Archive for September, 2010
Thursday, September 30th, 2010 by Charlene Teglia
“I was alive and I waited, waited, I was alive and I waited for this
Right here, right now there is no other place I’d rather be”
October is just around the corner, and you know what that means; soon NaNoWriMo will be in full swing and writers everywhere will be trying to juggle plots without forgetting to defrost the turkey or burning the pies.
Which is why October is a good time to get ready. Bake and freeze ahead for November so you don’t have to worry about it. Plot and research and figure out histories and technologies and economies that shape your story.
Or you could just start getting used to the idea that the secret to getting a whole book written is sneaking off to write a paragraph or a page whenever you get a chance. Writing doesn’t have to wait for the right time or the right opportunity or for all the research ducks to get lined up in a row.
Here’s a trick I use: open up your document. Read over it. Think about what comes next. When you have five free minutes, write. When you have another five minutes, write some more. And so on. It’s really amazing how many words pile up when you use snippets of time that otherwise might get spent looking at LOLcats. Not that LOLcats aren’t worth looking at. But it’s very easy to dismiss a small amount of time as worthless instead of capturing it for something worthwhile.
If writing is worthwhile to you, write. Write here. Write now. Write for ten minutes during lunch. Write while you’re waiting for an oil change. Write in sentences and paragraphs and scenes and fragments. Write notes and ideas for later scenes or for additions to earlier scenes that will have to be made to make later events logical. Write a great line of dialog. Write the line of description you came up with while waiting in line at the grocery store.
The writing accumulates, and whole books get written this way. Writing professionals do not have more time than anybody else. They just use what they have to write.
Write here. Write now.
Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 by Bob Mayer
For a long time I flailed about as a writer picking what to write. Just look at my career path. It was only this past year as I wrote myself out of my last contract and was not contracted for the first time in my career, that I stopped and took a serious look at ‘what to write’. At first I thought, well, I’ll use my platform as an ex-Green Beret and write military thrillers. But I had to be honest with myself and realize I didn’t feel it. After all, if I was that passionate about the military, wouldn’t I still be on active duty?
Then I thought: well, I’m the only male author on RWA’s Honor Roll. I can be the male romantic suspense author. But again, I didn’t have the passion for it. Also, that’s kind of counter-intuitive. Maybe there’s a reason the Honor Roll isn’t full of male authors? After all, men and women look at romance very differently. I remember 200 women hissing at me in Reno at Nationals when Jenny mentioned my character never said, “I love you” to the heroine in our first collaboration. What we finally figured out is that it’s two very different phrases when a man says it and when a woman says it.
So. My platform wasn’t working for me in those directions.
I met my agent for lunch and we talked about it. She told me the scenes she had really liked in my last manuscript. She talked about my platform: military, Green Beret, West Point, best-selling writer. She said it was very unique. I mentioned the male, romantic suspense thing and her enthusiasm was a bit lacking. Probably because mine was lacking.
I went home and pondered. Then I was emailing a friend whose father had also gone to West Point. And the words Civil War came up. I remember as a plebe at West Point one of the pieces of ‘plebe poop’ (yes, enough said) we had to memorize was: There were 60 major battles in the Civil War. In 55 of them, West Pointers commanded on both sides. In the other five, West Pointers commanded one side. I used to think to myself—maybe that’s why the war lasted so long. When the Ken Burns series on the Civil War came out, I used to watch it over and over again. I’ve walked pretty much every major battlefield of the war. I wrote the Gettysburg Staff Walk used to train officers at Fort Bragg in Special Forces.
I started getting excited.
That’s the key to it all.
I loved the HBO mini-series Rome. The way the two fictional characters, Vorenus and Pullo, caused pretty much every major event in Roman history from Caesar crossing the Rubicon to Augustus being crowned emperor. I thought it was brilliant writing and an intriguing way to look at history.
So I took that concept—two fictional characters causing major events behind the scenes—added in my fascination with the Civil War; threw in my platform as a West Pointer and a military expert and decided I would write military historical fiction. One of the key angles to it is that every time I watch specials on the war, it’s always historians they are using for their quotes. But a military person looks at a battle and war with a much different perspective than a historian.
