Friday, May 28, 2010

Second draft down!

I just finished my second draft! You know what that means? I need beta readers. I'll take any volunteers. This book is an urban fantasy about a 16 y/o dragon slayer in Denver, CO. I moderate my comments, so if you're interested, put your e-mail in a comment and I'll just delete it after I get the address.

In other news, I'm reading through Changeless by Gail Carriger right now, and as soon as I finish it, I'll post a review up on the site. I really enjoyed the last review, and this book is so good, I want to try to convince you all to read it!

Now that I'm done with my second draft, I'm going to hop back into Todd's WiP so that he'll have a huge batch of helpful notes to work with when he gets back from his vacation.

And next week I'll send out a wave of queries for Defender of the Crown. I'm going to branch out (finally) and send snail-mail queries to agents who don't accept e-mail queries. The biggest reason I never sent out paper queries before is that I never really had the time to get them to the post office, but now that I'm only working part time, I have no excuses :)

Anyhoo...happy Friday! Have a great memorial-day weekend. Oh, and thank a veteran for their sacrifice!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

You won't always be liked

On Monday I wrote about Tim Buckley's apology to his readers for failing to give credit to an artist who inspired one of his characters. I took that apology as genuine and honest, but it seems there are people out there who seem to think that Buckley intentionally plagiarized simply to be the jerk that he is. I've never met the guy, so I can't speak about his character as a person, but STILL believe he was sincere.

When found out how many people actually hate this artist (and I doubt any of them have even met him), I started to remember other incidents in my past where people I knew hated successful artist (musicians, writers, etc.) for no good reason. When they spat out venomous words against one of these people, I'd ask them what they hated about them, and they always responded with the same, vague answers that sounded more like jealousy and envy.

I've disliked my fare share of celebrities, but with good reason. I grew up working for a company that did live events with musicians and comedians and public speakers. As far as I can remember (and my memories can be flawed) the only times I've genuinely disliked an artist is when they treat me or the crew who works with me with utter disrespect. Otherwise, I try to separate the artist from their work. I may not enjoy someone's movies, albums, or paintings, but without meeting the person, I try not to pass judgment on them based on their works.

Still, as a writer (and many of you are writers, too, so keep this in mind) you won't be able to please everyone all the time. If you have any success at all, the chances are quite high that someone will go out of their way to get your book banned from public and school libraries. Regardless of what you write, someone will find something wrong with it that (in their mind) justifies trolling the internet and insulting you as a person while simultaneously comparing you to famous authors whose success should shame you to quitting forever.

So here's what I have to say: learn what you can from their criticism, and then get on with your work! If people enjoy your work and they want more, then you're doing something right. Just ignore the people who hate you...especially since they never met you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Let me begin by telling you that I read. I mean, I read a LOT. Or at least when I have free time. And I typically read books that I know I'll enjoy (with a few exceptions, like for school or research). If I find a book that's really good, I recommend it to other people. Yes, I worked in a bookstore for a couple of years and that was part of my job, but if a book is great, then you just HAVE to read it. If you've spent ANY time reading my blog, I'm sure you know how much I love Jim Butcher's work. And I recommend him to you VERY strongly.

Well now I've found a new author whose work you MUST read: Gail Carriger. Her first book, Soulless, begins when Miss Alexia Tarabotti accidentally kills a vampire at a society ball. In the space of a few pages, she draws the reader in with charming Victorian wit and clues them in to the rules of a society where vampires and werewolves walk openly among the people.

The dialogue is handled masterfully. All of the characters have a unique voice, and their conversations allow their personalities and histories to be revealed without the author boring the reader with character backgrounds that don't relate to the plot. Each character's relationship with another character is made clear within the first three or four paragraphs of interaction, and not because Carriger steps away from the narrative. The dialogue and actions show the reader exactly what they need to know. And even when the conversations are serious, Carriger manages to keep the reader entertained with little bits lighthearted humor.

Even though Soulless is written in the third-person omnipotent POV (as opposed to third-person close), the switch from one character's thoughts to another's is never jarring. Each transition is smooth, subtle, and presented in a way that keeps the reader moving forward, rather than flipping to previous pages to figure out what they missed.

