Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Zoo

Today's the last day, kids! Thank for those of you who stuck around. I hope it amused and taught you something new. Also, I want to thank the Veteran Novelists for their thoughtful, useful and encouraging comments. You are all legends in your own rights.

But today, I have one thing a new novelist should know before starting a novel.

The characters.

They live.

They breathe.

They think.

And they make one hell of a racket in your head.

Sometimes to the point where you think you're insane. Because really... you sort of are. And that's okay. Because if you were normal, you'd be boring. No one wants that. Except boring normal people. Forget about it.

Talk to your characters like they have minds of their own. If you give them time, they'll start answering. Often in ways that surprise you, yet makes more sense than anything you could have come up with.

Some characters will take over. Even for your muse. If he's a badass who stuffs up your inner frenemies for you, even better. Most of all, love the zoo of different characters in your head.

You created them. And they all love you in their own special ways.

And deep down, I can't really think of anything else quite like it.

Other than that, this is the end of this year's challenge, so I just feel that I need to re-emphasize something from early on.


Nothing is worth the aggravation that comes to a writer who stops writing.

And with that, I bid you good night!

Monday, April 29, 2013

A to Z Challenge: You

A sad update on Damyanti's mother-in-law. After being bitten by a venomous snake a couple of days ago, she has passed away. Please pray for Damyanti and her family as they go through yet another difficult time. 

I want to point out something supposedly obvious today. Unfortunately, it's something that gets missed a lot by novel writers.

Writing is about you.

You write the book you want to read.

You write the characters in your head. The way you want them to be. Unless they decided to disabuse you of any notion of control and ran away with your story ages ago. It happens. Trust me.

Writing for the market is stupid. Repeat after me. Writing for the market is stupid.

Don't believe me?

Okay... sure. I hope you enjoy writing stories that you don't care for because the one you love above all isn't in the market. And let me just mention that the Reichenbach falls happened to Sherlock Holmes because his author grew to hate him. Why? Because no one wanted him to write anything else. Agatha Christie apparently killed off Poirot for the same reason.

And imagine you do succeed (by some miracle) at writing a novel that you hate, but it makes money. And no one ever ever wants to read something else by you again.

It'd be like being trapped in the seventh circle of hell. Just remember the waterfall has been done.

Now you get what I'm saying? Feeling a little nauseous at the thought of a writing career based on something you hate?

Good. Repeat after me. Writing for the market is stupid.

I'll draft only for myself. What I love.

And then edit in line with market expectations.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Xtreme Moods

Before I start today's post, I just want to ask that you please pray for Damyanti and her family. A few weeks ago, her sister-in-law passed away. But that's not all. A couple of days ago, her mother-in-law was bitten by a saw-scaled viper. This is a terribly venomous snake and she's in the hospital as we speak, fighting for her life. Allergic to the anti-venom, and systems starting to fail. D asked me to spread the word as far as I can, as her mother-in-law and the family as a whole need as many prayers as they can get. Please share this message with as many people as you can. And please pray. 

Today, I want to warn new writers about another thing no one ever tells you.

What you write can and does affect your mood. If your character is euphoric, you will be. If he's being crabby, you will be too. Murderous... yep. If you write a character's sex scene, you'll get turned on. A death scene and you'll cry your eyes out.

I can't really suggest something to combat this, because all of the above means that you're writing right. If you didn't feel any of how you wrote, how would you be able to get the emotion across to your readers?

But yeah. Be prepared. And remember that your family will think you're insane if you leave your writing space without winding down first.

Turn on some relaxing music, or do something that'll take you out of your writing world and put you in the real one. Possibly something repetitive and moderately mindless like knitting or mmm... sit-ups. Sit-ups are a good idea to combat all the sugar and caffeine you consume while writing. Jumping jacks too. Or just do a crazy dance while no one's looking.

Lock the door first, though, or you might be walked in on and be classed certifiably insane.

Veteran novelists: Do you unwind after a day's writing? How do you do it?

Friday, April 26, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Wanting to Curl Up in the Fetal Position

Hey all. No real post today. Flu is kicking my ass again, so I'll just be burrowing under the covers tonight.

Hopefully I'll be back tomorrow...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Vital Hydration

Note from me: I'm coming down with the flu, it seems, and I'm growing less coherent. So if my sentences run and end up half finished, forgive me.

So today's piece of advice isn't all that make or break, but it's definitely a tip I wish I knew when I started.


We need it.

Not coffee, tea, sugar, soda or any other fluid.


The others are nice, but the energy they give you aren't permanent. And after the initial high, they'll do more damage to your concentration than having gone without. So you drink more of them, and the resulting crashes will be a bit worse, until you can't go without the drinks at all.

Which is perfectly fine if you're into that sort of thing.

But please. Do me (and you) a favor and drink a glass of water. If you don't like the taste, add mint. Or lemon. Or strawberries. Or all of the above. But get some water in.

