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The Way Things Are, Could Be, and the Role of Fiction

I don’t write these kinds of posts often… but, well… I just can’t not, this time…

I’m going to say some stuff that people won’t agree with. That’s fine. Say I’m wrong, I’ll listen, and I’ll consider. That’s as much as I can promise.

Amid all this rape culture media coverage (earlier in the year with the boys in the US and more recently with, shamefully, NZ’s own), I have realised that as I happened to include sexual assault in HEALER’S TOUCH it is a responsibility of my characters to deal with it in a realisitic, and hopefully healthy way.

Something I have been realising with fiction: it’s one thing to go out there and say, “Look, this is a bad guy doing bad things, we blew him up… that’s what happens when you do bad things… but, look, this good guy isn’t totally shiny, but he’s not that bad, so he’s cool”… But what about saying “Here… this is how it could be done… grow up like this guy/gal”? Just a thought I’ve been having.

It’s a tough one. Because to go out there and design a character, or three, that you think are the best role models for the world is to assume that you know best… which, well, who can?

I like to think that Jonas is a good

Read more…The Way Things Are, Could Be, and the Role of Fiction

Special Guest: Literary Agent Eric Ruben

I’m trying to not to double-post… but I couldn’t hold this one back…

As you all know, after umming and ahhing over whether to pursue a traditional publishing deal or go it alone, I finally settled on a compromise: I signed with a small press. For me, it gave me the best of both worlds: a little hand-holding, but not quite as big and scary as the full publishing world. I have got to say, if you can make it big in this world, the rewards are great. I’d love to believe I can, but the reality for many of us is that we’re not gonna shine quite that bright. Even so, we can shine… we can publish, we can be read, we can be loved.

And so I’ve published. I have fans now… really. One or two, anyway.

I’m not going to say I don’t ask “what if”… What if I’d aimed for a bigger deal?

And so, I wonder… what would it be like to work with an agent? What doors do they open? What doors do they close?

To help me, and any other writers curious about such things, Eric Ruben agreed to do an interview with me.

Here goes…

Hi Eric, I’d like to start things off by getting to know you…

So, you’re a lawyer, literary agent, talent manager and a stand-up comic? (Who wouldn’t want to work with you? is my question…). What did you want to grow up to be when you were a child?

I remember wanting to be the President, a talk show host, a comedian, talk show host, race car driver, actor, rock star.

You’ve managed to tick a few off that list… Presidency might be just around the corner!

OK. Let’s get down to why I brought you here…

In today’s world, writers have more options than ever before: holding out for a Big-5 deal, approaching small publishers, self-publishing, or serialising their work on a blog. With all these choices, and the chances of acceptance by an agent/big publisher so small, you can see why authors might choose the other channels. In talking to other writers, the biggest disadvantages of working with an agent, and pursuing a big traditional deal, seem to be: sharing a percentage, and the long wait between selling a book and seeing it on bookshelves (vs. clicking “Publish” on Amazon…). What do you feel an agent has to offer in this ever more competitive market?

Read more…Special Guest: Literary Agent Eric Ruben

Novel Factory [Software]

So I’m beginning work on Book #2 of the “Weapons of War Trilogy” (current title … what can I say, I am rather attached to it). I’m trying out the beta version of the upcoming writing software “Novel Factory“. It’s challenging, because I don’t naturally work in such a structured way. And yet it’s very helpful, because that structure is exactly what I need to help me create a quality follow-up to the first book.

Novel Factory Screen Shot
I love the fact that you can link several images with each character

I learned a lot working on that first book. I learned from Larry Brooks about story structure – midpoint reversals and plot points, etc – and Randy Ingermanson about the Snowflake method of developing an idea through to a publishable novel, and I have learned TONS of stuff from Janice Hardy, from various methods of writing strategy through detailed how-to’s when it comes to reducing passive voice and writing dialogue and the like.

The Novel Factory Software combines a lot of those ideas and helps the novice writer (or the semi-experienced with heaps more yet to learn) apply the theory. It still leaves a lot of room for the writer to do their own research, but it even helps a bit with that, with a “Resources” section with links to where you can purchase well-known writing advice books. But it basically guides you through the Snowflake method, while also getting you to think about the major plot points. It even gets you thinking about Scenes and Sequels (Heads and Tails in the software) … It’s really rather cool. The more I look at it, the more I can see it being incredibly helpful.

