Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 19-25, 2019

Another week, another batch of informal writerly learnings.

Vaughn Roycroft explains what makes a story epic … to him. Barbara O’Neal wonders, are you making writing harder than it needs to be? Heather Webb: protecting your creative mindspace. Writer Unboxed

Fae Rowan is soldiering on. Writers in the Storm

K.M. Weiland shares 20 of the most instructive quotes about writing. Helping Writers Become Authors

Victoria Mixon is contrasting and condensing characters: two sides of the same coin. Writers Helping Writers

The Tale Foundry looks at Sir Terry Pratchett’ unifying voice.

 

Allegra Huston stops by Jane Friedman’s blog to share the two basic rules of editing (and one rookie mistake).

Pamela Taylor is creating authentic character details: names. Research is fun! Then, Gabriela Pereira interviews Jodi Thomas: turning characters into people. DIY MFA

Chris Winkle helps you understand appropriative worldbuilding. Then, Oren Ashkenazi warns against seven ways writers sabotage beta reading. Mythcreants

Jami Gold explains how pacing helps readers care about our characters.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found something useful.

Be well until thoughty Thursday!

tipsday2016

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The next chapter: June 2015 update

As expected, with the revisions of Initiate of Stone complete(ish—I’m still getting the final sections from outstanding beta readers), query letter and synopsis written, and the query process started, my productivity is back to normal.

June 2015 progress

The 709 words written in the IoS column represents my third and final (for now) stab at the synopsis.

I’ve already received my first “not for me” response from my first batch of queries. In typical Canadian fashion, I seriously considered writing the agent back and thanking her for such a prompt response. LOL!

You’ll notice on the summary (below) that I’ve now written/revised 110% of my goal on IoS.

On the short fiction front, the story I’d sent out in May was rejected, and the two stories I sent out in June have also been rejected (just found out about the second of those yesterday). I’m persistent, though, and I’ve turned around and sent in another story to the anthology that is still open to submissions.

The one thing I’ve discovered is that, with each rejection, they are getting easier to handle. You get desensitized after a while. It is very much a part of the business of writing, but it’s only experience that takes the sting out of it. I barely blink now. I’m not really sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing . . .

First time rejectees can rarely expect to receive negative feedback with such equanimity.

No story is submitted without some form of revision and/or editing, however.

So, though the short fiction word count was only 20 words, that number represents the revisions on two short stories.

I drafted another 3,890 words on Marushka and expect that I will finish up in July (yay!). I’m at 71% of my goal. I might make 60K on the draft yet 🙂

And now the blog has resumed its place as my primary new word generator at 9,272 words.

My total word count for June is a modest 13,891. It’s pretty much where I figured I’d be, though, so I’m good with that.

June 2015 summary

I’m going to start actively revising, editing, and submitting my short fiction until all of my existing pieces find homes. I haven’t really had any further ideas that fit the short story format and until I do, I’m going to stay focused on my novels.

After I finish up my draft of Marushka, I’m going to return to Gerod and the Lions and finish up that draft. Once GatL is finished, I’m moving on to Apprentice of Wind, the second book in my epic fantasy series. I don’t know how far into that I’ll be when NaNoWriMo rolls around again, but then I’m going to be moving forward with Reality Bomb (working title for my NaNo 2015 project).

My goal in NaNo will be to write more words on the project than I managed last year. Since I will once again be attempting NaNo while working, and I already know I’ll be out of town for a full week in November for training, it’s going to be a tough goal to reach.

I think that will take me through to the end of the year rather nicely 😉

So that’s been my month in writing.

How about all of you? Achieve your goals? Fall short? Acceptances or rejections? One way or the other, it’s all Writerly Goodness. Share yours in the comments 🙂

The Next Chapter

Wordsmith Studio third anniversary blog hop

Alrightie, then!

Three years ago, Wordsmith Studio got its start.

WSS Homecoming 2015

Here’s my interview:

1. Are you a WSSer (a member of Wordsmith)? If so, sound off about how long you’ve been a member, your favourite way to participate, or anything you’ve missed if you’ve been away. We’re not your mother/father… there will be no guilt about how long since your last call.