You brain craves water. If you drink caffeine, you just dehydrate it more. That's why you get head-aches when you stop.

But yeah. I know how hard it can be  to start drinking water when you're used to fizz, sugar and caffeine. So here's my tip. Keep a jug and glass at hand. And drink one glass. If you feel thirsty, drink another. Repeat through the day.

Also, if your mind feels fuzzy after a long day, go for water. Usually it's just dehydration.

Before you know it, you'll be a regular water guzzler.

What's your preferred drink? Will you be thinking of me while draining a glass of water? (I hope so. ;-))

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Unsure

One thing you need to know about writing: You'll never be quite sure about it.

You'll feel amazing one moment. The next, you'll doubt every word.

You'll spend the rest of your life trying to master the craft, except you never will. There's always something else to learn.

Sometimes, you won't even be sure about why you write at all.

But you'll write anyway, because it's the one passion in your life that's almost as important to functioning as breathing.

So don't worry about being unsure. That aspect to being a writer never goes away.

Get used to it.

What are you always unsure of as a writer?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Taking Breaks

Once you get to the end of your first draft, you'll fall into one of two camps.

The "OMG THIS IS AWESOME WRITING!!!" Perky Writers and


If you're lucky, you'll be on an island in the middle. And friendly with campers on both sides. Actually, I think this situation is by far more preferable to either of the above camps.

Why? Well. You think that the Perkies are best? No. Because Perkies tend not to have a clue as to the depth of the suckiness in their first drafts. I mean... Really. I don't think I know anyone who writes a publishable first draft. And as unassuming as I am, I think I'd secretly hate that person if I did. Ahem. There's also a special class of Perky. The Delusional. Don't be one. They're usually the least popular kids at camp. Seriously. Other writers often want to drown them.

On the other end are the Emos. They don't think that anything they produce is worthwhile. So. When they edit, there's a serious risk that they'll cut out too much, even jewels that really should have stayed. They have been known to take out a story's very soul during edits. Because they just can't stop tweaking.

See? The island is best. Come chill out away from the terrible over-confidence or the negativity. How? By taking a break. Catch up on t.v. Write something else. Paint. Take that non-writing holiday you sort of planned. Don't read your story or work on it for a while. By this I mean, if you remember a detail from something you wrote a few weeks ago, leave the book alone. What you want is the thrill of discovering something new every time you open your WiP to work on it. This includes rewrites, revisions and EVERY. SINGLE. ROUND. OF. EDITS.

Because if you veer towards either camp mentioned above, your edits are sunk until you can be neutral about your work again.

So, veteran novelists. Which camp do you usually belong to? How do you prefer to get away from your book?

Monday, April 22, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Stop Worrying!

Seems people have picked up that my series this month is about reality checks. Uh oh... now I have to change my approach or those in denial will avoid me. That would just be... inefficient.

So. Today will be a reality check for new writers still, BUT with a difference. This one has a much more positive spin. 

The message is simple. 


So what if your story has no plot? So what if your story is completely different from anything else in your genre? So what if prudes and the ignorant masses will try to burn your books once they're published? 

Most of us are fortunate enough to live in countries where we won't get shot for writing something different. 

Use that. Go nuts. Be as mad as a hatter on speed. 

Be you. 

And you'll be okay. 

I promise. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Reading as a Writer

If you're a writer, odds are that you're a reader too. It's probably your love for words and stories that inspired you to write in the first place. 

Needless to say, reading is important to writers. 

Once you start writing seriously, though, you might find yourself struggling to find time to read. I know I did. Still do. But it is important to keep reading. Whatever you can manage. 

Firstly, because reading is a good way to rest. And seriously, you'll need some. 

Secondly, the words you read or something about a plot or character can get you thinking. And those thoughts turn into ideas. Actually, this can happen with t.v. and computer games too, but don't go spending too much time there. Because I've discovered that looking for inspiration never works. You have to wait for it. 

Thirdly, whether you're trying to learn from writing or not, you're going to absorb a lot of information just by reading. That alone is worth its weight in gold.

So whenever you're blocked or need to rest your story before starting edits, read. 

Read a lot. 

Because if you're anything like me, you're going to miss it like an amputated arm while editing. You see, I can't read books at all during edits. Unless I'm critting them. 

It might be strange, but I can compare my issues to Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. That bit where Simza asks him what he sees. His answer: Everything. That's what it's like for me. I can see every tiny little thing the author did. Sometimes down to which scenes were put in later to smooth something over. 

You might be the lucky owner of an editing eye that closes when you tell it to. But if you don't, read as much as you can, when you can. 

You'll thank yourself later. 

Anyone else have issues with leaving editing mode? Even when reading other people's books? 

Friday, April 19, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Querying

Welcome back, ladies and gents. Today, I'm going to dangle a carrot before you. You want to get published, right? Excellent.

Here's the thing, if you want to go the traditional route to publishing, there's this small technicality between a completed novel and the publisher of your dreams. 


Veteran novelists, stop wailing. You're scaring the new kids. 