Carriger's use of third-person omnipotent is a dangerous choice, especially where setting is concerned. But the scenery descriptions are, at all times, elegant and brief, punctuated with the protagonist's opinions. Though I'm not as familiar with Victorian England as I would like, I felt like I was there, walking the streets alongside the characters as they moved through the story.

The mythology behind vampires, werewolves, and ghosts is quickly explained. And it's mercifully brief. From what little I know of the legends, I could see that Carriger stayed true to popular myths regarding these creatures. As far as I can tell, her only deviation from those legends is why vampires and werewolves are able to become supernatural beings: an excess of soul. Carriger explained this concept briefly, and tied it in to the fact that Miss Tarabotti's soulless state allows her to cancel out a vampire or werewolf's abilities.

To sum up, when I finished Soulless, I felt like I'd been introduced to a new world with infinite possibilities. I closed the book, eager to learn more about these characters' pasts and see where their lives would go next. I left entertained, and somehow, I felt as though I'd interacted with the story just as much as the characters had. All in all, I'd give this book an 8 out of 10.

So, if you haven't done it already, go buy these books. Now. After all, the more people who read them, the more books she'll write. And I want to see Carriger's works like up on my bookshelf for years to come.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Failures

Failures are what give stories suspense. At least, that's one element that gives a story suspense. I figured out a failure for my protagonist, and I'll get to use it to add at least two chapters to the book! As I thought about the story so far, it felt like the characters just did to well without finding a lot of resistance on their path to the end of the story. So now I'm going to try to kill the protagonist. Again.

It's a GM's trick (roleplaying...tabletop). If the players aren't doing anything entertaining, or all they do is have one success after another, that gets boring. Both to the players and the GM. So a good GM will try to kill one or all of the players (their in-game characters, just so it doesn't sound like the plot of a bad movie, or something).

In this book, I just put my protagonist into a horrible situation, and now I need to write him out of it. But I want him to have a few scars and doubts to overcome when he succeeds at staying alive. I'm excited!

Because of this new development, I've halted my read-through. I figured making these additions would be a LOT more productive than just making sure the story all fit together and then adding the new stuff later. After all, if these chapters change the overall plot, it makes more sense to fix it all at once instead of doing the work twice :)

Tomorrow I'll take the time to put together that review of Soulless. I just have too much going on around the house today to get to it right now.

It's a short post today because I REALLY need to get back to work. I also need to get back to my critique of Todd's book. See you tomorrow.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Artistic Integrity

No, I'm not talking about selling out, giving up your dreams in pursuit of an extra dollar. This post is about another kind of artistic integrity. The kind of integrity that keeps legitimate writers from committing plagiarism. Just last night, a web-comic artist named Tim Buckley wrote an honest, straightforward apology for not giving credit to another artist who inspired him. Read the post to see what I'm talking about... read it yet? Okay, good.

From what I read (and this is my interpretation of the words he used based on context and how hard he tries to give EVERYONE their due credit), it sounds like this was completely unintentional, and he's doing everything he can to rectify the situation without being called out by anyone. The language he used implies that he realized the mistake without it getting pointed out to him (and while this may not be accurate, it helps my point).

With the internet, it's a lot harder for dishonest people to get away with plagiarism, but it's also a lot easier for honest artists to get CHARGED with the same crime. (Yes, many of us who work hard to create an entertaining story, a beautiful painting, or a moving song consider plagiarism to be a severe crime. And as stated on Studio 60, accusing me of that crime would be as bad as accusing me of pedophilia.) I don't have much advice on how to avoid getting charged with plagiarism, except, don't do it. I learned in school that, as a writer, you MUST give credit where credit is due. Whenever I create a new species, character, or company in my books, I make sure that they don't show up on an internet search. In fantasy settings, many creatures are trademarked by specific companies, and using them violates copyright law just as much as trying to profit off of Harry Potter fan fiction.

If we ever get famous, someone's GOING to charge us with copying their work. That's just the way it is. Some lazy, lying person who wants their payday will find a way to sue simply because you're famous and they're not. But if you conduct yourself openly, always give credit where it's due, and ALWAYS do research, the likelihood of actually being guilty, or even being found guilty in a courtroom, is very slim.

