Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Today I have an "update post" about publishing, and what I'm working towards, some tips (or information rather) that I've picked up recently, as well as a small bit about InkTober and my goals for it.
First off, I'll start with the publishing. As you may have noticed, I've made some changes to the website -- which weren't supposed to be live until this post aired, but went live last week due to an issue (sorry about that). If you haven't yet seen the changes, if you take a look around you'll see that the free-read stories are gone -- and soon you'll see links for sites like BN and iTunes reappearing.
This year has been filled with a lot of transitions for me, especially in publishing. The year has seen the splitting of my books under two names, the remerging of those names, the move to Patreon and free reading...and then the full circle back, somewhat, to where I started. In short, this year has been an experiment for me, and thank you readers for sticking by as I've worked to solidify just what it is I want to do in this business.
My dear friend M said the other day that publishing is not a lucrative or easy business, and I can certainly agree -- one might even say it's less lucrative and easy than it used to be, arguably. But when I think of what I want to do, publishing books is still it. As you may know from reading, my 4 year publishing anniversary is coming up (more great tips to be shared then), and this has been a really wonderful time for me to reflect.
My biggest struggle, perhaps, has been finding out what works for me as a person, and therefore what works for my business. I'm still working on discovering what exactly is the best for me as a writer, but I've learned some new things recently that will hopefully be of help to some of you.
A Bit About Patreon (or Crowdfunding) ~
Some months ago now, I started a new leg of my experiment: I put my books up for free read on my website, as well as kept e-book copies on Smashwords and paperbacks available, and I signed up for Patreon. For those unfamiliar, Patreon is basically a crowd funding site, only unlike some of the others they employ a longer-term patron method: creators create creations, post them, and through Patreon fans are able to support them monthly or by post, usually for only a few dollars.
I have seen others do extremely well with Patreon -- usually, I will admit, comic artists or Youtube users, and sometimes podcasters; not many writers, but perhaps it's the platform -- but after trying it out for myself, I learned that it didn't work for me personally. I think it's a good avenue for some people, but if there's anything I've learned about myself through this experiment, it's that I work better slowly, sometimes what might be considered snail's pace compared to others. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but I don't believe that sites such as Patreon work well for everyone in this situation.
So, if you are considering a crowd funding avenue, take a glance at how you work before trying it. On Patreon at least, most people post things regularly -- weekly or bi-weekly, though quite often there are daily posts, as well. People have been successful by posting once a month, but that might depend on your following, and the type of work you do. Generally, it seems that those who post more have a bigger following.
Putting things up on the "patron only" feed is another thing that didn't work for me, personally. On the "patron-only" feed, you are naturally meant to post things that only the paying patrons will see. I think it's a good idea, if you're someone who likes to give behind-the-scenes info on your work, such as production notes, etc., but if you like to throw everything out there for everyone, then it might become frustrating.
Also, something else to consider: it's a bit tedious to keep up with posting things on Patreon, your website, and other social media; you want to keep on top of it if you're going to use it, and make sure you spread the word as much as possible. People are still new to crowd funding sites, and this website has a bit of a different method, so be sure to let your fans know how it works up front.
A Bit About Free Books --
I've declared my frustrations with free books before, but it remains true that they are a good marketing tactic, and that plenty of readers wouldn't find your work without them in our overly crowded marketplace.
As part of my research, I placed these free reads (in Scribd. PDF format) on my website instead of on retailers in e-book format (for free, that is; I asked readers to "donate" through the purchasing of the e-book on Smashwords, if they didn't want to become a patron on Patreon). I was curious to see what the influx of visitors to the site might look like, and if my e-books sold better or worse after readers read on my website versus read via e-book.
The results were interesting.
It was the end of May that I switched over to free reads and Patreon, and from what I can tell by analyzing the numbers, I really didn't have much of a spike in visitors, despite the free reads, which I posted about on my social media accounts. The real spike didn't come until I started writing and sharing more blog posts and writing tips, interestingly enough. The number of visitors has increased quite a bit due to my posts, and that makes me very happy, as I like sharing advice with other writers.
As far as book sales, I won't go into numbers, but I can say that sales decreased when books were offered for free on my website, versus free to download on retailers. I find this a bit odd, because the readers were reading free book either way -- the same text and everything -- but perhaps it simply means that readers prefer to download the book, versus access a website.