Okay... so honestly, it's more than a tiny technicality. It's... well... Honestly? 

Querying is a bitch. 

It's about being told no again and again despite the fact that agents keep saying they want what you have. And then they don't even tell you why. You don't even get to ask. 

Then I'm not even talking about the absolute agony of drafting the query letter in the first place. You see, you can do what you want. 250 words will never do justice to your story.

And more often than not, you'll have one shot at catching that agent's assistant's attention. 

Basically, what I'm telling you is this. Querying is like going into Category 5 hurricane with an umbrella. What you don't want is to query with an unfinished novel. 

And no, you definitely don't want to query a first or second draft. You want to go querying with the absolute best you have to offer. In other words, a story you can't imagine editing again. And the best query letter you can write. 

Without those, you haven't a hope. 

Any other query tips for a new novelist? 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Partners (And a crit partner match-up)

Writing is a solitary endeavor. It's hours and hours of drafting away alone until you come to the end. After the first few drafts, though, you're going to need partners.

Not after the first draft. Not after the second draft. You need to edit as much as you can until you can't see anything wrong with the story.

And then you send it out to crit partners or beta readers. Not your mom, sister or friend. They'll just keep saying. "That's so nice!"

Which isn't all that helpful.

You need someone who will read through a book and wonder about your character's motivation because you didn't highlight it enough. Or someone who'll spot a huge gaping hole in your story that you're so used to that it's just part of the scenery.

Good crit partners are also excellent cheerleaders. Not like your family, but they won't be out to cut down everything you've written. Unless you sent them a first draft. Which would be silly. Your partners will highlight what they like and what they want to see more of too. Those bits are really good for a writer's ego.

What do you do to have such an amazing writerly angel in your life? Easy. You do the same for them. Or at least promise to do the same once they're ready. This isn't a chore. There's something amazing about helping someone form their idea into what they want in the end. Just like they're helping with your book.

Where do you find crit partners? Well... there are websites that offer to match up crit partners. I'm sure the veteran novelists will be able to furnish some links in the comments.

I, however, try to get crit partners out of the bloggosphere. Every now and then, a blogger will give an opportunity for writers in need to advertise for a crit partner. Then, if you know the person and the story sounds interesting, you can offer to partner up.

...You know what? I think I'll do that today. In the comments, say you want a crit partner. Then give the following info:

  • Genre
  • A short pitch of the book. This isn't a query pitch, so don't worry about it being perfect. Just try to get the point across. Try to keep it under 50 words. 
  • State whether you prefer sending out whole books or a few chapters at a time. 
  • What are your writing strengths? (These also gives your partner an idea of your critting strengths.)
  • What are your writing weaknesses? (So people have an idea of what you need.)
  • E-mail address. To those of you new to blogging, please use the following format so as to avoid spam: name(AT)domain(DOT)com/co.country code.
So... who needs crit partners? Don't forget to check the comments as well as leave your details. Mail who you think you'll like and do a trial run of the first three or so chapters. Also, don't be afraid to crit outside your genre if you enjoy reading it. But make sure your prospective partner enjoys your genre too.

Who has tips on crit partnering? Any good websites to find crit partners? 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Organ Risk

There's something awesome yet painful about writing, be it a novel, short story, poem or blog. We writer's can pick up various disguises as we write. Sometimes, we write through characters. Other times, through a narrator. Or even through a way of bringing a point across, like academic writing. 

That's the great part, in case you're wondering. 

The less than great part is this. To write any fiction (and I suspect non-fiction, but someone with more experience will have to corroborate) that's worth reading, we need to tap into our souls. 

And then, we bleed everything we find onto a page. 

Sort of creepy, if you think about it. 

But if you want to write a novel, you can't escape it. See, you know how you felt when you were overjoyed. So you use those emotions for the day two of your characters marry. But books aren't all about happy days. There's fear. There's evil. There's rage. 

And if you want any of the above in your book, you're going to have to dig deep inside yourself in order to write it. 

Which is why criticism on our writing hurts like a bitch. No matter how good or bad your writing, it's part of the depths of your soul. Letting someone read it is like opening your rib-cage. 

Anyone who reads the story can take a stab at your heart. 

One would think that the easy solution would be to keep a book to yourself. Good thinking, except for a minor problem. See... writers are... well...

We're insane.
And even if we know there's the risk that people might hate the story we've written, we want to share the fruits of our labors. 

Which means that stabs to our hearts are part of the business. 

Who else feels terrified when letting a CP read your book? 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Nose to the Grindstone

Warning: Although I didn't intend it this way, today's post might be a bit ranty. 

As a veteran novelist, I should know better than to discuss writing with the general public. But you see, I know that writing is a wonderful activity, full of healing and, well, let's face it, a lot cheaper than prozac. So whenever I get a chance, I mention writing. 

But of course, that opens me up to critics and... well... this other breed of people. The ones where I have to unmake the decision to take them out. 

