Category: Writer Advice

#MentionMonday “I wrote a book! How do I get people to read it?”

A few weeks ago I wrote my road to publication post, which included all the happy possibilities and such. During that post someone suggested I write down my formula for promoting a book. At first I was wary because while I’ve tried a lot of things I’m really not sure that any of them worked, but here’s what I did anyway.

#10 I wrote a book blog

It doesn’t hurt to have friends that read books and tell other people to read books. I got to know some book bloggers, ran some giveaways, reviewed and read a good 80 YA books, etc. etc. I built a following before I ever told people that I was a writer.

I won’t lie I made some mistakes with my blog, and had a ton of designs, but I worked it all out in the long run and I’ve landed on something I like.

#9 I added myself to directories

I made sure that my blog appeared on all the major lists out there. I’m still on them, and any lists I find now for Indie Authors, I also try to add myself to them. The point is to get your name on the internet as many times as possible without looking like a jerk.

#8 I asked book bloggers for reviews

And I wrote a post awhile ago about how to ask for reviews from book bloggers. It worked and I got a slew of responses. This is a really good thing to do when you’re a beginner and completely unknown. It lets people within the industry get to know you. AND if you don’t know it, some book bloggers are interns and editors at big name publishing companies in disguise. Shh! It’s a secret!

#7 I got a kick ass cover

Part of advertising is marketing. You can pay for big bland ads but they won’t target your audience at all. If you have a bad cover, it’s just as bad as having a bland book. So I would seek out people that do covers for YA books, and pick the person you like the best. In addition to the cover you also need to brand yourself, but that’s a whole other ball game. I suggest you pick up Kristen Lamb’s Book if you want to learn more about it.

#6 I sent out bookmarks

I printed off a ton bookmarks and sent them out to Indie Bookstores.

#5 I exhibited at conventions

I released my book at the Central Canada Comic Con. I showed off the book, the trailer, gave away posters with purchase of the book, and I had an exclusive cover done up for these. I also personalized the posters for everyone that came by and talked to the people buying the book. I also had cosplayers pose for pics with some of the people buying the book. It was an awesome experience and one of the most successful ways I managed to get my name out there.

#4 I did interviews and guest posts and a blog tour

I can’t even remember how many I did, but I did have 14 bloggers signed up for my blog tour and it went okay. A lot of them dropped out last minute which was unfortunate. I’m hoping to do a second round sometime this year, with the audiobook, which should be released in March.

#3 I made a page on facebook, I have a twitter account

I don’t know if that counts, but I mean I also tried to get more followers on twitter. (Also I’m really sorry but I’m part of the Indie Cover Art Poll which ends Jan. 31st so you’re going to see a ton of posts from me on it. Yeah even here, just … go vote for me please? http://shannonmayer.blogspot.com/2012/01/january-2012-indie-cover-art-poll.html)

#2 I sent out a couple of press releases

Which was probably my worst idea, but I can’t remember what else I did because it’s such a blur in my mind. I go on auto pilot when I promote and just do it because in all honesty, it’s my least favorite part of being an author. (Haha I know, if I want people to read my books I need to tell people about it right? Well I’ve always been the “people find me” kind of person, and so this is a tough one for me to adjust to.)

Anyway, the press releases were all poorly handled and they didn’t get much response so I’ve ditched the idea until I can really get the hang of them.

#1 I landed a book tour with Chspters / Indigo

Which was a process indeed. I had to phone head office and talk to four different people, all of whom wanted to ignore me, and then had to coordinate with all of the stores, and then had more things blowing up in my face regarding book orders. It almost got canceled three times but now that it’s close to 10 days away, it’s happening and it should be good!

Oh yeah . . . I’m going on tour! So if you’re in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton or Vancouver, you can see me in February at your local Chapters! I’ll be showing off the FoS trailer, reading something from FoS, and then doing the big cover reveal and trailer reveal for the second book Flame of Justice. I’m uber excited and yes will take pics! Refer to the appearances page at the top for more info on where I’ll be and when.

And that’s it for me this Monday, Happy OPERATION: MAKE A BIG DEAL OF YOURSELF!

