Monday, April 30, 2012

Today's post is brought to you by illness

I may or many not be drugged up on cold meds right now so before I start typing things about rainbow butterflies and purple platypuses let me just send you over to the latest Writing Excuses.  It's about discovering your voice.  If you happen to find mine let me know. I'd like to be able to talk again soon. 

Wait.... wrong kind of voice.  Why don't we just pretend that segue was funny and leave it at that.

Friday, April 27, 2012


There are a ton of good reasons to join SFWA if you write Science Fiction or Fantasy.  There is prestige.  There is fame.  And there is the Griefcom. Griefcom is who you can go to when something is going really wrong in the business of publishing and normal channels aren't fixing it.  You must be a member of the SFWA to use their service but they can help negotiate issues of non-payment, revision of rights, or abusive contracts.  I don't know if RWA or MWA have similar programs as well but I highly recommend checking out the groups for your genre.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ebook news

Tor publishing has decided to no longer sell ebooks with a DRM code in the file.

John Scalzi (president of SFWA and published by Tor) shares some of his thoughts here.  It will be interesting to see how things will be changing in the ebook landscape in a few more years.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ten ways I make myself write

I need to follow this advice today.  I'm trapped with far to much #9. 

1. Take a break: if I have been writing pages and pages and suddenly I don't know where the story needs to go, getting away from it helps my subconscious to start putting pieces together. I read a book, a blog, or just get out of the house. This only works when I’ve already put in the work though. Taking a break after ten words is a cop out, which brings me to…

2. Summarize: Sometime the scene isn't working yet. I have been known in first drafts to write; "they fight, add it later" and move on. On the same note imagine the scene is already written. You will be surprised what details you find that already know about that scene by writing the scene right after your troublesome one.

3. Calculate: As soon as I know what type of book I am writing I have an idea of the length it needs to be. Young adult is about 50-100K. Most novels are around 80-100K of words with fantasy going as high as 150K (or if you are Jordan or Rothfuss MUCH higher). I pick a number in the range and use that as my goal. Then I figure out chapter length, 2-5K for me, and figure out how many chapters I need, I rounding up. I have a spreadsheet with words, pages and chapters to go to meet my goal and a count for how many more words to go in a chapter. I like the organization and tangible measure of progress. Why yes I have an inner type A.

4. Outline: Once I have that first rush of story that tells me who and what I am writing about, I try and figure out what needs to happen to get my characters to the ending. If I get stuck in the outline I write a ending and work backwards to figure out how to get there. I write about 10-400 words per chapter. Sometimes I write out major bits of dialog and description, other times I write, “Tie up the fight. Be clever! No pressure here.”

5. Don't go backwards: As you are writing the story you will get ideas for the parts you have already written. That is great, but if you break off writing and scroll back to chapter 3 and find the scene that all of a sudden needs to have ice-cream in it to emphasize the deep spiritual meaning of waffle cones in chapter ten, then getting back to where you started is much, much harder. I've heard of writers that keep a notebook next to their computer and jot notes down as they come up. I type red text into Word right in the middle of what I was doing. I fix it during the revision phase. I don't look up names or facts either unless it's vital. If I don't remember what I named Matt's little brother then I type "xxlittlebrother" and keep going. The xx makes it easier to search with Find and Replace later. I also change my text to be minuscule on the chapters I am not working with so I can't get sucked into the story or into doing fussy edits yet.

6. Type something: If I absolutely can not figure out what comes next then I start free typing. Delete is always an option but usually something will come out a few words after typing "I don't know what to write" or “What do I need to happen next?” I find the physical part of typing to be relaxing, I’ve never been what you would call normal.

7. Work on something else: I work on a couple of projects at once. Writing something fun and with out the pressure of being the "first draft of X project I am going to submit professionally" helps me get words. And perhaps that space squid story will get sold someday.

8. Be bad: I give myself permission to be horrible when I first draft. I overuse words, use trite metaphors and ignore the spelling check. That is what the second draft is for (and the third and fourth and…) On the first draft I need to get the ideas down, meet my characters and write an interesting story. I think of it as the pencil sketch for a painting. Once it’s down I can erase like crazy, fill in where needed and edit, edit, edit.

9. Research: Sometime knowing the whys about your environment can give you new ideas on how your character would act. Just don't research more then you write. It's easy to fall into the trap of researching every single detail. Research is great, the story is more important.

10. Read it out loud: If it's not working I go back to the last place that the writing did work and read out loud till it doesn’t. I can usually hear where the narrative is off and how to fix it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Avatar! Not the blue guys.