I was with WSS from the start. I’m a founding member. I’ve only contributed one post to the collective, however. Life is busy. No excuses. Just facts. I have enough trying to keep up with the day job, my blog, and, what’s most important, my writing. Oh, and there’s that pesky family thing, too 😀

2. What medium do you work in? For our writing folks, are you currently working on fiction, poetry or non-fiction, or a combination? Anyone YA or mystery or thriller or…?

I started off getting published as a poet, and won a few short story contests. Now, I’m writing fantasy novels—yes, that was plural—and science fiction short stories. I continue to blog about aspects of the writing life that are important to me.

3. What’s the name of your current project (ok multitaskers, give us your main one)?

Initiate of Stone is my epic fantasy. I’m currently in my last revision (for now—I know there will be much more coming) prior to diving into the query process later this spring. I know, I’ve been saying that forever, haven’t I?

4. What is your favourite detail, sentence or other bit you’ve written lately?

Gah! I have to pick just one? OK. Here’s the opening of a recent short story:

“I wander endless halls, time compressed by shimmering walls, thought slowed by the dance of acrylic and oil over canvas, memory smothered by ephemera. There are only three floors and a block of conjoined buildings, but the halls twist and turn back upon themselves. I can walk for hours staring at the art and collectibles, which change regularly, and then stare at the plastic card in my hand, wondering which of the rooms I’ve passed is mine.”

5. Any obstacles or I-hate-this-chapter moments?

ALL. THE. TIME. I constantly doubt myself. I just keep writing anyway. It’s what we do.

6. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned lately from your writing?

Last year I experimented with working on multiple projects. I tried different approaches, but have realized that realistically, I can only work on two projects at a time (aside from blogging and writing short stories) and that they have to be at different stages of development. I can draft one novel and revise another, but I can’t draft two novels at the same time. It requires too much of the same kind of creative energy.

7. In what ways do you hope to grow in the next 6 months/year?

I want to become the bionic writer. I want to be faster, stronger . . . 😀 You get the idea.

8. In what ways do writing friends and communities help you do that?

I learn from everything I do and from everyone I meet. You might say I’m addicted.

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Since I didn’t blog this past weekend, I thought I’d get this posted for you.

And Tipsday will be coming up tomorrow. This will be interesting. I haven’t prepared my weekly posts in advance. This might hurt a bit . . .

Terra Luna guest post by Vikki and John Woodward

Vikki and John Woodward are a married couple in Tallahassee, Florida. They are the authors of TERRA LUNA, an epic VikkiandJohnurban contemporary romance, which they have published on Amazon Kindle. Two sequels are under way, and they recently completed IN THE CAT’S EYES, a paranormal romance and thriller which they hope to publish soon.

You can buy TERRA LUNA here: http://amzn.to/1bPsfY7

You can learn more about their universe of Faeries, bagpipers and the world’s greatest scones at their blog, http://mactamicksfinestscotchltd.com/

In this guest blog post, they talk about writing together as a married couple.

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Vikki:

Every day I would sit in my car under a giant oak tree, and wait for my sister to finish work so I could give her a ride home. I’ve amused myself by making up and telling stories all my life, and during those weeks of sitting under that oak I made up a story about the tree: a Faerie and many other critters lived in and around it.

I started writing my story down in a notebook. Whenever my sister would finally leave work, I read her the next installment of the story. She was impressed and encouraged me to continue. I mentioned to my husband John I was writing a story about a Faerie that that had to live in two worlds: our Human one where she pretended to own the Faerie Lands (a private “wildlife preserve”) and her Faerie community, where she never fully fit in or was trusted.

Although I had never seen or heard of Little Five Points in Atlanta, Terra Luna’s Human community, when I described to John what I saw in my mind’s eye he said that L5P was exactly it. Weeks later he took me there. It was strange, because it was just as I had imagined.

I have a lot of stories and characters in my head, but it is hard for to put solid words into a story the way I’d like. John is great, really super at research and the technical stuff, whereas I provide the ideas. Honestly, my grammar and syntax need help, which John gives me. I am the creative and emotionally wise half of the team. My characters need me to write their life story and I need John to help, because honesty I could not do it without him. I can tell to my stories to anyone that would listen, but I really and truly need John to write in a comprehensive way so people can appreciate them.

