Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Free ezine!

There's a free new issue of Electric Spec. W00t!

In "Seasonal Fruit" by Kathryn Board, a botched "date" turns into an adventure involving a goddess, a stomach pump,and some super-enhanced sex appeal. Colum Paget's "Love in a Time of Bio-Mal" is a cyber-punk tale that bring a whole to meaning to the word "love." For those looking for something on the more humorous side, we present "The Pageant, a Battle Maiden's Cunning Stunt" by Krista Wallace, which shows just how far a woman will go to look good while gutting the enemy. "Stiltskin" by Samantha Boyette is a tale that explores just how far a father will go to preserve his family in a bleak future, and Simon Kewin's "Slieau Whallian" explores a similar theme: are we willing to allow an injustice go unchallenged to preserve or own skin?

j.a.kazimer's interview is especially intriguing. Come read her answers to questions such as:
Fairy tales were really the first stories, what's so enduring about them? Do you think the persecuted heroine with its emphasis on marriage and the female heroine being saved by the male hero still apply in today's society? The premise of CURSES! A F***ed Up Fairy Tale, namely, a villain cursed to behave like a hero is brilliant. Similarly, killer blue-birds are an amazing idea. How did you come up with these? CURSES! deals with several hot-button issues including homosexuality, and obesity/body-image. As a writer, how do you avoid being constrained by societal expectations? Regarding profanity in book titles, some people might say the proliferation of profanity in our culture signals the beginning of the end, the decline of our society. What do you think it means?

Support these authors and check it out!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On-line Classes

I'm finishing up an on-line writing class right now. For the month of February I tried to learn how to make my novel sellable. (Yes, I'm purposefully being vague so you can't figure out what course it is.) To be honest, I don't think I learned much. This is primarily my own fault because I didn't do the homework and read all the class materials.

I started out reading all the class materials but it was pretty specific to another genre and I got less interested. The primary thing I noticed about the handouts was the teacher advocated a lot of telling. In examples, the teacher would tell the reader the character's goals, motivations, and conflicts on every page. Apparently, some genres are in favor of a lot of telling, but this goes against my writing paradigm.
During the month I tried to implement the class ideas (in a non-telling way) when I wrote first drafts of my new pages. This made homework difficult because we were supposed to post a "before" and an "after" writing sample where we improved our writing based on the class ideas. My first drafts were as "after" as I knew how to make them.
I guess the gist here is, I'm a bad student. :)

This wasn't the first time I've signed up for an on-line writing class. I get excited about the topic prior to the class and plunk down my money but they are rarely as exciting and informative as I think they'll be. Oh well. At least it gets me thinking about various aspects of writing and interacting with other writers. That's always fun.

How about you? Have you ever taken a good on-line writing class? If so, tell us!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Plotter-Pantster

Where does everyone stand on the great plotter versus pantster debate?  The question reminds me of a tee-shirt popular in the early days of computing that read: There are 10 kinds of people in this world -- those who read binary and those who don't.

Those of us who tend to be more linear, left-brain types like to plan out our plots. Planning may be a habitual approach to life, but I call a big white piece of paper with a visual storyline a sanity-saving device. No longer having to worry about plot, the writer is free to focus on character and scene.

For the truly artsy, a plot planner is confining rather than liberating. Many writers have said that they only found the right voice after they stoppd planning and just let the ideas run.

I've found that my cortical preference has a bit of both hemispheres. I want an outline, the more visual the better. But I don't want it too detailed. I want to be free to improvise when I suddenly discover that nothing in the story's middle is ever as easy as it seemed when I started.


I don't know if it's because I've been discussing this topic with writer friends lately, but one of my characters has turned out to be quite the curser. He's the twenty-year-old single brother of one of my pov characters and enjoys playing video games, drinking beer, and hanging out with his friends. And cussing. I think he dropped the f-bomb twenty times in one scene. Phew!
I'm a firm believer in letting the muse run free in the first draft. But, I'm going to have to ponder this a bit...

Next week I'll be publishing (in my ezine) an interview of up-and-coming author j.a.kazimer, author of the soon-to-be-released CURSES! A F***ed Up Fairy Tale. As a (too?) provocative teaser, here we discuss profanity:

Me: Regarding profanity in book titles, some people might say the proliferation of profanity in our culture signals the beginning of the end, the decline of our society. What do you think it means?

j.a.: I've had a few people, especially in the more conservative local media, react poorly to the implied f-word in the title, going as far as to call me inappropriate. However, I do think the use of the fuck has its place in literature as well as in our culture. If using the word fuck is what ends society as we know it, we're in a lot worse shape than I first suspected.