You've probably heard them too. "Oh I have an amazing idea. OMG!!! You can write it! I'll give you a share of the profits!!!" *cringe* "I also want to write, but I just never have the time." (Because all those series they just have to watch takes up everything they have left.) *snarl* "I write too, but... I don't know... haven't touched it in a while." (Or years.)

My inner response is usually: ARE YOU SERIOUS?! My outer one tends to be something like: Oh... that's nice... bye. 

Because (except in some cases the third type) those people are pretenders. They like to pretend that they are or will be writers. But they're not. 

The only way to be a writer is to write. Or when you're not writing, to be seriously thinking about plots and character etc. And yes, this may be harsh, but when you spend all your time on only thinking about writing without truly intending to get any of it written down, you're a fake. 

The only way you'll ever going to finish a book, or even a story is by sitting down and... you guessed it. Writing. No one else will do it for you. You'll need to make time for it. Even if it means that you have to sacrifice T.V. time. Ah... I can hear the wails now. And if you have a story that doesn't draw you and you're really a writer, why aren't you working on another project? 

Writers aren't people who look for excuses not to write (except when they're procrastinating, of course). They make writing a priority. Right after God and Family, most of the time. They're the ones who'll make it in the writing world. Basically because they applied the one writing rule to their lives. 


Anyone else get annoyed with pretenders? Especially those who try to turn you into a ghost writer? 

Monday, April 15, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Money

Today's going to be a bit of a tough subject, I'm afraid. But it's another of those things you have to know before you start writing a novel. Or before you devote too much time on it.

Brace yourselves, kids.

Writing novels makes almost no one rich.

It also doesn't do much towards bringing in an income.

But but but! I hear some of you shout back. J.K. Rowling! Stephanie Meyer! And any other one of the writing giants. And yes, they did make a lot of money. J.K. Rowling is richer than the Queen of England.


I don't think all the bestsellers put together make up 1% of the writers out there.

And I'm all for aiming for the skies. In fact I do too. Deep down, I'm really hoping that my books will be a huge success. But that's not why I write.

I write, because I love writing. Because I feel cranky and annoyed when I don't. The money and possible success doesn't really factor all that much.

Because to me, the thought of expecting money a lot of money from writing is a bit (sorry to those who disagree) ridiculous. Think about it. Even if you're only planning to survive on your writing income, you'll starve more often than not. Because it usually takes over a year to get as far as submitting a book. And then, it might not even be accepted. And if it is, it can take anything from six months to two years to see the book in print. So you'd better pray you get an advance. Because these days, it's by no means a given.

Or... you might say... you'll self publish. Great idea. But if you want to produce something that's going to build you a career, you'll need everything a publishing house would have given you. Editors. Cover design. Marketing. Formatting. And on. And on. And on. Unless you're really good at any of these, you're going to have to pay for everything. Actually, I should say you'll pre-pay everything. Because you'll be paying without being anywhere near to selling the product you're preparing.

I would have been willing to self publish if I hadn't sold my book to a publisher. Not because I thought I'd starve if the book didn't come out. Rather, because I was passionate about the story.

Sorry if this disappoints you, but I just feel that someone needs to tell you. If you're writing a novel for the money instead of the story, you're fighting a losing battle already.

Still, if you want to try, let me know how it goes.

Who agrees with me? Has any of you decided to write novels for money? How did it go?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Loss

Welcome back, new kids and veteran novelists. Today, I'll be painting you a little picture.

Of a new novelist in the throes of typing a new idea. An amazing idea. One that will, to the novelist's mind, set the market alight like Harry Potter. We're all sort of egotistical when neither inner nor outer critics are watching. Especially in the beginning.

Anyway. Weeks pass. Wonders happen. The story grows. As does the word count.

Things can't be better.

Until one day, the hard drive melts.

There is much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

"Oh that's silly," the veteran will say now. "All he should do is take out his... Oh... wait. He didn't back up, did he?"


He didn't.

When was the last time you backed up your writing? I know that there's this sense of "this won't happen to me", but I fear it will. I've lost tens of thousands of words because I didn't back up in enough places. So no. One flash drive isn't enough. I now have two portable hard drives and cloud drives where I keep my back-ups. Another easy solution is to e-mail the back-ups to yourself.

Generally, it doesn't even take long. So please, don't procrastinate on this. Every day you don't do it puts your work at greater risk.

One more word from the experienced, please make sure you're copying from the correct folder and pasting to the correct folder. Because if you replace the new version of a doc with the old, the new one can't ever be salvaged.

What's your record loss? How did it come about?

Friday, April 12, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Killing Babies

The veteran novelists will tell you new kids that writing a book is like childbirth. First, you'll conceive an idea. Then it will form into a baby as you write. And then, after a lot of effort (and some discomfort)

You'll give birth to a baby novel.

After that, you take a knife to it.

You see, your baby novel's arms will come out of its ears and its mouth will be in the center of its forehead.