John:

I used to write nonfiction, mostly articles for magazines that dealt with disability issues. I learned the mechanics of getting to the point, cutting excess, keeping the grammar good and simple and so on. I offered to help Vikki write TERRA LUNA because she needed help with the Prologue, in which a jumbo jet crashes at take off and only the baby Terra Luna survives. The scene had to be tragic and was just too sad for her. I wrote it so she could begin the main story. A few pages later, I decided that the minor character Barry Davie should be a doctor who would eventually become the hero’s best friend and deliver the heroine’s baby. That was my start as a creative contributor.

Vikki created all the major characters in our book, and half the minor ones. Nothing gets in without her approval. The final decisions about plot, descriptions and continuity are always hers. My job is to get it into the computer file. We began writing together at night, with her describing what should happen and me writing it. We switched to a system where she described to me every night what should happen next, and I would write it the next day while she was at work. Then I would read it to her in the evening, she would correct any mistakes and we would repeat the cycle. Later on I invented a few scenes of my own, to give the characters extra room to grow.

My own “growth” as a writer has mainly been a steady improvement in my skills as an editor and re-writer. We spent hundreds of hours writing TERRA LUNA — it’s an epic — but I spent almost twice as long on editing and re-writing.

TerraLunacoverWe have now finished our second book, IN THE CAT’S EYES. Whereas TERRA LUNA is urban fantasy, CAT’S EYES is a paranormal romance set in New Orleans. It started as our National Novel Writing Month book for 2012. We are currently writing the second book the TERRA LUNA series, RAVEN. We don’t know when CAT’S EYES will be published, or when RAVEN will be finished, but we are looking ahead to Labor Day Weekend, when we will join the Novel-in-Three-Days challenge and November, when we will do National Novel Writing Month again.

It’s strange that I always envisioned myself as a “writer,” but never had any plots that excited me enough to sit down and write. Vikki gave me the gift of her imagination, and that made all the difference.

 

Six questions with Brian Braden

Brian BradenBrian Braden is a retired military officer and has been a corporate executive, an intelligence officer, a combat helicopter pilot, and a freelance columnist. His articles have been featured in a variety of defense magazines and websites. He is also a founder, editor and writer for Underground Book Reviews. His debut novel, Black Sea Gods, is the first installment of an epic fantasy series.

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Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Brian!  I’m so happy to have you here to celebrate the launch your new book, Black Sea Gods: Chronicle of Fu Xi on February 18, 2013.

We first met on Author Salon just over a year ago, in the then-beginning Epic Fantasy group. Since then, your work has changed and grown, and I feel privileged to have been one of your beta-readers.

Congratulations on sharing BSG with the world 🙂

WG: How long have you been writing, Brian?  When did the bug first bite, and when did you know that writing was what you wanted to do?

BLB: First, thanks for inviting me to Writerly Goodness.  Back in 2008 I wrote a letter to a major US defense magazine on a military topic.  The editor actually called me and asked me to turn the letter into a column and he’d pay me. Paid for my opinion? I was in heaven. Then I did another column and then another. Well, one day editors changed and my columnist days were over. But I was fully bit by the writing bug by then. I wanted to write, so I switched to fiction.  I published a little novelette called Carson’s Love to test the self-publishing waters and never looked back

WG: I know you’ve written about this many times, but what was the idea that became BSG and where did it come from?

BLB: It came from several inspirations, but primarily from a photo of an ancient mummy dug-up in a faraway land. The man’s face was amazingly preserved, as was his clothing. I wanted to know more about this person, but archeologist knew very little about him. I imagined who he was and what his life was like. After a while I decided to write his story, but I needed a cultural mythology to build upon. That’s when I stumbled upon Dr. John Colarusso’s book Nart Sagas From the Caucasus, a compilation of myths almost lost to history. I put the myths to the man and combined it with some related Chinese mythology and BLACK SEA GODS was born.

WG: I love process!  Can you give my readers any insight into yours over the course of writing BSG?

