Tag Archives: Writer

What if I didn’t write? What would I do? #MondayBlogs

Good questions, right?

I’ve been writing fiction off and on since 1990.  I’ve submitted works to major publishing houses and received rejection form letters with a few personal rejections thrown in.  I’ve tried to be ‘normal’ all my life and obviously not well or I’d be a big name in the traditional published writer world.

Back when I first started submitting, there were independently published writers.  They sold their ‘books’ out of the back of their van, truck, or car.  Most of their works had those plastic ring binders, while the shorter works were stapled.  All of them had covers with ‘original’ artwork scribbled by the author.  Ninety nine percent of the time, these authors had to self-publish via vanity press because their subject matter was way too esoteric for a major publisher to consider.  The history of a now extinct town in West Bumfuk Egypt?  Yep, esoteric.  Publishers aren’t in it for their health or for the benefit of art and the author.  They’re in it to make money and lots of it.

So how does this history lesson apply to today’s world of literature and why writers write?

Today is very different.  With one click and a document, anyone can be an ‘author’.  This fact is both wonderful and horrific.  People who were subjectively rejected by the Big Five are now able to publish and letting readers enjoy works written outside the boundaries.  Me, personally, I’ve wallowed in this like a pig in a mud hole, enjoying the ability to read works outside of the romance formula.  There are authors I one-click who have never been traditionally published.  They’re the ones I’m sitting around like a word junkie and asking “You done with that paragraph, yet?  Can I be your alpha reader?  Don’t care about editing, just gimmie gimmie gimmie.”  You know who you are.

Traditional writers have always…how to write this…looked down their nose?  Thought less of?  Didn’t take seriously? …the self published authors and with good reason.  I’ve been through four Warrior Dashes and each was much easier than getting traditionally published, even the Dash I didn’t train for AT ALL.  Plus, there is NO instant gratification with traditional publishing, and I’ve heard one multi published author, Jodi Thomas (who is wonderful!! I’ve worked with her husband at a college and both of them are great people!), who has said you’re being paid to wait, not write.  As an impatient control freak, I more than admire the traditionally published authors.  They do what I am mentally unable to, which is wait.

Which all leads us to the bottom line and answering the question of what if I didn’t write and why continue to write, especially when considering 2014’s bust after 2011-2013’s boom.

Being personal, here are my bullet items.

I write because I must.  There are so many stories in my head, they need an outlet.  Plus, I can’t help inventing new characters and plots, and even if it’s garbage.  I truly have no choice in this.  Some of what I imagine is fit for publication, others you’ll never see because no one wants to read a Mary Sue about Data from Star Trek:TNG.  Yes, I feel shame and no, you can’t read it.

What went up and came down will go up again.  This is a certainty to me because I’ve endured many booms and busts.  From the oilfield, to the dot coms, to housing markets, and now to self-publishing, I’ve seen days of making tons of money to making just enough to keep the lights on and ramen noodles stocked.  This downturn in ebook sales doesn’t scare me.  It reminds me of what my true goals are and that is to write the best story possible, every single time.

My mother taught me a long time ago that there are no even numbers in art, so here’s a third.  What would I do if I didn’t write?  I’d keep reading and I’d be more aggressive about scheduling knitting classes to teach.  I might even go back and see what it would take to update my computer science degree from client server skills to web guru.  Not a problem because I’d already went from mainframe to client server.  I can do all this for the money, but writing? I do it for my heart and soul.  Cliche’?  Yeah, but still very true.

Now back to work!  My editor is expecting The Very Worst Man in her email on January 2nd and it’s going to be fun to deliver.

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#MondayBlogs Post and You Want Me To What??

Howdy #Mondayblogs fans!

 

My book, Undesirable, hit Amazon on the 14th.  Since then no less than four people have asked me what’s next.  Sure, I know what’s next on my plate, but it might be a while.

Secretly?  I like the impatience and curiosity of my friends and family.  It means they like what I do well enough to want more.  That’s never a bad thing and I’m thrilled.  So while I’m writing a prequel to my Oregon Trail series, get started reading Undesirable or maybe Undeniable first if you’ve not read it yet. Out of order is fine, too, and you won’t be lost, it’s just not what I’d prefer.  Meanwhile, I’ll be planning arguments, fights, and love at first sight.  When that’s done and I get to type the last line, my next task is to paint another cover for Unavoidable, the Oregon Trail series prequel.

After that, there’s a lot more down the road. The last book in the series, The Very Worst Man, three more American West novels, some paranormal romances, and some science fiction.  There’s be mysteries, romance, and all sorts of plot twists in these.  I’m so excited at the projects hovering on my horizon and hope my readers are, too!

“You guys are being too noisy for me to hear the voices in my head.”

Yeah, I said it. Voices in the head.

It’s an occupational hazard for a writer to hear others’ conversations in your mind. Hearing these people created by an imagination, overactive or not, is something a lot of fiction writers will only admit to in closed circles. Creating a true three dimensional character is something like creating a child. After a certain point, you have no control over anything they do.