What do you think? Does profanity ever have a place in literature?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

close third

I read a great story this past weekend in which I felt like I was the character. After I finished reading I thought, How did the author do that? When I went back and looked carefully at the story I was surprised to see it was written in third-person point-of-view rather than first-person.
It's worth reminding ourselves that there are three main point-of-views:
  • first: I
  • second: you
  • third: he/she
AND the distance from the character is independent of the point-of-view. Authors can use any distance with any point-of-view, from very close to very far.

In the story in question, the author used a very close distance; he was right there inside the character's head. The reader was privy to all the character's thoughts and feelings. And the author didn't use any distancing words like "thought", "realized", "felt", "heard", or anything similar. It was extremely effective.

I must admit my third-person pov is not as good. I prefer first-person. When I write third, I tend to include those darn distancing words. Then, when I revise, I have to strike them all out. When I first started writing third-person I wrote the initial draft in first-person and changed it to third in revisions. I may have to go back to that...

What's your favorite pov? What's your favorite distance?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

protect your muse

After having some significant troubles getting my new pages done over the last couple months I've had a breakthrough. I'm not bragging, I'm sharing. :) And I hope you'll share your tips, too. No doubt I'll get bogged down again in the future and then I can refer to this idea and hopefully get out of the muck.

What I learned recently is: Protect your muse! She is an elusive and slippery beast and you have to entice her with everything you've got, namely, find the conditions that yield successful writing--and then use them. For me, a certain geographic location with minimal distractions, a comfortable desk and chair, a certain time of day, and background music all collaborate to get my creative juices flowing. There are other things I could be doing this time of day...but I've learned I should not. I'm not nearly as successful in other conditions. :(

That's my tip for wrangling a muse. What's yours?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Ninc Binder

A new free resource has been released by Novelists, Inc:
The Ninc Binder:A Comprehensive Guide to the New World of Publishing.
This has a ton of info about, well, the new world of publishing. I include a crude outline in case you want more info before downloading it. I looks great to me. :)
  • Section One: Keeping Up With the Newfangled Publishing World: Terms and Tools You Need To Know
    • When Techies Say That,They Mean This: E-Publishing Terminology, Acronyms,Social Networking Terms
    • Tools Overview: Tools for E-book Production, Author Platform Tools,Web and Social Media Analysis Tools
    • New Opportunities Require a Change in Thinking

  • Section Two: How To Expose Yourself Without Getting Pneumonia: Marketing and
    Promotion Using Social Media
    • Not a Marketing Plan, What You Need Is a Connecting Plan
    • Are Blog Guest Posts Worth Your Time?
    • Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn: Essential Social Media Tools to Build Your Audience
    • YouTube Videos
    • Google+: Not Another Way to Waste Time on the Web!
    • Crowdsourcing: In the Crowd, or Leading It?
    • Podcasting
    • Building a Massive E-Mail Database

  • Section Three: The Nuts and Bolts of Publishing Out-of-Print, New, or Bonus Material Without a Publisher
    • What You Need to Know Before You Get Started
    • The Seven Secrets to E-Book Publishing Success
    • What You Need To Do To Get Your Book Ready (Hint: Editing and Cover Art)
    • Working With a Freelance Editor
    • What Your Cover Designer Should be Asking You
    • Step by Step Upload Directions for:
      • Amazon Kindle
      • Barnes and Noble Publit
      • Smashwords

    • How to Keep Track of Sales and Taxes

  • Section Four: If You Put it on the Web, The Readers Will Come… (If You Holler Real Loud and Jump Up and Down… and Set Your Hair on Fire): Other Promotion and Marketing Options
    • I Need Promo Help!
    • Author Co-op and Promotional Groups
    • Mo Boylan of MMB Author Services: The Best Promotion Tools to Reach Readers and Reviewers
    • Publicity and Promotion: A Publicist’s Take
    • Short and Sweet: How to Use Short Content to Build Your Career

  • Section Five: Contract Watch: What You Need to Know Before You Sign
    • Kindle: Not Necessarily Worldwide
    • Deal Breakers
    • Final Drafts: Selecting a Literary Executor

  • Section Six: I Want the Money… but I Just Want to Write!
    • The Art of Running Your Business
    • Meet Author’s Assistant Melissa Hermann
    • Looking Good, Selling More: Experience eBooking from the Inside-Out


Thursday, February 9, 2012

pantsing it

I've been having a heck of a time writing new pages this year. The problem stems from my method...I'm a pantser. This means I do not plot my novels out. Thus, the opposite of a pantser is a plotter. (I've tried this method, too, and it doesn't work for me; writing becomes drudgery.) In the eternal struggle between panster and plotter: pick whatever works for you. There's no right or wrong way to write.

However. Pantsing has its perils. Namely, not knowing what's going to happen next.