Props to Tim for his honesty!

Friday, May 21, 2010

A short Friday post

I'm still making headway on my book. Broke the 31k mark, added some great sub-plot stuff, and I'm pushing forward with slow but steady perseverance. I'm almost done with Soulless, so next week I'll get a review up for it, and then I need to sit down and read Todd's WiP.

That's about all I have. I fell asleep when I was trying to think of ideas for my book, so I'm about two hours behind. Gotta get back to it...

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Preconceptions

Preconceptions can be very good or very dangerous things in the world of fiction. When a reader jumps into a book they've never read, their thoughts are likely to color their entire view of the story. For example: if the reader hears rave reviews of that book, then they may begin their journey full of excitement, ready to be entertained just as much as the woman in the newspaper who, "...couldn't put the book down all night!" If the book is great, they walk away pleased, but if it falls short in any way, there's the danger that, not only will the reader feel disappointed, but they may never read anything else by that author ever again.

On the other hand, and I'll give an example from my own experience, I grew up in the culture that declared before the world that "Harry Potter is evil!" And while I never agreed with those people, (and my opinion of their deplorable treatment of the world-at-large is a looooonnnnnggg topic for another day...maybe), those thoughts still danced around the back of my mind as I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for the first time. I LOVED the book. And as soon as I finished reading it, I picked up book two...followed by book three, and as soon as four came out, I got THAT one.

When preconceptions are blown away in a proper manner, it can do great things for a writer. When I read a debut author, or a well-known author's first book, I go in expecting it to be only barely publishable. After all, they've never had anything else published. They're new at this, and they deserve the benefit of the doubt, but I expect the writing to be raw and devoid of a unique voice. When the books are as astounding as Storm Front, Dead Until Dark, or Soulless, then I can't help but look for more books by those authors. The proved to me that they are great at what they do, and even though the writing isn't "perfect", it's a lot better than I expected!

On the other hand, my because of my preconceptions, I'll probably never read The DaVinci Code. Not because of the "controversy" (which was only a controversy for Americans who don't study DaVinci...they already knew that stuff in Europe). I know what I believe, and a FICTION BOOK (Brown makes a point of telling the reader it's only fiction) won't change my beliefs. The reason I won't read it is because so many people who read it and could step back from the religion stuff all insisted that (and these are their words) it was one of the worst books they'd ever read. "The writing is atrocious," they told me. "He doesn't know his way around Paris, the plot is predictable, and the characters don't seem real. Even the scenery descriptions are bland." For a book that stayed on the bestseller lists for so long, that's not something you expect to hear.

Is this fair? Probably not. But it's still something we as writers need to consider. Regardless of the genre you write, it's important to know what the popular preconceptions are. Are you writing about werewolves? What's the theory on how a werewolf comes into existence? Will you stick to ancient legends (like the legend that only men can become werewolves, they can only be killed by silver, a female descendant of a werewolf might, just MIGHT, carry a cure to lycanthropy...and so on), or will you stray from tradition and create a new mythology? And will it be so different from what people are used to that it will only make them mad? That's only one example, and every genre, from mystery, to horror, to science fiction, has their own set of rules that, when broken, make readers angry unless they're done well.

Whew! That's a lot going through my brain this morning! What preconceptions have you had about books that turned out to be wrong? Was that a good or bad thing?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Distracted

Yesterday I ran into sections of my book that really bugged me. They were worded badly, didn't contain enough description, told rather than showed the narrative. You know, all of the stuff that unpublishable novels are made of. I'm actually surprised that it took me so long to run into this stuff, but as the writer, my eyes aren't necessarily the most objective.

My biggest problem with sections of my work that need a lot of improvement is that it takes a lot of work to fix them. I have to think really hard about what I want to say, and then I have to figure out how to get that across without deleting everything I wrote. My brain shuts down when I have to re-word or completely re-write passages in my books, and as a result, I get headaches and I get distracted. I like to tell myself that I'm just mulling over ideas as I check twitter and facebook, but I know I always make the most progress when I just stare at my computer screen and force myself to write something.

