leafy foreground left
leafy foreground right

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

Just keep on steppin’ And you’ll be just fine…

My (3yo) son is a not very closet Michael Jackson fan, so I have this song (amongst others) in my car…

So, for you fellow writers out there, as well as the rest of you with a dream you’re pursuing, here’s another anthem to add to the playlist…

‘Cause there maybe times
When you think you lost your mind
And the steps you’re takin’
Leave you three, four steps behind
But the road you’re walking
Might be long sometimes
You just keep on steppin’
And you’ll be just fine, yeah”

Yep, this is from The Wiz, and that is Diana Ross singing with MJ.

Other songs to keep in your bag of tricks:

Read more…Just keep on steppin’ And you’ll be just fine…

Stories have a tendency to write themselves…

… no matter how much you think you know better… you probably don’t. The story knows.

So, I’m still writing. Yes, yes, I know, I haven’t kept you updated… been too busy writing, or thinking up marketing strategies for HEALER’S TOUCH – often having to remind myself that the best marketing strategy for HT is to get WARRIOR’S TOUCH out there…

But I just felt like sharing something…

This may not be true for everyone, but for me, it really is: my stories write themselves, and if I try to go against them, I get stifled.

I’ve been reminded of this fact a couple of times recenty.

A few weeks ago I had an idea for WT. I thought “That’ll be really cool, and according to well-established story beats, a good time for that to happen would be… later in the story.” Cool, I thought. I have something to work towards.

Wrong.

I stagnated.

I kept pushing on, telling myself “Come on, write, there’s good stuff coming.” Not that I thought what I was writing at the time was terrible, or even bad. I was just struggling to find momentum in my writing.

Then I had an epiphany. That idea that I thought would work best coming later in the story could easily

Read more…Stories have a tendency to write themselves…

Going Local, Going Real

I originally posted this as an article in a Newsletter I edit…

.

As writers, we’re pretty well used to interacting with “people” via text… it’s how our characters live. We write/type, and they live.

But what if the only way you intermingle with other writers is through the internet: WDC, Twitter, Facebook, G+… whatever…? Are they real? Or have you made them up? Am I real? Or are you just imagining me?

The thing about meeting up with real life fellow authors is you get to interact (gasp!) face-to-face. Foreign, I know… but let me tell you something…

Several years ago I finally discovered why I had been feeling so “odd” as I clawed my way through day-to-day life and went to work, blah blah. You see, I rediscovered my writing bug. I started penning a story. When it started to grow into something more than “just a story”, I joined WDC and combed through various websites looking for the advice and experience I needed to shape my story into a NOVEL. My best progress was made through the more personal relationships I formed both on WDC and on other sites (I found my strongest supporter on Jottify). It’s all good and well sending a review here and there and getting the odd one back, but there really is something about forming allegiences with other writers with the goal of helping each other succeed in whichever way they wish.

Then one day, for some reason I forget, I decided to seek face-to-face writing groups in my area. I learned of two. One I had to contact someone to get the details, the other one had all the details online, so I just rocked up. In both cases, it turned out to be the last meeting for the year before a 2-month break. The one I had to contact someone about was alright, but I never heard anything about things starting back up the following year, and I ended up not following it up, because…

The other one

Read more…Going Local, Going Real

[Writing] Plotting’s hard work!

Hello, my peeps!

So, I thought I’d keep you up to date with the goings on … well, somewhat, anyway.

First up, I’m looking forward to finding out the outcome of the Contest I entered at the end of July. In all honesty, I don’t expect to have come anywhere, but the results being out means I can move on with things.

My son and our dog at the park
It’s good to get away from the computer now and then – these guys certainly appreciate it.

It’s been a strangely tough time of late. Of course, first up, I rushed my manuscript finished for that contest. I put it away for a few days and set to work on the next book. But, working on that book got me thinking of things that could do with being tweaked in the first book, so, of course, I couldn’t leave it alone … So, I tweaked, and then I went on to editing.

And then there was this Cover Contest on offer, too. Of course, I figured that since a publishing contract was a very slim possibility from the Manuscript Contest that I may as well enter this so that, if I were lucky enough to win it, I’d have a cover lined up for when I go Indie.

And then there were the AMP Scholarships opening up. I did it last year, but I know that application was a bit wishy-washy. This year I have more of an idea of what I needed and why, so I filled in an application and even submitted it. The closing date was Friday (NZ Time).

It’s an odd feeling to me, to be putting all these things out there … I mean, the most likely outcome is that I’d get nothing from from any of them, and that would be OK. But, because I did enter, there is that small chance that something in my manuscript happens to grab the judge (even if I have since improved it … oops) and I win a critique. That would be cool. That’s the one prize I don’t see interfering with anything else. But, what if he offered publication and I won a free cover? I’d feel bad, when someone else could have won that prize. And, if I win a free cover–a fee which I’ve built into my Scholarship application–would I feel OK if I then got money from that scholarship that I no longer needed

Read more…[Writing] Plotting’s hard work!

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.