And... well... it's head is going to face the wrong way. Unless it has two...

It's your job as writer to make sure that everything goes more or less to where it's supposed to.

"But that's an editor's job," some of you new kids are grumbling. Yeah. I know. I can read your mind...

But the thing is, I hope you have a lot of money. Because that editor charges you for every draft. Unless they tell you to send in a polished draft in the first place.

And no, editors at publishers don't acquire books that'll take long to fix. Don't even mention agents right now. Us vets will only laugh. Somewhat hysterically.

Therefore, making your baby presentable is your job. And sometimes, doing so is incredibly difficult. You might have to remove whole story-lines. Or cut out some of your favorite moments. Or even characters. Or you know the character trying to hog the lime-light? You might even have to make him understudy.

You see, sometimes, there are moments in the book that's so wonderful, that you'll have to take them out because the reader will notice you in the writing. Those feel like you're ripping your book to pieces.

And you'll have to do it. Because the story as a whole must be more important than any of its parts. Otherwise, it just won't work.

One highlight at the end of this bleak picture, though. Or maybe two... It tends to get easier with practice. (Especially if you manage to get some distance from the story before editing.) Also, the rewards of a good editing round are amazing. Because if you do it right, each round of revisions and edits (and there are many of them) will bring your book closer to what you envisioned in the beginning.

Who loves editing? Who hates it? What's the thing you had to cut out or change that absolutely broke your heart?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Just Can't Go On

Kids, today I'm going to tell you about a scary ailment that hits us novelists (and writers in general) from time to time. It's something I feel I have to tell you about, because vets tend to not talk about it. And I didn't know it could happen. As a result, it felt so much worse than it should have.


You know... that feeling where you'll rather clean your eldest son's smelly sock drawer. Or where you sit down in front of your writing medium of choice, but just can't form the words into cohesive sentences.

It isn't writer's block. Writer's block is what happens if you've painted yourself into a corner without realizing it. A short wait and a bit of writing generally solves the worst (although it can sometimes take a while for the paint to dry).

I'm talking about feeling like a wrung out sponge. An old prune with the interesting juices sucked out of you. I'm talking about feeling as if you'd been bled dry.

Worst of all, it feels like you have nothing to say.

At all.

Not a poem. Not a flash fic.

Not even a blog post.

It happens.

And it sucks.

What's the solution? Well... you make a blood sacrifice to your muse You take a break. From most writing. Or, if that doesn't help, from all of it.

You see, burn-out usually happens because you pushed yourself too hard. My worst burn-outs happen after bursts of intense productivity.

So pushing yourself even harder to get writing done will just burn you out more.

Instead, go take walks in beautiful places. Read an amazing book. Go to art galleries. Go explore somewhere new. Anything. After a while, that urge to write will strike you with a vengeance. Often as a result of something you were doing at the time.

Once that urge starts, get writing as much as you can.

What was the worst case of burn-out you ever suffered? What did you do to recover?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Internal Frenemies

For C-day, I introduced you the third most dangerous creature to your muse.

Today, I'm introducing you to the first two.

They're terrible. Terrifying. And they'll ruthlessly efficient in making your words churn to a stop. Problem is, the shovel-solution won't work. Well it would, but it won't help you write. Because... well... you'll be passed out.

And you'll wake up with a concussion.

The reason is that your two worst threats live inside you.

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to:

Name: Inner Censor
Race: Inner voice
Class: Destroyer of creativity
Language: Censorship

Description: The inner censor functions by making you doubt that anything you've written should see the light of day. "Take out that curse word!", "The story is too violent.", "Do you really think anyone would read this?" are common cries by this voice.

Then there's its little friend.

Name: Inner Editor
Race: Inner voice
Class: Creator of doubt
Language: Questions

Description: Inner editors thrive on weaknesses on your writing. The more you listen, the louder the voice becomes. "This character is two dimensional.", "This plot point is weak." and "There's not enough conflict" are common cries.

Why would inner voices be so dangerous?

More than half the time they speak, they're right. Or at least, right enough that you might want to listen to them. And then... you "fix" your book.

Which more often than not weakens the story. I mean... Imagine if Suzanne Collins made The Hunger Games less violent. Wouldn't quite pack the same punch, would it? Or J.K. Rowling. "You're writing a series starting as MG that goes over into YA. ARE YOU INSANE???"

The inner editor's threat seems smaller, but time and time again, I used to destroy my story's soul in first draft because I "fixed" stuff my inner editor pointed out.

So what do you do with these frenemies? It's actually difficult. And it depends on your writing method. I lock them up until after my rewrite. That way, I can focus on discovering the story without worrying about anything else.

Once revisions start, though, I let the censor and editor out. And then I listen to their complaints. I measure them on their merit. Some, I actually do take into account and I adjust my story accordingly after edits. Others, I just say: sorry... but I disagree. And then I ignore it.

Usually, the bits I did change is enough to keep them at peace during edits.

