Can I start by telling you that, whatever you dream about doing, if you're willing to put in the work, you can achieve?
Being a writer can be a lonely, difficult, and depressing life. There are days that the words come and you're sure of what you're doing. Then, there are days where you honestly look at what you've written (or even a blank page) and as: "Who am I kidding?"
This happens to all of us. It also happens to pretty much anyone who does any kind of arts: dancers, musicians, actors, artists, poets...etc. If you do something that has to do with creativity or creation of any kind, you will feel this way at some point.
Part of this is just our humanity and worry that in some way we aren't good enough at what we love or that the thing we love is about that passion and in no way about skill. It's rough and for many people can hit you hard enough that you sometimes get up and walk away from what you love.
Stop. Sit your ass back down and listen to me: Nothing worth your hopes and dreams will ever come without blood, sweat, and tears. No one is perfection straight out of the gate. No one with any skill can continue to be that way without putting in hard work to improve and hone that skill.
Look at a professional athlete: Have you ever heard one tell you that they don't work hard at what they do? Have any of them said, "I don't practice or play other than at the games. I spend the rest of my time sitting on the couch eating junk food and thinking about how great I am." No.
You may have a gift or you may choose your path based on what you want. Either way, it takes dedication to ever be successful and you will doubt your self/sanity at times. Sometimes you will yearn to be at the top of your dreams with a painful clutch in your chest and think of all of the reasons you aren't there already.
Don't waste your time. You are enough. Your dreams are achievable if you focus and tell that damn voice to shut the hell up. Do the work. If it's with writing, then sit your ass down and write until you fall asleep at your keyboard. Give yourself goals and then crush them. Find a carrot to dangle so that your daily word count is where you want it to be.
Remember though: Nothing is perfect the first time. The hardest part about anything you do in life is taking that first step. As a writer, it is putting that first sentence down and then the second and then...all of it. You will struggle and falter, but you get right back in there and you do it again tomorrow. You are worth fighting for, so fight. Screw that voice that tells you otherwise. If you want it; be it. Stop wasting your time with failure and start winning your success.
When I started updating my blog, my goal was to put new entries on a daily basis. As you can see if you scroll down a bit, I'm not quite making it. I could blame Amazon Prime day for yesterday's distraction, but really I just didn't have anything I needed to say. I did, however, need to get a 5K day in on Sunday and another 2K yesterday, so I don't hate myself.
Today will be another 5K day and possibly three more query letters sent out. 5K first, queries second.
On the same vein (though it won't seem like it at first), I read 10 books over the course of four days. Sadly, it didn't help the book craving I've had as of late. I picked some familiar authors, who I will not mention, but I feel like I picked the books that are not their best works. I found incompletely drawn characters, plot holes, incomplete plots, and a LOT of coincidental story structure. All of those made for unhappy reading for me.
I want to be surprised in a novel, but I also want a character to make their way out of a mess in a logical way instead of a continuous chain of lucky events in their favor. I cannot get behind something like that. It makes me hate the story and think twice about the author.
In some ways, I may be struggling because I have a few books that I've been avidly waiting for their release in series that I know I enjoy. In other ways, I wonder if I just don't want something that challenges me to think or pushes me to learn. I like books like that. I want to read books that grab onto my expectations with sharp teeth and shake them for all they're worth. I want worlds that I don't frown at and think: that doesn't seem like it could be real. Remember that I love reading and writing fantasy, so it isn't the fantastic elements of a setting that make me question but the logical creation of the environment.
Today though, with three books waiting on my Kindle that will be better than some of what I've read lately, I am doing another 5K of writing. That is my goal before I stop to read a book. The book is my carrot; may it be crisp and fresh when I latch my teeth on. In the meantime though...back to work!
Marketing is easy for some authors. They have this natural way of selling their merchandise and really, themselves to their target audiences. They toss out a few comments about a current event, a blurb about the book they just published, or random bits of humor with the intent of connecting to their readers.
For others, marketing is a strange science that remains mostly illusive. I tend to fall more in that second group.
If you meet me at a convention or event, I am a personable, friendly, sarcastic individual that gets along with pretty much everyone. What you see is what you get -- I'm not a fan of pretense. But when I'm on the other side of a computer trying to sell to you exactly what I do and why you'll like it, I come up a little flat at times.
It isn't that my writing isn't good. I'll take a moment of ego to be able to say that. I love writing and creating and I've gotten pretty good at it. I make people cry when my characters hurt; i make my readers want to reach through the page and throttle the idiot who screws up and hurts people or themselves. I love creating tangible description and characters that feel like someone you know/love/admire/hate.