But right now, I'm taking the time to get my daily post up. Rather than fix the book that I need to be working on. Especially if I want to start sending it out in July. On the bright side, I'm at a coffee shop right now, so I don't have TV or video games to distract me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A jumble of thoughts

Yesterday I decided that I was going to review the book Soulless by Gail Carriger. I still have to finish reading it, but I don't get ecstatic about many books. In fact, the last book that made me think, "Wow, this is one of the best books I've ever read, I have to read EVERYTHING by this author," was Storm Front by Jim Butcher. Some day I hope to inspire young readers the way these books inspire me.

So as I started going through my book yesterday, I saw how little narrative I was adding to the story. I only got through four chapters, but I will never hit my minimum word count if I don't start adding something to this book. As I said yesterday, I'm sure that when my reading partners get a hold of this book they'll tell me what's missing and I'll have to write a couple thousand words, but until then, I HAVE figured out another side plot. And it was so obvious I can't believe I missed it on the first draft.

See, I'm making progress as a writer! Anyway, I'm hoping to have this book ready to send out to people by the end of Summer. If my day job schedule remains the way it is, that's a distinct possibility. And as much as I could use the money of a busier schedule, this extra time to write is a real blessing.

Speaking of the day job, I must be off to take care of some deliveries. I shall return to my book this afternoon.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Revisions

This morning I read through the first two chapters of my WiP. I liked what I read, and I made only a few minor changes. As far as I could tell, the story flowed, sentences were concise, images stood out, and I showed, rather than told the story. This doesn't mean that I don't have any more work to do on those chapters. I still have to read the rest of the book to make sure the story is cohesive. And then I have to get some beta readers to go through it.

On the other hand, I'm my own worst critic. I hate reading my own work as much as I hate the sound of my own voice. I just see flaws. I'm easily convinced that I'll never match up to the NY Times Best Sellers, and I get depressed and feel like I should give up. Obviously I stick with my writing...

But this time, I read through the chapters as if they were printed in a real book. I changed the few things I would have mentally changed if someone else had written the book, and then I moved on to the next sentence. I know the coming chapters aren't nearly as well written, and I'm pretty sure that when I have beta readers look through it, the book will go through a whole round of "unforeseen" revisions. But for now, I'm excited and (humbly) impressed by the progress I'm making as a writer.

Now if only I could get my query letter right...

Friday, May 14, 2010

On frustration

This is a short post, and it will be more about how I'm learning and growing as a person than a rant at other people :)

When I first started looking for feedback on the internet, it made me incredibly frustrated when my requests got ignored. It was similar to the frustration I felt when agents didn't respond to queries, but I understand why agents don't get back to me all the time. They're busy. But the forums are FILLED with thousands of people just bursting to give their opinions...and I mean that in a good way.

Anyway, as I started blogging more and commenting on other people's blogs, I got less and less frustrated. I do still get frustrated when I'm ignored, but it's not as intense, and I don't care for nearly as long. The people who don't have any desire to help me are more than welcome to just pass me by. I've developed a base of people whose writing I can read, who will point me in a direction to get help with my work, and who (hopefully) know that they can rely on me to do the same for them.

It also helps that I'm making a lot of progress these days, so I feel like, despite a few roadblocks like a lack of feedback, I'm still moving forward :)

Have a great weekend!

P.S. I'm looking for some un-published writing to read, so if you want feedback on your work, let me know and I'll take a look at it :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Frustration

Writing queries is frustrating. I'm finally getting it, and when I finish this letter, it will replace the synopsis from the "pages" sidebar. I'll even put it up on the front page! But for now, I have to sit on my hands to keep from THROWING MY COMPUTER AT THE WALL! I'm not a violent person, I just get really frustrated when I try to think and my brain refuses to work with me.

Despite all of that, I'm moving forward. It's uphill, and I think the hill is made of molasses, but I will eventually get there.

Question: What frustrates you the most about the writing process?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Speculation

A brief thought: Several agents, authors, and even a couple of editors whose blogs I read, have wondered aloud why Young Adult fiction is suddenly so popular. In fact, there is a debut author out there who signed a seven figure contract for a young adult series. That's almost unheard of these days, especially for a debut author, and especially with books that cost between 5%-15% less than normal books. (I think my numbers are correct.)

