making our characters go an extra step too. Wesley couldn’t fight at that point, he could barely get off the bed. But he convinces the prince that to fight Wesley would have such dire consequences (because he obviously thought this out) that the prince throws down his sword, and allows himself to be tied up.
All because the writer made the character go way beyond what was expected.
So next time you’re writing- don’t take your first idea, or even your second- find one that takes you to the pain J. Keep things fresh and unexpected.
Side note on my nano and the great outline experiment- about 50 pages in, haven't completely followed my outline, but using it more as tent poles.  I'm on target for my sequence one ending though (I'm doing a three act/eight sequence outline- so in other words- I'm almost to the the half way point of act one ;)).  Even though I'm not sticking with it as much as hoped, I will say the book is turning out much better because of it!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

'Twas the night before NaNo...

'Twas the night before NaNoWriMo, when all through the house

No one was writing, not even moving a mouse;

The plots and characters were waiting with care,

In hopes that midnight soon would be there.

Tonight at midnight NaNo 2012 starts!
I have to say I feel far more vested in my world and characters than I usually do when I start a new book. Clearly a side effect of the whole planning and outling thing ;). 
Now, I have to be honest, I’ve only partially outlined this puppy (which for me is still a major achievement!). I changed around act 1 so often, that I was wary of doing as much of a solid chapter by chapter outline for act 2. I do have scattered notes of scenes that need to happen, and I do know where it will end. (And where the OTHER books will go-LOL!  I am an avowed series junkie. )
Right now only act 1 is chapter by chapter. My plan (and I do have one ;)) is to take a day breather after act 1 (which could be between 80-100 pages) and tighten my chapter planning for act 2. I write big books, so NaNo won’t even get me half way there, probably not much past the first section of act 2 ;).
But I think I’m as ready as I can be for tomorrow (no, sorry, not staying up to start writing at midnight ;)).
I do have the pantser fear of freezing since so much has already been thought out, but I really think I’m going to be ok. Of course, we won’t know for sure until this rodeo gets started!
Happy NaNo Eve all!  (If you're not doing it- cheer on your friends!  Chances are a few folks you know are going NaNo!)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Great NaNo Experiment- The Plot Thickens!


Yes, bad pun aside, my plan to actually plot for this year’s NaNo (a first for me for any book ;)) is coming along nicely. I’ve found that I really like playing with post-it’s and the HUGE cardboard board is a hoot too.

Ya know, those big “science fair” fold out boards? FABU for setting up my 3 act/8-sequence plot. Act 1 (seq 1 &2) is on the first flap; act 2 (seq 3-6) is on the inside (act 2 is twice as big as act one, which is why sometimes you may see it called a 4 act, instead of 3 act structure), then the last fold out is Act 3(sequence 7 &8). On the outside I have one flap of character notes, and the other flap has “Big Bad” (aka the villains) notes. All in pretty colors!

I will admit at first I was terrified- as a serious pantser, plotting like this would previously have made me run screaming for the hills. But I figure we have to grow and learn right? Nothing worse than a stale novelist! besides, I told you all I'd be trying this last week ;).

And I’m finding some perks. For instance, did you know that if you plot ahead of time you can sometimes catch glaring problems BEFORE you write them?

Shocking, I know!

I’ve already changed parts of act 1 (only part done so far) 3 times, and all I had to do was write out a new sticky note and take off the old one. No going back and deleting whole sections that no longer fit, no writing, “cut this” “fix this” or the ever lovely, “Put something better here”. Yes, I do leave notes for myself as I do drafts, and no, my future self does not like them one bit.

And crumbling up a little sticky note is far less emotionally traumatizing to my creative self as opposed to ripping out pages, and/or deleting them online.

Also, you can see a huge problem in the sections ahead before you even get to outlining them. I just had an epiphany this morning and realized I had a HUGE problem. But no worries- I can fix it with a sticky note!

