Does it feel right?

Done with Camp NaNo, a couple days early even!  Woo hoo!  Now that I’ve found myself with a bit more spare time I thought it might be a good time to write about an interesting little experience I had during this project.

The first week of April I was on a trip overseas.  I knew that it’d be hard to keep my word count up but I had almost two days of flying involved so I figured that’d give me a chance do some writing, even if I didn’t get much done the rest of the week.

On my return flight, the story was feeling a little slow so I write this really intense action sequence.  It was fast paced, lots of back and forth, it was awesome.  Probably the best action scene I’ve ever written.  I ripped out six or seven pages in no time.  Word count, smerd count, I’m the man.

But about an hour later, something was bugging me.  I wasn’t sure what it was, I just knew that there was something off about the scene.  I kept tweaking it, trying to make it feel better, but there was some underlying problem that unsettled me.

One of the things that I have learned as a writer is to pay attention to those gut feelings.  Often the subconscious will pick up on something before the conscious mind does.  So I paused the story while I tried to understand out what was going on.

It took me a while to figure it out but when I kind of stepped back and looked at it, it was obvious. I had wanted to write a certain type of scene so bad that I forced the characters into it.  My main character was way too savvy to get sucked into that situation, it should never have happened.

It didn’t fit, I’d forced it.  No amount of tweaking was going to change that.  So, with reluctance, I chopped the entire seven pages.  Seven pages!

This was so frustrating because that’s one of those holes that writers are often advised to avoid.  If you’re true to your characters than the plot flows along, if a character makes some decision that doesn’t make sense that’s probably a sign that the writer is forcing the characters to fit into a specific plot point.  I’d always thought that wasn’t a problem for me since I’m more of a pantser, but now I know better.

My word count suffered, it felt like all that work went down the drain, I had to rewrite pages and pages, but in the end the story was so much better for it.  I’m glad I listened to my gut, figured out what was wrong and fixed it.

(Side note: I saved the pages in another file and was later able to salvage some of it in a more appropriate place in the story.)

Camp NaNoWriMo

I’ve decided to do something a little different for Camp NaNoWriMo this April, I’m going to post each section to Wattpad as it’s written.  This is purely for my own amusement and as motivation to keep up my word count.  Afterwards I’ll go back in and start doing the edits, but I think it’ll be fun.

I’ve already put up a prologue, which will not be counted toward the 50,000 word goal.

So, if you want to follow along with my progress or post encouragement:

Geeks-greens-and-guns 3 s

Geeks, Greens, and Guns…

 The unfortunate side effect to a busy schedule and a daily word count requirement of 1,667 is that I probably won’t be as active on WP for the next few weeks.  So, good writing to all of you and hopefully I’ll see you on the other side.

A Fun Little Experience

Some of you might remember I participated in NaNoWriMo last November.  Within the month I finished a first draft of Summerton Blues.  Some of you might also remember that as soon as it was done I put it away and started my next project.  That was advice put out by Stephen King’s that has been really valuable.  When you come back to it later it’s easier to spot the issues.

Well, in my excitement over Camp NaNo next month I decided to read Summerton Blues.  I haven’t looked at it in almost six months and figured it would probably be awful.  During NaNo I never did any revisions and I hadn’t touched it since.

cover draft 2s

What I read surprised me greatly.  I got caught up in the story and finished it in a single sitting.  At the end I got tingles.  It was actually pretty good.

Does it need work?  Definitely.  Does it need a good editor?  Definitely.  But I kind of surprised myself, it’s a solid story.  With some effort I think it’ll be a good novel.

What a great way to get pumped up for Camp NaNo.

 

 

Where do you get your ideas?

When I talk to non-writers about projects there is one inevitable question; where do I get my ideas?  There seems to be this magical aura around the subject as though writers have tapped into some underground magical force that no one else can find.   Or maybe they think we’re genetically coded in some unique way to boost creativity.  That’s not the way it works, at least not for me.

They want to know where I get my ideas?  I keep my eyes open.  Wherever I’m going, whatever I’m doing, I’m paying attention and keep an open mind.  A dozen times a day, at least, something occurs to me.  The comments people make, how they move, how they look, what’s on TV, who’s at the restaurant.  Words, phrases, scenes, subjects, they’re constantly bouncing around my head and rearranging themselves in different ways.  Hey, that’d be interesting in a story.

I’m sure that isn’t an ability that’s unique to me.  In fact, I’m pretty sure just about anyone can do what I do.  Most people probably have a ton of good ideas for stories that occur to them.  But here’s the key thing: writers do something about it.  When one of these ideas occur to me, I don’t move on and forget about it, I let it wiggle around the back of my head for a while.  What kind of characters would be involved in a story like this?  What kind of plot would it have?  Where would it take place?  What kind of twist can I inject?

Sometimes I evaluate the idea and decide it isn’t that good, not all are going to be, but the ones with any promise get written down.  The really good ones, I’ll find the time to write out at least a page synopsis and notes so I can dig into it deeper later on.