Sidenote: For the book that actually hit #1 on Amazon, in terms of promotion . . . I DID NOTHING! Not a damned thing, and yet, it’s still in the top 100 on Amazon.

#MentionMonday Frak, Frex and Effing all the way

I’m not a fan of profanities.

I don’t think YA books need profanities, unless it’s that kind of YA book. I get it if the main character is a borderline drug addict that sleeps around and comes from a broken home. Contemporary stories like that have an added amount of profane language to them to make them real. Without it, they seem . . . sketchy.

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and even your run of the mill Paranormal Romance though? Unless it’s mixed with that ghetto Contemporary style, should contain no profanities.

Sure, be creative. I’ve often used “wretch!” instead of a swear word, but then my series currently takes place circa 7000BCE and I don’t think the F bomb was around back then.

Of course, if you’re going to be creatively swearing your book, try not to make it a crutch word. Don’t be frexing, effing and fraxing all the way to the end, it just mucks up the book so much that people don’t want to read from one frex to the next.

To add to that thought, if you’re going to make up a swear word, make sure it’s not insanely close to a Battlestar Galactic reference. I’ve met Dirk Benedict, and he says frak just as much now as he did in the ’78 season of Battlestar Galactica. You know, back when he was playing Starbuck.

Also, if you’re trying to clean it up for the sake of the parents of the kids who will buy and read your books, don’t bother. I love Jeri Smith-Ready for this, she just says it the way it is in her books and she doesn’t give a fuck what comes out.

There, I’ve used the f bomb, happy?

It’s not really “cleaner” to go around using “effing” partially because last I checked, the urban dictionary was just a spoof on the real dictionary. “Effing” isn’t exactly grammatically correct.

*sigh* ultimately, as a writer it’s up to you, whether to throw in the cuss words or not, but please, do it for the right reasons. Do it because it wouldn’t be your character or your story without the cuss words. Do it because the story wouldn’t be the same without them.

Don’t do it just to seem cool, because I can tell you one thing, nobody is going to think it’s cool.

Namaste,
Rhi

#MentionMonday “I wrote a book! Now what?”

This weekend I spent some time over at Flipped Pages Book Exchange in Winnipeg. It’s a quaint little bookstore in the north end of the city. While hanging out for the afternoon I got to meet a few people including a young 13 year old and her mom.

They came in asking me a slew of questions about publishing. You see, this 13 year old girl has written a YA book that’s 110,000 words! I thought that was awesome, and so naturally her mom wanted to know, how does one get published?

I tried to do the run down in person, but when I mentioned a literary agent the mom’s eyes went wide. She’d never heard of them before and the more I went on, the more the mom’s eyes resembled moon pies. I left them a bit overwhelmed with a lot of research to do but I thought, because it’s such a common question that young people want to know, I thought I’d take today to write down the steps it takes to get published.

Here’s my 12 Step Program to Getting Published.

1. Write a GREAT book.

Not just any book that you think is mildly good, but a really great book. Write a book you can’t stop thinking about, write a book you can’t put down, write a book that makes you laugh, cry, and shake with terror. Basically, write a book that you like more than anything else.

2. Get Beta Readers

These are the most important people on your journey. They take your unedited work, read it through and they tell you what works and what doesn’t. This has nothing to do with editing, this is all plot structure, character development, world building, beginning hook, satisfying ending and overall flow. This is what will make or break the book. If you don’t have one of these things right, you’re looking at rewriting whole chapters, adding chapters, deleting scenes or adding description, emotions, or information.

3. Edit the Book

You can find anyone to edit the book but it’s better if you do it yourself, then send it to a competent Beta Reader. Have them go over the grammar, spelling and other writing errors. You want the book to be as perfect as it can be before you take it on any of the other steps.

4. Write a Query Letter

So you’ve written 100,000 word novel. You need to sum it up in 100 words and make it sound salable. That means you need a slogan, a hook, plus a short synopsis. This of this like the back of the book blurb, but you give away all the details including the ending. This query letter won’t end up as your book blurb, but it’ll be the building blocks of it.