Another feature I really love – because I thought about doing it for my first novel but didn’t get myself organized enough to do it – is that for each character, it encourages you to write a mini-synopsis for each scene re: what each character is up to. To me, that is a really good idea. As I said, I wanted to do it the first time around, I just got lazy. But this makes it so much easier – I believe it automatically links the scenes a character is in to the character’s profile so you can then go and make notes about what that character is doing at the time.

Novel Factory Screen Shot
Multiple images per character, and scene-links that allow you to really delve into each character every step of the way

I haven’t actually started writing yet, I admit, but that is because I don’t have the story worked out just yet. I have a couple of scene ideas, which are evolving as I think because of other ideas that have cropped up – and changes I made to the end of the First Book, which affect character knowledge at the start of Book Two … probably for the best.

The one thing I have requested is a bit more of a sandbox area. I mean, I love the organizational structure of the software. But I am a partial-pantster. I need a little space to just play. Also, whenever I delete scenes or sections, I always keep them. So I need a place to move them to. We shall see if that shows up in the final edition of the programme. I have played with yWriter and Scrivener previously (Book 1 was greatly developed in yWriter and completed in Scrivener). I made the switch to Scrivener because I liked the flexibility it offered me to design my own work area. Well, actually, the main draw was that I could build my character profiles and link as many photos as I wanted … (Hello, Novel Factory … you do that too, you say? Hmmmm). The total freedom of structure in Scrivener did lead to my files getting rather messy. I actually have three Scrivener projects leading to the final version of my story. Although, that’s not really a reflection of the software – that’s how different some of my versions were … They were so different I had to basically start over.

Anyway, this post is turning into a bit of a ramble, and bedtime is fast approaching. I just wanted to toot the horn for this new piece of writing software. I think it shows a lot of promise.

About That Cover . . . Another Indie vs Publisher discussion

. . . if you can call me ranting to myself in a blog a “discussion”. Don’t look at me like that. You probably like writing, too. Yes. Exactly.

Right, several weeks ago, I talked about cover art. Today, I read this rather interesting article about going indie. It’s not the first time that I have seen mention of the author losing power regarding cover design (among other things) and I think it’s about time I threw my two cents into the pot. You never know, I might win this hand. (I’ve had a very long day with the toddler and am extremely tired, please excuse what passes for humour this evening). Anyway, I have lots and lots of words to write in my WiP, so I will be brief, and get to the point (Ha!).

One of the example covers I used was the one for Brent Weeks‘ The Black Prism (Book 1 of the Lightbringer Series). Well, now the cover for The Blinding Knife (Book 2 of the Lightbringer Series) has been revealed. I’m really looking forward to this book. I loved the first and I’ve read the three chapters available online. I’m really looking forward to this book. But, you know what? The cover sucks. There, I said it.

And, I honestly wonder how truthful Mr Weeks is being when he goes on about how great it is. Because, honestly? He’s had good covers. He’s had great covers – as I showed in my last post.

So, I picked up The Black Prism after seeing this on the bookstore shelves:

Cover for The Black Prism
The Black Prism – sexiness in print

But, if it had looked something like this:

Read more…About That Cover . . . Another Indie vs Publisher discussion

Pitch-slapping: It’s awkward, but you can do it to yourself

So, I played with my “pitch” a little today, and I was curious what people think. Half of it is still what the helpful Canaries worked out for me – for which I am most grateful – and while I like it, I’m still a little iffy on whether it is how the final pitch should read.

Anyway … if you’ve got an opinion, I’d love to read it:

Llew can heal herself, but it’s at the expense of whatever she’s touching and it’s proportional. When she dies, she comes back, but she is surrounded by death.

Leaping from the frying pan, she finds herself in the fire: travelling with a man carrying the one weapon in all the world that can kill her for good – a beautifully crafted knife.

The last of his warrior race, Jonas is surrounded by the ghosts of his loved ones. At his side, the knife that took their lives. His oath to keep it from claiming more souls is a heavy burden, made more so by his half-brother, the devious magician Braph, who is hunting for a new source of blood to fuel his power.

And Llew’s unexpected and unwanted presence may finally bring his resolve to breaking point.

Oh, yeah. I do realize I’ve used a cliché. At the moment, I’m happy with that, but I am pondering other options, too.