Friday, March 30, 2012

How We Write

Hi all! Today's the last GPF for the next four weeks, since arranging for guest posts that suit the A to Z Challenge would be too much of a pain. GPF will continue in May, however, and the first two Fridays are open. So if you want to become one of the illustrious people who post on my blog, please read this post and contact me so that we can arrange it.

In the mean time, I want to welcome one of my favorite and most talented blogging friends (and I know, because I critted his work recently), Allan from Publish or Perish. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this post, Al. 

How We Write

When I volunteered to write this post for Misha I thought to myself that I would knock something together in half an hour or so. I imagined I would write about something related to the creative process. That I would write about something like plot development, or characterisation, or perhaps editing.
Then Misha reminded me of the deadline she had for submitting this post. I realised that I had not thought about composing this post, let alone put finger to keyboard (I use pen and paper for almost nothing these days). The reason is of course like so many people today I am time poor. I suspect that most of us who write do so by snatching moments.

That fact made me think about how we find the time (let alone the mental space) to write. 

Writing seriously takes time. Be it poetry, non-fiction, biography, pulp or literary fiction completing works is time intensive. My best estimate for the time it took me to complete my first novel was the equivalent of six months full-time work. That does not include the time other people spent on it for me. 

That time was spread out over years. During that period I was working full time at a day job and being a parent, husband, etc, etc. This is something that is common to the vast majority of writers I know. Almost none of the writers I know (either in the real world or cyberspace) have had enough success to allow them to write professionally. 

I won't fall into the trap of assuming things are necessarily rosy for that group. Writing as a career is going to have all sorts of its own pressures. 

So where am I going with this ramble? Time for writing. 

My first novel Veiled in Shadows took years to get from idea to print. Most of the time it did little more than languish. Then something changed. I changed jobs. I was working in the community sector in mental health and disabilities; I stayed in the sector but shifted to a program for homeless people. I was managing a set of programs that provided meals and other services (information, showers, laundry and a string of other things) in the heart of Melbourne. Most “soup kitchens” focus on the evening. Our focus was making sure people got breakfast. We started before dawn, so we closed early, my staff finished by 12:30 and I was usually out the door by 2:00 pm. What that meant was a few hours in the afternoon to myself.

Guess what I did?

Not hard was it? I usually spent that time writing, in mere months I finished off my first book (already mostly done). Then began on the second. 

Then I changed jobs again. I shifted out of the community sector into government. I am still in the homeless sector, but now I coordinate some state wide programs and provide policy advice. That left me a problem; I was going to lose my writing time. My commute time would double because I would be travelling in the rush and I would get home at the same time as the rest of the family.

Losing my writing time was not something I could bear. So I had to find a solution.

I switched from driving to catching the train.

So my commute has morphed into writing time. 

My WIP is still progressing (about 5-10 times quicker than my first book).

So the moral of my rather convoluted tale is one key to writing as a non-professional is to set aside time. Time to write. In my experience fifteen minutes set aside for writing on a daily basis makes all the difference. 

Maybe your active day (like mine does at the moment) begins before dawn and finishes only an hour or two before you hit the sack. But maybe your writing does not have to halt. Get creative with time. Perhaps there is something you can do differently to carve yourself a few minutes. I was lucky; I found a solution that gives me an hour or two each day. But it wouldn't have happened if I had not taken the time to think about it.

Good luck!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Preparing for the crazy.

I might have mentioned this before, but I entered both my blogs into the A to Z Challenge. Because of that, I decided to take the next few days off to allow me to catch up on some blogs I still need to visit before I get impossibly far behind.

Friday will still be GPF, so feel free to stop by for that. I'll probably still post once or twice this week, but I might not, since all craziness will be break out in Mishaland. So until Sunday, I bid you farewell.


Friday, March 23, 2012

How we write

Before I start, I'd like to thank Misha for hosting my post on her blog today.

Most of us are happy to talk about how we write and the methods we use – which room in the house, by hand or by computer, with or without music etc. And if you're anywhere near as nosy as I am, you love to find these things out and compare notes. I'm not ashamed to admit that I am just as nosy when it comes to finding out about the way famous authors write.

So you can imagine my delight when I came across a number of quotes from some well-known writers as I was thinking about this post. Each one talks a little about what they do or how they write, or offers a little advice for the writer who just doesn't know what to do next.

First of all, some straightforward advice from HG Wells: 'I write as straight as I can, just as I walk as straight as I can, because that is the best way to get there.' Starting at the beginning and working through to the end seems the most logical way to write, but sometimes it just doesn't work out like that. And it's easier said than done, sometimes, particularly when the words stop coming and writer's block sets in.