Here's my theory: E-books are becoming very popular, but publishers don't make as much money from e-books as they do from print. The numbers for authors are a bit fuzzier (agents can give you more solid numbers, and if any of you know them, please post them in the comments). The problem with e-books is that the devices used to read them are expensive. And the books themselves cost (typically) $9.99. Most mass market paperbacks cost between $6.99 and $8.99. At the end of the day, teenagers and children don't have enough money to buy e-readers, and since their books are cheaper in print anyway (in mass market they're about the same price regardless of the age they're marketed to), they can afford to buy more "analogue" books that they can keep on a shelf, lend out to friends, re-gift and re-read without worrying about losing a $100+ e-reader.

In short, young adults can afford to buy more printed books because they can't afford to buy e-readers.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Value of Friends

One of the pieces of advice that I've read a dozen times (probably a LOT more), is that when it's time to get other readers to look over your work, you should NEVER let your friends or family do it. After all, they don't want to hurt your feelings, and they'll simply look it over and tell you how great it is, how proud of you they are, and possibly that they don't understand exactly what you're writing, so they can't give you great advice on how to make it better, but they really enjoyed it.

I disagree. At least with my friends. The people I spend my time with are completely honest with me. My buddy Justin and I were talking about my book just yesterday, and he said matter-of-factly that he would never read it before it got published simply because I "can't handle how cruel he is when editing". I told him he's wrong. I don't expect him to read my book and help me edit it, but over the past three or four years, I've learned to separate myself from my work in a way that lets me actually listen to the critiques other people give me. And if I don't agree with a note they give me (like if they are the only person who noticed something out of place, and their opinion directly opposes the opinions of several other critiquing partners), then I know how ignore it without skewing my view of my friends.

I think it's important that you trust the people who read your work, whether they're other writers you met through a workshop, or readers you met through forums, but especially when they're your family and friends. If you know they're not going to give you useful advice, then don't let them critique your work. But if you value their opinion, and if they're willing to tear your writing to shreds so that you'll be able to improve it, then by all means, ask for their help. Just don't take it personally if they tell you something that you don't want to hear. After all, if they really are your friends, they want to see you succeed.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A week off...sort of

So, if you follow my twitter, you're probably aware of the fact that I finished the first draft of my WiP last Friday. It took me thirteen days, and the draft came in at just over twenty seven thousand words. Not a lot, but as I mentioned last week, I plan on adding a lot of important stuff the second time around. The first run-through was just me getting the meat onto the page. Next I'll deal with the side dishes, followed by presentation and clean-up :)

So this week, rather than jump into the second draft, I'm following the advice of many writers and letting my first draft stew for a bit so that I can look at it with a fresh eye. Today, I started re-writing my query letter.

Not the most fun project, I know, but I already like what I've written, and with a few more edits, I think this will really surpass the last letter I wrote. I'm taking my time, looking things over, and making sure that the language flows. It shouldn't be nearly as flat, and it'll help me throw cold water in the face of the agents I'm querying (in a good way...you know, to get their attention).

That's what I'm up to this week. Next week, I'll jump back into the WiP for revisions.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Lots of random thoughts...

Right now I'm listening to a podcast put together by Litopia. It's really one of the best writing sites I've ever found. One of their podcasts I find kinda boring, but two of them are REALLY educational. They have a lot of advice (which I've heard before, but it's great to get reminded of on a regular basis). Seriously, whether you have a publishing contract, or you're still looking for an agent, check them out.

A piece of advice that I've heard several times from different people, is that the best way to find an agent is to get a recommendation from an author who already works with that agent. This is kind of a tough thing for me to do, especially when it comes to socializing on the writing forums. Nathan Bransford's forum is great. All of the people I've interacted with there are polite, friendly, and eager to help each other. But people on some of the other forums I've been to seem to be either lazy toward their own writing, as well as the writing other people put out, or they're snobs. And by snobs I mean that they've had one or two books published through an indie press or vanity press publisher, and they talk to the other forum-goers as if they are THE authority on writing.