My plan is to have the whole book outlined before Nov 1- then, to sit and detail that evening's writing for at least 5 minutes before each writing run.


 Any of you have experiences with the 3 act structure? Like playing with sticky notes?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Something NaNo This Way Comes

Apologies to Ray Bradbury for the title, but NaNo- aka NaNoWriMo- aka National Novel Writing month IS scary!

For those of you still not aware of this annual exercise in literary madness, authors from across the globe will spend the entire month of November- yelling, screaming, swearing, drinking too much caffeine- all to complete 50,000 words.

Just because.

One does wonder if there is anything more insane than self-inflicted madness?

This will be my forth NaNo, and like previous ones, I'm going to use it to try something different.

I'm going to outline the new book.

Serious outlining- like an entire three act layout and everything.

I know, madness, right?

Well for a hard core serious pantser like myself, this is probably the biggest out of the box experiment I could try. But I've got a secret....

I'm liking it so far.

Now, granted, I've just started the outlining process, just figured out my scene/chapter count (about 36 more or less).  But I'm kinda liking it!  It's like a puzzle, I have some characters I want to really screw up, then follow as they figure things out.  I know who they are (or will through the magic of character outlines) and I know about how long I want it to be.  I also know the basic bits, pieces, and screws that need to be in place to keep the story on track.

I'm even going to make a fold out three act board with cards!!!

So, I'm having fun, and looking at this as the Great NaNo Experiment of 2012.  I may end up keeping some of the things I learn, or my head may explode when I actually start writing with an outline in place.

But either way I'll learn something about me and my writing- right?

What about you?  Ever NaNo?  Why?  Why not?  Have you ever tried "the otherside" (aka plotting if you normally pants, or pantsing if you plot like mad?)?

Share!  And share any NaNo survival tricks that you've learned too!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Serious about series- how to keep things real

Ok, I’m the first to admit that I am a series junkie. I rarely pick up books that don’t have “Book 1 of blah” at the top. I love the feeling of total immersion you get from a series. You really get to see the wonderful world and people created by the author, and since it usually takes years for a series to play out, you have an ongoing treat for a long time. (This excludes those books for whom the author over stayed their welcome- some series have gone on waaaay longer than they should have. But that’s for another post.)

This obsession with series flows over into my writing. All four of my currently completed books are series. Now all four can also stand alone, but all of them have further books in my head and in various notebooks. Two are more trilogy based-aka- the big arc would be resolved in a total of three books. The other two are open ended series. Meaning that while the main adventure for book one is resolved in book one, there are plenty of further adventures in store. In both types of series I’ve got hints to the other stories- little bits of information that when the next book comes out will make the reader say, “OH! I remember that!” In a way it’s akin to planting the gun in chapter one that the killer needs to use in chapter four- only longer range.

For example, in my steampunk book one of the minor villains is tracked deep under water at one point, then later found with certain issues that indicate a time spent exposed under great depths of water.

Not alot is said about it, he’s a minor villain. But it leads directly to book two Jand a very large sea based threat that my heroine and hero have to face.

Since my main characters run through the entire series, they have secret plants/hints as well. As they go through their adventures, there are hints dropped that they may not be what and who they thought they were. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes it’s very very bad. But the point is, there are hints. Even though who they really are may not be part of the arc of the first book, there are enough hints there that when more is revealed in future books it’s not a shock. I hate it when an author pulls something major out of thin air that wasn’t in a previous book, then acts as if it’s part of the main story. The whole point of unveiling things is to entice the reader, but also to make them see how the pieces fit.

A word of caution about planting hints. If you plant them, they need to lead to something. This is true for long-term plants (things for future books) and especially true for bigger ones you use in a single book. If you as the writer focus on a certain action, event, type of shirt, whatever- I as the reader will think it’s important. When the author doesn’t do anything with it, then I as the reader get vexed.

Unlike real life where unconnected things happen all the time, there has to be a connection between everything you show your reader. And even everything you hint at.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I see written people!.

