Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to Write

See those words up there?  The title of today's blog?  Them's fighting words.

Sure they look innocent and unobtrusive. Writing: just a genteel past time. Creative people sitting in grand rooms with wood paneling and a roaring fire in the fireplace pondering life as they tear painfully crafted works of art out of the nothingness.

But how to actually do it is a battle not to be faced by the weak of heart. (And yeah, stop laughing, I don't know any author who would fit the above scenario either. ;))  Everywhere you turn there is someone telling you how to write. You MUST write everyday (good idea in my opinion, something I strive for and miss many times). You MUST plot out your book (nope, failing that one completely). You MUST do years of research and/or world-building before you jump in (again, I personally am an epic fail on that one.).The list goes on and on. 

The fact is that writing is different for each writer--and for many folks, different for each book. No one should ever tell anyone else what they MUST do to become a writer. Including me, if having a list of "must-do's" works for you--go for it :).

But I did title this post How to Write, didn't I? First, some credentials. I've been writing A LONG TIME. At the time I published The Glass Gargoyle, I had four other completed books (other series) and three non-finished (also different series) books.  For me I needed to take time to create the worlds I needed to create. So I did ;). The Lost Ancients Series is up and running and next year will see book three and four of that series, as well as the launch of the space opera- The Warrior Wench. I've also been published in really dull academic journals as a behavioral researcher.

What I'm getting at, is I have a lot of words under my belt, and I am still learning how to write. You never really stop learning, there are always new things to try.

But, if any of you are seriously trying to get started, here are some pointers (your mileage may vary, but here ya go ;)).

  • Grab all the information you can find. Books, magazines, TED talks, videos, blogs, whatever- be voracious about it. You'll find many people contradict each other on what to do (that whole fighting words thing) but take it all in and find what works for you.

  • Join other writers. See if there are local writing groups- RWA is awesome even if you don't write romance. See if there is a local chapter. See if your genre has any type of group that is there to help support the writing craft. As far as I know, fantasy/SF doesn't have such a thing. SFWA doesn't help new writers- BUT they do have a blog that's informative. 
  • Go to writing conferences! YES- they are expensive. YES- they can be scary. YES-you should go to them! Especially if you don't have access to a local writing group with speakers, you need to be around other folks who are as crazy as you (all writers are crazy, sorry to tell you).
  • Go into it for the right reasons. Really, the only wrong reason would be fame and money--because it ain't gonna happen. Writing is a very difficult, painful, thing that will suck up tons of time. If you aren't doing it because you love it, STOP NOW.
  • Don't stop. If you love it, don't give up. EVER.

Okay, that's what I've got right now. What are some of your favorite and least favorite words of writing advice?

Friday, October 23, 2015

NaNo season approaches!

Ah fall. The time of year when nights grow shorter, weather grows cooler (ok, not here in So.Cal…but in SOME places), and writers across the land think of what they will do for National Novel Writing Month- aka NaNoWriMo- aka NaNo.

For those of you who don’t know, NaNo is a month (November) when writers decide to announce to the cyberspace world their intention of completing 50,000 words in a new manuscript.

Now there are guidelines: It should be a new work and it should be a book. Not a collection of short stories- a book. Like they say if you think you’re writing a book, they will also. This year I’ll be a “NaNo rebel”- I’m going to be working on book three of my series (The Emerald Dragon) which is already at about 70,000 words. I’ll make an exact count when NaNo starts, so the only words I’ll be reporting in November are the new nano ones. (You can already see my lovely widget to the right of this post. ;))

There’s no cost, you just go to their site and sign up. Then you look for folks you know and add them to your “buddy” list so that you can egg each other on. There are local groups for most areas, so even if you don’t know someone- you can meet some like minded folks.

Why would thousands of people, for the most part semi-sane, choose to inflict 50,000 words upon themselves like that? Why do people run marathons? Climb mountains? To have the experience. NaNo is like Mt. Kilimanjaro for writers. And it’s a great learning tool. Most writers, even we seat of the pants type folks- have some inner censor going on when we write. Some little voice that makes us stop and question ourselves mid-chapter.

You can’t do that during NaNo. In pure self-defense you have to take that little voice, stick a gag in his mouth, and ship him off to Siberia. When you’re cranking out 50,000 words (page count of 170-200 pages depending on the writer) in one month- you are writing FAST. Some may be crap, some not. But you cannot slow down to edit or self-censor.