5. Research Literary Agents

Stalk them on twitter, go to their websites, go to publisher’s marketplace, friend them on facebook, etc. etc. See what kind of person they are, read their preferences, read their blogs. Get to know what they don’t like to see in query letters. Enter the contests they post, bid on the items they put up for auction. Stay in the loop, you never know when you’ll get somewhere with them the non traditional way.

6. Send Query Letters

I recommend sending to your top 5 agents, then your next top 5 and so and so forth until you’re through your list. You want to give that first top 5 about 6 weeks to get back to you before sending to the next 5, so on and so forth. What you’re hoping for is a response. They’ll request either a partial or a full and bam you’re on your way. You’ll get “the call” and they’ll talk about your book. They’ll offer representation. You think this is game over and you’re home free but you’re not, not quite yet.

Now, the path splits off into two!

7A: With an Agent: You work on the MS some more, make it the best thing it can be.

7B: Without an Agent: You work on the MS some more, make it the best thing it can be.

8A: With an Agent: You go on submission to editors at the big publishing houses.

8b: Without an Agent: You submit to mid sized publishing houses and small press that are accepting submissions. You will likely have to prepare a synopsis, cover letter and any other particulars their submission process asks for.

9A: With an Agent: Editors like you, either one picks you up and you get an advance for your book or many editors want your book and you end up going to auction and getting a big advance for your book. Alternatively, nobody wants your book and so you wait, do another round of edits, try another round of editors and wait, wait, wait.

9B: Without an Agent: You slog through being told no a few more times, by now you’re really used to hearing it. You hope for that one chance out there, someone will say yes eventually, they will.

10A: With an Agent: Your agent works out all the contract details, possibly signs you for a 2 o 3 book deal. You begin working with the editor and go through the MS again, polishing it up, changing it so they like it, etc. etc. You lose all say because they do cover art, formatting, marketing, promotions, etc. for you. You pray you don’t get mid listed, that they care enough about your book to give it a big push. You hope you’re not a tax write off. You hope you don’t flop in the market.

10B: Without an Agent: You get picked up by a small house! You work with their editors, cover artist, and make your book the best it can be with their team. You work side by side with the marketing and advertising, hoping for the best when your book hits the shelves. Some of these publishers will help get your books in stores, some will do a marketing push, others will do online only. It really depends on the publishing house you end up with and how they do business at this point.

11A: With an Agent: Your book comes out, and it’s in bookstores, it’s online, and it might even hit a bestseller list. You’re known in the book community, and you write more books.

11B: Your book comes out, it’s online, it might hit a bestseller list, but it’s less likely. You sell books to friends and family and hope it takes off. You’re known in the Indie communities, but not in widespread.

12A: With an Agent: You pitch another book to them and hope they like you. You hope your editor takes it. You hope that after the first 3 book deal that you get more deals. You hope to stay in the game. You hope for a lot of things because there’s still a lot of pressure.

12B: Without an Agent: You send your second book to your editor at your small publishing house. You hope they like it, you hope it’s a mild success. You hope it sells more than your last book. You hope for a lot of things, mostly because the pressure is still on, even more so because you’re the underdog and making it is a lot harder for you.

13: If nobody picked you up, if your agent dropped you, you go to Kindle or Createspace and self publish your book, and hope to be an overnight Indie Success. Of course this means you do the editing, formatting, cover design, marketing, advertising, and writing all by yourself. Tough road, but it can work!

And that my friends is basically it. Someone once made a flow chart. I loved it, but I can’t find it.

Anyway, if you’re an aspiring writer, this is your basic path to publishing.

I’m really proud of that 13 year old girl who wrote a book. I know she’ll be published one day, though I don’t know which road she’ll go down.

Namaste,
Rhi

The big show v.s. tell conundrum

Editors want you to show.