Officially done

The final draft of what I am now calling “Healer’s Touch (Book 1 of Weapons of War trilogy)” – trilogy being expected, but tentative until I nail down a few more details – is done and submitted in a competition to, hopefully, win a critique.

I have also forwarded copies to two willing beta-readers.

So the plan is to try not to look at it for the next 4-6wks. I may look at it for the sake of:

1. studying it for structure so I can learn from what I’ve done and hopefully do things more efficiently next time

2. making notes re: character details/timelines so that I have good reference material to go on with

I have several other things I can do instead:

Read more…Officially done

Blog-link: Self-Trust and Voice

One of the best blogs I have had the privilege to find in recent times is that of Jayrod Garrett: outcast, teacher, writer. Jayrod writes about issues that matter to him with eloquence and he’s not afraid of potential controversy (on that score, he says the kinds of things I wish I had the guts to say). When he completes his major work in progress and presents it to the world, I have little doubt it will be compelling. In the mean time, this man has much to teach the world through his blog posts. As a military man, he’s seen it all.

Anyway, I’m terrified of talking people up – 1. Because you might disagree with me and judge me poorly because you feel I put you wrong, and 2. Because I might be putting pressure on this fellow to perform! But I’m doing it, anyway.

Also, if you don’t like what he has to say, each week he points you in the direction of several other blogs with his weekly “Mashup”. Full Service. I like it.

“But once you have found your comfort zone, push the envelope of your abilities.  You do not learn to walk without failure, and you will not learn how to write without failure.” — The First OG

Opening Image & the changing face of publishing

“Knives, or weapons of any sort, did not usually feature in Llewella’s repertoire of collectibles, but the ornate handle had caught her eye. The finely carved ivory or bone beckoned to her – begged her not to let it leave the market without her – although, she was flip-flopping over whether it had been the knife handle or the way the trousers fit the arse over which the knife belt was slung that had drawn her attention first. It was giving her pause, albeit minor.”

Story opening Image - Jonas' hip with knife attached
It was the damned knife ...

I was reading an article today about self-promotion, written by a recently published author. Apparently, they were given a marketing sheet by their publisher – an indication that marketing was still squarely in the author’s court. It does make one wonder: if you still have to do all the work when you are traditionally published, but you have to share the profits, why would you? Oh, don’t get me wrong, I see the value in going through a traditional publishing house – the editors, and that warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that you made it through the slush pile – but, otherwise, where is the value? Why not go it alone and self-publish? There are certainly editors out there who will look at your work for a fee. Or, there is libboo.com where you can team up with other authors and arrange to share royalties as you deem fit. Or writing.com with its plethora of writers willing to help – yes, there are people who will help you review your work for free (you just have to offer your time to do the same for others – an educational experience, not a loss). And what about this? The Mongoliad – by Neal Stephenson! I mean, Neal Stephenson … doing what? An online novel with extremely high levels of fan interaction! Fan stories. Fan art. Fan suggestions. This, to me, is the future of writing. No longer will we sit in a dark room typing away in isolation. We can reach out to other people and share our visions, and then find out how they interpret them. I still harbour a dream of doing a bit of an online “graphic novel”. And The Mongoliad is going to be my model. No, I couldn’t hope to reach it’s level of awesomeness, but I can keep it in focus …

* * *

You can read the first few chapters here, but if you wish to read further, I would encourage you to sign up for a free writing.com account which will allow you to read, and give feedback on, many great (and less than great – but how are we gonna learn if you don’t tell us?) written works.

Critics – gotta love ’em

I was just reflecting on how lucky I am to have a critic. I’m talking about a friend of mine who isn’t afraid to say “That’s crap” when I shoot an idea her way. And, I think I’ve mentioned before, sometimes she is wrong. Especially because she’s not actually read any of my story, and her understanding of my characters is not quite the same as mine – although, we’re finding a parity.

What’s good about it – even if she is wrong – is that she forces me to look at what I’m doing and re-think it. Why do I think that my idea is the best way to write things? Why is that the best way for my characters to act in that situation? I still remember the time a reviewer told me one of my protags didn’t behave how she expected him to at one point – and the suggestion she made? It was BRILLIANT! And so, Jonas punches Llewella in the gut (Chapter 1, hardly a spoiler) That sounds bad … but, she had just stolen his very, very special knife … and, he thought she was a boy, at the time. It was somewhat deserved, and Jonas IS that kind of guy. How had I not seen that on my own?

I think I know how. I was too focussed on the future romance in the works (which may or may not happen … sometimes characters don’t work out the way you planned) – I just couldn’t imagine him doing something so mean to his future one-and-only. What I needed to do was to come back to the “here and now”. Forget the future. They can deal with the fact that he did that then. If it matters.

So, for someone who said they don’t dispense advice on their blog, I’m advising: get other opinions. Or, at least, let that idea/scene/reaction stew for a bit. And don’t be scared to ask what others think.

(As I have found myself ‘advising’ someone else recently, I will, in fact, be dishing a little advice over the next wee while – just in case it helps others. However, I recommend that people who like my advice go and look up further information from others – I am not the holy grail of writing know-how).