I started emailing my agent about the idea and doing research. My agent caught my enthusiasm (I still email her every few weeks a short note just to let her know the enthusiasm is still there). When she emailed back and said it sounded to her like I was writing something like Lonesome Dove, I knew I had nailed it, because that’s my favorite book. And the more I researched, focusing on Ulysses S. Grant, the more fascinated I became. I kept finding out more and more things I hadn’t known and I started bringing to life two fictional families for my two main characters.
You have to figure out what you’re strong at as a writer and weak at. I’m a great plotter. I write great action. I’m weak with characters. By choosing to write historical fiction, my plot is kind of determined. So all that energy I used to put into plot, is now going into character. When I did the outline for this book, I outlined the characters first. So sometimes what you need to consider is compensating for what you’re weak at as a writer by writing a story that allows you to concentrate on it.
The bottom line though is enthusiasm. I firmly believe that an agent who reps a book she isn’t enthusiastic about, but thinks she can sell, is killing that book. An agent has to be enthusiastic. It starts with the author. Then the agent. Then the editor has to share that enthusiasm and so on.
This is the entertainment business. Emotion/logic. Emotion is more important than logic.
Warrior Writer Tip: As a writer, pick one type of book that you are going to be successful at. Achieve that before thinking of branching out into other types. Don’t send agents the Chinese menu query where they get to pick whether they want your fantasy, mystery or erotica novel. It means you don’t have a single strategic goal as a writer.
Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 by Sasha White
I know many people are afraid of change, or don’t like it. For so many months we’ve been hearing how the industry is changing, and the message feels like it’s full of gloom and doom. I hate it. The gloom and doom that is, not change.
Personally, I love change. It’s natural for all people and things to evolve, and it often helps me remember what’s important to me. Sort of like a mental spring cleaning. A few weeks back I made some changes in my life. Most of them stem from the realization that I’d become stagnant. No matter how many times I told myself I wanted to write more, I wanted to get in shape, I wanted to socialize more …it wasn’t happening.
It would be easy to blame it on working too much, or working crazy hours, or family obligations or a myriad of other things, but the truth was, I just wasn’t ready to make those changes. They were a surface desire, not a true desire.
Anyone who’s tried to quit smoking, lose weight, or yes, write a novel can tell you the same thing. You can do it, if you truly want to.
Very few things in life are free, and even fewer things are easy. The sooner you accept that, the easier things will become. No, they won’t become completely easy, just easier.
I had so many things on my ‘to do’ list that I stopped actually wanting to do many of them. Then, in August I went on a writing retreat, and did very little writing. However, I did a lot of thinking. It became clear to me that I’d finally slowed down enough to really think hard about what I wanted. Not what I thought I should want, or thought I should want to do, but what I really truly wanted to do. Then I went about making things happen.
The first thing was changing jobs. Yes, I make less money at the new job, some things are more important than money. I find it way too easy to get stuck in the mindset that money is all important. Fortunately, I often find ways to remind myself that while it’s needed for many things in life, it’s not the be-all, end-all of life.
So, I make less money, but I gain other things. I gain a regular schedule that allows me to exercise more, eat properly at more regular intervals (which helps with the health goals). That same regular schedule also allows me more time to pursue both my photography and my writing.
I’m feeling really good about the change, and to get things started I got the ball rolling on putting some of my previously published short stories up on Kindle. I want to see for myself just how good/bad, hard/complicated this self-publishing on Kindle is, and I’ll share my experiences with you here as they happen. Hopefully I’ll have my first release up by Mid October. With a couple more shortly after.
And along with those, I’ll continue to work on my new novel. The one I haven;t told you much about yet, and won’t until I get more into it, as it’s still in that stage where I’m afraid to jinx it.
The point to my rambling? Don’t be afraid of change. Be it in your life, your writing, or the publishing industry…it doesn’t matter. Embrace it, make it yours. Change is what you make of it.
Monday, September 27th, 2010 by Carrie Vaughn
. . .and I’m back, after my longish hiatus! Thanks so much to Charlene for filling in for me.
So, I got to thinking about something on my trip. The iPod and other mp3 players have made music and other audio recordings just about as portable as they’re possible to be. (Especially compared to the days of the first Walkman — as big as a box of crackers, plus the pack of cassette tapes that went with it. Remember that?) Everywhere I go, I see people with earbuds hanging off their heads — on the train, in the mall, in the airport, on the jogging trail, and so on. And I always think — how much are you missing, by shutting out the world?