Readers want you to tell.
And authors are stuck somewhere in the middle of this tug of war. 
Some of the things I learned while writing fiction was that a book is made real when the author shows what’s going on instead of telling the readers what’s going on. There have been a million examples of this so let me try my hand at one!
Tell: “Joe went to the store and bought milk.” 
Show: “Joe traveled down the cobblestone path to the little convenience store on the corner. He wended around the display racks and squeezed through the narrow aisles towards the back of the store. Coolers lined the back of wall in a perfectly aligned row, illuminated and buzzing. Joe reached for the handle and swung it open, using his other hand to grab the milk. The cooler door shut with a thunk as Joe brought the milk to the front counter.”
Show allows the reader to get immersed in what’s actually happening rather than knowing the cliff notes version of a story. If you don’t want to read a story you can go to wikipedia, look up almost anything and it’ll tell you in a few paragraphs what happened. 
Tell is one of those things that a writer uses when they want to explain things they can’t show. These often crop up in huge “info dump” scenes. The main character meets someone who all of a sudden explains everything that’s going on in the story or they encounter a situation where everything is pieced together in a neat little package and tied with a bow.
This is something editors really don’t like, and often before a book is put on the shelves, editors will request that the scene is altered so there’s more show and not tell.
In fact, when editing Flame of Surrender, I had a scene in the first chapter where I made a statement, and my editor said “show don’t tell.” With it being so benign in my mind, I didn’t think of it as info dump or telling v.s. showing, but my editor caught it.
Here it is:
“It was the pressure and the lack of air that made swimming in the pond scary. The merfolk were actually gentle creatures, cooing and floating around her, pulling at her hands and wondering at her differences.”

Changed to:
“It was the pressure and the lack of air that made swimming in the pond scary, not the stories about the merfolk dragging unsuspecting kinfolk to the bottom. The merfolk were actually gentle creatures, cooing and floating around her, pulling at Kaliel’s hands and wondering at her differences.”

True, I didn’t add a lot, but I did expand on the idea a bit to show why Kaliel was thinking about the pond being scary. 

One of the reasons I show more than I tell is because it jars the reader out of the story if they’re being told a story. They need to live inside the story and the only way to do that is to make them feel like they’re there, experiencing it with the characters. 

Reading the reviews, I’ve noticed that some people find Avristar confusing. Today I added the extras section. I’m going to be adding some of my essays on the world of Avristar, the Flames, the Ferryman, etc. etc. so you can better understand where the story comes from. I can’t say the essays will be as pretty as the book but I hope they help to fill in the blanks!
Namaste,
Rhi

Top 10 Reasons why Writers don’t Read as much as Readers do

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. When I was aspiring, I devoured books, often 10-13 per month. Now that November has come and my book is on the shelves, I’ve barely read at all. I finished The Night Circus in October, but because of Comic Con, I couldn’t finish anything else. I do plan on changing this in the future because I have about ten books I do intend on reading plus a ton for 2012, but here’s my reasons for not reading as much. That there on the side? That’s the last book I finished.

#10: People keep asking me to write things for them.

No I’m not joking. I’m published so that means I can write things. Apparently my writing is acceptable enough to be on the shelves, therefore others believe they can throw me more work to do. I’m flattered, really, but I’m busy enough already.

#9: My publisher told me he wants the next book ready by March.

I had a battlestar galactica moment and couldn’t stop saying frak. I also had a panic attack and we’ve renegotiated. I think we’re both okay with May. I’d be fine with October to be completely honest, but we’ll see.

#8: People want to celebrate and be friends with me.

Do you realize how much work it is to have friends in real life? They’re awesome, but when they all want to have coffee with you it becomes a bit weird. I’ve found myself attempting to put people together who wouldn’t normally get along. I’m trying to plan a book release party so that I can get this whole socializing over and done with. (Aha so I can go back to writing things) I still love them of course, but I need to work too.

#7: My house is a mess.

Well it was but my kids have been cleaning it. That’s right, laundry, vacuuming, disinfecting the bathroom. The only thing they don’t do is dishes. Speaking of which . . .

#6: My husband and kids wanted some attention.

My husband just wanted to go out with me for a change and my kids wanted me to watch a movie with them. They also wanted to draw some pictures for me. They’re all cool with me writing books as long as it’s not the only thing I do. If I’m writing and then I go stick my head in a book . . . I’m in trouble. Actually my four year old reminded me that I hadn’t done my chores yet.

#5: Other authors write differently than I do.

It’s true. I love Maggie and Cassie but they don’t write exactly the way I do. Sometimes reading their books sucks the creativity right out of me. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Some days it’s easier to let everyone else write things while I do other things like event planning and reading minds. Either way, sometimes when the wheels are turning, I NEED to not read anything because it’ll mess with my groove.