What about inspiration and new material? PD James recommends that we draw upon our own lives. 'Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.' That's where the small notebook in my bag comes in handy. You never know when you might visit a place or hear a snippet of conversation that you think is interesting, or perfect for a story. And you know you aren't going to remember it when you get home...

'Proceed slowly and take care.' So said Annie Proulx, the writer of the short story on which Brokeback Mountain was based, and in saying that she's clearly a woman after my own heart. There's nothing better (in my opinion) than knowing who is going to say what when and where the story is going. Planning, planning, planning – for me that's the key to easier writing.

For all you pantsers out there, I have the perfect quote from a great writer: 'I have something in common with Doctor Who? I make it up as I go along, except I am better at it than they are.' The person who said that? Terry Pratchett – a man with a fantastic sense of humour as well as an amazing imagination! Whether you enjoy reading his books or not, there's no denying he is a very talented writer and for some people, spontaneous writing is the way to go.

You could try taking the same approach as Michael Moorcock who said: 'Ignore all proferred rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say.' I like the sound of this, particularly as I'm the kind of person who doesn't like being told what to do very much! But on a serious note, why can't we bend the rules? As writers, if we can't create our own rules, who can?

And last but not least, we have the words of Joyce Carol Oates: 'Keep a light, hopeful heart. But expect the worst.' There's nothing more I can say about this – it's the best advice I have seen for dealing with the submission process, which is where we all end up when the hours of careful writing and editing are finished.

There is no one right way or wrong way to write. There may well be a right way for you, but you have to do a little trial and error to find that out. I tried making it up as I went along, but that turned out to be a big disaster. I know that, like in my life generally, I need to be organised when I write. I need to have the notebooks full of notes (I love notebooks, but that's another story) and know exactly where I'm going. For other people, that's a complete waste of time because they'll just go and write something completely different anyway. You write in a way that suits you.

But that's not to say you shouldn't do your research into how others write. Keep being nosy. I know I will.

Which of these writers do you relate to the most? Or is there another writer that you identify with more?

Stacey Mitchell is a writer who lives in south Wales. She writes both fiction and non-fiction, and has an obsession with all things historical. Her bitesize biography of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven is being published by Collca in April or May this year.



Thanks so much for stopping by, Stacey. I'm looking for Guest Posters for the first two Friday's of May. If you are interested in filling one of those slots, please check out this post and contact me. Have a great weekend everyone! X

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Prepping for the A-Z Challenge

Hahahahahahaha... maybe the headline should be supposedly prepping for A-Z.

See... I entered both my blogs. I realized recently that trusting that I'll just be churning out two posts a day six days a week for a month while adapting to office life

Sadly... I realized this the day before yesterday. So my time is running really low. And I still have to edit. And visit blogs... and... and... and...

Also, my body picked today to pick up a cold/flu virus, so I spent most of my day staring blankly at the computer screen.


I will not lose my handle on the situation, though. I'm just going to do my best to get control over the amount of hours in my day. And then I'm going to get some edits and blog posts done.

What about you? Joined the A to Z Challenge? How are the preparations going?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Opening Blog-tour

Hi all! Today I welcome Stephen Tremp to MFB. He's here to tell us about exploding stars, black holes and Opening, his newly released novel.

Thanks for stopping by, Stephen.

Thank you Misha for hosting me on this, my final stop on the Grand OPENING Tour! I’m honored. I thought we would close things out with a bang, and what bigger bang can we imagine than an exploding star.

A Supernova: is an explosion of a massive supergiant star. It shines with the brightness of up to ten billion suns and is one of the most energetic explosions in the universe. Scientists believe supernovae happen in our Milky Way galaxy about once or twice a century. Supernovae are classified as a Type I Supernova or Type II supernova depending on the shape of their light curves and the nature of their spectra. In less than a second, a neutron star or a black hole is born. Supernovae explosions are not merely the death of a star. These massive explosions seed the universe with heavy elements (muy importante) that help to make up new stars, planets, and everything on earth, including you and me.

Black Hole: Any object whose escape velocity exceeds the speed of light. With each black hole there is a point of no return called the event horizon. Picture Niagara Falls. You see someone caught in the river heading toward the falls. If he is far enough away he can swim to the shore. But there is a point where the current is too strong and the swimmer cannot escape. He is going over no matter how much energy he expends to swim to the shore. This is similar to the Event Horizon of a black hole. Even light cannot escape a black hole. That's what makes it black.