The other day a friend asked how I kept all my characters separate, especially since I do have a type that I write- aka tough chicks.

I’m sure I blinked my eyes at her for a few moments in confusion before I stammered out, “Because they’re different people!”

To me it would be as if someone came and said, “You have so many friends- however do you keep them separate?”  Has anyone, without a disorder of some sort, had trouble confusing their friends?  I don’t think so.

To me my characters are like friends- even the ones I wouldn’t want to be friends with.  I know them, I know their differences and nuances in behavior.  My two closet characters are probably Vas (The Victorious Dead- Space Opera) and Sakari (Sakari’s War- fantasy steampunk in progress).  Both are by far my toughest of the tough chicks.  Both have probably killed far more people than they care to think about.  But there are differences.  Sakari used to be an assassin, she killed who she was told to kill, and fled that life.  She still has no problem with killing if it’s called for, but she’ll ask questions afterwards.  Vas is a kill first ask questions never gal- or at least she starts out that way. But even though both women have blood on their hands, their reactions and temperaments are vastly different.  If I’m writing about Vas, words that Sakari would use would never come out.

Unlike a visual media, writers don’t have something in front of them reminding them that oh yeah this character has red hair and is taller.(Ok, so folks who use clippings, planning books, and Pinterest might- but I doubt they need to visually remind themselves which character is which ;)). But what we do have is how they sounds or are seen in our head.  I see my characters, but it’s not just how they look, it’s how they feel, how they react to the world around them.

They are all as unique as the real people in my life- maybe even more so since I know everything about them :).
What about you- do you have a “type” of character you lean towards?  Have you ever had a problem keeping lead characters straight?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Got patience? If not, then don’t be a writer.

There are lots of things a writer needs: determination, a fertile mind, a grasp of the language they’ve chosen to write in.  But I’d add patience as a major virtue. 

So much of what we as writers do involves taking our time, cooling our heels, waiting.  Even for people who write fairly fast, books always take far longer to finish than we think, and editing often takes lifetimes.  Then there’s the waiting game while submissions are out with agents, then once we’ve found that dream agent, there’s more waiting time while the agent sells our work.  Then…you guessed it- more waiting once the editor, senior editor, marketing, and the entire company debate whether your book can make money.  And a yes answer leads to lots more waiting.

But today I’d like to talk about a much more subtle patience, the ability to pull back, to keep a work from being finished, or if done, keep it from going out because something isn’t quite right. I just recently went back into editing my steampunk book after a hiatus.  When I finished it I knew I wasn’t totally happy with the climax and ending, but kept editing around it. 

Then a few months ago I ripped the weak parts out.  Otherwise I’d keep coddling them.  Then I did the hardest thing for any writer to do- I ignored the book. I started a new one, did edits on the others.  But my problem child needed time.  I had to give it and I time to forget the original climax and ending, and to re-build a new one.

Of course if you wait long enough, you need to re-read and edit your entire story to get back to that trouble spot.  Got there yesterday.  I’m still working on re-building the missing chunk, but it’s so much easier to do with time between me and my original mis-step.

What about you?  Have you ever stepped away from a project?  Or the opposite, have you sent something out without giving it a time-out?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Say it with me, annoying your readers is bad!

Today I want to look at things that bug readers. Now, no writer wants to be the person who annoys their readers so much they fling your book across the room, flush it down the toilet, or turn it into compost for their garden. So then, why does it happen? We’ve all seen it, whether it be in an unpublished work, or a book on the best seller shelf- those moments that make us cringe and think, “why didn’t they see that?!” (And in the published book, “Why didn’t the agent, and slew of editors see that?!”)