Going Back To Basics...Or Not --
I've learned a lot this year, some of which will be explored further in my publishing anniversary post (October 14th), but though I'm sort of back where I started, I don't really feel like I'm back where I started at all. Taking a "break", in a way, has been very good for me. Through stepping back and trying something new, I've found some of the connection with my work that I felt had been lost.
Working tirelessly trying to get readers to my book, write and publish quickly, was exhausting, and fueled for me a hatred of publishing that was growing much too close to a hatred of writing. Through stepping back and opting for a more "organic" approach, I've had time to focus not only on what I want to write, but on how I want to write it. I've rediscovered and rekindled my need to do things my way, despite what some of those self-publishing books might tell you about writing and publishing quickly, quickly, quickly. By stepping back, I've realized that I really can't change the publishing model we have, the parts I both love and hate, but I can change how I myself work and function through it.
I'm back in the game, but the game is no longer the same. I have a fresh view that translates heavily to this: don't just publish, but publish the book you want to read; cherish your journey, and don't rush; take every step you can to make your work the best you can, and every step you can to be yourself; work at your own pace, but it fast or slow, and don't feel like you're doing it wrong if you're doing it differently than everyone else.
Welcoming October -- and InkTober!
Now that my "break" is over, I'm ready to get serious again! Autumn is here (though it doesn't fully feel like it in Florida), and it's creative time for me.
NaNoWriMo is swiftly approaching with November, but before that I'm trying something new in InkTober, where I will be creating an ink drawing every day (or at least I'm going to try for every day), and posting it here on the site. Please check back to see my work!
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
I hope you're excited for the beginning of October, which is coming up quickly. I have always loved autumn, and Halloween in particular. Here, autumn officially began last night around 10:30, which makes me even more excited to be out of the summer season -- and hopefully the weather reflects that soon!
This will be my last "Cracking Fiction" post, because next month I'll be writing about NaNoWriMo prep to welcome in the NaNoing season. If you don't know what NaNo is, and you're a writer, or want to be writing, please check out the NaNo website. It's a very fun, free event for writers, challenging you to write 50,000 in a month, with local events and such. Sign up, and give it a try!
Also, my publishing anniversary is coming up! It's unfortunately on a Sunday, so I won't be posting on the anniversary, but that Tuesday (the 14th), I'll be penning a special post about publishing.
Anyway, enough news! Onto the post!
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There are many writing styles, genres, and, arguably, many types of writers, as well -- from the recluse, the happy group writer, to the over-cafineated writer with shaking hands -- but generally we put writers into one of two major groups: the pantsers and the plotters.
In case you're unfamiliar with these terms, let me explain. The pantser is the writer who writes "by the seat of their pants", or, in other words, without plotting, outlining, etc. This writer sits down and dives in, no questions asked. The plotter, however, is, as the name would imply, the writer who likes to plot everything out. There are varying degrees of both, and many people happen to fall in between, but generally we sway one way more than the other.
I, amazingly, tend to be more of a pantser than a plotter...in one sense. I'm an analyzer and mastermind by nature (if anyone likes the MBTI test, or is familiar with it, we can attribute this, I suppose, to my "INTJness"), but I do most of my plotting mentally. I spend quite a bit of time plotting mentally, actually. But when it comes to actually writing, I most often sit down and start writing without physically writing any of my mental notes down.
For the longest time I was alright with this, but even I find that writing things down can lead to new details -- or, if nothing else, there is little room for error or forgetting. Though I'm naturally a pantser in my physical writing habits, I've started keeping a notebook in which to write down my thoughts for whatever story, and it certainly has made a difference. I often have to make myself do it, because it seems like a waste of time at first, but I've found that it's a helpful practice.
So, here are a few tips for pantsers, easy ways to do a little plotting without feeling overwhelmed.
1: Lists ~
Who doesn't love a good list? For the pantser, a list can be quite helpful, in fact. Lists are much easier to swallow than long paragraphs with minute details.
Some things to consider listing:
Character names and attributes.
Romantic, familial, or friendly ties.
A sequence of events or scenes you're interested in including.
References for characters, landscape, etc. (pictures or books that inspire you, films).
Quotes you want to include, or that inspire you.