Some writers start with character. Others start with a setting or conflict and see what character best fits. I tend to be in the characters first, situations second. I also close my eyes and ‘watch’ the book in my imagination, like recalling a memorized movie. Often this movie will have deleted scenes inserted in places that just work. Like, I didn’t plan for this secondary character to be run over by a wheel. It just happened. I have to admit, accidental scenes tend to happen when I’m bored with writing description. Dialogue is my strong suit, not details. That’s ok, too. Somewhere there’s a writer needing me to read over their dialogue to see why the words aren’t flowing.  Just as much as I need someone to tell me they need to know more about what’s happening.

But, back to writers and their mentality. I can imagine living with a writer can be difficult. It’s their nature to extrapolate everything. It’s also their nature to tell you to look up extrapolate if you don’t know what it means. They also say weird things like, “I wonder what would happen if we found a dead body in there” when stopped at an interstate rest stop. Not comforting, no. Something I’m not sure my husband loves is how I can have an entire silent argument with him without us saying a word. He also doesn’t know we’re having one until I tell him, “Fine. You’re right. Whatever.” Though he likes being right, he has no idea how I had a thought, imagined his response, responded to that, and back and forth until one of us won. I know, not normal, but somewhat typical of fiction writers.

What’s the take away from all this? For me, the best part of writing is creating everything in my mind or on paper and then giving my imagination free reign. Second best part? Rereading and completely enjoying what I wrote.  No, that doesn’t happen every time.  Feeling odd because your characters have minds and voices of their own?  Don’t.  It just means you did a great job in creating them.

Is anything ever fast enough?

My idea for this entry was a wa wa about how long it’s taken me to get The Very Best Man out the door and onto Kindle.

I’ve changed my mind.

Instead, I’m posting some writing rules I tend to follow.  I’ve been writing fiction of some sort for the past 22 years and have picked up a few things.  Of course, I’ve not picked up perfect grammar, but that’s why Microsoft’s Word checks for it, now.

1. Show, don’t tell.  Really.  Because when I read a lot of something told to me in fiction, I think “Bla bla bla, get to the good stuff.”  Should I blame the Age of Instant?  Historically, a lot of writers have done this, telling is what happened/is happening versus letting the story unfold before our eyes.  At any rate, during my editing process, telling always gets cut or rewritten.

2. Linking verbs are icky.  Linking verbs are passive. Or, how about, “Avoid the passive and icky linking verbs.”  In a world of CGI and the effects making writing moot, you’ll need to up the voltage on your verbs.  If you can avoid am, is, are, was, were, had, has, could, would, should, and their various had been, could be, should have’s, then do so.  There’s always an exception, though, and passives can be used in a good way.  If your character is a passive person, letting things happen to them, then putting their entire point of view in a passive form is a subtle way of conveying their state of mind without having to tell the reader.  Score one for showing.

3. Point of view.  This is fun and difficult.  I tend to struggle with this at times, being the omnipotent writer and all.  If I’ve done my work and created 3D characters, it’s not so tough to put myself in their place and think their thoughts.  Which is what POV is.  As a writer, you are not yourself in a story, you’re the character.  Is the character you?  Not unless you’re writing an autobiography.  You’ll want your character to be so real that if they knocked on your door, you’d know them instantly.  The problems in POV come from the writer forgetting a character can’t see the blush on her own face.  Another character in the story can’t know the hero’s thoughts unless she’s saying them, or he knows her facial expressions so well he can guess.  Sometimes, I keep a single POV for the entire chapter, sometimes, I divide up the chapter and give it the he says/she says treatment.  One thing to avoid is switching POV’s in the middle of a paragraph.  He’s thinking about the other person and without a paragraph break to let the reader know it, the other person says something.

George looked at Martha.  Her dress, soiled around the hem, clued him in on her morning gardening activities.   “You’ve been busy already.” He smiled at her.  “I’ve picked plenty of okra for dinner tonight,” she said, holding up a basket of greenery.

It’s crude and off the cuff, but my own example.  While not totally confusing, the lack of a paragraph break kicks the reader out of the story and you don’t want that.  Which leads to…

4. Hooks.  You need them.  Even the best written story in the world isn’t going to work if there’s nothing keeping the pages turning.  We’ve evolved past the Me Generation into the What’s In It For Me? mentality.  You need to have a pay off for the reader.  What does this mean?  The protagonist needs a secret, an ultimate goal, a reason to get from point a to point b.  Thanks to the Age of Instant and What’s In It For Me?, hooking the reader in the first five pages is the writer’s goal.  Show us why the hero is keeping a secret, has a goal bigger than himself, or needs to get from a to b.  After that, throw roadblocks/hurdles for him to overcome until the final “no one can survive/surpass this” hurdle.

5. Sex, Violence, and Drama.  Readers love all three.  Look at the top five of any list, movies in theaters, best sellers, even songs, and you’ll see how true this is.  This final point would actually be a really good discussion point.  As much as I’d like to, I have a tough time inserting gratuitous sex and violence into my work, and the drama is somewhat tough, too.  I’d love to hear from other writers who are struggling to keep OUT the three, and readers’ opinions on how much is too much or not enough.