#4: The Green Eyed Jealousy Monster

I wrote a great book, but everyone is buying this other great book. It must mean I’m not good enough. Yeah, we can find fifty ways to Sunday around this one but the argument never changes. Just a little envious of the other books out there.

#3: I edit when I read.

Any published author has been through the excruciating editing process so they know how it is. When they go back to reading it’s like the things they edited in their own novels they pick out in other people’s novels. It’s really hard to stop doing that and to just enjoy a book for a change.

#2: I might not like the next book I read and since I review books, I don’t want to give out a bad review.

It’s like flipping TV channels trying to find something good to watch. I go through the first 5% of a book, put it down, move onto another book, read another 5%, put it down, read another, and so on and so forth until something just makes me stay. I have no idea what makes me stay with a book, but something does. I don’t like giving out bad reviews and so I tend to just put them on a DNF list and forget about it.

#1: I need to spend more time writing than reading.

It’s just the truth. As a writer I DO need to read, but I also need to write things. I can’t be stuck reading books until the cows come home. Sure, if I wasn’t publishing books I would read more, but when you have only 6 months to turn out a product, and you want that product to be just as good as everything else out there, you do have a tendency to close the cave walls and isolate yourself from everyone.

I’ll be going back into the cave soon, though I don’t know which project I’ll be tackling next. I have 3.5 more books to write in 1 series, then 2 more series to write, one is 3 books, the other is 4 books. If you were counting that’s 10.5 books I have to write.

*sigh* Sadly, I might not be reading a lot in the next year.

Namaste,
Rhi

WRITERS: Top 5 Most Memorable Scenes

Hey,

Lori over at Pure Imagination raised an interesting question today, one that I had been pondering last night myself. What makes a book magic?

There are books out there that I read that I fall in love with. What makes a book magic for me is the believeable factor. If I can believe that this story could really happen somewhere, that these characters really exist, then I’m in. I’ll be their biggest fan.

It got me thinking and almost panicking about my unpublished series, The Ferryman and The Flame. For the other aspiring writers out there this believeable factor, this magic factor is something we all try to achieve with our WiP’s.

There’s a way to know if you’ve succeeded.

Mundie Moms has been hosting a weekly special where they talk about their favorite scenes from City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare.

That’s the ticket right there. Scenes so good that people have to read the book just for those scenes. If you read through a book and nothing sticks in your mind afterwards, scenes, liners, emotional reactions to the characters, then the book has failed. If however you find yourself going back to the same scenes over and over again and you end up naming scenes the “Dirty Sexy Alley Scene” or “The Seelie Court Scene” or “The Bookstore Scene” or “The Porch Scene” then you’ve got a framework for the book in your head. You might not remember everything but you’ll remember those scenes. THAT is what will make the book good, it’s all about the scenes!

This next part is an exercise for these aspiring writers and for myself I’ll post my answers right here.

Which scenes in your WiP are the most memorable? Why are they memorable?

If you can come up with 5 memorable scenes, scenes that people will find so irresistible they have to read the rest of the book, then kudos you win! If not, keep working at it!

The Ferryman and The Flame: Surrender
(my 5 most memorable scenes)

1. “Are you always like that?” : Krishani watches Kaliel swim with the merfolk. They meet for the first time afterwards and he creates an orb of ice for her.

2. “This is what I want.” : Krishani and Kaliel meet at the waterfall a second time, this time they kiss, but she runs away from him.

3. “Your destiny is greater than your love” : That horrible scene when Lady Atara tells Krishani that he has to leave Avristar and go to the Lands of Men.

4. “Ro Tulten Lye” : The dream Kaliel has where she dies with Lotesse, the Emerald Flame and finds out, he comes for us

5. “You were the last person I wanted to see before I died.” : Pux appears in the village where Kaliel is hiding. He’s wounded from battle and all he wants is one last moment with his best friend.

There are actually more I can think of and I could make another list for the WiP I’m currently editing.

