Monday, February 27, 2012

So You Want To Be a Writer...

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Writing is glamorous. That's me up above. NOT. It's more like sitting in front of your computer in your socks, slurping coffee and giving life to the voices in your head. Wait - what? Not glamorous you say? Okay, maybe not. If you're just starting out or you've been on the road for a while, but want to nod along, here are some pro's and con's to the job. But don't worry, with each con, I tell you how you ought to handle it.


  1. Creative freedom. Yep that's number one for me. I finally get to let loose all the craziness tangled up in my head. It's exhilarating most days. 
  2. Supportive community. I've never seen one like it. I'm still blown away by the overwhelmingly friendly and supportive attitudes of those all along the path. I've made some of my best friends doing this. You know who you are!
  3. Doing what you love. Not everyone gets to explore their passions. We are among the lucky few.
  4. BOOKS. Yep, I can read books and claim I'm doing work. It doesn't get better than that!
  5. The hours are flexible. I frequently wake up at 3 AM for an hour with my head buzzing about a new idea. But the afternoons are for my kids. It's up to me, as long as I'm motivated to sit down and actually do it, I'm good to go!
  1. Facing rejection. It hurts, let's face it, even though we can learn from it. To deny that is to let it build up inside. So eat some chocolate (yes that's my answer to just about everything), take a breather, appreciate any specific feedback or personalization that came with it, and use that info to make your writing stronger. 
  2. You have to have the patience of Methuselah. This is not a fast business. It takes time to do things right. Time to write the book and revise it. Time to query. Time to sell. Time to publish. Even if you get it right the first time, which is oh SO rare, the whole thing will take years from start to finish. So you have to be prepared for that. Try writing another project while you wait.
  3. Dealing with non-writers. Yep. They mean well, they can even be supportive, but you've heard them, right? "When I can I buy your book?" "I wanted to write a book once, but I didn't have the time." or "I should do that too." The truth is, if you don't have the drive inside you, where you know you HAVE to write or you'll wither and die, then you probably shouldn't be doing this. 
  4. You suffer more ups and downs than a yo-yo. Sorry, I needed a better simile there. But you get the idea. One minute you're riding high, the next you feel like a fraud. I've felt it, I've heard just about everyone complain at some point about it. But IMHO? Those highs are worth every moment. Besides, lows come with - say it with me - CHOCOLATE.
  5. The paycheck. If you're in it for the money, TURN BACK NOW. It's tough to make an actual living at this. Those that do are rare and lucky. I wish we all could, but the reality is otherwise. So write because you love it or go back to med school. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

What If I Love Dystopian Vampires?

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I know, I've mentioned it before. But I want to talk about trends for a minute. Vampires were hot. So we flooded the market. Then came THE HUNGER GAMES (one of my favorite books). And all dystopia broke loose. What's next? There are a million theories. 

I've heard others complain, saying they haven't written a dystopian so can't get any attention for their books. Then I've heard others say the opposite. They love vampires and now no one will look at their work. So which is it? 

The advice I both heard and have given before is to be aware of trends, but not write to them. To write what you love. Because it's difficult enough to get published these days, don't make it harder on yourself by forcing something that isn't enjoyable or natural for you. It comes through in the work. I believe that those that successfully cross genres are those that truly enjoy all they write. For example, I will probably not be writing contemporary fiction (though I do read it on occasion). I might try Sci-fi though. Or thrillers. Or horror. Because those are genres I'm attracted to. 

What does being "aware" of trends mean? It means that if you KNOW that no one wants vampire books, that if you choose to write one anyway it will be a very hard sell. You accept that going in. You probably decide to hold off on vampires for now, and instead choose another paranormal entity that hasn't been as overused. Or better yet, a whole new angle on something that hasn't been done. Example? Daughter Of Smoke and Bone! AWESOME, beautifully written book about what? Angels and demons? Maybe. But in such a way that the lore behind it was so original and unusual that it didn't matter. 

Can you think of any examples like that? Where the book succeeded because it offered something fresh? What's your take on trends?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dangerous Distractions

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I have a problem. I get easily distracted by shiny objects and ideas. That can make it hard to focus on a project, especially if that project is in the "why am I doing this?" phase. I'm not the only one that gets that, right? Where you've stared at it so long, you're afraid your eye balls might start to bleed? The good news is that this stage does pass and you fall in love again - I've been there. BUT the bad news is that sparkly little idea might try to get your attention. 

So what to do? 

I try, in these times to remind myself that if my shiny new friend is as good as it looks, it's worth waiting for. If I do then:

  1. I can give it the full attention it deserves when I'm ready.
  2. I will have the satisfaction of knowing that my other project, which was once the shiny new idea, worked out.
  3. If I can't stay focused on the other idea, what makes me think this will go any better?
If all else fails, I write a little of it to try and get it out of my system. Mostly I know I just have to prioritize though and treat this like a job, because that's what ultimately works. 

Any other ideas?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Avoiding a Saggy Middle

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My last of the "How" questions comes from the amazing Leslie Rose. Leslie asks: "How do you avoid a "saggy middle" in your story?" 

A: Saggy middles are one of those hard to avoid things in life. But in our stories? It's the worst! So you might be surprised at my answer. Saggy middles are a symptom of the writer getting off track. To simplify, we have act 1 that sets up the problem, right? We end in Act 3 with the resolution. So we need to get our character from point A to B. Simple? Yeah right. But the point is, you have to keep in mind the whole time whether what you are writing is indeed moving the story forward. Every word on the page should move the story and/or character forward. If it doesn't, as interesting as it may be, it doesn't belong there. 

Now I'm not saying that if you do it right, the saggy middle doesn't exist. Perish the thought! We all have to fight it. That's what revision is for (I think that's becoming my mantra). Seriously though, as you do a pass, ask yourself the following three questions about each page:

  1. Does this move the plot forward?
  2. Does this help build my character arc?
  3. Is there tension?
Because there should be tension on every page. If it isn't there, add it. It doesn't have to be the world at stake. Just make sure there's something in the way. That will help force numbers 1 and 2 into action. Make sense? 

How do you avoid saggy middles?