I understand this is exactly why many people plug in — to shut out the rest of the world. Especially on airplanes, there’s no clearer signal to your seatmate that you don’t want to talk than sticking in the earbuds. But I have to say, if you’re a writer, you really need to shut off the music — or yes, even the audiobook — for a while. I know music can be a big inspiration. It is for me — while I’m writing. But when I’m out in the world, I want to hear the world. When I’m on the hiking trail, I want to hear the birds, the wind in the trees, the sound of distant airplanes, or the running water in the creek. I want to hear the bustle of the airport. I want to rudely listen in on the phone conversation happening two seats behind me on the train. It’s my feeling that you can’t write good dialog without actually listening to people talk, even — or especially — when the conversation is annoying or disruptive.
Story ideas are everywhere. I think it’s just as important to listen for them as well as look for them. (On my Australia trip for example, if I had plugged into my iPod during the flight from Alice Springs, I would have missed the conversation with my seatmate — an Aussie gold miner flying home to the coast for his two weeks off. . . . Talk about story material!)
In related news, here’s an NPR story, “Digital Overload: Your Brain on Gadgets,” that suggests that too much information — and the constant access to information that modern gadgets provide — can actually damage your ability to be creative.
Saturday, September 25th, 2010 by Ken Scholes
It’s Friday evening. Once I finish this post, I’m going to slip across the street for some Thai food. My laptop is charging up so I can take it with me and try to get some words down in the midst of my peanut sauce and sticky rice.
I just spent an hour or so doing research on the web for Requiem. Earlier today, I put a few hours into my day job remotely.
I’m on tour which is it’s own special bubble in the space-time continuum.
This is the third one for me and I enjoy touring even if it makes me tired. Last week, I was local — Powell’s, Klindt’s in the Dalles, and my hometown store, Saint Helens Bookshop.
Then, I hit WA this week. Garfield Book Company in Tacoma, where I connected with old friends from high school and middle school. Barnes and Noble in Bellevue . University Bookstore in Seattle.
And of course, the Pacific Northwest is my old stomping grounds so there are lots of people who’d love to catch up but the only way to preserve my sanity is to just hold open a two hour block of time where anyone can drop by and visit. It’s not a lot but it’s something. Jen and the girls will be up for that, too, which will be nice because I already miss them.
After the WA leg, I’ll hunker down at home for a bit, write, rest, and then hit CA in October.
I think my favorite part is the people I get to see. My least favorite part is being away from Jen and Lizzy and Rae. Oh, and on this trip, having the beginnings of a cold.
But…the food is pretty good.
Drunken noodles or Pad Thai? Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions.
Friday, September 24th, 2010 by Rosemary
I love getting mail from readers, and not just when it’s complimentary to my work. I also love how many teens write with questions about writing. When I was a teen, I knew that I wanted to write a book, but I had no idea how to go about it. Not the writing part, but the writing a whole book part. It’s just so… BIG.
This was actually the thing that took me the longest to learn, so when I get asked–and I get asked a lot–I totally sympathize. Here’s a big confession: I actually feel this way every time I sit down to a new book. It’s an intimidating project, a whole book. How am I going to keep it organized? How am I going to think of enough ideas to get to the end? How am I going to keep my own, let alone my reader’s, interest for a hundred thousand words??
Here are some things I remind myself:
1) Know where you’re going…. Even though I’m not a big plotter, I always do better if I have some idea of my final destination, even if I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen when I get there.
2) …but leave a little bit of mystery. If I know that the book is going to end at, say, the Senior Prom with a big monster extravaganza, for me, if I let the details of that build up as I’m writing the rest of the book, I’ll be looking forward to getting it on the page. It also leaves room for things that develop naturally as I’m writing the book to come into play.
3) Books are written one chapter at a time. I’m not talking about the work of putting words on the page (though that’s true, too). But novels aren’t just one big climax at the end of the book. Each act break, each chapter, each scene has it’s own goal, obstacle and resolution. Thinking about the plot in smaller steps helps break down the book into bite sized pieces.