The Ferryman and The Flame: Warrior

1. “She was everywhere and nowhere,” : Krishani watches the magma flow into the lake, thinking heavily about all the bad things that have happened.

2. “Ten thousand years” : Tulsen Tavesin tells Krishani what the Ferryman is expected to do. Krishani doesn’t want to be a Ferryman.

3. “I want to watch the blossoming,” : A dream sequence where Kaliel and Krishani end up in the orchards at Beltane where they watch the blossoming together.

4. “Tell him to come for me!” : Krishani threatens the Daed and dares Crestaos to come for him. The way he came for Kaliel.

5. “Kaliel?” : Krishani turns to see the body of the girl filled with the flame’s fire.

Post your comments here with either your top 5 scenes or with a link to where you posted them on your blog!

Namaste,
Rhi

WRITING: BETA Readers or REVIEWERS?

Thanks Leslie for making me think about this.

So many of you are getting it wrong.

I just want to point it out as an author AND a blogger (and a million other things) that if you’re an aspiring author that’s written a book and you want it out on Kindle and Nook and B&N and you’re not afraid of being self published and blah blah blah, that you need to be CAREFUL about how you treat the book bloggers.

1) Don’t be presumptuous. Yes we’re here to review books, but we all want GOOD books. None of us like posting negative reviews but we will if we have to.

2) Don’t ask before you’re really ready. You should be joining a writing group first like shewrites.com or writeoncon or somewhere, and talking to other aspiring writers about your work. You should be getting BETA readers first who can snuff out all the bad stuff. They can get you into the process of revising and editing BEFORE sending out your verbal diarrhea to Amazon and B&N (too graphic, really sorry)

3) Don’t expect a shining review unless you’re really confident that your work is the best it can be. I’ve often read books from authors that requested reviews only to find out that I need to give them an entire lesson on POV shifts, third person omniscent v.s. limited, adverbs, spelling errors and grammar, you name it, I always find SOMETHING wrong that I have to complain about. Usually these things are technical and while I can appreciate an “uncorrected proof” I need to know that beforehand. At least then I know whether or not to point these things out or not you know?

4) Do be kind in your approach. You attract more flies with honey than vinegar. Be authentic in your approach and give them YOUR best. That’s right, you know how you write QUERY letters to agents? Well send your QUERY letter to book bloggers. It’s your best bet of getting them interested and excited about your book without looking like a jackass or an amateur.

5) Gratitude. This is the last point and you REALLY need to be thankful to these people for taking you under their wing. You’re giving them content sure, but they’re giving you FREE EXPOSURE and that kind of thing only compounds, so you need to send them your love, tears, whatever, you need to make sure that THEY matter to you. So you answer their e-mails before anyone elses, you follow their blogs, you follow their tweets, you laugh about stuff not related to your book with THEM. And in turn they’ll become the beginning of your giant posse of fans.

That’s it, know whether or not you’re ready for BETA readers or REVIEWERS and for crying out loud be classy about the way you ask!

Namaste,

WRITING: Noticing Small Press Publishing

Hey everyone,

You do realize that you don’t need to be self pubbed to be on Kindle right?

And you also don’t need to be with a big 6 to be published. Did you know that too?

Well if you didn’t, here are some publishing companies that are NOT affiliated with the big 6.

Angry Robot

Black Zombie Publishing

Coscom Entertainment

Dark Side Publishing

Entangled Pub

Llewellyn’s (Flux)

Quirk Books

Revolution Publishing

Rhemalda Publishing

Samhain Publishing

Spencer Hill Press

Sterling Publishing

Tor

And I’m sure there’s more I’m missing, but the thing is, 50% of people don’t care who published the book, they care that the book is good. Publishers are irrelevant.

And yes, some of these companies take unsolicited manuscripts, some of them are closed for submissions, some of them take only solicited manuscripts, etc. etc. Some of them get books into bookstores, some of them do POD, some of them do ebooks only, but all of them publish books, all of them get the books into the market, and all of them are there to help authors get their stories out there.

What more could you really ask for?

Namaste,

WRITING: Hook, Line and Sinker

WARNING: If you don’t like happy dances, stop reading now.

I had an epiphany the other night. I was going through my Kindle, Kobo and PDF reader on my iphone, flipping between books thinking hmm, what do I want to read now?