Still, I suspect everyone deals with their internal frenemies in their own way. So, veteran novelists, please share your methods so the new kids can pick up some tips?

And new kids, feel free to ask questions. I'll do my best to answer. And vets, you're welcome to answer them too.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Holding On

Recently, I wrote about determination, and one of my dear blogging friends brought up a very valid point that's just as valid in holding on continuing to write. 

Belief in yourself. 

And now I know everyone is rolling their eyes. Thinking that I'm going into power of positive thinking territory. 

Uhmmm... no. And let me mention one thing. If I ever say that I think that positive thought will create positive events on their own, you can shoot me. Because odds are that I'm rabid. 

Because the way I see it (and I'm quite vocal about this) is that positive thinking serves to give you the determination to do what you need to do. But hey, there are people who think differently about positive thought, and maybe they're right. 

Anyway... I'm digressing really - did you hear Margaret Thatcher died?- really badly. 

The fact is, writing a book is only the beginning. That finished product has a name. A first draft. After that, you have a second draft (maybe) and revisions (definitely) and edits (ad nauseum). And then... then comes this terrifying and truly trying time of a writer's career. Querying and publishing. 

Because you're probably going to get treated like your writing sucks. 

A lot. 

So. To make a long story short, determination alone won't cut it. You need to believe in your abilities as a writer. In the beginning, you won't have that, but your confidence will grow as you learn. And then, you also have to believe in the potential of your story. Once you're really finished, you need to believe in the strength of it. 

Because if you don't, you won't make it. This I promise you. If your faith in yourself and your skills isn't strong enough, you'll buckle at the first no you get. Or at the first bad review if you self-publish.

And none of us want that. Because it might mean that we readers miss out on some wonderful stories you wrote. Or could have written. 

Don't lose faith when things take longer than expected. You'll get there in the end. 

If you hang on enough. 

Who of you veteran novelists were almost at the point of giving up when you got a  "yes"? Any stories of determination from the self-publishing trenches? 

Monday, April 8, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Getting to Know You

Welcome back, new kids and veteran novelists alike. It's lovely to see you all here. Today, I have something very important to share - and I think the vets will agree with me. 

You see... when you start writing a novel, you haven't a clue about how to write. Or you have a clue. But you know what they say. A little bit of knowledge might just be enough to kill you. 

So what's a new kid to do? You research the craft, of course. That's probably why you're even here, reading this blog. You want to learn from others. 

And let me say one thing. The blogging community is a great place to learn. No one here is really here to make money on their writing wisdoms. (Their books, on the other hand... hint hint. Nudge nudge.) 

But the people in this community is so generous with information. This, my dear friends, is a blessing and a curse at the same time. 

If you're like me and you have an excellent sense of who you are and what you're trying to achieve, it's a blessing. Because if you search long enough, you'll find what you're looking for.

You guys who are a bit less specific don't have it so lucky, though. It's sort of like walking into a writing library and asking for a writing book. 

The librarian will just keep stacking books until you're buried. 

And I've seen it again and again in blogs and comments. 

"I enjoyed writing up to this point. But there are so many conflicting rules to it that I don't know how I'm supposed to write right." 

Sound like you? Yeah... thought so. 

You there... the tiny little thing in the corner who gave up on writing because you read too much advice and don't know how to write any more. This message is for you.

First, I have a list of questions that you need to answer me. Give me all the right answers, please. Do you...

  • Write in the morning or at lunch? 
  • Squeeze in bits of writing every chance you get? Or do you block off hours of writing uh... let me venture to say... joy? 
  • Require a road map in your writing or do you make it up as you go along? 
  • Write every day or when inspiration strikes? 
  • Pen or keypad? 
  • If pen. Blue pen or black? 
  • If keypad... Comic Sans or Times New Roman? 
  • Muse or no muse? 
  • Character driven or plot driven? 
Yes kids, the veterans are cat-calling for a reasons. These are trick questions.

The answers are all correct. So yeah. Your approach to writing is highly personal. And you have absolute carte blanche about how you write. 

But the point is that you have to find what works for you. And only you. 

You're not J.K. Rowling. You're not J.R.R. Tolkien. You're not Danielle Steele. You're not going to write like them. Because odds are, your personalities differ. 

You are the person who knows what works for you. So stick with what you know works. Even if, in my opinion, you're the insane person who plots all the way to the end in *shudder* blue ball point pen. 

I'm the insane person known for writing entire drafts in black fountain pen ink. See?! Look at some of the vets shivering. Thankfully, they're too nice to call me nuts. 

But you know why it's okay? Because the only way to write a book is the way you write to get the project finished. 

Nothing else. 

The point? Once you know your method, you can find what's niggling. And then you go researching to find a solution to that niggle. Anything else, you're welcome to disregard.  

Even when it's my excellent advice. 

So, vets... Why don't you do me a favor and answer me the questions listed above? New kids, do the same. It'll help you a great deal, I think, asserting yourself and your method. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Failure

Mmm... today I'm seeing some shudders amongst those not-quite-so-new novelists among you.