A note on the last two: I find it's important to keep my thoughts situated not only on my writing, but also on what inspired me to write what I'm currently writing in the first place.
2: Scenes ~
A pantser naturally doesn't like plotting, but they enjoy writing -- so what better way to plot than by writing?
Often, scenes come to us randomly, and it's a good idea to write them down when they do. They may be short, only a few paragraphs, but these scenes help us to discover more about our story and characters, and might even give us new ideas for our book...or tell us what doesn't work.
3: Character Interviews / Profile ~
Another good, and fun, way to get to know your characters is to conduct an interview with them. This works much like a normal interview would, with you "asking" your characters questions, and them "answering".
How can this help? You will discover your character's unique voice, but you may discover something else.
Me: So, Bob, what was your childhood like?
Bob: *fidgets, stares at the wall, doesn't talk*
Bob: It was fine.
Me: Just "fine".
Bob: Yes, just fine! What, do I have to write a novel for you? Isn't that your job?
A seemingly innocent question can bring out hidden fears or scars that your character has, and how they react will tell you a lot about them, and what they are hiding -- which gives you something to explore in your novel.
4: The "Why" Game ~
This tip I gained from one of my writerly friends, whom I will call "J". The "Why Game" is just that -- a series of questions, all of them "why". The answer can be one word, or sentences, or paragraphs, or pages, but in asking "why" over and over again, you are delving deeper into the core of your story.
It may look like this:
Robin is a hunter.
Because her mother was a hunter.
Because her husband was killed by a wild animal, and she wanted revenge -- plus she had to provide for her daughter.
Because people eat -- and the wild animal was hungry, too, and thought the man looked appetizing.
Because the game in the animal's part of the forest had been killed by other hunters, and the animal was forced to find a new source of food. Irony.
Your answer may be farfetched or odd, but it's something to work off of!
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Even if you don't like the more "traditional" plotting, it's always good to remember that there are many different types of writing styles, and you can find what works for you. You might be a plotter that hates outlines, but who loves writing up backstory on napkins at the bookstore -- or you might be a pantser who likes having a stable idea first, but doesn't want to plot everything out, and who ends up writing snidbits in a notebook.
It's important to remember that not one style of story construction is wrong...it is all up to the writer.
Blog Updates / Upcoming Events
A lot of fun things are coming up! Here is a list of some of the things I will be doing. Please stop by the blog and check them out!
Tuesday September 30th ~ Publishing Update
I'll be writing about some of my publishing and website changes, and a few new things I've learned.
October ~ InkTober all month long!
InkTober is a challenge, much like NaNoWriMo, to do something creative every day -- in this case, create ink drawings. I have yet to decide whether I will do a drawing every day or twice a week, but I will be posting my new drawings here, my Tumblr, Pinterest, and putting some up on the RedBubble store, too!
If you're interesting in inking with us, check out the InkTober website for more info.
October 14th ~ Publishing Anniversary Celebration
Every year for my publishing anniversary, I try to write an inspirational post concerning what I've learned about publishing and writing over the past year. This year is number 4!
October Posts ~ NaNo Prep
I will also be writing some NaNo prep posts for October, talking about some Wrimo-y fun to help get you ready for the NaNoing season.
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Today I am bringing you a post that I'm actually quite excited about. I've realized, somewhere in looking over my writing posts, that I don't often write about, well, the actual process of writing -- usually I'm speaking about how to keep inspiration, or what mindset I believe we need to have as writers. But here I'm going to talk a bit about some "actual writing" tips, though I'm sure there will be some of the former, as well.
What form of writing will I be giving you tips concerning? Something that quite a few of us -- or most probably all of us -- fear:
This post comes to me from a conversation I had yesterday with one of my writing friends. I think I've mentioned her before. We will call her El. Well, El is working on rewriting a novel that she finished I would say closer to 6, maybe even 7 years ago. El has been out of the writing world, for the most part, for over a year, due to life circumstances. Though she is excited about this rewrite, and together we were able to hash out a new backstory that she really likes, filling in some plot holes, she is still very nervous and overwhelmed with the idea of a rewrite.
El has never rewritten a book, but this is something I have a bit of experience with. I can't say that experience itself makes you an expert, but it does, if nothing else, make you more familiar with how the process works.