The marketing side though? How does one make a potential reader understand that THIS book is the one they want? THIS is the book that they'll read and not want it to end?
I guess what it comes down to is this: I'm just a woman, standing in front of an audience, asking to be loved.
Failing that, I hope I make you laugh your ass off at something one of my characters do and that you remember them enough to look me up on Amazon to see when the next book will be out. By the way...soon. ;)
Yes, I know that's not how that saying goes. I like mine better because it actually goes with my post.
As a writer, you should take hints and story aspects from the world around you. I'm not saying you should base your villain off of your Aunt Betsy -- that never ends well. I am saying that sometimes you'll hear a random bit of conversation while waiting in line at the coffee shop and you can write the words spoken and the way with which the people interact. You can use that obnoxious customer at the front of the line as part of character building for either your hero (dealing with them) or a side character or experience.
As I write this, my Vizsla Daisy is snoring away from her resting spot between my legs on the footrest of my chair. I make fun of her because she'll do it with her eyes open sometimes.
Watching and listening to the dogs has given me descriptions to use in stories, not unlike today. Sometimes it is the exaggerated aspect of what we hear or see, but sometimes it is the simple experiences that we can equate for a reader to understand. Perception in writing/stories isn't just about what one feels or hears or sees. Perception is how you can make your reader feel, hear, or see the same thing you do. We cannot live in a vacuum and assume that all of our experiences directly translate. We must find a way to link them to something meaningful for the person reading our words. Perception is distinct to each person, but we all share some experiences and that's what writers need to rely on to create meaningful words to share.
So today, my dog is a monstrous beast about to annihilate an entire crew of people. Her snores are not gentle exhalations, but growls of hunger coming from deep within her dark maw. Her little snorts are not the fact that she's a breed that suffers from allergies, but the sound she makes as she hurriedly chews her victims; gulping one down after another.
When she wakes up, I need to remember to give her a treat. I'd hate to have that beast sneak up on me at night. ;)
I've always enjoyed books that put effort into creating a believable world that has fiction mixed with fact. Sometimes that's Science-Fiction with the specifics of military or chemical reactions or theories. Sometimes I just want a good crime fiction that is believable and paints the setting in the way it looks in real life.
My love has always been mythology. When I come across a book that utilizes creatures out of the depths of mythology, that really pulls me in. When I find one that changes known deities and creatures to suit some outlandish aspect of their story because they are too lazy to correct the story line.... Well, I think my words already express my sentiments.
It isn't easy to create a believable world based in fact or history or known concepts. I know my limitations on that which is why I only have one military science-fiction short story in publication. It was difficult to work beyond the character and make sure the science and technology was on point when I just wasn't sure about some of it. I'm not a scientist and I haven't worked in communications in many years, so my knowledge is not first hand.
History and mythology, though. Yep, those are aspects I'm more than happy to dive into.
My current novels with their focus on characters existing during the Golden Age of Piracy has kept me busy doing research about geography, known pirate ports, terminology, historical figures, and aspects of magic. I know my novel is fantasy, but it doesn't mean that I want everything in it to be 100% made up. I feel, for me at least, that a good story has realism. I also have a tendency to create a broad world which means I either create every societal structure from scratch and hope that I don't mess up some aspect of government, the economy, or logical evolutionary progression. Despite the side work, using history to build background is sometimes easier if also easy to make mistakes with.
What it comes down to is what works with the story you're trying to build. Since my premise is pirates in a certain world setting type, it is logical to use historical basis to help me. It also means that I can take past events and utilize them in some new, nefarious way for my characters -- what's more fun than that?
I like the research aspect and hopefully you will, too.
Between last night and today, I've made significant progress in my novel. I think it has to do with my new spot.
One of the windows in our living room has a view of the trees behind our house and little else. When I was having family time yesterday, I sat in the chair and realized that, with the big comfy chair turned to face it, I only saw the trees, sky, and grass. That's my ideal view (other than mountains or stormy oceans, but I don't have that kind of money).
I picked up my laptop, turned the chair, and put my earbuds in. Sure, I had to wrestle with the dogs who love to curl up on the footrest -- thus effectively blocking my random quest for a fresh cup of coffee -- but it is comfortable and quiet (when no one else is around).
I also had to remember that my times to write are either first thing in the morning (while the child sleeps in like the teen she is and husband is at work) or late in the evening (youtube and bedtime).
There are still struggles with the writing -- parts that I'm not sure are correct and will likely be revised later -- but the writing is happening. I am making progress and letting my voice wind its way through the writing as it should.
One of the things I've been thinking about is writing conferences. I've always wanted to go to the Writer's Digest conference in New York. I wonder if anyone can tell me about their experience with this (or another) conference.. Have you gone to one? What did you think? What did you gain?