For very. Very. Good reason.

Because failing sucks.

Really does.

And I'd be incredibly sympathetic except for a tiny little insignificant little truth that we vets know about and you don't. Stop giggling vets. I'm going to spoil your fun and tell them.

Brace yourselves, kids, it's a big one.

There is no such thing as a failed book.

You know those half finished works in progress hidden under your beds and in boxes and drawers? Nope. They're not failures. Not even the terrible ones.

Okay new kids, you can stop gaping. It's really true. Ask anyone who've been in the game for a while.

The reason for this is twofold:

Firstly, a failed book is only a failed book once you've given up on a story for ever. And I guarantee that you won't. The reason why I know is because of the second reason why failed books don't exist.

Every new project you start is a lesson in what works and what doesn't. So yeah. Some of your old stories will have sucked. But never all of it. Maybe there's an awesome character waiting to come to life. Or the basic premise was AMAZING but you didn't have the chops to pull it off.

Guess what. You're learning. Every time you take on a new story, you're learning. And if you have an open mind to what critique partners have to say... If you pay attention to the lessons other writers learnt (blogs are brilliant sources of this sort of information, by the way)... Guess what. You will learn even faster.

And once you have the chops, you have three choices. You can use everything you've learnt up to this point and write something completely different. Or you can go back to one of the previously imagined failed manuscripts. There, you can either rewrite the whole thing using your mad new writing skills, or you can recycle everything you can use and start something better with it.

So I'm asking you nicely. Please please stop being afraid of failing. Try being excited about learning instead. And if you have to give up on a project, don't get rid of it. Don't forget about it. Because something inside might just be what gives you a bestseller idea.

How have you used knowledge gained in "failed" writing projects?

Friday, April 5, 2013

A to Z Challenge: External Factors

Funny that this is today's topic, since it's pretty much a summary for my day. And sorry if the post turns out to be a bit... dry. I'm not sure if I'll be able to be funny(ish) today. 

The reason: Last night, I went to bed with a slight niggling ache above my right brow. When I woke up this morning, it was a full-blown migraine. 

For those of you who've experience one: it was one of those bouts. You know, that makes you want to cry like a little girl and roll into the fetal position. Even if you happen to be in the bank. 

BANK! Yes. I was. With a migraine. And a bruised butt because of the not so gentle injection I'd received for the pain. All to pay a tenth of my salary into a bank account I don't use because of bank charges I didn't technically incur. So that I could close it. 

I arrived home in time for lunch, ate, and almost as soon as I left the table, another bank's lady rang the bell to arrange for my new account. So yeah. Migraine, although no longer acting like a perverse imp with a jackhammer, is still there, and still knocking at my skull occasionally. 

After she left, I got a bit of work done. And here I am. Typing this post before I ball up into the fetal position like I'd wanted to do all day. 

Aaah... the things I do for new novelists. 

Any of you notice something? Or... more specifically, do any of you not notice something? 

Yeah... writing is conspicuous in its absence today. I haven't written a word. And I won't until tomorrow. 

And that's okay. 

Because sometimes, life happens. Even to us writers. 

We still have to deal with banks and sick children and basements that flood and the coming zombie apocalypse. Well... maybe not the kids and the flooding basements. Not all of us have those. 

But the point is, sometimes, we just can't write because there's no time. 

And that's okay. 

Tomorrow, or maybe next week, will be better. 

As long as you come back to writing as soon as you can. 

What has been your external-factor-day from hell? 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Determination

On A-day, I asked the veterans what advice they wanted to share with the new kids.

About 90% of them had versions of the same message:


There's a very good reason why this is so big in the veterans' eyes.

They know. They've been beyond the point where the new idea's shininess wears off. They kept going. They've been at edges of mile-wide plot holes. They kept going. They've had to beg, plead and bribe uncooperative characters to play along. They kept going. Their muses have vanished. For days. They kept going.

They kept going.

Oh it all sounds glorious to you now, doesn't it? So clean and surgical. But if you were a fly on the wall of a writer's office, you'll see it's not pretty.

Some writers get buzzed on caffeine to deal with the stress. Some become nervous wrecks.

Some (I'm in this group) do this...

Sometimes I do it while screaming like a banshee.

Yeah. Not pretty at all.

But we keep going. At some point, we stop messing around and get back to writing. We go looking for the story's shine again. We go filling up plot holes. We find some middle way with out characters and they show us where the story should be heading. And we let the muse back in to continue.

Sad. Isn't it?

Yet, there's no other way for a writer to live. Without writing -- without finishing what we're writing -- we (at least I) feel incomplete.

So we keep going. Because shit. What else are we going to do?

What do you do when bumping into a problem while writing?
New kids. Do you think what I described is normal? Congrats! You might just make it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Critics

Here for the IWSG post? Click here. Here for more advice for beginning writers? Pull up a chair.

