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Archive for the ‘How I Write’ Category

How many of you have heard of this concept? I am reading How to Blog a Book  by Nina Amir. It’s good so far, and interesting. But so far it seems to me like it’s basically like when I used to post fanfiction. Yes, I got sucked into that fan-driven whirlwind back around 2002. My account is still currently active on one of the biggest fan fiction websites. I haven’t decided if I want to remove it yet or not.

Blogging a book, as far as I can tell, is a great way to get people interested in your book. That’s how it is with fan fiction, too. Get readers hooked on your story, and watch them flock to it. And they sometimes leave reviews, too – although, depending on how you’re handling those fave characters, it might not be a favorable one. Still, it’s great interaction with the fans. So how much greater would it be if they were fans of your original work? 

That all being said, it’s a big project to post a story online, and to update it in a timely manner. I am currently rewriting the first story in my YA fantasy series, and have thought about blogging it. I have enough written that I could update once a week or even twice a week for a while, and see how it does. Meanwhile, I’m editing the first book in The Flying Ponies series, Lift.  Lots to do, and I have to wonder if blogging the first fantasy novel would be worth it. 

What do you think? Would you be willing to blog one of your books-in-progress? It could be an adventure!

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Have you ever spent a lot of time plotting out a story, complete with a timeline and outline, only to have your characters hijack it? This happened with the first story in my YA fantasy series, set in my world of Pentallia. I spent months outlining, drawing up character sheets, and writing out scenes in a concise timeline, only to have my three main characters take my work and pitch in the garbage. 

That first story was written in first person POV, and frankly, it didn’t work, for me, the characters, or the first publisher I sent it to. I’m currently rewriting it, in third person, and without an outline. My characters don’t respect those. I’m also planning to go the indie author route, with help from Wicked Whale Publishing. 

But back to those characters who laughed at my huge binder of work. I still have it, but broke it down into multiple smaller notebooks and four Pinterest boards specific to their world. I refer to those things when my characters, my people, take me somewhere in their world I’m not quite familiar with. For the most part, I just try to keep up.

And you know what? Something amazing has happened along the way: my people actually know what they’re doing. This second version is so much better than the first. I have discovered I am not a first person POV writer. I have also realized that by letting my people go free to roam, they have it all worked out. Now that doesn’t mean it won’t need editing – it will. But it does mean that the story is much clearer, and the flow is right.

So where does this leave you? Do you have a huge binder filled with outlines and timelines your people won’t cooperate with? Why not try writing a chapter without referring to the binder (or notebook or Scrivener or whatever) and letting your characters do what they want? They might disappoint you. They might anger you. But, and this is why you should try it, they might surprise you. Mine did. They may wander on occasion, and I have to help them back to the task, but they seem to be getting it right. 

Maybe yours will, too. 

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I’m sure most of my fellow writers have heard of Scrivener, and probably quite a few of you use it. I had read about it in some of my self-publishing books, but decided to give it a try only after a fellow writer I admire told me how much she liked it. I thought that if I liked it too, I could add it to the author toolbox that Stephen King encourages us to build. 

I am using the free trial, and all the reviews on the software are right: there is a pretty hefty learning curve. But after using it today with my fantasy series, I must say I am a fan. I absolutely love the corkboard feature. I’m looking forward to using the name generator as well, when the time comes for that. Once you get the hang of it, the software is pretty easy to use.

I still like Word for working up chapters; in Scrivener instead of scenes, I’m using chapters as well. I like that Scrivener keeps everything for a story together; I might not have to utilize so many notebooks just for one story. Being able to have all your notes in one “binder” is also helpful, as my fantasy world of Pentallia is sprawling, with lots of people and places. 

If you’ve thought about trying Scrivener, but been on the fence, I encourage you to at least try the free thirty day trial. You might find it worth adding to your author toolbox, too.

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We all have a favorite book, or many favorites, if you’re like me. And as writers, we also have favorite characters that we’ve created, whether it’s a hero or a villain (sometimes, they’re both). We often times don’t want to admit this, because we could be accused of playing the favorite game, but it is  true, isn’t it? 

Case in point: in my YA fantasy series I’m working on, there are two young men that I love writing equally well. One is a soldier, and one is an assassin. I would never tell them they are both favorites, because characters have egos just like writers. If you haven’t found this to be the case, just wait. There will be a character someday who demands a lot of your time. And somehow, he or she becomes a favorite. 

The problem with having a favorite, or favorites, is that sometimes you have to let them go for the betterment of your story, and you don’t want to. You know you should, that their death will raise the stakes, but you just can’t do it. Friends, you have to. If it makes your story that much richer, that much more riveting, do it. You will feel bad. You might even cry. But if it causes you that much pain, consider what it will do to your readers. I know, over the course of my fantasy series, I will lose some characters who have become very dear. But their death will enrich the stories, and it will be worth it.