One of the stories I am currently working on is in its 7th or 8th edit -- I've nearly lost count at this point. I have even unpublished, rewritten, and re-published some of my works in the past, finding that I wasn't satisfied with them (this, I can point out, is a difficulty with being self-published, because there is no automatic team being payed to help you fine-tune your story; there are ways around this, but it's less easy); there is a difference between being unsatisfied and wanting your book to be perfect, which I will get to in a bit. Revision and rewriting really aren't anything new for me, but I remember a time when the thought of either was terrifying -- and truthfully, as I told my friend yesterday, it doesn't get much easier. Knowing what to do helps, but it's a new journey every time, and whether or not this thought crushes you is, amusingly enough, all in how you look at it (and the mindset advice strikes).
It seems as though we, as writers, are afraid of rewriting our stories. We all want to think that they're perfect after the first draft, with a little editing. And while I can't blame anyone for feeling this way, because after all you have worked plenty of hours writing that first draft, I've learned through time (the hard way) that it's important to throw this type of thinking out the window.
Here's your first step in my rewriting (or revision) tips:
1: Forget Yourself
It may sound odd, but it's also very important. Once that first draft is done, writing isn't really about you anymore -- how this story is your baby, how you spent so much time on it, how you want the plot to go, what little scene you would like to see in it for purely personal reasons. We, as writers, tend to whine and cry too often over how the amount of hours spent on a project is unfair to us, or how we worked so hard. Put bluntly, I've learned to say to myself: quit complaining -- or better yet: shut up, and stop being selfish.
This story is about the story now.
Once you've finished that first draft -- crying over it, sweating over it, bleeding over it -- writing it isn't about you anymore. Sure, it's still your baby, and you still care, but now it's time to sit down and make the story the best it can be for your characters, for your world, for your plot, for your themes.
When the reader picks up the book and falls into it, they aren't going to be thinking about you, they're going to be thinking about the story, and that's where your focus needs to be, too. You shouldn't feel like spending more time on a story is unfair to you, or that it doesn't need it -- because it always, always needs something, whether it's just a light form of revision, or a complete rewrite.
It's tempting to publish immediately after you've written a piece -- because face it, it's easier. We can publish now with the click of a button, with hitting a few keys to correct a word (or using Spell Check), but that doesn't mean we should. Publishing is not an entitlement but a privilege, and whenever we put work out there, we should know that it's our best, because otherwise we are only wasting the readers' time and money. One person's best may not look like anothers', but that isn't the point. The point is that it's always important to remember that your book will need some form of work once the first draft is done, and that the time you have to spend on this work, be it months or years, is not a waste of time, and should not be skipped; respect yourself, and your work, and your readers will respect you more.
2: Implement Focus
Revision and rewriting can be daunting, and if you're anything like El (or me), you can easily become overwhelmed by it. Looking at your first draft, you begin to see mistakes, holes, stupid dialogue, unneeded scenes, and can even begin to think that your entire story is nonsense and needs to be trashed, burned, or otherwise exterminated. This is absolutely normal, and it's important to feel these things, I think...and then let it pass; it's a bit like a grieving period.
But once you've allowed yourself to feel overwhelmed, get rid of that feeling. Don't let it linger very long. Replace it with another, more potent one: excitement.
This is your chance to create something brand-new from a story you already love! What could be better?
When you're rewriting, take it one step at a time, and keep your focus on that excitement, no matter what. Create a new outline; read through your first draft and highlight; play the "why" game to fill in plot holes; keep a notebook and write down backstory, character profiles, and more; give your work to an editor, your writing friends, or others you trust, who will be honest in their critique (and put heavy weight to their advice, because remember: this story isn't perfect)...but don't try to do everything all at once, or you'll only overwhelm yourself. One foot in front of the other.
3: Change Course
This is something that I always struggle with in rewriting, and I'm seeing El struggle with it now: allowing ourselves to create something new and different from what we had before.
When you think rewrite, you might think revision, but they really aren't the same at all, in my opinion.
Revision, for me, is smoothing over what already exists, like putting gesso on a canvas before you paint. In revision, you fix grammar, sentences, take things out, and add extra scenes. But the plot, for the largest part, stays the same as when you first wrote the story, only there aren't holes anymore.