Well, new novelists. A few months into seriously writing a new novel, you're going to discover that you've mutated.

Yeah. Like the X-Men.

You're just not a normal human being any more.

Personally, I think this is great, because normal is... well... boring.

You'll see yourself differently and you'll look at the world differently. And sometimes, the normal people will speak. And you'll think they might as well be speaking Swahili.

But today, I'm going to introduce you to another mutation in the human race. Here's some info I want you to remember.

Name: Critic
Race: Human
Class: Asshole
Language: Bullshit

Description: The critic is a versatile and dangerous natural enemy to the writer. Usually, their calls take one of these forms:

  • So what's your real job? 
  • Do you really think you have something to write? 
  • All the stories have been written already. 
  • But you're not published, are you? 
  • What could there possibly be to writing a novel? (Implication: that you're a prize idiot for taking long to finish writing.)
There are many more, but you get the idea. Their attacks are civilized, but if they hit home, they're absolutely deadly to your muse. Do not. I repeat. Do NOT let their attacks stick. 

Defense: I prefer hitting them in the face with the shovel. But since that's sort of illegal, the better idea is to use sarcasm. Or, if you're the type of person who never gets the snappy come-backs, there's another full proof way to get a critic to froth at the mouth shut up:

Practice the bestest best of your smug wise-ass smiles. Got it? No teeth. It makes you look like a werewolf. Good. 

Now. Repeat after me: 

"Why don't you write a book and then ask that question again? Because right now, you haven't a clue." 

And then you walk away and pat yourself on the back being civilized while putting the critic in his or her place. 

Probably while contemplating a short trip to the garden shed.

So vets. How do you deal with critics?

Insecure Writers' Support Group

In case you're wondering, I'm aware that this doesn't start with C. ;-) The A to Z Challenge post will go live at 1:30 p.m. Central African time.

So. Back to my insecurities. 

In case you don't know, the Insecure Writers' Support Group is a monthly bloghop where writers get together to share insecurities and encouragement.

This month, I have a serious insecurity. 

See... Doorways was accepted for publishing on the condition that I split it into two novels. Great opportunity because I basically have two books in the series done. 

Not so great in that it means that I had to take an ax to the story I love. 

BUT! There was a point in the book, almost exactly halfway into the story, that acts sort of like a natural break. So that was easy. The difficult part came in when I actually have to separate Doorways not into two halves, but into two stories. 

Because now I have to take a story that worked (and worked well, even if I say so myself) and add to it. 

Suddenly, the word "revision" sounds ominous... 

Anyone else have to split one story into two? 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Bravery

Welcome to the second day of the A to Z Challenge, new and veteran novelists alike.

Today, I want to introduce you to the most intimidating obstacle to be found when you're starting to write. It's one that even makes us veteran's cringe and flinch away. Even after many many encounters with this... deep... dark... okay dark won't work.

Two dimensional... blank... white... first... page.

Okay, vets, you can stop hissing at it.

Ah good. I see some of you have your writing utensils out.

You see, new kids, there's only one way to beat the scourge of the blank page. You need to be brave.

You need to look the pages right in the... uhm... blankness and find something to write on it. Don't hesitate. Don't think about the best way to approach it. The longer you wait, the bigger the page's intimidation grows.

Attack it.  Just write. And keep writing until the page is full.

And once it is, attack its little brother the second page too.

Once you get it done, you'll find you'll have a few days of furiously easy and fun writing. Enjoy it!

When was the worst time you had to face a blank page?

Monday, April 1, 2013

A to Z Challenge: About Writing Your First Novel

Before I start, I just want to give a HUGE shout-out to Arlee. Thank you for creating this awesome blogfest! It's definitely one of the highlights of my blogging year. 

And now, back to the original posting.

Congratulations on choosing to write a novel. It will give you hours on hours of pleasure and you'll love every single moment of it.

Veteran novelists, STOP GUFFAWING.

It is truly the easiest art -

Novelists! Stop laughing this instant! It's rude.

Ahem. Easiest art to partake in. After all, you've written e-mails and memos for years.

Seriously, vets. How do you expect me to trap people if you make me sound ridiculous. Can you at least limit your response to chortling?


Oh fine.

Writing a novel is an amazing passion. And I'm not calling it a hobby for a reason. Nothing you've ever done before will prepare you for writing 50+ thousand words of cohesive story.

It'll consume you. Sometimes, it'll treat you well. Those times are amazing. They're what makes writing worth the struggle.

But struggles there are many. I'm going to share some of them this month, so you know what you're up against. This isn't intended to scare you off, but to arm you with knowledge you'll require. Because a big part of what makes the struggle really difficult is thinking that you're the only one.

You're not.

So if you really want to write a novel, be prepared to feel the burn. If not, I think you should find something else to devote the majority of your free time to.

Who's sticking around?


Welcome to the madhouse, ladies and gentlemen! I hope you enjoy your stay!

Okay novelists! Now you get to have your say. Any advice to the new recruits?