Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Writers are the craziest peoples!

I would like to present a hypothesis today that we are crazy (at least in part) due to lack of definition in our field. IE- it's not completely our fault :).

For today’s demonstration I will present two scenarios with similar goals:
Graduate student (with thesis as the final “product”) and Fiction writer (with agent/editor/published book as final product)

We’ll start with the graduate student (Example is for a Psychology program- so don’t go jumping in my face that yours was different- work with me!)

Step one: GRE- ok for folks who haven’t experienced this little monster of modern day horror, count yourself lucky. This test is designed to measure skills you supposedly learned in your undergraduate studies (right ;)). It’s a messy test with no real validity (in terms of predicating success in graduate school) but it’s required for most programs. Point is- it makes it more difficult to get in (in theory ;))

Step two: You are accepted into the program. You engage in structured seminars that are aimed at creating, proposing, and defending your thesis. There are paid professionals there to guide you.

Step three: You design, propose, conduct (or research), and defend your thesis. Again, paid professionals send you back to the drawing board with concrete examples of what didn’t work. Repeatedly.

Step four: Thesis is successfully defended and goes on to live happily in the campus library (or submitted to an academic journal, but we won’t go there ;).

Step five: The graduate student graduates and much celebrating is heard throughout the land.

Step one: No test, no criteria, no nothing. You string words together, anyone can do it.

Step two: You flounder about, trying to find out the “rules”…find out there are three but no one can agree what they are. You go crazy re-editing your work every time it comes back from a contest or critique group…

Step three: You finish book, you send out queries and get form letter responses- when you get a response.

Step four: You repeat step three. Maybe moving up to “thanks but no thanks” letters with your name. Still not sure what you’re doing wrong.

Step five: You either start digging your way through the junk, to find ways of getting and understanding feedback. Through trial and error you find helpful writing resources and groups. You contemplate going Indie and all the hard work and funds that entails.  Or you give up.

Step six: You keep at it, what choice do you have?

The sad thing is, and the part that makes us crazy- is path two sounds better ;)

So what do you all think? Are we crazy? Or just devilishly clever?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Going for broke...every single time

Today I'm going to be using some TV show season finales to illustrate some writing points- so fair warning on spoiler possibility.  I'll try to not disclose details but if you watch Castle or Agents of Shield  and haven't seen anything about the season finales, turn back now.

Ok, so everyone settled in now?  Spoiler-phobic people gone or come to terms?  Excellent!

I'd like to talk about going for broke in our writing- every single time. This doesn't always happen, both with us novelists and our screenwriter brethren.

First up, The not good- "The phoning it in" writers: Castle.  I love this show.  I love Nathan, I usually enjoy the writing, the other characters, etc.  This finale had me very annoyed.  Now, to be fair, these writers are secure in a top rated show, they know they are coming back, they've been doing this for a while.  But there was no excuse for the weak writing. A cutesy, kinda, "been there, seen that" adventure while trying to get a wedding underway.  Then, at the last minute they throw in what appears to be a major death.  Really?  Was that the ONLY way you felt you could pull folks into the next season?  First off, unless they are changing the name of the show, what they want to make us think happened, didn't happen.  Secondly- killing or making it look like a character is dead as a season finale has been done to death. And in far better ways. 

Second up, The well done- "The Bring It" writers:  Marvel's Agents of Shield.  For those of you who don't watch- just see the word "Marvel" and know it should be a bit over the top, fun, and heart-pounding.  And it was.  Those writers pulled out everything and went for broke with more one-liners than at a stand up comic convention.  They built the tease for next season by giving a sound emotional resolution, introducing us to what we'd have going forward, and throwing in a few mysteries. The reader (in this case watcher) has been on a great run, had it mostly resolved in a satisfying way, and is intrigued to want to keep "reading".

Now for our side of the writing world.

 Some novelists hold back, thinking they should save some of the good stuff  for later.  I'm thinking the mind-set behind this is that they will run out of the "good stuff" and need to ration it out like candy.  "There's only so much good stuff in this head of mine, I need to make sure I keep something back for the next book!"

No, no, no. Just, no.  For one thing,  you're a creative person.  The well of "good stuff" isn't going to vanish.  Everything in your life, every time you go somewhere, see something, read something, you're adding to your store of good ideas that your brain can pull in on. Even a badly written TV episode can spark and idea. ;)

Secondly, if you hold back you may never sell your book- or if you're going Indie, you may never build a reader base.  Throwing "held back" books into the void is just a waste of time for you and your readers.

Another reason, I think, that authors hold back is laziness- "This is good enough, I really don't need to make it awesome every time."  Um, yes, yes you do for the same reasons the holding back folks need to pour it all out there- the lazy folks need to step it up.  Good enough usually isn't. Look at that Castle ep.  I know they have very good writers on there- but they sure didn't show it. Don't become the writer who will never publish a thing because they are NEVER good enough, but at the same time make sure you have done the absolute best you can.