Don't get me wrong, getting published, even in an indie-press imprint, is a lot of work (as Todd can assure you), and I don't begrudge any of those authors their success. But even if they were bestselling authors, I wouldn't listen to their advice if they treated me like an idiot without hope of getting published.

Aside from that, it's difficult to strike up real conversations on the forums. A lot of the posts I've found are either topics that I have no knowledge or interest in, or they're a way for the posters to spark debate without getting a real dialogue going. That's one of the biggest reasons I've focused so intently on this blog. By conversing with all of you, and by reading your posts (even though I don't often comment on them...you know, because I have nothing meaningful to add) I feel like I'm part of a real community.

This meme going around right now, that five by five quiz, is a good example of how I, a mere aspiring author, am getting drawn into this group of writers on the internet. I got tagged by two separate blogs, and both of those authors have been following me less than a month!

Now back to getting agents (see, I told you this was kinda random). I'm thinking of re-writing my query letter for Defender of the Crown (the link is only the part that doesn't change. I personalize the pitch to each agent). To me, it feels flat, but the only proof I have that it's not a great query is that I've either been ignored or rejected by agents. I don't want to re-write it...mostly because I don't like that part of the process, but even if I wanted to skip the agents and go directly to publishers (even indie publishers), I don't think that pitch would get the job done.

I'd love to get a recommendation from an agented author, but I know how busy writers are, especially if they're writing more than one book at a time. And when authors are busy, they don't have enough free time to read an untested writer's book to see if it's worth recommending to their agent.

On a similar note, do any of you (my readers) have a project that you would like to have critiqued? I'm not the best beta-reader in the world, but I can give some helpful advise. If you're interested, leave a comment with you're e-mail address. I moderate comments, and I won't post your e-mails here. I'll just take a note of them and delete the comment.

And now, since I was tagged by Zoe Courtman and J. L. Jackson, I present Five by Five:

Where were you five years ago?
1. Working for Borders Bookstores as a bookseller and barista.
2. Pining over an ex-girlfriend (quite unwisely, I might add).
3. Trying to turn Flatiron City into a writing career.
4. Wishing I could travel to England.
5. Living with my parents.

Where would you like to be five years from now?
1. I would like to be a father.
2. A published, professional author (no longer aspiring).
3. On my third or fourth trip to England.
4. In a house and out of this apartment.
5. Working on one or two series of books.

What was on your to-do list today?
1. Finish chapter 15 of my WiP.
2. Put chili in the crock pot for supper.
3. Write this blog post.
4. Do a brief work-out.
5. Finish the first draft of my WiP.

What five snacks do you enjoy?
1. Ice cream - any flavor without nuts (except Birthday Cake...that one doesn't have nuts, but it tastes like play dough).
2. Popcorn.
3. Sun Chips.
4. Pop Tarts.
5. Fluffer-nutter sammiches (yes, that's how you have to say it!).

What five things would billionaire Giles do?
1. Open my own coffee shop/bar/RPG bookstore.
2. Travel to England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Italy, Germany...you get the idea.
3. Buy a house for my family to grow up and grow old in.
4. Buy a Smart car...maybe some European sports car, too.
5. Take all of my friends traveling with me (after I got some awesome alone time with my wife, of course).

I'm not going to tag anyone else because I'm pretty sure the people I would tag either don't read this blog, or they've been tagged by other writers already.

Happy Friday, have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The process

Today I'm going to tell you how I write. It'll be short and sweet.

When I sit down to write a book, I begin with an idea. That's pretty much were everyone starts. I then figure out who these people are who will act out the story I want to tell. With Defender of the Crown, I spent several weeks planning out the in depth history of these characters until I knew everything there was to know about them. With my WiP, though, I simply wrote out a paragraph for each person, described what they look like, and then a brief sentence or two about their history.

After I know who is acting, I plot out what they're going to do. For this book that I'm working on, I wrote out a chapter-by-chapter outline that contained little plot arcs for each chapter, and then tied those into the over-arcing plot of the entire book. I always use my outline as a guide, though. Not the blueprint that must be followed exactly. This way, when I have ideas for more miniature plots, I can write them in without having to think about them in advance.