To mix metaphors, when writing a whole book seems like staring up at a huge mountain from the very bottom of the path, it helps to think of it as a series of successively higher hills rather than one long, tedious climb.
Thursday, September 23rd, 2010 by Candace Havens
TV can be a giant time suck but it can also serve as inspiration for writers. When the snooty folks say, “I don’t watch television,” as if it is beneath them, I say, “too bad because you’re missing some of the most artistically diverse programming ever. Television has had a creative boon the last two years and it isn’t over yet. I don’t know about you, but it’s also a great place to do some research. Need some ideas on how to make quirky detectives work? Check out “Castle.” Want to lawyers who are funny? Check out “The Defenders.” Want to liven up your prose with some spies? Take a look at Nikita and Undercovers. These shows might inspire you to do your own little twist on a well-worn genre.
I started talking about the new season on my personal blog at http://candyhavens.livejournal.com you can find the information for some of the new series that I’ve added to my DVR. And I honestly talk about the good and the bad for Monday – Wednesday. I’m going to finish off that post here, and my hope is you’ll be inspired to check some of these shows out, and in turn they will inspire you.
This is one busy night of television, at least in my house. I’m a fan of Bones and Fringe on Fox, Nikita (a new spy series) and Vampire Diaries on the CW. That doesn’t leave a lot of room on the DVR, which is why I had to buy another one. I wasn’t going to miss one of my all-time favorite shows BIG BANG THEORY. Here’s a show is a great example of how to write some funny nerds. I’m actually angry that CBS moved this show from Mondays, because that quite honestly made Monday a perfect night of television for me. And I’m not sure I can ever forgive CBS for pairing it with the awful William Shatner show $..! My Dad Says. Ugh. That’s some bad television you won’t find inspiring at all. There’s a funny new comedy that has an incredibly diverse cast, Outsourced on NBC, that is so funny. This is a show that reminded me we also need to keep the characters in our books diverse. And it’s also a show that will make you laugh. One show that won’t make you laugh is “My Generation” on ABC. I didn’t find it very entertaining at all, but if you’re doing research on 20 somethings it might be one to check out. They were all a little too whiny for me, but I did get some good ideas for character development. I watch the other NBC comedies and ABC dramas online. There’s just no room at the inn on the DVR’s.
This used to be such a dead night, but it’s a busy one now. I love me some Supernatural and since it’s paired with Smallville, I’ll be keeping up with that one too. I’d given up on Smallville after the third season, but I started watching last season again and it’s an entertaining series. This is Smallville’s last season and I hope they go out strong. Fox moved Human Target, one of my favorites to Fridays along with The Good Guys. I’ll be watching both of those. All of that pretty much fills up the DVR for the night, but if you like law shows you should check out Jimmy Smits in Outlaw on NBC. It’s a different twist on a law show, and Smits is charming as always. Another charming guy is Tom Selleck and I also adore his co-star Donnie Wahlberg, but their show Blue Bloods is like watching paint dry for me. I should probably give it another chance but it’s a cop show with just nothing new for me.
This is a busy night in cable. If you aren’t watching Boardwalk on HBO, you should. It’s amazingly well done. I’ve never been that interested in the Prohibition Era, but this show has changed that. Steve Buscemi is just a revelation in this series. He’s finally found a role that takes serious advantage of his talent. I’m also a big fan of Bored to Death on HBO, which follows Boardwalk. It’s the crazy life of a writer, only he gets into even more trouble than I do. I still watch Brother & Sisters, which ended with a couple of big cliffhangers last season, and I’m still a fan of Desperate Housewives. Um, if my friend producer Jeff Greenstein wasn’t working on DH, I’m not sure I’d watch any more. Vanessa Williams, who guests stars on this, gave me the meanest look while I was interviewing her. It wasn’t anything I said, I promise. I just don’t think she thought I was worth her time. I wish that sort of thing didn’t keep me from enjoying a show, but it does. Fox animated is back strong. Goodness knows I still love me some Simpsons, and my kids live for Family Guy.
Well, if you can find a little inspiration in all that, well there’s something wrong with you. Do I watch all these shows every week? No, I wouldn’t get anything done if I did. But I do turn to them when I need to get out of my head and into someone’s world other than my own.
Tell me what shows you watch, and which new ones you’re looking forward to.