BLB: The short answer: My core process is I start with a climax and a character and build the rest of the story around those two elements. My long answer: I started out on a website called Review Fuse, where other writers could read my chapters as I posted them. Not long after I started posting chapters I began collaborating with Amy Biddle, who was working on her first novel The Atheist Prayer (due out soon by Perfect Edge Books).  We joined forces and started critiquing each other’s books one chapter at a time. We soon expanded our circle to two other talented writers – Katie French (The Breeders) and Kimberly Shurshen (Itsy Bitsy Spider and Hush). Over a year, one chapter at a time, we dissected each other work until we had complete novels. I liked this approach because it made each chapter a tighter package. That was phase one. Then I spent another year or so with writers at Author Salon doing deep edits, mostly involving shortening the book and reworking it using a six-act/two goal writing template. Then I sent it to an editor, who was a tremendous help. Finally, I involved beta-readers, most of who came to me from fantasy author Michael Manning’s pool of devoted fans.  So, it was a four-stage process spanning almost  three years: one-at-a time chapter builds with  external critiques from trusted colleagues, deep “whole manuscript” edits from other writers, a professional editor, and finally, beta-readers.

WG: What have you learned from writing BSG, and how has it changed you as a writer?

BLB: It taught me I can write a novel. Hey, that’s something, right? It taught me to trust my gut and don’t let the idea of become a writer get in the way of being a writer. This past year taught me how to organize my manuscript and how to structure it.

WG: When you started writing BSG, you had your eyes on traditional publishing.  When did that change and why did you opt for Amazon?

BLB:  My decision didn’t come all at once, but was influenced by several factors. First, as a writer for Underground Book Reviews I’ve read amazing indie books and saw indie authors build huge readerships.  I kept seeing friends, talented authors, succeed in the wild west of indie publication.  If they can do it, I can do it.  Second, as I’ve learned more about the traditional publishing industry the more I realized how highly unlikely Black Sea Gods was going to be picked up. It’s too far out of what industry professionals are looking for, what they consider “hot,” or “marketable.” The feedback I received from several agents and publishers was they liked the story but didn’t know where BSG would fit in their line. My only real hope would be to warp the story into something more compatible with the current market, and therefore make it something unrecognizable. I wanted to tell the story my way. I’m comfortable with that.

I went with Amazon’s Kindle Direct exclusively for the first 90 days to initially keep things simple, take advantage of their marketing leverage, and incorporate a “rolling debut.”  In three months I’ll debut on Nook, and then Smashswords, etc. Each debut is a marketing opportunity, a chance to burst fresh on the scene and carry the accolades/reviews from the previous tier forward.

WG: I know you started your personal blog in the last year as well.  What has your experience in blogging been like and how do you think it will contribute to your success as an author?

BLB: Blogging … I haven’t cracked that nut yet. As it stands now, I have very little faith in my personal blog to sustain or launch my writing career. Blogs are jealous creatures, they demand gobs of time and attention in order to love you back just a little bit. I’m afraid I haven’t given my blog enough of that TLC;  however, I’ve developed a small, but loyal following and, over the next 90 days, I’ll be offering  free copies of BSG from time to timeBlack Sea Gods: Chronicle of  Fu Xi as part of my marketing campaign.  The first promotion started yesterday and ran for 24 hours.

If there has been one platform that has been good to me it’s Underground Book Reviews. The response to the indie book e-zine has been overwhelming. I would not have been as well positioned as I am now to launch an indie writing career without it.

Thanks for a great interview Brian!

Challenges become opportunities: The Author Salon Experience

Back in December, I joined Author Salon on the advice of one of the people I consider to be my writing mentors, Barbara Kyle.

Initially, I had no clue what I was getting myself into.

My first mistake was not reading anything before I signed up, so when I was presented with a profile to fill out, I dove right in.  Little did I know that there was an art to this …  I did read the AS step-by-step guide, belatedly, but I still had no clue what I was doing.

I set up my profile to the best of my ability, sounded off in the Shout Out Forum, and then posted a call for peers in the In Production I Forum group that seemed to suit me best: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Horror, and Speculative Fiction.

The initial group that formed was small, but dedicated.  We started off by critiquing each other’s profiles.

Now, this may not seem particularly important work, but part of the AS process is that professional editors and agents peruse the site from time to time.  Ultimately, the author’s profile will be a marketing tool to those same agents and editors, so it is a critical piece of the AS puzzle.

It’s as important as perfecting your “pitch” or logline, as important as writing a knock-their-socks-off query letter, in short, the AS profile is as important as it gets.

I’ve been at a bit of a disadvantage because I’ve not yet attended a conference where I’ve had the opportunity to “pitch” my concept to agents.  I haven’t started shopping my novel yet, and so I really don’t have any experience crafting a query or synopsis.  I really don’t have an idea about what a hook line should be and how it differs from a conflict statement.  But I’m learning …  and I have to learn fast.