So remember, when it’s time to say goodbye, to let them die, how much more amazing your story will be because of it. 

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As most of us know, world building is an important part of creating our stories. Without a world of their own, where do our characters act out their journeys? For those of us who write fantasy and science fiction, this is particularly important, but it’s also important to writers who work in historical or realistic fiction. 

So how do you, as the world builder, go about doing it? I write fantasy fiction. My first novel is called Lift, and it’s about a carousel of magical horses. It’s set in the here and now, in Michigan. But there is still plenty to do in regards to setting scenes. Michigan’s weather is tempestuous, and I use that throughout my novel. There is a magical house, that may or may not be pleasant to live in. Each piece of your world needs to work together to create the overall sense of belonging.

The world for Lift has been easier to create than that of Pentallia, the world my fantasy series is set in. But in some ways, Pentallia has been more fun, because it’s not part of our world. I am an avid Pinterest user; each story has its own board. Because Pentallia needed to be built from scratch, I currently have four boards devoted to it, and I’m not sure that’s even enough. Its helpful to have pictures that represent my characters, wardrobes, and places. I also maintain a board solely for quotes that remind me of my characters. 

Is all that necessary? For me, yes. You might find using Pinterest tedious, or worse, a nasty time suck of your limited writing time. Every writer has to learn what works for them, and do it. Our main goal is to create new worlds, portals, for our readers to get lost in. 

Find what works, and exploit it. Your readers, your fans, will thank you. 

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I just finished watching Moana for probably the fifth time. Her journey was the catalyst for me choosing the path of an indie writer. The music is beautiful, the scenery captivating, and she is inspiring. Choosing to go the indie route was not a decision I made lightly. It’s not for everyone. But after watching this movie, I realized that I wanted to be an indie writer and author, and I’d been holding back because I feared failure. 

I am working with a writer/publisher, K. R. Conway at Wicked Whale Publishing, so I’m not really on my own. But much of the work still falls to me. It’s exciting, though. Ms. Conway answers all my questions, and she’s very encouraging. I enjoy working with her. 

What has inspired you as a writer? Is there a movie, song, or book that speaks to you? We all need encouragement, because this writing thing can be arduous at times. We might feel like we’ve chosen the wrong path. Hang in there. Let yourself be adventurous. Be willing to try something new. 

And above all else, ask yourself: who are you?

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As many of you writers know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or for those who like acronyms: NANOWRIMO. I’ve been a semi-active participant for the last few years, as have been a few of my coworkers. It’s fun, and sometimes I do get fairly far with whatever project I’m currently working on. This year, since I’m already 176 pages deep into The Flying Ponies, I decided to write a diary from the viewpoint of my main character’s great, great grandmother. The diary is really just meant for me so I know the backstory on the Flying Ponies Grand Carousel, but who knows – if the book takes off, perhaps the diary will someday be published.

The diary is being written in a pretty cool leather journal I scored at Barnes and Noble a few years ago. I have a gel ink pen that looks like a giant white feather to write with, and that’s fun, too. It’s been quite a while since I’ve handwritten anything other than notes for a story. But the real fun, for me, has been the research. Adara, the writer of the journal, lives in Brooklyn during the Roaring Twenties, and she frequents the infamous Coney Island. I’ve been a fan of the place for quite a while now, because I love amusement parks and carousels, and the Island has quite the storied past.

I’d heard of the Dreamland fire, in 1911, that completely wiped out that beautiful park. It was never rebuilt, leaving only Steeplechase (which burned but was rebuilt) and Luna Park to dominate the Island, along with the infamous Boardwalk and Bowery, but I’m learning a lot more. Coney Island still operates, and a few of the historic rides are still there, including the newly-refurbished B & B Carousell (that’s actually how it’s spelled), and the Cyclone coaster. But I doubt it’s anything like it was back in the twenties, when a million people would come to the Island to lay on the beaches and take spins on all the rides.

I also doubt that a lot of people like to do research; I feel that a lot of writers think it takes time away from the writing. And it does, certainly. But to get that authenticity for your  story, to really get inside a character’s head who’s in that time period, it’s absolutely essential. I have pages and pages of research on Coney Island, and have books coming that talk about the park during the different decades of operation. I need to know what roller coasters and carousels and dark houses were on the streets of the Island so that Adara and her boyfriend can move through them and have it be real.

Without doing your research, your story will fall flat, because guaranteed, someone out there reading it will know something about the subject you’re writing about, or the time period your characters are in, and if it’s not right, you’ll hear about it. If I’ve learned anything at all from writing fan fiction, it’s that the fans LOVE to tell you when you’re wrong. And with fan fiction, because there are so many stories out there, if you get it wrong once, you’re likely to lose that reader forever. And though I’m not yet published, I’m guessing it’s the same with published books.

So whether you hate it or love it, do your research. Do it because your story, and your characters, are worth the time and effort. And you’ll learn a lot, and thus, so will your readers.

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