Start with a Cover

One of the things that I like to do that probably seems strange to other writers is early on in the process of writing a story I like to make a cover.

The first reason is that I like all the arts, sketching characters or scenes from my stories is just as natural as writing about them in the first place.  It’s fun, it’s creative, it keeps all the juices flowing.  I’m a decent cartoonist-style artist and an amateur with graphics programs but it’s fun to see what I can come up with.

The second reason is something that other writers might consider, a cover is good motivation.  It’s a symbol of the end-goal of writing.  I’m not just playing around, writing something for a lark, this is going to be a book.  It makes me visualize the completed project which helps keep me motivated to finish it.  Out of all the stories that I’ve started or worked on over the last year, I’ve completed the first draft of 80% that I made a cover for (Sadie’s story is still in work).

Whether or not the covers actually get used for the books doesn’t matter, I’ve had fun and they’ve helped keep me going.  That’s something that other writers should maybe consider doing themselves.  Why leave it to the end when there are benefits to doing it in earlier?  Something to think about.

Here are a couple of the ones I’ve done over the last year, newest to oldest.

Geeks-greens-and-guns 3 s cover draft 2.2.1 s cover draft 2s front draft 2 larry's dead cover draft 1.1.1.2

Happy writing!

Camp NaNo Win!

Wow, April just flew by but somehow I managed to eke out over 51 thousand words and complete Geeks, Greens, and Guns…

Camp-Winner-2015-Web-BannerIt’s not one of my favorite stories but I stuck it out and I posted it to Wattpad as it was written.  That might be a headache when I start editing but it was amusing.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get much feedback during the whole process.  I’d been hoping to get more interaction going on, oh well.  It was a fun experiment and I think that’s the way I’m going to keep doing NaNo in the future.  I like the idea of all writing together but also being able to check out what other people are doing.

If you’re interested in checking out Geeks, Greens, and Guns… on Wattpad, it’s available here.  Yes, I made the cover, and finished the story, I’m quite pleased with myself.

So, what’s on the agenda now?  Actually, I’m going to be pretty busy this month.  I got the name of a good editor and I’m going to be passing her a couple of my stories.  She’s local, which was important to me because I didn’t like the idea of sending money and my work to someone I’ve never met.  A couple of the projects I finished in the last six months are in good shape (I think) and shouldn’t require too much to make them publication-ready.  I think, we’ll see what she has to say.

One of the first stories that will be getting the editor treatment is one of my favorites, I’m really excited to see how it goes.

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.)

An Observation

It’s been about a year since I started writing seriously.  I’ve ‘finished’ five big first drafts in that time but have hesitated to publish anything.  One of the reason is that I haven’t had the time or money to put into getting good edits done but the biggest reason is that every draft is a learning experience.  Writing so much, then reading and revising, has taught me so much about the craft.  Every time I look back at one of my early drafts I realize how far I’ve come.  As I want my first published work to be the highest quality I’ve been focused on learning rather than publishing.

An excellent example is my Camp NaNo project.  I hesitate to call it a ‘throw away’ novel but it didn’t have a lot of promise going into it.  Whenever I get involved with NaNo I pick out one of my ideas that light, easy to write, and doesn’t have a lot of depth.  The idea being that it should be easier to keep up the high word count daily.  If it sucks, no big deal, it’s just for fun (I’m even posting it on Wattpad as it gets written).  However, even with the not-so-serious premise and some edits I know I need to make, I can still see how far I’ve come in the last year.  Even writing something I’m not that invested in, the quality of the writing has improved dramatically.

While I still consider myself a student of the craft, it’s awesome to see the difference.

If you’re curious, it’s available on Wattpad (and getting closer to completion every day).  Feel free to leave comments or critiques, I’m always looking for feedback.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/35668423-geeks-greens-and-guns

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.

 

 

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.

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.