I thought I knew at least one thing going in: even if you have a series planned, the novel must function as a stand-alone, but it seems that everyone else in my critique group is using the fact that they have a series planned as a selling point.  So now I’m fairly convinced that I know nothing, and am approaching the whole process tabula rasa.

One question posed to me was, “why mention your day-job?”  The point was that the information should only be included in the event that it lends to the topic you write about, like a retired police officer writing mysteries/police procedurals.  I’d like to address that here.

As a learning and development professional, I write courses.  Certainly, it’s a completely different beast than a novel, but writing is writing and any practice reinforces skill.  It develops my rhetorical skills to direct my writing to a particular audience with a particular purpose in mind.

Also, as a corporate trainer, I have presentation skills.  It’s a good marketing point and while it may not be on the top of every agent’s list of skills an author must have, it may be an asset that tips the scales in my favour.

I’m more likely to be comfortable in an interview situation, doing public readings, and participating in workshops or conferences on a panel.  I’m tech-friendly, if not tech-savvy, as the result of my work.  I could easily put out YouTube videos or podcasts regarding craft, or reading of my work (in fact, it’s something on my list of things to do for my platform).  I could even parlay my skills into delivering Webinars or tutorials.

Finally, it was my learning and development day-job that got me back into learning-as-lifestyle.  Mutant learning, social learning, independent research, call it what you want, it’s what I need to ramp up my profile and my writing as presented on AS and attract the attention of agents and editors.  I started developing my online platform as a writer thanks to my work in L&D.

What I learned about Initiate of Stone in the first go-round:

  • It was too long;
  • It was too complex:
  • I’m too wordy; and
  • I’m not very good at seeing the redundancies in my own work.

Then, in January, all of my critique partners left In Production I and were promoted to Editor Suite.  Most of them had attended an Algonkian Conference which acted as their respective invitations to AS.  They all received personal notification to move along.  I thought I was left behind.

So I started over with a new call for peers and waited.  Eventually the administrators realized that there was some kind of miscommunication and offered a clarification.  I was promoted to Editor Suite after all!  My relief was immense.

My new critique group in Editor Suite included all of my old friends, plus a couple new ones.

The first order of business was to start over with the profile critiques, and when that was done, we moved onto critique our first acts.  AS calls them the first 50 pages, but I prefer to call it the first act because it’s actually the first 50 -100 pp, depending on where your first major plot point falls.

What I’ve learned from the critique of the first act:

  • My first major plot point takes too long to arrive;
  • The story line for my protagonist needs to be seriously amped up;
  • I still suck at the profile stuff (that’s part of what I’m working on next);
  • I may be wordy, but given my chosen genre, epic fantasy, it works, overall.

Along the way, there was this thing called the Showcase.  AS reps would be showing a foreshortened version of our profile to industry experts and seeing if they could get any interest.  The call went out about the time that the former version of this blog was hacked and there was a little confusion while I reordered my electronic life.  The server on which my blog was hosted at the time was also my email server …

Got that mess sorted, but even though the Showcase went on until May, IoS did not get a single nod.  Almost everyone else in my critique group, however, got at least one, and many received multiple expressions of interest.  I’m very happy for my peers, but really disappointed in/for myself.  This just speaks, once again, to the importance of the AS profile in the overall process.

What I’ve done or am doing as a result of all this:

  1. Cut my novel in half.  The former mid-way point is now the climax and I still have to cut about 40k words.  I don’t know how this will turn out, but I’m willing to work at it until it’s fabulous 🙂 ;
  2. Rewriting Ferathainn’s story/plot line;
  3. Revamping my profile;
  4. I’ve applied for, was accepted to, and have registered for Algonkian’s New York Comes to Niagara conference in October.  If nothing else, I’ll learn how to get my profile together there.

So we’ll see where this all takes me.  The AS journey has been fraught and fun and incredibly hard work so far.

That’s it for this week bubbies!  Gotta get working on my WIP!

For my science fiction writer friends, I want to post links to Robert Sawyer’s two-part January interview with William Gibson:

Also check out Robert’s TedXManitoba lecture:

Are you part of an online critique group?  What have you learned from the process?  How is it changing your creative life?