As writers we owe it to ourselves and our readers to always put everything we have into each book- into every line, paragraph and page.  Play big or stay home.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

First time writers....

Not too long ago a friend of a friend of a friend asked me how to become a writer. Not a published writer (although that was the final goal), but a writer.

Simple question- right? How do you become a writer? Well, you just start writing! My first response wasn't really all that helpful. Akin to telling someone to learn how to ride a bike by just riding ;).

However my reaction was valid- like bike riding, once you’ve been writing for a while (and let's face it, for many of us this has been a VERY long term disorder) it’s automatic. We can’t think of that vague, distant time when we didn’t write.

For example- right this moment, without stopping to ponder- describe how to tie a shoelace. Unless you’ve got a small child you are currently teaching how to do that, chances are you’re going to have a hard time explaining it quickly. It’s something we do all the time and it’s become automatic. But we don't think about the process.

So, how does one become a writer?

I thought it might be interesting to toss this question out to the lurking masses on this blog. If you were talking to someone who had never written, they had the longing, but hadn’t put pen to paper yet, what advice would you give them? To that lost, long ago self who first decided they needed to start creating their own worlds to play in? When I first started writing there was no Internet, writers didn’t have the same resources they do now. But they still need help ;).

My comments to that friend of a friend of a friend (once I got the idea settled anyway ;)) would be:

1)Write. Seems simple really, but there are still folks out there who think that they can come up with ideas and work with someone else who will write them down. I once had a boyfriend who seriously thought they hardest part of writing was coming up with the idea, “anyone can just write”. Needless to say he’d never actually written anything- and we broke up a LONG time ago. Lots of folks will give you writing “rules”- the only one that really matters is that you have to write.

2)Read. Ah- the flip side. Read in your genre. Read out of your genre. Read about writing, with the caveat that you take “rules” with a grain of salt. You’re going to get conflicting information. You can’t let it make you quit or give you self doubts. Just bring in as much legit writing info that you can- eventually you’ll start to realize what feels true for you. NEVER stop reading or learning- EVER.

3)Be realistic. You aren’t going to get rich. Seriously. Your odds are akin to winning a lottery big enough to quit work. DO NOT look at the exceptions and think they are the norm. You write because you love it, or just don’t even start.

4)Build your craft. Go to conferences, join groups, pick up writing mags, books, webinars, whatever- but constantly improve your craft!

5)Don’t give up. This is a brutal field equal to acting in terms of rejection. You are going to get the emotional crap beaten out of you- that is a promise. BUT you can survive. Don’t quit your day job, but don’t give up either. A screenwriter friend once told me “You can’t fail, you can only quit.” In other words, as long as you keep up the fight- you’re never a failure.

So now it's out to you fine folks- what would you tell a new writer?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

IWSG- those hidden books

Welcome to another installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group monthly blog run!  Where writers from all around the globe gather and shout our hopes and dreams out to the Universe.

Today I'm looking at those books deep inside us- and wondering if I'll ever get to mine :)
I was thinking about this the other day, books that live in our souls, but just haven’t come to the surface yet. Maybe they’re a technology problem, we know what we want to do, but feel our skills aren’t there yet (sort of like Lucus going back and adding special shots to Star Wars since the tech wasn’t there to do what he wanted at the time ;)). Maybe we feel that the market isn’t there right now. Maybe we’re caught up in a dozen other worlds and can’t break away to dive into this one.

But they hide in the back of our minds, flitting to the surface briefly, then diving back into obscurity.

Now this isn’t the same as having other books on your TBW pile. This is a book that just really sings, but doesn’t want to come out of the shadows yet.

I have one.

I have a number of ideas percolating on my TBW (to be written ;)) pile. But there is one that I think about from time to time- but just am not ready to dive into. A big ol’ stomping epic fantasy, ala Lord of the Ringish- movie not book- but with a lot less “boys club” , a lot more kick butt girlpower, and some serious romance (um, and fewer wee folk, no golum, no Sauron, no…you get the picture)with a wee bit of Robin Hood and a dash of The Princess Bride. I have no idea who the characters are, nor when or where. But it teases me, popping out just to send a “I’m still here” vibe my way- then vanishing again.

I’m not sure when its time will happen, but I know someday it will- meanwhile it lurks in my heart.

What about any of you? Have a book you’ve thought about, mentally carried around, but not jumped into yet? Have you figured out why?
Want to find other great insecure writer blogs?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Brenda Novak's Diabetes Auction!

It’s MAY!  You know what that means?  The Brenda Novak Diabetes Auction!
This is an awesome chance for writers, readers, and just plain folks to bid on very cool things and support a worthy cause.
Brenda’s son has diabetes and in order to help fund research, she pulled a mess of writers, agents, editors and others together to create a month long auction.
What can you find there?
Evaluations and critiques from editors and agents
Advance Reader copies from your favorite authors
Get your name in an upcoming book from your favorite authors
Things from our local RWA San Diego chapter
You name it is there!
Run over there now, sign up, and start bidding!