And then I had a really bad idea. I had sent the first draft of FLAME OF THE APOCALYPSE to my Beta Reader who has read the first two books. I realized that technically I can download it so it’s on my phone. All I had to do was go to my inbox, click on the sent folder, and then scroll through a few hundred messages to find the e-mail I sent her two weeks ago.

Sure enough I find it, download it and open it up into my PDF reader.

I start reading . . .

AND I DON’T STOP.

I can’t stop, for some reason I’m completely sucked into the book, it’s got this crazy hold on me, the gait of the words, the flow of the sentences, the pretty words I use, the emotions and feelings of the characters . . .

It really didn’t feel like MY book.

I kept reminding myself, “this is the FIRST DRAFT.”

Usually what used to happen when I’d open up FLAME OF SURRENDER or its little brother FLAME OF JUSTICE, I’d read through the prologue which was usually free of grammar and spelling errors, and then get into the first paragraph of the first chapter and STOP. I’d find some minuscule spelling error or a sentence that’s out of place or I’m not feeling it or something.

NOT. THIS. TIME.

I only read through the first chapter and then forced myself to stop. My husband actually came into the room and was like, “Are we watching Fringe tonight or what?” and so I put the phone down, just because of him.

I tried to stay away from it too, I was like, “Oh no, I’m actually spoiling myself by reading this, the second book has A LOT of work to do.”

But then I was bored in the car and didn’t feel like reading anyone else’s book for once so I was back again. Got through the second chapter.

GOT. THE. SAME. FEELING.

I don’t know what the heck it is with this book, but there’s something different about it.

And there were plenty of things I did differently while writing the first draft.

1. I wrote in first person limited from the get go. I was inside only one character’s head at a time, I even planned it out in my outline by putting their initials next to the scene that was from their POV.

2. I expanded my vocabulary. I used a lot of simple words that I didn’t know about before, there are plenty of 4 and 5 letter words that are both different, non Shakespearean and interesting. I did my best to include these words when writing. Expanding your vocabulary doesn’t mean learn bigger words, it means learn all the small words you don’t know exist yet. Just FYI for others out there that still find themselves sauntering . . . y’all could be parrying or tarrying or you could have an awkward gait. Think of it like scrabble when you play against the computer and they get like 33 points from playing Xi.

3. I wrote it all in one period of time. I was there everyday with it, and because of that I was able to keep the same language, tone and style. Best thing to do is if you begin writing it, don’t stop until it’s finished.

I’m dreading going through the editing process on the second book, but what will steer me on is the fact that the third book is so worry free.

What about you? When did your writing hook you?

Namaste,

WRITING: Light Bulbs, Lightning Bolts and Counting Sheep

Afternoon!

This post is dedicated to @IAlecDale from the Philippines, if you don’t already follow him on twitter you should, he’s a big Cassie Clare fan!

That being said, I’ve read a lot of boring books. I mean it, books with awesome writing that might keep you engaged for awhile, but books with a plot, characters and setting that were just drab and uninteresting. I’ve found myself yawning through books and skipping pages because it was so mind numbing I thought I’d fall asleep.

Chronicles of Narnia made me fall asleep, but that was for an entire other reason. Also, half the books I read when I was 17 made me want to fall asleep. I remember faking it through my English 1 class for this book about soldiers that had me slipping after ten words.

The point is, these days you can’t just write something and think it’s good. Your writing need to compete on a lot of levels. You might be able to throw together a satisfying story about witches, but does it compete with other stories about witches? What makes the story pop, what makes it stand out?

I have my own list of things that will often make me stop reading in the first few pages, things like third person omniscient, obscure fantasy world, unlikeable characters, unbelievable characters, too much dialogue, too many bodies, not seeing the main character in the first scene, etc. etc.

The real difficulty with writing is that it starts out as being only for you, something that only you are going to read and fall in love with. After that it becomes something you and your mom will like. Then something you and your friends will like, then something you and your other writer friends will love, then you and others in the book blogging scene will love. By the time you’ve really worked it into an aesthetic piece of work that’s worthy of the masses, it’s gone through a lot of changes.