I think talking about word count jinxed me. As of late, I'm struggling to make my word count.
I'm working on book 2 of the series I'm in love with right now, but I keep hitting aspects that make me question where I'm going. don't get me wrong, I have a good idea of the overall plot and the part that some of the players play, but there are points when I struggle to understand why a character did something. Why would THIS character say that? What is the purpose of having that conversation? Is this filler? Who or what is my character turning into and am I okay with that?
I've always felt that, as an author, we are just along for the ride with the main character. They do and we write it. Sometimes though, I wonder if I like the direction of the growth of my character. It isn't just that they're maturing (and as a mom, I can totally see some of my struggle akin to not wanting to let go), but it is that the choices they make are not always what I expect them to be.
So, what's the purpose of all of this? Well, this blog is, and always has been, a spot for me to clear my head. I'm trying to push out the things that are getting in the way of my writing and come up with solutions to the problems I see. I write this blog because I need to clear my mental cache. Granted, I also don't want to tell anyone everything about my story, so that makes some of what I write, vague.
Okay, to work this out: What kind of character do I want Maggy to be? What do I hope she'll achieve? How do the characters around her either help or hinder that? how is she affecting their change?
Hmm. I think I see one of the problems and I'll have to go back, breaking one of my own rules about continuing no matter what. I may have to write some side dialogue or side story to help me answer some of these questions.
Thanks! That was helpful. Remember, if I can ever help you with your writing issues, please comment and I'll respond. Sometimes we need a voice other than our own to help us figure out where we're going next.
I'm a military veteran. I didn't go the long haul, but I did eight years in before marriage to a fellow Navy sailor made me decide to leave. I believed that if we wanted to have a family, that only one of us could really be in without putting too much pressure on children. Sometimes I regret leaving, sometimes I don't.
My husband was Navy until last year. My father was Navy, and so was my brother. There's a bit of a legacy there and holidays that are, in some way, a celebration of what our country or military has accomplished or been through are important to me. The 4th of July is meaningful because I know that, like men and women before me, I would have given my life for the welfare of others without hesitation. I recognize this day as a celebration of all of those who came before and will come after. I honor those who have been lost in the quest to create a safer world and support the freedom of our citizens. I know some people don't feel that way and I respect their choice to feel that way.
Beyond the military aspect, the 4th of July was always my favorite holiday. Yes, I liked it better than Christmas or my birthday or anything else going up. The reason for that was my father who passed away six years ago this coming October.
My daddy made the 4th an outrageous extravaganza of fun. I don't think I was ever afraid of fireworks -- something I probably should have been -- because of the way we celebrated it. My daddy went all out for the 4th with massive fireworks that made the whole extended family "ooh" and "aah" over the light show he put on. I have no doubt that some of those fireworks would be illegal today, but they were accept when and where I grew up.
The 4th was a day of food, family, and fun. We spent the day at my grandparents' house on the lake (the better to keep from starting a fire) with aunts, uncles, and cousins galore. I lit everything I could get my hands on: holding on to bottle rockets until the stick was tugged from upward momentum, lighting black cat firecrackers, smoke bombs...I can't even remember it all.
That day, my daddy was one of the kids. He delighted in it about as much as anyone if not more. Every year, he would swear that he wasn't going to spend that much and then we'd go to the fireworks stand and come out with several bags of explosive chaos. The last summer he was alive, he lit fireworks with my daughter -- who was a lot more scared than I ever had the sense to be.
This is the day that I notice his absence; there isn't any other holiday that it hits me so hard that he's gone. When I watch fireworks displays that aren't half as fun as the ones we had, I hear his voice in my head commenting on colors or timing or whatever. I remember being tiny and putting my little hand in one of his massive ones -- my fingers barely big enough to wrap around his thumb while he showed me how to light a rocket and then get away from it. I remember him and I...I'm thankful for the time we had though I regret the time he missed with my daughter.
Today is about honoring those who are lost, to me. Though he wasn't lost directly from his time in Vietnam, I do know that his cancer was a result of it and I feel that emptiness that much more.
Cherish your loved ones today and be thankful for all that you have. Enjoy your 4th with love, security, and freedom.
I do not write romance.
A year ago, I was on a panel with a friend of mine, Terry Maggert, at LibertyCon. The focus of said panel was Romance writing. I was terrified at what I considered a gross misjudgment of my works. I was certain that I would not have anything to talk about and began the discussion with my writing peers with that sentiment. The discussion that came afterwards was interesting and helped me understand that I wasn't alone in this rear of misrepresentation. I did not want my novels lumped into a group that I felt predominately spent their time trying to find a new way to say penis.