Fun Theories (no fun facts here as we have yet to actually observe a black hole): There are two types of black holes. Stellar Black Holes form from collapsed stars. It is possible for black holes to collide and form larger black holes. It is believed by many physicists and astronomers that super massive black holes, called Galactic Black Holes, reside at the center of each galaxy. These can be as large as hundreds of thousands to billions of solar masses.

Fun Theory: Physicists also believe there may be rogue black holes cruising (not stationary) around the universe. I hope one doesn't cross our solar system. That would be a bad day for us.

Fun Theory: Some believe you can enter a Black Hole and emerge out the other side in another place and time. Black Hole = Time Machine. But in all probability, you would die before going through.

Fun Theory: Mini black holes are theoretically possible, but have yet to be created in a laboratory. At least, that the general public is aware of. Recently a lawsuit was brought against CERN for fear their research could bring about the end of the world, possibly by man-made mini-black holes. Thank again to Misha for hosting me today. And thank you all for supporting me on the Grand OPENING Tour. I could not have done this without you!

Insert Cheesy Self Promotion: Finally, tomorrow’s my birthday, or today, depending on which day you’re reading this. It’s March 22nd. If you feel so inspired to get me something, outside of a brand new 2012 souped-up turbo 3000 Wormhole with racing stripes, you can download either or both my books BREAKTHROUGH and OPENING at Amazon Kindle. At a buck ninety-nine each, you can’t beat it with a stick! They're also available for download at SMASHWORDS Thanks again everyone. You’ve been great! Next up is the Grand OPENING Tour Roundup on Friday, then the A to Z Challenge. Remember to visit me at Breakthrough Blogs!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interview with Amy Lunderman

Hi all! Today I'm welcoming Amy Lunderman to MFB. Amy's been a constant cheerleader for me for over a year now, so I jumped at the chance to have her over for a nice girl to girl chat.

My Photo

M: Hey Amy, how about we start with the usual question: Tell us a little more about yourself? 

A: I'm a stay at home mom, to a very busy two year old daughter. I live in northern Rhode Island where the weather has more ups and downs than my toddler does, but I grew up in upstate NY so I'm used to it. I've been with my husband for almost eight years now and it still feels like we never have a dull moment! I've always had a passion for writing and I try to write whenever I have a free moment. If not writing or wrangling my daughter - I also enjoy reading, writing, having dance party with my toddler, watching TV and movies, You Tube, and status updates on Facebook. And if not doing any of THAT I can probably be found watching whatever is going on around me through the backs of my eyelids, because chances are I probably fell asleep on the couch! :)

M: So how many hours a day do you spend writing? Because you're scary productive.

A: Honestly? Only about three to four, give or take, maybe a day. I usually snag an hour first thing in the morning before I have my coffee, this is when I have my best idea's - my dreams are scary imaginative. When my daughter naps, I try to write for another hour or so, most days though I catch up on other things like my sanity. Then at night, I squeeze in another few hours of writing before bed - this is probably why I dream about what I write. If I really push myself, I can have a rough draft out in a little over two weeks, but I like the rest of my writing time to be on edits and rewrites. Lately I've been slowing down a bit, taking my time, and just working on past works. I'm hoping to have something new out by the end of the year, but we'll see I guess.

M: Cool! So what's the freakiest dream that you had and turn into a book?

A: The dream credit has to go to my zombie novel, They Walk, of course the dream is totally different than the book. For example in the book, I have a group of teens at a party before the zombies invade, while in my dream it's already chaos. And by chaos I mean it's incomprehensible in the way only dreams can get away with. For one thing, in my dream I'm locked in this thirty feet high walled in labyrinth type maze, and the only way to avoid the zombies is to climb and avoid slipping into the masses. I remember waking up freaking out about it! I don't know what's worse, fearing the hungry undead or the height of the walls I climbed. Anyways, a lot of the dream was reshaped into something readable, but I do squeeze in a little bit of it, staying loyal to my dreams and all - they're definitely helpful.

M: Nice. I almost wish that I had dreams like that. So tell us about your newest book.

A: Currently I am working on rewrites for The Misadventures of Daria Pigwidgeon, also formerly known as Demonsoul, which is now essentially two books in one. I wasn't all that satisfied with the way book one ended, it didn't really seem complete to me, so changes were a must. As a plus of making it one book, I get to play around some more with the sequel and take it in a new direction! It's basically about a teenage demon that pretty much raised herself because she was born with a soul. After realizing she won't survive much longer under they're treatment, she sets out across the country on her own. What was supposed to be a fresh start becomes a misadventure when her family follows her trail and disrupts the new life she built. Add to the mix of demon powers, an addicting blue eyed pretty boy, shadow stalkers, and high school - then your in the world of Daria, where you'll never have a boring day!