But rewriting is completely different. Rewriting, for me, is like starting anew. In rewriting, often a lot of things change, and maybe even the entire story changes. You might add ten chapters to a pre-existing story, or you might gut your story completely, and go in another direction.
The most important thing, I think, is to remember is that it's okay to change your story.
It's okay to take away characters. It's okay to take away plot points. It's okay to change the backstory, or the direction of the story, or to create almost an entirely new story. It's okay to, when you're finished rewriting, look back and think that you have two completely different stories on your hands between the old and the new one.
It's okay. If you need to let go of some things, then let go. Don't try and hold on when the story is pulling you in another direction, because you'll only end up feeling like it's not working, and something is missing.
4: Exterminate Perfectionism
I am a Doctor Who fan, and clipped to my laptop bag there is a bright red Dalek that says "Exterminate!" in his ridiculously wonderful voice whenever I press a button. I love my little red Dalek, who often bumps up against something as I'm headed to meetings with my fellow writers, and proclaims his wish to exterminate everything randomly, and here I find that he fits in quite well with my writing life.
Perfectionism will kill you. I think I mentioned this a few posts ago, but I'll say it again, because it's so important to remember. When you come up against perfectionism in rewriting (or any time in your creative life), be like my Dalek, and exterminate it -- immediately.
There is nothing at all wrong with doing your best, and making your work the best that it can be; you should strive to do both, especially when putting your story together as a finished work, ready to be published. But the moment that you tell yourself you will be unhappy unless your work is perfect, stop and shoot that perfectionism down, just like a Dalek takes down whatever is in its way without hesitation.
Here's the truth: your story is never going to be perfect. There, I said it! It can be as good as it can be, and you should never settle for putting out work that you know is terrible, but it's never going to be perfect. There will come a point when you simply have to tell yourself that it is the best it can be, and release it -- and don't look back, because if you do, you will be tempted to change it.
There are times, as I described above, where you find you're unsatisfied with your work, maybe even after it's been published. This is normal, and often means that the story should be rewritten. It's not a case of perfectionism, though. If you're unsatisfied, it doesn't mean the story was imperfect, but that it might not work anymore for what you're doing -- often a case if the story is part of a series. Many books have had new editions over the course of time, and plenty of authors have rewritten their stories, or added to them, but this should be because the story doesn't serve its purpose as it is, not because you want it to be perfect.
Learn to recognize when this is.
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Rewriting is part of the writing spirit, and is an important contribution to a writer's world. In rewriting, we learn to appreciate our stories more, take the time to cultivate them, and we begin to see them for what they really are -- the good, bad, and ugly -- and in these stories, we begin to see more of ourselves.
Don't be afraid of the revision process -- revel in it. It's a unique opportunity to become closer to your work, and yourself.
Hello, dear readers, and welcome.
Today I am continuing in my efforts to "crack fiction", and bring you more writerly wisdom. But as I'm sitting and writing this, I'm actually starting to wonder what exactly it is that this post is about, and what exactly I want to tell you all.
I find that writing is often this way: I have no idea what I want to say -- or, more accurately, I have no idea how to say it, or what else I might say along the way. Words speak to us whether we read or write them, and everyone paints a different picture of those words in their mind, but as an author...how important are words to you?
That might seem like an odd question, but take a moment to sit back and really think about it.
How important are words? What would our lives be like without them? What would creativity be like without them?
What do you want to say?
Putting pen to paper (or perhaps fingers to keyboard) is much more a privilege than we often give it credit. We open up another world when we pull words out of our hearts, and we open up minds with those words. As authors, we pour out our own heart for others to examine, and in turn that makes reading a privilege, too. Words aren't just words, and should never be used lightly.
What is that saying? "Words have power"? I think we all too often forget that, as well, or think that our words don't have power, that that is only reserved for someone else, someone "important".
When it comes to creating, to putting words down -- to sharing ideas, even -- I often find myself falling into fear. This might be the fear of what others will say or think, or, most often, the fear that no one will care to read or even glance at my work. Fear can erase some of the most wonderful moments in our lives, and when I feel fear I like to try and look back in time, to think of the many creators that I admire, and think of what our world would be like had they not conquered their fear, and done what they needed to do.
When it comes down to it, we really only ever are the ones standing in our way.