After I write a first draft (the WiP will be about 25k words) I let it sit for a couple of days, and then I read through it. I first check for consistency and continuity in the plot, and then I look for areas where the characters seem dull, flat, or boring. I fix those areas, and then make sure that my voice doesn't come across as me telling the story. I use active descriptions in the re-writes, show the progression of the plot, and flesh out any descriptions that need to be worked on. Sometimes I even add whole scenes and sub-plots to the story (like I did in Defender). This process brings the word count up to 45k-70k.

From there I send the book out to beta readers. I listen to their advice, edit, check for grammar and punctuation errors, and then I start to send it out.

So that's how I write. Any questions?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Chapters!

I've decided that long, boring chapters make for bad reading. Nothing makes reading feel more like a chore than a bunch of long, descriptive chapters that go on FOREVER! I know I'm not the fastest reader in the world, but a chapter really shouldn't take me an hour to read. And it doesn't help when (like I said in this post) it's just a bunch of scenery descriptions without character involvement.

So I've decided that I am going to keep my chapters short and sweet. They'll all have a point to them that drives the characters closer to the climax, challenges them, and makes them grow. I like the idea of making characters fight, too. It makes for entertaining drama.

On a side note, one of the books I'm reading right now has a problem that I just noticed yesterday: none of the characters are consistent. They behave unpredictably almost all the time, and I can't tell if their actions are "in character" or not because every time they show up on the page, they behave in a different way.

In the books that I find intriguing, the characters may do something that surprises me, but when I look at their actions, I can see that it's consistent with how the author developed the character. Even if the character does something they normally wouldn't (like a pacifist killing someone) there are OBVIOUS circumstances that lead up to that sudden shift in personality. Yes, it comes as a shock when I read it, but it isn't contradictory to how I perceive the character.

Back to this book: each character behaves how the author seems to think they should in order to move the plot forward. As a result, their actions are unnatural and forced. The progression from point A to point B is overly contrived, and I don't believe that any of these people are human. It's like watching a five different actors trying to play the same person.

If I didn't think that I could learn something of my own writing through these books, I would just stop reading them. However, the plot itself is intriguing, and I want to see how it ends. Even though it feels like homework :P

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Questions!

I'm making a lot of progress on my book still, and it REALLY makes me stoked. By the end of June, I should be able to start sending this out to agents! Isn't that exciting? I'll have the entire first draft finished in less than a month! I know many authors can hammer out a first draft in one week, but I'm still learning, and I have other responsibilities that get in the way sometimes.

I have some day job stuff to do today, so rather than ramble on about subjects I've talked about before, I'll just leave you with a couple of questions: what makes you excited today? Big or small, what are the things that you look forward to in the near future? And what kinds of improvements have you made in your life over the past five years that will make your life over the next five years even better?

Monday, May 03, 2010

A brief scene

This may not mean a lot to most of you, but I wrote it with my wife in mind...mostly to make her laugh. It's raw, unedited, and the first draft, so chances are it's going to change a lot before the book gets published.



Chris slept in until late the following afternoon. Completely out of ideas, he figured he should just stay home and work out. Or sleep. He did quite a bit of both. The next day, though, he went back over to the Steeles’ house. The two day rain shower finally stopped as he pulled into the driveway, and he climbed out of the Jeep to find Matt toiling away beneath his pickup’s hood. Carol stood just outside of the garage, a plate of scones in her hand and a worried look in her eye. “His truck’s still not working?” Chris asked her.

“No,” she replied, “and he’s getting pretty mad.” She offered him a scone and then turned to watch her son as he let out a furious roar and threw his wrench across the garage.

He reached for the nearest object, took it in his hands, and broke into a frenzy as he tried to beat his truck into submission. “You stupid. Piece. Of rust-eaten JUNK!”

Chris leaned over to Carol and asked, “Is that a golf club?”

She nodded. “A five iron, I think.”

“That can’t be good for his truck.”

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I would give you more today, but I have to get ready for work. However, a digital cookie* awaits anyone (aside from my wife) who can point out the music reference I made...:)



*A digital cookie ----> (.';) See? it has chocolate chips!