During the last month or so, while I've been working on rewrites, I've also been playing around with a new idea that quickly grew into a new series about witches. This one take magic, fantasy, college, and love all rolled into an exciting thrill-ride! I'm hoping to have it out some time this summer, but we'll see, every day that I work on it spurs new ideas. I have added it to Goodreads though, if anyone would like to see a preview of what it's really about! ;)

M: Sounds really interesting. So who is your favorite character that you've written?

A: That's a tough one! Instead of choosing just one, I'll share the one I like most from all my works.

They Walk: Maggie - She's the heroine of the story, and I've made her with enough snark and grace that she ranks high on my list of favorites.
Persona: Marty - He started out as a side character that grew to be the best friend, and eventually became a love interest who's the best!
The Misadventures of DP: This is a tie between Daria and Chance - the two of them together make for some exciting writing time.
Witch University: Jeremiah - He's the kind of bad boy character I love reading about except this time he's my creation. Writing him is a blast and most times his intentions take me by surprise, so revealing him to readers should be fun!


M: What's your favorite aspect to writing?


A: My favorite aspect of writing has to be the getting lost in a story. I love character and world building - so writing is a great outlet for that.

M: So I'm curious. What got you to start writing?

A: I pretty much started making up wild and crazy stories even before I could write anything. Mostly it was stuff only parents could say was great with a smile on there face even though it was probably incoherent rambles. As I got older though, I became influenced by movies/television I've watched or books that I've read (Are Your Afraid of the Dark; on Nickelodeon and Fear Street by R.L. Stine) so by then the short stories I wrote took more of a horror turn. Over time my short stories became the little novels that tried and slowly evolved into what I would obsess over; paranormal romance fiction!

M: That sounds like me. When did you start getting serious about publishing your stories?

A: I always wondered what it would be like to be published, but I'm such a shy person that the thought of sending out query letters terrified me. So I never really thought I had any other options. But, when I was working on my first novel, They Walk, I came across Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing. After finding that, I realized there were a ton of other self-publishing opportunities - that became the way to go for me. Now that I've been getting out there a bit, the prospect of sending out query's doesn't seem so scary and I's slowly working on that angle.

M: Want to tell us more about your newest release?

A: My newest release is a young adult paranormal romance called, Persona: It’s the year 2028 and an experiment that went wrong seventeen years ago sends the world in lock-down from these genetic mutations. Sixteen-year-old Moira Warner knows only fear and secrecy, but that's understandable given she spent her toddler years in a lab. Why? Because she is one of them. Now she barely gets by with hiding her true self. That doesn't mean that she's averse to breaking a rule or two.

But when her curiosity gets the better of her at a new school, she lets loose with popular jock Spencer, and realizes she's been a fool to believe that she could be anything other than what she is; a monster. Before she can confide in anyone for help, her little slip up brings in the authority's and now her secret is out. The horrific memories of her past returns and with it the man that ruined her childhood.

With the help from someone she would have never thought and a group of unlikely accomplices, she must come face to face with her past. A past she would rather forget. Moira now becomes obsessed with getting her questions answered, and Liam is the only one who can provide the information she needs. But in her drive to find the truth, will Moira push her new friends to far, forcing her to leave her family, and the identity that she's shaped? This sends her on a journey to find out what she really is and along the way she just might find herself in the process. Maybe even love, if she's not too busy running and trying to blend in.

M: Sounds really exciting! One last question: where can people find you and your book?

A: You can find me here:Website


You Can find my books here:


Barnes & Noble


Thanks so much for the visit, Amy!

It was a blast. So much so that I'd love to have some more interviews. If you'd like one, please feel free to let me know and maybe we can arrange something. ^_^

Monday, March 19, 2012

Been tagged for the Lucky 7 Meme

Rachna and Michael Pierce both tagged me for The Lucky Seven Meme. So because I'm lazy, I'm going to post about that rather than the usual "Others have said...".

The rules are as follows:

1) Go to page 77 of your Current MS.
2) Go to line seven.
3) Copy the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs - and post them as they're written. No cheating!
4) Tag 7 authors.