Hands up how many people have seen the Nickelodeon series Avatar the Last Airbender?  I think the television series is one of the best stories to hit TV.  It is aimed at children but the series covered a full arc of redemption, defining morality, sacrifice, and selflessness.  The shows five main characters evolve and grow in realistic ways so at the end of the three series arc they are all different yet still recognizable.

A very funny writer by the name of Ferrett Steinmetz suggested watching the series of Avatar (or at least the first season) and then watching the movie by the same name.  It's the exact same events that happen in the series, albeit tightened for time.  Yet the characters were stripped of the things that make us love them and they lost their growth and arc.  *Spoiler*  Aang in the television series begins as childish and flighty. As he begins to see how the world around him has changed for the worse he grows more focused but he doesn't entirely lose his sense of fun. In the movie he was serious at the start, and he stayed that way.  The movie had to cut events and play in shorthand what took about 8 hours and 2 episodes to do on the small screen.  But the end result was still a pale reflection of the original story.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stopgap measures

I've got a couple of deeper posts half written right now but while I try to edit them to a coherent state have a link. 
Why publishers fail.  If anyone was following the insanity a year or so back when Aspen Mountain folded stranding authors mid publications and the nightmare of rights and recriminations that followed.  This goes through a few of the examples, the causes and some tips that can help avoid that sort of situation.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Links Galore

Today's post needs to be short and sweet so here are some of my favorite links:

Absolute Write Forums This is a wonderful community for writers at any level and with all different kinds of goals. For those who are looking at professional publishing though I will recommend their Bewares, Recommendations and Background check forum.

Writer Beware This is one of my very favorite blogs. What can I say, I like watching them dismantle scams. If you are thinking about publishing at all, self-publishing, small press or with a major house, read through this blog. They can help you avoid throwing away your money, your time, and your rights.

Pat Rothfuss's blog I love everything that Pat writes. His writing advice on the blog is sporadic but what is there cuts to the heart of crafting stories.

Pub Rants This is agent Kristin Nelson's blog. I particularly recommend her Agenting 101 series for a great look at contracts and what sort of language should be in there.

Miss Snark This blog is closed however if you read through the archives their is a wealth of information both in how to land an agent and how to craft a compelling query letter/pitch.

I'll be back on Monday with more bloggery goodness.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Can you see the theme....

I've been on a roll recently, going through the back episodes of Writing Excuses and applying their advice to my latest outline.This episode is one of my new favorites:

If you are seeing the word formula and rolling your eyes, hold on to your skepticism.It is not quite as exacting as a2 + b2 = c2 but the case it makes for character roles and pacing are very good. You can break the formula, (and they list a few successful things that do) but knowing it can help tighten your story a lot.

One of the main points I took out of this was dissecting my characters role in the story.In the piece I am working on now I have set up about five major characters.My protagonist is easy to identify, I am telling the story in a limited third person through her eyes.My antagonist is not my villain, it is one of the character who is closest to the protagonist and a generally good person.My relationship character is someone who will probably be identified as a villain. My villains, while they are driving the plot, are not important to the underlying story I am telling.

An example of the three character dynamics in Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold the protagonist is Cordelia Naismith.The book is about her actions and written from her view.The Antagonist is the main male lead, Aral Vorkosigan and *spoiler* her eventual husband.The plot is about a coup and a war but the story is about loving someone so completely that you make a sacrifice for the relationship and the way that love changes us.The relationship character is harder to identify.This was originally written as two books. Bothari the tortured batman of Aral's is the relationship character of the first book but I feel that the second half, where the love theme changes from romantic love to maternal love, that Princess Kareen shows the theme of the story.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Foils in story

I'll repeat my plug from yesterday, Writing Excuses. They have a wonderful episode in the sixth season about character foils. Go, listen, I'll wait.

In my writing I like my foils for my romantic characters. I particularly love the scholarly character paired with the more street smart. Patrica Wrede's Kim and Mairelon and Tamora Pierce's George and Alanna are great examples.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I think I'm back....

A few years ago, just before this blog went quiet, something happened and it's taken a while for me to find some equilibrium. Pregnancy and the lovely ball of chaos that is my son didn't help the adjustment. Babies are little energy vampires that only increase once they reach toddler-hood. Very adorable entrancing energy vampires that occasionally sparkle (because Mommy forgot to put the glitter on a high enough shelf and six months later we are still washing it out of his hair).

And that's about all the navel gazing I want to deal with. The end result is that the things I love that haven't been in my life are coming back in. Blogging is one of them.

I'll leave you with a wonderful link to Writing Excuses. It is a fifteen minute podcast that produces a new episode each week about writing. I am a fan.