The thing everyone needs though is that light bulb, that lightning bolt idea that wakes them up in the middle of the night and makes them grab for the first piece of pen and paper they see. For me, I have a journal on my headboard, and a pen. No need to get out of bed and rummage through drawers looking for something to write on. I’ve got it all right where I need it.

Most people do the counting sheep thing when it comes to finding inspiration for a book. They have some talent with writing, but they have nothing interesting to write about. Nothing that they think other people would want to read about. These people are often the ones that fall into the stereotypes and write about them.

I used to do it too though, I wrote a story about a rich boy falling for a poor girl and then running away from his parents to be with her.

Also wrote a horror story which was mostly gore and no real storyline.

My ideas weren’t very fleshed out, I wasn’t being very creative. What I was doing was just finding things to write about. In the beginning that’s how it has to be, and then as you explore life you’ll find things to write about. Sometimes you just need to grow up to find these things, other times you just need to find a slant.

A few ways to find an idea that’s useable:

1. Read what’s out there. It’s hard to come up with an idea and say it’s original when you don’t know what else people are writing. Sooner or later you’ll find out that your idea has already become a book. So read books to make sure you’re not overlapping. This is kind of a double edged sword too because no doubt what you read will also influence what you write and how you write. Still, reading is the way to become a writer. Only Beethoven could compose amazing music without ever hearing a single note.

2. Look at yourself, your life experiences, the people you know. I have a short story on the table based on a guy I actually met. Bloodletting is based on a guy from Arizona that was so awesome I HAD to write a story about him. Observe the people around you, everyone has a story to tell, you just need to figure out which story you want to tell. Finding a “bestselling” story is impossible, but finding a story that’s important to you is easy.

3. Begin with a basic idea and expand on it. This is where you start stereotypical, and then throw in twists and turns that even you’re not expecting.

4. Think. I know this sounds stupid, but after reading The Hunger Games I wanted to write a dystopian novel. I know, I sound like a cliche, but it’s true. What I did was I sifted through things in my mind that I had thought about before, Loch Ness Monsters, Pirates, The Soviet Union, Time Travel, Nuclear Bombing, etc. etc. I wrote some notes, wrote a prologue and then stopped. I hit a wall and didn’t like where my idea was going. I left it and then later I came back to it and turned it into something that became a short story.

5. Realize that not all your ideas need to be long stories. They can be short stories too. I wrote a contemporary short story about my Dad for instance. It’s one of my favorite pieces.

6. Create your own reality. A lot of people get lost in world building, but if they have a concept, they can go from there. Lauren Oliver’s concept was “what if love was a curable disease?” and Maggie Steifvater’s was, “what if a girl was in love with a boy that turned into a wolf in the winter?” it’s simple things like this that build on books. Mine was “what if a ferryman fell in love with a girl that was a weapon?”

7. Folklore. I know we all balk at J.R.R. Tolkien for taking things from Norse Mythology, but why not? A book my crit partner is writing is based on Japanese culture and she came up with a lot of interesting ideas because of it. I can’t wait to see it actually! Go back to your cultural roots, were there tales you were told as a child that you could work into a story?

8. Take something fairly stereotypical, but put a slant on the writing style. This is probably the hardest thing to do, but Moira Young and Nova Ren Suma managed it just fine. What this is is a literary style. So you take a ghost story about a reservoir and you shift the voice so that it’s creepy and interesting. Or in Moira’s case, take a journey to find a twin, and change the writing style so it’s more the way the characters speak, think and write. It’s a submersion technique, almost like method acting. In this case, you make your writing take on a new skin, kinda like Robert Downey Jr. in Tropical Thunder.

Either way, you need an idea that is unique, different and that gets YOU excited. It needs to be that light bulb going off, that lightning bolt through your skull, that idea that you HAVE to write about. You can’t sit around counting sheep and randomly pick sheep number 16 that’s white and fluffy and think it’s original. You need to wait for the black sheep or the neon green sheep to show up. *sigh* Plain white sheep aren’t good enough.

Either way Alec, I hope this is helpful and I hope you find an idea you can use. I personally think I have too many ideas and not enough time to write all of them.

Namaste,