Because of time constraints, I won't be passing on the tags. So if you want to have some fun, spread some MS love or just don't know what to post about, use this. ;-) Just let me know.

So... here's the segment from my current MS and all around beast, Doorways...

Note: The lines are a bit awkward, so please take my word for it.

Really? This wasn’t funny.

It made her sick.

“That’s my mom.” Her voice wobbled as she fought for control. Her tears flooded down her cheeks as she lost grip of herself. Claire sat down next to her and held her as sobs racked Callan’s body.

After she cried out, Claire fetched her some tissues. “You didn’t know?”

“No. I know almost nothing about her,” she forced out between hiccups.

So that's me for today. Do you get to an interesting bit if you follow the meme rules?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Surrounded by inspiration

Hi all! Welcome to another installment of GPF. Today, I welcome my old (in blogfollow years) friend Sylvia. Her blog, Playful Creative, is an interesting mix of her, her writing and some writing tips. There's never a dull moment, so if you want some fun, feel free to give her some follow love.

Take it away, Sylvia.

One of the most awesome aspects of being a writer is that everything is related to writing. Everything I see, hear, touch or experience can be inspiration to use in my novel.

That is one of the reasons my office, my favorite writing place, is surrounded by inspiration. I don't do sparse. I love to sit in here and look at all the things on the shelves above my desk, or leaf through a book on my shelves or play with the unicorn that sits on my desk. My office is one big space for inspiration and creativity.

For me, writing is playful and joyful. If I don't focus on making my writing time like that, I invite in the gremlins called writer's blocks. They have been around me long enough. Now I just write.

Sometimes I do get stuck though, when I wonder where the story wants to be taken next, one of the downsides of being a pantser. I have enough inspiration around me to get myself into finding that next step. I have found that any creative expression can get me back to writing. The best ideas for a story jump into my head when I am creating something entirely different. And that can be anything. The best is doodling. Nothing frees up my mind for inspiration like mindlessly drawing silly things.

But ideas can strike anywhere. As I said before, everything is an inspiration. That is why I think that being a writer must be quite tedious for the other humans in our lives. There have been countless moments of me going, "That is a great idea!" and then maniacally searching for a piece of paper or my phone to jot down the idea. Sometimes I can get so lost in these thoughts that it takes a lot of patience for the other person to get me in the here and now.

This is especially worse when I am writing a novel. My husband often complains I forget things the moment he says them to me. I then invariably say, "Sorry, darling, I have novel brain, my brain is occupied by characters. What were you saying?"

Of course I don't hear him then either.

Hahahaha thanks so much for this Guest Post, Sylvia.

If anyone else still wants to sign up for the rest of the year, please check out this post.

So... what do you do to get your creative juices flowing?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Yay I edited!

Yesterday I finally started editing again, but it's still slow going, because I'm not as in the story as I was beforehand.

On one hand, I think I should read it from the beginning again, to get deeper into the story. On the other hand, maybe it's a good thing that I'm not so into it.

I have two reasons for this.

The first is that distance is good while editing. Very good. I know that the stuff I changed really did make the reading better.

Another reason is that while the beast isn't chewing me up, I might as well take it a bit slower while looking for my crit partner(s?). So... I might actually have at least a few weeks while having a life.

Imagine that.

So... I'm just going to take it a bit slower and maybe get some reading in. And also take a nap a little later, because my beautiful dog insisted on barking at random moments all hours of last night...

Another thing I decided to change while I'm at it: Sundays. They are now no computer days. I took one last week end and it was such a beautiful feeling that I want another one.

So that's where I am. What about you? Anyone else editing? Anyone coming back from an editing burn-out? How is your writing going?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Call for Help

Young Adult Teen Tuesday is a meme hosted by the wonderful Sheri Larsen to showcase all aspects of creating a Young Adult Story.

So... Although I am one of the original participants, I can safely say that I'm far from a regular one. Which makes be feel bad. But today, I have something that's weighing on my heart.

Something, involving my YA Fantasy Epic, Doorways. See, my one crit partner extraordinaire  won't be able to critique the ms anymore, because he's about to release his own book.

And that left me with a bit of a problem. Because I have a little more than 100 days left to finish the story... and now am needing a cp whose core strength lies with copy editing.

And who made me laugh. Even though he was so brutally honest that it stung sometimes.

And I need a cp like that if I'm to have any hope of finishing on time. I did start looking for cps and came up with a promising one, but she's still drafting, which is something that I don't want to interrupt with my editing. So although I will definitely be her cp, I can't get the work out right now.