I am an author, among other things. Words are my life, and I can't be afraid to use them -- and neither can you. We may not start out knowing what we need to write, what we need to say, but you can bet that if we walk boldly down the dimly lit path of creativity that eventually that path will be brightened for us.
Don't worry about having the right words to begin with -- just worry about getting the words out. Don't worry about what others might say or think, or whether they will read -- just worry about saying what you need to. Write, edit, inspire...and then repeat.
Sometimes saying what must be said is really only a matter of beginning to say anything at all.
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Today I have a guest post on the blog, from Valerie Day-Sanchez. I previously interviewed her on Crimson Sterling, but sadly since that website is no longer available, the post has been lost.
Valerie's new book, number 2 in her YA series, is out now, and it looks like a spooky one! Just in time for the Halloween season. Below is an excerpt, and a bit about the book.
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Two weeks ago nineteen year old Harlow Whittaker discovered that being able to travel to different worlds, while she slept wasn’t just a weird secret that she had hidden since she was a child. In fact it meant that she was extraordinarily special. She was the first human soothsayer, the savior of the worlds.
After abandoning her world and surviving the treacherous journey to Carnelian Comba, where she was finally united with fellow soothsayers. She has little time to recuperate from her imprisonment by her attacker, because just as she sits at the round table with the council members they realize they are under attack.
Once again there is no time to waste, in order to survive, Harlow must leave Carnelian Comba. As Harlow begins to discover who she is, as she leads her army, she realizes that seeing the future while she sleeps was only the beginning.
Unfortunately as her own abilities grow so are those of her enemy, whoever that may be. To make matters even worse, unlike last time Harlow does not have Larken by her side. He has been asked by the Soothsayers Council to discover the identity of their opponent.
As Larken travels the worlds searching for the person that is responsible for the mutant Shadow Reapers and torture of clones Harlow becomes more in danger.
Will Harlow be able to master her abilities in time for the impending battle? Will Larken be able to find their mystery attacker? One thing is for sure, life as the worlds’ inhabitants know it is going to be forever changed.
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News of the invasion of Carnelian Comba spread throughout the room but no voices were heard. The members of the soothsayer’s council communicated telepathically. Being at the sacred land whose physical elements, (carnelian and amethyst), served as a catalyst for telepathy and the health of the mind, made communicating in this form even easier. Harlow believed her knowledge of the attack was causally linked to her being an Adfectus. She was sensitive to anything that seemed out of place or not right. Things affected her more deeply than others. This was something that she had once viewed as a weakness but now she saw this as a benefit. She could feel that their enemies were close. It was a matter of moments before they would be face to face with them.
“You must go!” Brunella, the leader of the soothsayer’s council, shouted at Harlow as she ran towards the wall behind the round table. It was strange to see such a little old woman running at such a heightened speed. Brunella’s white hair and wrinkled skin had led Harlow to believe that she was elderly, but the quickness of both her body and mind made her believe otherwise.
“No, I can fight, it’s me he’s after--” Harlow was adamant. There was no way that she was going to abandon this fight. Augustus was more her enemy than anyone else here. Surely Brunella would understand this, she after all had been the one who explained to Harlow how Augustus had betrayed the council before, but it didn’t compare to what he had done to her. She wanted her revenge.
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Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Day-Sanchez/e/B00HFG0JDA
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/harlowwhittakertrilogy?ref=hl
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Last week I started writing about "cracking fiction", and this week I'm back to write more about this topic, today with the theme of "writing to your own tune".
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I am extremely blessed to have a variety of writing friends -- pals, confidants, fellow sufferers, if you will. The last bit was meant as a joke, though it's also true. One of these close friends recently said that writing is like a disease you can't get rid of, and we all have it. But I digress...
Anyway, I love having a writing group. I love the fact that my friends know me well, that they know what type of stories I like, and that they are coming to know my writing now that we are swapping those stories. I can ask them questions when I don't have answers, pick their brains when I am feeling lost within a story, and together we can laugh about the ridiculous things that happen while writing. But over the last year or so I have found something else--
We all have different opinions.