But I’m always paying attention, always thinking.

Here’s an example:

A couple weeks ago I was struggling with the name for a project I was working on.  You might remember that, I wrote a post called It’s all been written.  Usually I have a title before I start writing but that story was giving me fits.  I kept checking ideas online and all the good ones had been taken, so I emailed a friend and asked for her opinion.

She wrote back an innocuous suggestion that didn’t remotely fit the story… But I thought it was a hilarious.  Immediately my brain kicked into gear.  What would that story be like?  What kind of characters would it have?  How would that work?

I could have disregarded her title idea and moved on because it didn’t fit my story.  Instead, I got a really amazing idea for a new one just because I was paying attention and I kept an open mind.

So, there might not be any mythical well spring of story ideas out there (if there is, point me in the right direction) but paying attention and writing things down is almost as good.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day

Yay, it’s St. Patrick’s Day!

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, time to get back to work.  Guess what’s just around the corner?  Camp NaNoWriMo.  Only two weeks away!

For those of you that don’t know, I’m a huge fan of the whole NaNo program.  Last November I knocked out 50,000+ words, finishing a rough draft of Summerton Blues.  I put it on the shelf to work on other projects since.  One of these days I’ll get around to sending it to an editor.  I’m not in a rush.

Today I got a notice from Camp Nano to start filling in the details for April.  My profile was already done but I hadn’t filled in anything for my project.  I’ve been working on other things and hadn’t put much thought into it.  So, I took the afternoon and did some brainstorming.  Then I got out my sketch pad and warmed up my paint program.

Geeks-greens-and-guns 3 s

I’m pleased with the results and am looking forward to April.  Get your drink on tonight (Safely!), then tomorrow get ready for NaNo!

Trying out this Wattpad thing

When I first started this blog I was looking for ways to network with other writers.  One of the sites that was recommended to me was Wattpad.  I checked it out but the possibilities of the site didn’t immediately occur to me.  Why publish work for free if you’re trying to make any money being a writer?

A couple months ago I decided to take another look at the site.  This time, I saw things a little differently.

First, it seems like an interesting way to get readers to take a look at your work.  You can post a few short stories, or sample chapters, the first part of a series, whatever you want to try and get your name out there.  The more people who see your work, the more will check out your books, hopefully.  It makes more sense than most social media to me because readers would actually see your work and, if it’s good enough, they’ll be encouraged to visit your blog or buy your books because they have some idea what they’re getting into.

Second, it occurred to me that I had a story that would be perfect for Wattpad.  It was an experimental piece, something I wasn’t sure anyone would have any interest in reading.  The story is only maybe a third of the way done and I wasn’t sure whether to work on it or move on to something I had more confidence in.  That’s where Wattpad comes in.  If I put it up and people like it, then I will invest more time and energy into it.  If people hate it then I haven’t risked much, have I?  I’m letting the readers decide early on rather than investing hundreds of hours into something that they might hate.

So, I’m experimenting.  I put up the first couple chapters, we’ll see how it goes.

If you’re curious, you can check it out.  I posted it under a pen name I’ve been developing for experimentation with these kinds of things.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/34847967-the-lake-diary

It’s all been written…

The new project I’ve been working on involves zombies.  I know, I know, the genre is saturated right now but I write to entertain myself, not to make money (for now), and I’ve been a fan of zombie stories forever.

I wasn’t sure how well my story would be received, it’s a little weird, so I was thinking about putting it up on Wattpad.  It seemed like a good idea, little did I know the can of worms I was about to open.

As I got ready to upload the story I ran into my first problem, the title.  When I’m writing I usually just slap a quick name on it and come up with something better later.  The problem here was that the story isn’t quite done yet and no titles had jumped out at me.

Well, I’m a writer, it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with a couple words, right?

The can of worms:

I came up with about 15 different titles that I thought were fantastic and creative.  To make sure they hadn’t already been used, or associated with an adult site, I googled them.  Guess what happened?  Every single one of them had already been in print or the movies.  One of my favorites was a band name.  If they were any good I might have considered using it anyway.  Nope, moving on.

Every single one.  That amazed me.  Even the ones that weren’t that great had already been used.  Either great minds think alike or I’m not nearly as creative as I think (quite likely).

Trying to come up with more ideas, I googled every one and had the same results.  I’ve been at this for over an hour now.  Wow.  Just… Wow.

Back to square one.  Again.

Author Interview Posts: Quick Advice

In my WordPress reader it’s extremely common to see at least half a dozen author interviews a day.  Every day.  It’s also extremely common for me to scroll right past them and onto something else.  With so many interviews it takes something special to stand out and make me click the link.

And you know what the biggest factor is for me?  The photo of the author.

That might sound superficial but that’s the world we live in these days.  There are thousands of new books published each day, thousands of new authors and every one of them is fighting for the same number of eyes.  That’s a lot of noise.  With so much selection your work and you have to stand out.