And I'm really really scared of just putting my baby out there to for a stranger without a familiar face to read.

So here I am. Asking begging you. If you are getting to the point where you want to send your work to be critted and you're good at copy editing other people's work, please please please think of me. If you want, I'll ask my other cp's to contact you so that you can see that I don't only take without giving in return.

Okay... begging aside, here's a bit more:

Doorways is the first book of a four book YA Fantasy epic. But I'm willing to crit almost anything except erotica and too dark fantasy. So period novels, thrillers, procedurals, sci fi, romances, fantasy etc all welcome.

My strengths: characterization, world building, plot, voice, pacing.

I need: someone strong on copy-edits, who are honest, but who knows the difference between critting and being critical. Someone who can start within this week.

So if you are that person, and you need a person like me or you know such a person that you can vouch for, please contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Thanks very very much in advance!

And... because I am so very grateful that you read all of this, if you need a crit and don't suit my profile, put your needs, strengths and contact details in the comments section. Who knows? Maybe you strike it lucky. X

Monday, March 12, 2012

Others have said: You are not alone.

Every writer I know has trouble writing.
Joseph Heller

So good to know that I'm not alone in this. See, after weeks of doing almost nothing writing related, I feel the need to come back to it, except for when I have the notebook or document open in front of me.

It just feels as if the words don't want to come.

Needless to say, it's frustrating, but I guess that's what happens if you want to take some lazy time.

It's just so annoying, because for the most of a year, I never struggled. But that's the way it goes. I had my break. Now it's time to ease into my routine again. Gently.

What do you do when you're out of your writing/editing groove? 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Writing Books

Hi all! Today I welcome Steven J. Wangsness to MFB. Steven's new book, TAINTED SOULS is available on Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook and other e-readers. Check out his website at :-)

Take it away, Steven.

Writing a book is like skinning a cat -- there's more than one way to do it.

Some authors map out their novels in minute detail before ever setting pen to paper, pinpointing every plot point with the precision of a military staff officer and cataloging every facet of their characters in encyclopedic fashion -- their appearance, their manner of speaking, their personal histories. With plot and characters so well known in advance, the act of creating a book becomes giving a written account of what already exists.

William Styron (The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie's Choice) is supposed to have had such an exhaustive road map to his novels before him that his first drafts were his last drafts -- by the time he started to write a novel, all there was left to do was craft the words; everything else about the novel was a known quantity.

Other writers prefer to fly by the seat of their pants or, as they might prefer it, to allow the book to grow organically with minimal direction from the author. In essence, as events occur and characters enter the scene, they determine where the action goes and how the characters grow and who they become. I recall an interview with a British writer a couple of years ago who said he was "too lazy" to write an outline; he just started with a simple idea and let the book go where it went.

Jack Kerouac portrayed himself as just such a writer, having claimed to have written On the Road in long sheets routed through his typewriter in one three-week-long burst of spontaneous fury. The truth is more complex, with the book going through many edits and revisions. (Confession: I've never gotten past page 20.)

As a writer, I lie somewhere in between these extremes, though I have tended more towards the seat-of-the-pants variety. My college term papers were rarely products of long research and carefully outlined prose but mostly coughed up in all-nighters while hunkered down at the typewriter with a few open books and several cups of coffee.

Before I sat down to write my novel Tainted Souls, however, I knew I wanted a detailed plot summary. For one thing, Tainted Soulsis a plot-driven mystery and I didn't think I could afford to wing it. I plotted out all the scenes beforehand, using open-source "mind-mapping" software called FreeMind. I wrote a 15-page, single-spaced summary describing all the action in each of the chapters. Though I wrote down just a few bullet points, rather than detailed histories, I had a good notion of the characters and their motivations before I started writing.

Even so, the plot took twists and turns and the players took on characteristics I hadn't anticipated. These developed out of the writing itself. Just one example: I knew that I wanted my protagonist's partner to be earthy and buffoonish as I set out; but it was only as I was writing the first chapter that he revealed himself to me -- that's how I would describe it -- as corrupt, too. His corruption became not just an interesting aspect of his character but crucial to the plot as it finally evolved; without it, Tainted Souls would be a different book.

For me, then, part of what gets written down grows organically out of the process of writing itself. Characters flesh out, events suggest themselves, sub-themes emerge, all giving the story new hues and affecting the course of the plot. Like real people, the characters reveal more of their true natures the better I get to know them. As in real life, the course of events may take an unexpected turn. It's not for me to argue whether this is a better way of writing than asserting full control of the book from the get-go. However, for me, no matter how carefully and diligently I may pre-cook the final product, at least some of the book is going to "write itself."