Okay, stop giggling and stay with me here.
Terry did not come in afraid despite being the only male on the panel and one of few in the room. Terry came in to thoroughly enjoy himself in the discussion. His energy and enthusiasm was infectious and is one of the reasons I consider him a friend.
One of the first things we dove into was the "bodice rippers" of the 80s in romance novels. If you're unfamiliar with the term (and I am making myself seem much older than I am all of the sudden), it refers to the romance novels that came out with covers featuring a prominent male figure and a woman in various states of undress looking as though she was either mid or pre-ravishment by said gentleman. The women on these covers were diverse in stature and look, but the man was almost always the same guy with long wavy hair -- a popular model at the time who went on to be in fake butter commercials and famously smacked in the face by a bird at the opening of a roller coaster in Virginia.
The discussion was lively and hilarious but it also pointed out a specific failing in genre-naming: connotation. Most of us were unhappy with the thought that our fantasy novel or science-fiction work (LiberyCon is predominately a Science-Fiction and Fantasy convention) might be viewed as a bodice-ripper instead of what we saw it as. We discussed genre-blending and what exactly determines a book's genre just to find that we all knew there was no clear ruling.
I broke out my bookseller knowledge from my former life as a Waldenbooks/Borders employee and turned it into terms of consumer/sales. Genres were created to help the average consumer find a book similar to one they already enjoyed. It did not mean that this book was ALL romance or that one was ALL mystery. Walking into a mystery section did not mean everything was going to be Holmesian. The horror section was not filled with Stephen King novels only -- though, to be honest, a great deal of his books are really science-fiction or fantasy which only furthers my point. We asked each other: what makes a book a romance novel? No one really had an absolute other than this: whatever the main aspect of the story line is (conflict, rising action, climax, etc.) determines where it fits the best. My novels, having characters with some romantic entanglement could be considered having a romantic bent to the novel, but are NOT romances. Genre lines will continue to be blurred conglomerations of whatever the story dictates. What the heart wants, the author rips out, stabs with a pen until it bleeds ink, and then refills his/her coffee cup.
Or maybe that's consumerism.
My issue now, and the reason I thought of all of this, is my current novel. The main character has a love interest that is distracting and slides into the story line more often than not. She is mooning over someone very uncharacteristically and I read it and wonder if I'm happy about that. How much "romance" am I willing to let seep into my story? And in that thought, how much of the relationship will be physical?
Some authors have no qualms about letting their characters do whatever it is that their characters want in full view of the reader. I'm not 100% comfortable with that. At one point, I even emailed an author I liked who I felt had very tastefully veered away from the physical aspect of the characters' relationship to ask her thoughts. Maria V. Snyder is one of the few authors that has ever responded to an email and her answer was simple in that she explained her approach but told me I had to find out what I was comfortable with.
Current novel in mind, I just don't know. What do you think about the description of a physical relationship in a novel? Has it ever made you want to turn away from a book?
Yes campers, it is that time again: Camp Nanowrimo time.
I'd seen the emails and was geared up to go when some wonderful people I'm friends with on Facebook asked if anyone wanted to join a cabin. It was a nice surprise as I expected to go it alone or let the website assign me a cabin. It is always nice to be with others striving to do what you do and want to support each other and get support themselves.
Some of you may not know what Camp Nanowrimo or even what Nanowrimo (which occurs every year in November) is. This non-profit website is set up to do just what my cabin mates are trying to do: encourage writers to do what they do while providing support from others who are fighting the same good fight. You create a project title -- either something that is already a WIP (Work in Progress) or a new project. Enter the starting word count and then update as you go.
Camp Nanowrimo and Nanowrimo have you set a word count goal for the month and then it tells you what your daily goal is for reaching that goal. It's kind of like deciding that you want to run a 5k by a certain date and breaking down the time in between to certain lengths so that you can eventually make that run.
Not a runner? Okay how about this: you know your house needs to be cleaned by the time your in-laws visit, so you decide that the best way to do that is by cleaning a room a day until they day they arrive. Better? No problem.
This is a really great program for all level of writers because it provides support from other writers and the Nanowrimo community through daily messages and challenges as well as pushing the writer to set and strive toward a goal. Anyone can join; it is completely free. When you reach your goal, they even give you some special deals on different products and you can purchase a t-shirt proudly telling the world that you participated in the program and reached your goal.
In it's essence, the program does what we all sometimes struggle to do independently. Writers don't always have deadlines or a reason to push themselves. This gives a writer a (much needed) kick in the ass.
And there are always lots of comments about s'mores. Who doesn't love s'mores? Screw the 5K if there aren't s'mores at the end...