As a writer, you have to have what they call a thick skin, and you have to be able to take criticism -- or better yet, I have found, effectively ignore it if it isn't helpful to you. The ability to see a bad review, or hear a bad comment and shrug your shoulders as you "keep calm and carry on" is invaluable to us writerly types. You have to be able to shake your head when the world asks you to change your writing, your topic, your ending, and tell it: no.
But I've found it's extremely difficult to say "no" to the people you care about, even when it comes to your work, your baby.
In my blessings, I have some very opinionated friends, and I'm sure you do, too. These are writers from all over the board, with plenty of experience, and plenty of viewpoints, and together this mixes for plenty of fun. But a few of my friends in particular are very, very stubborn and perhaps set in their ways, and will even go so far as to say I shouldn't write things for whatever reason, though always with the best intention (I love you all, I really do).
Of course when it comes to moments like this we all want to say: "Well, I wouldn't listen to them; I would tell them that it's my story, and I like it the way it is, though I value their input," and that is exactly what you would want to do, but it isn't so easy when you're faced with big eyes and excitement -- or worse, a frown of disappointment.
But I think that learning to write to your own tune, even when those closest to you, those you respect, say differently is just another part of being a writer, just as important as allowing those reviews to roll off of your shoulders. You may never agree with that person when it comes to books, and you may dislike their writing, too, but that doesn't mean it has to end your friendship, or that they can't give good advice -- you simply have to analyze that advice to see if it works for you, like Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass at a crime scene, examining what he sees and making deductions.
As a young writer, just starting out in the publishing industry, I wanted to know everything. I tried to heed all of the advice, to do everything "right", but after a time I found out that much of it didn't work for me, when really if I had just sat down and analyzed the advice, pitting it against how I work best (because I know how I work best), then I wouldn't have tried to implement that advice at all, and I probably could have saved myself a lot of time.
Advice is a good thing, and we can learn a lot from it -- just don't forget to take it with a grain of salt, and use your magnifying glass.
You may be one of those writers who stays safely inside the lines of your genre, and that is great -- or you may be one of those writers who pushes the boundaries, and thinks that there is no place for your book (lies!), and that is great, too. Everything has to start somewhere, and your story starts with you, so be true to it, and to yourself. All genres spawned from one book or another. It's the moment we let advice deal us the fear of failure, or of lack of acceptance, that we shoot our own stories down, sometimes before they even start...and I'm a large believer in the power of stories to help people, whether it means dealing with personal issues or just being inspired, so if you have a story to tell, tell it, because somebody probably needs it.
I'll leave you with some advice said by a friend (coincidentally the same one who said writing is a disease); we will call her "M": "Don't let (others) dictate what you're going to write." It's really that simple.
Be open to advice, to friendly criticism, because they have an important role in your writing life -- but don't forget that spark that makes you want to write in the first place.
Spookily Cute Designs On RedBubble!
I am a huge fan of Halloween, and so since the season is blooming for all things spooky and cute, I have started designing some Halloween fun!
In case you're not familiar with RedBubble, this website allows creators to make designs that fans can get on clothing, cards, pillows, totes, stickers, and more. I'll be uploading some more designs soon, but for now please check out my Halloween shop -- and if you're already in the Christmas mood, check out my Snowflake Triplet merchandise, too!
All proceeds go towards helping me keep things moving -- writing, artwork, the website, and more. Thank you so much for your support!
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
For probably the next few posts, I wanted to write a little bit about "Cracking Fiction"...or breaking out of some fictional constrains or habits, as we might call it.
I began thinking about this Monday, which here was Labor Day. I spent most of the day with a writing friend, plotting over our respective stories. We happened to be at the bookstore, and found a book on writing fantasy, our go-to genre.
My friend has been outside of the writing circle for a while, with work and all, and wanted a refresher. But as I was flipping through the book, reading, I received this oddly tense feeling of being boxed in. It's not that the book was bad, it was simply that the things it was saying made me feel constrained.
I don't really usually like "how to" writing books, because I prefer to learn by example, and I honestly don't like being told what or how to do something, unless it's merely informational. I don't want to read how to write like Tolkien or Lewis -- I want to read their work, and see for myself what I think about it; I want to learn about them, and hear their own words. I do think it's good for writers to read how-to books, because we should learn the backbone of our genres and their history, of writing as a craft, but maybe what I'm driving at is that we shouldn't allow ourselves to feel boxed in, like this book was making me feel.