How about you? Do your characters take on aspects that surprise you and go down a road you didn't see coming?

Thanks for this great post, Steven! All the best with your book sales.

Before I go, I just want to ask if there's a kind and brave soul out there that would please book 30 March for a GPF? If you're interested, please check out this post and contact me.

OK then! Have a great weekend! X

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group

Sorry for only posting now. I'm bit out of the blogging routine now that I haven't blogged for about a week.

But, here I am. Back.

And... with pretty much nothing to post about. See, I haven't been editing, because I'm waiting for another CP to send back my work. As for really writing, I've got such a massive stack of notes now (900 pages and counting) that sorting through it is eating all of my time.

Still... I've learnt some very interesting things about three of my main characters. So at least now I know why Callan makes certain choices that I knew she'd make but couldn't understand. Or Darrion, for that matter. I also know how Gawain will react to these choices.

So at least I can say that I haven't really wasted most of a month. And yet, sometime really soon, I'm going to have to get back to working on the actual writing.

My muse and Darrion are sort of leaning on me to get going.

Have you ever done something else constructive that helps your writing, but isn't writing, only to feel sucky because you haven't actually written?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

YA Stereotypes

YA Stereotypes

Ever since I discovered YA fiction, I’ve loved both reading and writing it. But after immersing myself in it for a while, I noticed something (something that I’m sure hasn’t escaped your attention either!). There are certain themes that crop up pretty often in YA literature. So often, in fact, that I now expect to come across at least one whenever I read a new YA book.

  • The Love Triangle 
Usually a girl and two guys. Usually a nice guy (kind and sensitive, possibly a best friend for years) and a bad boy (the kind your parents most certainly wouldn’t approve of). There’s a lot of emotional back-and-forth while the heroine tries to figure out who she really wants to be with, and you, the reader, can usually tell from the beginning who it will be. And neither boy ever seems to think, You know what? This girl is messing me around. I’m off to find someone else.

  • Love At First Sight 
I can understand attraction at first sight. That makes sense to me. You see a guy (or girl) for the first time, he’s really good-looking, and you feel attracted to him. But love? And that instant “connection” you often read about? Hmm. I have a hard time buying that. I think love and a connection can only come once you know a person.

  • The Bad Boy Love Interest
Rude, obnoxious, sarcastic, dark-and-brooding, has a troubled past, pushes the heroine away, no one else has ever been able to change him, but for THIS HEROINE he will turn his life around and become a better person. Secretly, I like this one (if I have to pick a vertex on the love triangle, I’m usually Team Bad Boy). And I’d like to believe it’s possible. I’m sure in some cases it is. But surely in other cases, the guy who’s a jerk will always be just that – a jerk. And the heroine should tell him to get lost and instead find an awesome good guy (like Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door!)

I’m not saying these themes are wrong. There are, of course, instances where they work really well. For example, the love triangles in The Hunger Games series (Katniss, Peeta, Gale) and The Infernal Devices series (Tessa, Will, Jem) are cleverly pulled off and add much to the storyline. And sometimes the Bad Boy has a really good reason for acting like such a jerk (again, Will from The Infernal Devices series).

After thinking about it for a little while, I realized that none of these three stereotypes show up in Guardian:
  • there’s only one main guy, Nate, so no love triangle
  • Vi thinks Nate is kinda cute, but once he ruins her perfect assignment record by following her into the fae realm, love-at-first-sight is the last thing on her mind
  • and Nate is certainly not a “bad boy”. In fact, the only bad boy here is Ryn (the faerie who reports Vi’s assignment screw-up), and Vi’s feelings for him extend more toward shoving him out of a tree than love. 

But you may have noticed there’s a stereotype I haven’t mentioned yet . . .

  • Forbidden Love 
And that’s because, well, there may, kinda, possibly be a bit of this in Guardian! I mean, Violet's a faerie, Nate’s a human, it’s against Guild Law for him to know she exists, so of course any feelings Vi may, kinda, possibly develop toward Nate would be forbidden! 

Okay, so I couldn't steer completely clear of stereotypes!

A question for readers and writers: How do feel about these YA “stereotypes”?