As much as many of us don’t like it, if we’re going to market our work we also have to market ourselves.   If your images don’t catch a reader’s eye, you’re going to have a very hard time gaining any interest.  We have to have the complete package: a professional cover, photos, and website.  You have to have it all, if you miss one of those aspects it could be a weak link that leads to lost sales.

What blows me away is how many authors shell out money from their meager budget for a good cover illustrator and then post unprofessional photos of themselves.

author pic 1

(I’m an author, you should read my interview and buy my book.)

If you represent yourself in an unprofessional manner I assume that will be reflected in your writing.

These authors take the time, energy, and effort to put themselves out there by doing author interviews and blog tours yet are hampering themselves by not having an impressive, eye catching photo.  It’s not about whether you look attractive or not (though attractive helps, unfortunately), it’s about quality.  Every day I see photos that are too small, too big, too candid, blurry, low resolution, a selfie, taken with a webcam, wearing jeans and t-shirts… the list of mistakes is almost endless and I see them over and over again.  Every single day.  You don’t have to shell out big bucks for professional or studio photos, they just need to look professional.

I probably skip 9 out of 10 author interviews specifically because of the photo.

Don’t make that mistake, have the complete package.  Stand out from the crowd in the right ways.

Why I’ll probably never be an indie success

If you’ve been following for a while you’ve probably realized how infrequently I post.  There’s a reason for that and it’s the same reason that I’ll probably never be a “successful” indie author:

If writing feels like work I don’t do it.

It’s just that simple, if writing feels like a chore than I stop.  I’m sure there are some very talented, smart people rolling their eyes at that but give me a chance to explain.

I’ve loved writing for almost as long as I can remember.  I loved it because it was such an amazing way to escape the daily grind, to explore new worlds in new ways.  But the biggest reason that I loved to write was because it was FUN.  Creating characters, coming up with back stories, coming up with a creative twist is just so much fun.

Over the last year that I’ve been seriously writing, putting time and energy into finishing projects, there are so many things that I’ve learned.  One of the biggest lessons is that you can’t fake it.  And really, you shouldn’t even try.  If you’re writing to make money or fans, or if you’re not into the project or scene, it shows.  I could force myself to write a blog post every week but then it would be work, it wouldn’t be fun, the posts would be uninspired, and I don’t delude myself into thinking that readers aren’t smart enough to realize that.

What this also tells me is that I’m probably never going to be an indie success story.  I don’t like social media, I don’t like marketing, I don’t like putting myself out there, branding myself sounds painful, and half of the tips for success would be a lot of work.  I could do all of that, I could do all the “right” things, I could form myself into the shape of the box, but that would turn this thing that I love into a job.  I already have a job, I write because I love it.  And I’m certain that even if I did those things the writing wouldn’t be the same, the lack of fun would come across in anything I published.  I want more than that and readers certainly deserve better.

So, I’m not going to fight it, I’m going to write what I want, when I want, and continue to enjoy myself.  And if I end up making any money, or gather millions of fans, that’ll just be a bonus.  If enjoying what I do means that I’ll never be a big “success”, well, I suppose that really depends on your definition of the word.

Bad words in fiction

On a recent bout with WriteClubFightClub a comment was left about how a good story doesn’t need profanity.  My story used two swear words, the s-word (once) and the f-word (twice), probably the reason why someone chose “neither” instead of voting for a story.

I was really tempted to write a response justifying my language but I decided that would be a bad idea.  Everyone has an opinion and that reader was simply mentioning theirs.  I don’t necessarily agree but that’s just my opinion.

I could probably find a list of the classic novels that include some form of profanity but honestly that wouldn’t change anyone’s mind or even necessarily make my point.  To me, swear words are just words, which means there’s a use for them just like any other word.  Also, just like any other word, they can be overused or misused.  I either use them or avoid them depending on the type of writing I’m doing and the potential audience.

In my story, Closing Time, the main character is a nurse who is at the end of a long, arduous, 16-hour day.  I wanted her to come across as worn, annoyed, exhausted, even petty at times.  She’d been in the trenches, probably been covered in blood and other bodily fluids all day, dealing with “emergencies” around every corner, at the end of her proverbial rope when she’s given just one more little job.  To me, the occasional swear word was appropriate for her.  I could have easily left those three swear words out but I thought they were more authentic than softer alternatives and I liked that edge they gave her voice.  They weren’t used that often either, there were three swear words in five pages of text, just enough to add a little spice without being overwhelming.

But, of course, that’s a matter of opinion and everyone is entitled to theirs.

So, speaking of opinions, I would love to get some more on swear words, or specifically on the word choice for Closing Time.  Were the “bad” words overused, misused, do they distract from the story?  Were they acceptable but it could have been better without them?  Good, bad, something in between?  I would really appreciate honest feedback.  Follow the links, let me know what you think, good or bad.