It also teaches you to write through any blocks that come your way. You just bowl right over them. So when you return to your more normal level of writing, you’re not the same person. You’re faster, leaner, and more stubborn.

My writing has morphed over the years- NaNo shows that I have done over 250,000 words with them. Have some of those words been crap? Heck yeah! But has it helped me along my writing path- YES!

So if you’re diving in this year, enjoy it for what it is, and buddy me-mandreas.

And most important- HAVE FUN!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

All about the layers

Let me start with a fairy tale. 

When a writer creates a book, they sit down and everything flows effortlessly from their fingers into a flawless, amazing, and detailed draft. Then it magically goes and becomes a book sitting face out in book stores everywhere, and, soon, a NYT bestseller.

Okay, once you all stop laughing/choking on your beverage of choice, I want to point out some folks do think it works that way. Even some WRITERS look at published books and think, “I can never be that good!  Look at the crappy draft I created!” (And yeah, I see some of you nodding out there ;)).

Most of us know that’s not the case. And while some of us definitely write cleaner first drafts than others, we all need lots of editing, beta reading, wailing and gnashing of teeth, booze, etc. to get us through to a decent copy.

But it's good it takes a number of trips through fairyland to create a good book. We need to realize our book needs layers.

A little tangent here, I have found I LOVE coloring. In coloring books. Kids’ books, those “adult meditation/stress books” whichever- I just find it very relaxing. 

And one of the things I love is the effect of layering colors over each other.  The depth and texture changes when different shades are used, especially when different shades are used unevenly. Maybe I'm a bit more angry when I used the red over the green, perhaps feeling whimsical as I put gold over a few spots. But those layers change the impact of the color. Instead of a purple bulkhead, I now have a rusty, beat-up, multi-colored and textured looking bulkhead.

The same is true with all the passes we do with our writing. Whether they are structured edits, catching-up on where we left off reading, or just a "oh dang, what did I say back there?" followup, each time we touch our work we add layers. Little nuances, spins that weren't there originally, not because they were bad, but because we didn't notice when we were building the bones of the thing that a little bit of gold could add highlight, or deep purple could bring forth some depth.

So go forth and be proud that your first, second, eighteenth draft doesn't look like a book on the shelf yet--you're still layering. And I can promise that the book you're admiring didn't look that way many layers ago either ;).

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG: That second book

Welcome one and all to October's Insecure Writer's Support Group blog!  Once a month writers from across the land gather and shout our fears, hopes, and joys into the great abyss of cyberspace- join us!

Now, onto today's blog!

I just released my second book EVER this past week-end. It's so new the print version isn't even out yet. Wanna see what it will look like?


Like I said, this is my second published book, yet I am more excited really than the first one. Which, when I think about it, is kind of weird.

I've been writing for many, many, MANY years. I have the first books of three other series completed and edited (my editing- they will still need more work and more eyes ;)). But the point is--I have a lot of words under my belt. And the entire time, the thought of how awesome it would be to get that first published book in my hands, hung around every single book I wrote.

Yet, I am more excited to have this second book in my hands than my first. 

Don't get me wrong, I was still excited when that first proof came in. But there were so many stressors going on around the book that I was more focused on, "what's the next step?" rather than how awesome everything was.

This time the stressors were different, and in some ways they made me realize I need to enjoy all aspects of the things I do. Including the madness involved with getting a book out.

Whatever it is, I am really looking forward to holding that second book in my hands. I'm scared for it, all the fears and worries on sending forth a new creative endeavor are floating around my head, but I'm also really really excited. 

For you published folks--which book got to you more? For you soon-to-be published folks- what do you think you'll feel when you first hold that new book?  

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Glass Gargoyle is on SALE! 99 cents!

Yup folks, Garbage Blossom, Leaf Grub, and Crusty Bucket went on a bender and knocked down the price for the Glass Gargoyle to less than a buck!

They have no concept of money, and just liked the look of the two nines together.

BUT that means for a few days- countdown is on the Amazon site- you can order the ebook copy of book one of The Lost Ancients for 99 cents. Buy a gift for a friend or two!

Spread the word- the faeries are too drunk to really fly around and do it for me right now ;).