I'm not much of a Romance reader, or Thriller or Mystery, but I like Fantasy. I like new worlds. I like strange, out of the ordinary stories. But I'll be the first to admit that I think the Speculative genre is extremely competitive and rigid at times. There is definitely a strict sense of "how to" and "how not to".
I'll give an example: At my writing critique the other day, my friends asked for some exposition in the beginning of my story, because they thought it was a little vague. But I had purposefully not written exposition because I had read that that was the "wrong" thing to do for Speculative fiction (or fiction in general), and that people hated it. I've always found this strange, because I personally love exposition, because I like to know more about the world, the culture, the characters, but I was still afraid of doing it "wrong". In being afraid, I not only wrote something I didn't much care for, because it wasn't detailed, but I also ended up writing something that my readers didn't much care for, either.
Your love or hatred of the story, or the method of telling it, will always show in your writing.
It's funny, because everything sort of ties in. When I finished reading what I was reading of the "how to" book, and I set it down, I was left feeling closed in, like I had been stuffed into a box; there is nothing worse than a box for a creative type. But then I picked up another book, one I had randomly found while wandering through the store, and everything changed: this was a book with (all?) of Tolkien's original drawings for The Hobbit.
Tolkien is one of my go-to writers when I'm feeling lost or frustrated -- or I guess you could say he's one of my go-to "inspirers", because not all of them were or are writers. I've learned so much from him and his counterpart, C.S Lewis, just as I've learned from Madeline L'Engle, Mary Shelley, Walt Disney, Jim Henson, J.M. Barrie, and many more. This time was no different.
I have to say, I loved the drawings in that book. They are so different than what I picture when I read The Hobbit, and also quite different from what we see in the film (my opinion of which shall be left out). But one of the first things I noticed when I saw them was this: not all of the lines are straight, even on buildings.
Tolkien made some beautiful sketches, inkings, and even some pictures in color (like the fantastic original cover for The Hobbit), but none of the lines are perfect, or even trying to be perfect, it seems. This might not seem like much to a non-artist, but it struck home with me. I'll be the first to admit that I don't like digital art as much as hand-drawn; I'm just old-fashioned that way. But I have noticed a sort of trend, in digital art and hand-drawn, for things to be perfect, symmetrical, almost like the computer rendered them instead of a person.
Not all drawings are like this, but quite a few seem to be. Perhaps its the "precision" of the tools used, or our desire for everything to be perfect immediately, quickly, on the first try (not going to happen, I'm afraid); this has become part of our culture, for better or worse. But when I noticed these lines, I immediately thought of my own artwork, of trying to make it "perfect" on the first try, and how I do the same with my writing, almost subconsciously.
I'm sure the pursuit of perfection has always existed, but I'm not sure it has always existed in the same, overly intense way. Whatever the case, this small realization really opened my eyes, as I realized that I've been trying to draw all of my lines straight, to make everything concrete and perfect. I realized that I've been the one shutting myself inside of that box.
I've recently been reading Anne Lamott's "Bird By Bird", which talks about writing in all its glory and awfulness. If you haven't read it, I recommend it. A wonderful, very smart friend of my practically ordered me to read the book. At first I wondered what exactly the title meant, because it's kind of an odd title for a writing book, but in the book I discovered the meaning. Mrs. Lamott writes:
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
Bird by Bird. I want to put that on my wall, next to my sign that says: "No one asked you to be happy. Get to work." (Sidonie Gabrielle Colette)
How truthfully can we say that we taking writing, artwork, or anything else in life "bird by bird"? I think trying for perfectionism immediately, or perhaps at all, is what takes much of the joy out of our work, or gives us the stress that we don't need. Mrs. Lamott has something to say about this, as well:
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.”
I want to have fun while writing and creating, and I don't want to be stuffed into a box, by myself or anyone else. Realizing this immediate perfection that I have come to practice has really helped me see that if anything needs to be stuffed into a dark, cramped space, it's that immediate perfection, not me.
I'm no Tolkien (I wish), but I can now see the importance of drawing imperfect lines, because in a way, they are perfect -- organic, real, fun, and inspiring. When we write outside of the lines, we explore, and we stop worrying about being perfect. This where we can find creativity -- and ultimately, ourselves.