I can’t address why the professionals miss things (if someone can, please share!) but for the writers, I have to say we were blinded by the work. Writers work at a far different pace than readers, we see things at a slower speed and sometimes forget that reading is a much faster event. (Try reading your work as a regular book- NOT as an editing writer- it’ll look a bit different me thinks!)
Awareness of our blind spots is the best way to make sure we nip them in the bud. We can’t count on agents and editors to catch these things, but readers sure will! Looking around a few sites I found some basic complaints readers have, and maybe some ideas to keep them out of your work.

Wasteful sub plots- I call these wasteful because they engage the reader’s attention- but don’t actually impact the story, the character, or anything. (You could call them Tom Bombadil’s.)  Sometimes they are the result of a pantser who changed her mind and ended up with a non-used sub-plot, other times it’s just something really cool the author wanted to slip in. The worst reason though is when an author wants to throw the reader off track. Don’t do it. All it does is annoy folks. Make every scene and sub-plot do something!

Repeat-itis- Even though you may feel that it’s been too long since you mentioned that the lead character has piercing blue eyes and a chiseled jaw, most likely the reader still remembers. Trust that if you tell a reader about how the character feels about the betrayal from their best friend since grade school on page four, they still recall it on page forty. This is a big speed related point- we may take days (or weeks) to write a few chapters; but the reader might chew them up in a single setting. Solution: Don’t repeat basic information. Fight the urge to remind the reader of basic details concerning your characters looks or feelings. If you did it well enough the first time, it will stick with your reader. If ya didn’t, ya got a whole ‘nother set of problems.

Cliché-invisibility- Clichés exist for a reason, at one point eons ago (when monks were hand copying books perhaps) they worked. Now they are a lazy-writer’s way of getting out of work. Some folks feel they can just toss them in for the rough draft, then fix them in edits. Problem is, they have the ability to turn invisible! Right before your eyes, the evil cliché vanishes! Only to pop out with horrific clarity at the poor reader! Solution: Don’t use them even as place holders. Take the time if the rough draft and find a better way to say it. Watch for them in their favorite lurking spots- character descriptions and emotions.

Out of sight but not out of mind- Having something important happen off stage. Now one would really wonder why an author would do this- but alas it has happened. And I saw a complaint specifically aimed at a VERY well published author for this very thing. My only thinking in terms of reasons would be laziness, wanting to maintain some sort of mystery about the event, or just didn’t feel like writing the scene that day. If it is to keep a mystery, make sure that it is covered later! And be aware you may be risking pissing off readers. If it’s a scene that’s important to the story- it really should be shared with the reader on stage.

Ok, that’s four- there are tons more I'm sure  What ones can you come up with? And better- what ideas do you have to stop them from happening?
Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Websites, opportunities, and new agents- Oh My!

Today I thought I’d do something a bit different, post a few cool writer related websites, contests, open opportunities and even a few new agents that I’ve run across recently. Some you may already have heard of- others might be new. As always- PLEASE add any good writer websites you know of!

1) Do you write Fantasy or SF?  Harper Voyager open for un-agented submissions-

2) Galley Cat- a great website for all writers- lots of info there -

3) Newer agent! Thao Le from the Sandra Dijkstra Agency

4) Newer agent! Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of the Larson-Pomada Agency

5) Gotham Writers Workshops- Writing classes and info- here’s some free stuff:

6) Query Tracker- been around for a while- but very handy!  Find agents, find out what other authors are saying about agents!

7) Agent Query -oldie but a goodie-

8) Publisher’s Marketplace- hopefully you all know about this one!

9) Interesting site- workshops, news, and free writing essays :)

10) Great source for where to submit short stories!

11)  For the more literary writers among you- a list a magazines to submit to-{52F69639-85B0-4FCD-A85F-AECC37969AB7}

12) Another newer agent!  Liat Justin

13)  Contests!  Lots of different genres

14)  Cool Conferences!  San Diego this November :    LA next week-end! (also check the site out for San Diego early next year :))
Seattle- Oct 26-28

(I have no idea why some of the links won't come through- blogger hates me!)

If you have any great spots of info for fellow writers, please add them!