I'm working on two novels right now. (Another trick: I can change projects when I get stuck.) In Project 1, I wrote half of it and got bogged down in the sagging middle. My critique group suggested I needed an antagonist. (Critique groups rock.) My brain always goes to a black-caped villain (cue evil laugh) with the word 'antagonist' and let's face it, most people don't deal with villains. But, a person whose interests are in opposition to the protagonist's interests... That could work. I introduced a new pov character and wrote about 10 chapters for him. Introducing a new pov character seems very effective--I'll keep it in my bag of tricks. Everything was going great until I got stuck again. Ugh. I couldn't figure out what would happen next because I hadn't plotted it. But, finally, after I quit procrastinating, I figured out what the worst possible thing that could happen to that character and I made it happen. Viola. Now the chapters are flowing again. (Poor guy!)

I started Project 2 several years ago and got bogged down in legal jargon and rules (there's a murder in chapter 1). A few months ago I picked it back up and dusted it off with a total rewrite. (Thank you critique group!) But the pantser method is really biting me in the ass this time. I don't know what should happen next. I don't recall who the murderer is. I planted a bunch of clues and I don't recall where they lead and so on. It's pretty much a disaster. Don't do this! Apparently, even pantsers need to take notes. The next few days I will be brainstorming what happens next. Wish me luck.

How about you? Are you a panster or a plotter? Do you have any advice for avoiding pantser or plotter pitfalls?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Writing on Reading: Ender's Game

Once in a while I reread an older novel to see how well it stands up. It's interesting because as time passes, I bring different things to the table, and so notice different things about it. Recently, I reread Orson Scott Card's 1985 novel Ender's Game.

Very briefly, the story is: in the far future humans encounter an alien insect-like race and they go to war. On Earth, children are bred to be soldiers and officers in the war. One such child is Andrew "Ender" Wiggin and he is chosen to go to Command School. At Command School he undergoes extensive game-like training programs and ends up playing a significant role in the war while still a child.
Perhaps this sounds a bit mundane or perhaps speculative fiction is not to your taste. There are still things to learn here. The author does an excellent job plotting; there are some fabulous plot twists, particularly at the end of the book. The author also does an excellent job characterizing Ender, the smart misfit. Card really puts the reader inside Ender's head. We're right there as he's bullied, has to fight for his life, wins and loses games, etc. This is the very essence of fiction: making the reader understand what it's like to be someone else. Moreover, for many bullied or misfit kids it was comforting to know they weren't alone in their experiences.

This novel also deals with bigger questions. The kids behave the way kids really behave rather than how adults wished they behaved; this was eye-opening for some adult readers. It also makes one think about the whole concept of war and genocide. Is war ever justified? Is genocide? What if your whole world was at risk? Perhaps most significantly it addresses the issue of good and evil within each of us. The very best fiction addresses such big picture ideas. Recall what Card wrote about fiction.

As a geek, I also enjoyed the shout-outs to other works. In particular, the anonymous military leaders who discuss their plans at the beginning of the chapters is very reminiscent of the Second Foundationers in Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy. Alluding to previous works of fiction makes a novel richer. I don't think I noticed the allusions to the Foundation Trilogy in previous readings. Recall writer plus readers makes art. :)

The take-home messages are:

  • When reading, think about what you're reading. What works? What doesn't work?
  • When writing, think about what you're writing. What works? What doesn't work? How can you write really effective characterizations to put the reader in your character's head? Can you add fabulous plot twists? How can you address big picture ideas in your fiction? How can you allude to other fiction?

Good luck with your writing!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


By now, we're well into 2012. How's it feel? How's it going? I deliberately did not write about New Years Writing Resolutions because, frankly, I don't really believe in them. Not because resolutions are bad, per se, but because I need New Day Resolutions, New Week Resolutions, and/or New Month Resolutions. :)

I think it's important to periodically (more than once a year!) stop and assess how one's writing is going. I also think small resolutions or goals work better, for me, at least. (Big goals seem too scary?) Generally I have weekly writing goals such as writing a first draft of a new chapter, revising old chapters based on critique group comments and similar.

It strikes me as I write this that it's also important to periodically stop and assess one's writing behavior. Last year I blogged about a revision watch list. The idea here is we repeat some of the same not-necessarily-good things in our writing and we need to watch out for them. But I also repeat some of the same not-necessarily-good things in my writing behavior. Apparently, I need a writing behavior watch list! My most non-production writing behaviors are procrastination (not writing) and then feeling guily about it. Hhm... I need to quit these behaviors. They are negatively impacting my writing.
I resolve to stop doing these. At least this week. :)

How about you? Do you do New Years Writing Resolutions? If so, how do you stick to them?