~  ~  ~

Rachel Morgan is the author of Guardian, the first novelette in the Creepy Hollow series. She was born in South Africa and spent a large portion of her childhood living in a fantasy land of her own making. These days, in between teaching mathematics to high school children, she writes fiction for young adults.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Creepy Hollow Launch Day

Hey all! Just stopped by from my blogging break to let you know about one of my blogging friends' new book series: Creepy Hollow. This is the announcement:

Today the Creepy Hollow series kicks off with the release of the first story, GUARDIAN!!
GUARDIAN introduces readers to the magical world of Creepy Hollow, a realm where fae creatures both safe and definitely-not-so-safe dwell. Things are cool as long the fae stick to their own realm. It's when they find their way into the human world that things start going wrong...

1. Receive assignment.
2. Save a life.
3. Sleep.
4. Repeat.

Protecting humans from dangerous magical creatures is all in a day’s work for a faerie training to be a guardian. Seventeen-year-old Violet Fairdale knows this better than anyone—she’s about to become the best guardian the Guild has seen in years. That is, until one of her assignments—a human boy who shouldn’t even be able to see her—follows her into the fae realm. Now she’s broken Guild Law, a crime that could lead to her expulsion.

The last thing Vi wants to do is spend any more time with the boy who got her into this mess, but the Guild requires that she return Nate to his home and make him forget everything he’s discovered of the fae realm. Easy, right? But Nate and Vi are about to land themselves in even bigger trouble—and it’ll take all Vi’s training to get them out alive.

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To find out more about the series, the author, and the characters, check out the blog tour that’s happening over the next two weeks.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Importance of Insignificant Things

Hi all, today I welcome someone who I see as a bit of a blogging legend. Her quirky style and awesome blogging voice always keep me going back for more. So if you've never read Mia's blog, I suggest you hop over there right now.

My break is still in full swing, but I'll see you all on Wednesday. In the mean time, I hope you don't miss me too much! ;-P Have a great weekend. X

Take it away, Mia. Thanks for this great post. *hugs*

My supervsor said something interesting the other day. It struck me right down the middle. It rang true. ALLOW ME TO PARAPHRASE IT HERE.

She said, “Mia, sometimes the insignifcant results are the ones that really count.

Profound, but only if you know the background. So! Allow me to fill you in on some important deets:

1)      I am a final year Psych undergrad researching WORDS and PSYCHOLOGY and STUFF. This sounds super fantastic but a) they’re only temporal words and b) all I can really tell you right now is that past words happen before future ones and this is really COOL. QED.

2)      I have a supervisor who supervises my research, as le name suggests.

3)      I experiment on REAL LIVE PEOPLE, FYI.

4)      My results THUS FAR are insignificant. That is to say, the results we expected were not found at all. I spend my nights weeping in a corner and drowning my sorrows with ice cream because of this.

So! Background complete! Now what am I getting at? Well, guys, that’s right, you guessed it, I want to talk about writing here. 

I want to talk about mistakes. Mistakes in writing are like insignificances in research, they’re actually tres interesting. It took a while for me to see it, but blunders are important.  Those early days when you first start out and everything that comes out of your creative moments feel DIRTY, and not in a sensual way but in a I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING HERE I AM JUST REACHING FOR THINGS way? Those days?

They are important. They are so very important.

For without confusing a prologue with a first chapter, without stumbling through awkward dialogue, and crying over lost descriptions, without any of that how are we to learn how to write? There are no set rules in writing, even the ones everyone gets so hung up on are occasionally and very successfully broken.  There are no rules in writing and that is why it’s so hard to describe how we do it.

Do we sit in a dark room surrounded by only the whisperings of imaginary people or do we write in a café encased by the buzzing of life? Do we cry? Do we laugh? Do we start at the beginning and work forward? Do we not?

As far as I can tell, we do all of it.  It’s up to you to pick and choose. And that’s why the apparent mistakes, and the occasional awkward paragrpahs, are important. The disappointing results of your efforts, and the confusing outcome of nights of hard work, they help you understand who you you are. And only by knowing who you are as a writer can you know how it is you can write.

Because sometimes the things that go wrong,

the abandoned novels and

the words that won’t quite

come together.

Sometimes they are the most important of all.

The show you the way to

the greatness within.

So HOW DO WE WRITE? I cannot possibly tell you, but I can tell you how we don’t write. We don’t write by being timid, by being unable to conquer our fears. We don’t write by sticking only to what we know will work, and by never taking chances. We are dynamic, flexible, and brave indidivuals. We try, and we are not afraid of the darkness. We are, and that is enough.

So! Haha! What are the mistakes and insignifiances you have encountered in your journey? I know the main one for me was NOT TO PLOT. I am very bad at plotting, as soon as I accepted that one things got a little easier.