Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Insecure Writer and Not Ignoring Your Family

Today is October's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

This month I'm co-hosting IWSG , along with Olga GodimJennifer Hawes, and Tamara Narayan.  Be sure to stop by their blogs and say hello.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I think I may be neglecting my fatherly and husbandly duties while focusing on finishing my story.   

I still have a ways to go on my book, but I can at least see the end approaching, and that has me pumped to write every chance I get.  It’s also fall, the season when my creative juices are at their highest.  Needless to say, I’m using every spare minute to write.

But occasionally I look up from my writing desk and realize life is running along without me, and chores I should be doing are falling by the wayside. Normally, my wife would be there to remind me, but she’s been busy with her own projects and hasn’t noticed my lapses.

This might seem like a win-win situation, but I’m beginning to wonder what’s happening with the kids while my wife and I are off on other worlds. I assume they're eating and bathing and doing their homework and going to school, but I don't really know for sure. I suppose I should check up on them—that is, after I finish my next chapter.

Let's tackle this month’s IWSG question:

Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

Not really, unless you count giving my protagonists some of my personal habits and quirks, but nothing I’d want to keep secret. On the other hand, I did use my very first girlfriend’s name for my protagonist’s ex-love interest.  Haven’t told the wife about that one though, so let's keep that little tidbit between ourselves.  Okay?

BTW, this is "Show Us Your Writer Insecurity day, so get those pictures of you being insecure posted on your blog or your Facebook page. Needless to say, I misread the directions, so my picture will be kind of lame.

In other news, today should be the announcement of the official release of the free IWSG Guide to Writing for Profit. Check out the IWSG website for more details. 

Happy Insecurities to all of you!


Monday, September 18, 2017

Seven Writing Links - Volume 176


Yes!  Fall has arrived. The days are getting shorter, the weather is turning cooler, and as is usual for this time of year, I'm psyched for writing. Autumn is my favorite time of the year, and that passion always seems to carry over into my writing.  For example, two days ago, I had a eureka moment, and suddenly understood how the rest of my story will unfold. I've always had a bullet list of events that needed to occur before the story ended, but up until my revelation, I didn't know HOW or WHEN they would happen. Now I know the sequence of events that will lead all the way up to the All-is-Lost moment. 

I still have plenty of words to write, but the end of the journey is within sight. Damn, I love this time of year! 

On a side note, I came across this passage the other day and, after a little tweaking, thought it might be appropriate for writers. 

Dear Lord, 
So far today I've done all right. I haven't complained about my book sales or lost my temper because of a review. I haven't been jealous of other writers, turned grumpy on Twitter, acted nasty to my editor, or said bad things about Amazon. I'm really happy about that so far. But in a few minutes I'm going to be getting out of bed and then I'm going to need a lot of help. Thank you.

Enjoy the links and have a great week! 


Is It Ever Okay to Lose Money on Advertising?

Writing to the Beat: Translating Story Beats to Any Genre

6 Things I've Learned as a Professional Editor

Five Tips On Making Jargon And Tech Work For Your Writing, Rather Than Against It

Are Your Book’s Ads Earning or Losing You Money?

6 Ways to Make Readers Fall in Love With Your Characters

Tracking Your Banged Buck: Make Sure Your PR Pays Off Books

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Insecure Writer and the Month of September

Today is September's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

The fact that it’s September. 

Why would that make me insecure? After all, it’s my second favorite month of the year (after October), and the arrival of autumn usually fires me up to do my best writing. Unfortunately, it’s also the month where I can no longer successfully lie to myself that I’ll be hitting my end of year goals. 

In other words, I’m feeling rather conflicted this week, so let’s move on to this month’s IWSG question:

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?

Yes. Pretty much all the time, although probably not in the way you think.

I’m surprised I started writing in the first place, especially since I used to hate writing. 

I’m surprised I’ve kept at it all these years despite my many fits and starts. 

I’m surprised my writing skills are soooooo much better than when I first began this journey. 

I’m surprised there is soooooo much more I still have to learn. 

But best of all, I’m surprised when I look back at an earlier chapter and decide I'm happy with what I wrote. That's real progress, folks!


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

I apologize once again for the lack of activity on this blog. It’s not that I’m losing interest or running out of things to say, but I’ve hit a sticking point in my story (the same one I mentioned a couple of weeks ago) and I’m loathe to spend time here until that issue is resolved. However, the fact that I’m posting today is a good sign. I think (fingers crossed) I’ve decided how the scene should resolve itself and how the MC is going to get there. I may turn out to be wrong—it won’t be the first time—but I’m staying hopeful.

We all know how important it is to have other eyes on our work, especially those of us who are still working on our first book. We often have no idea how bad our writing is at the beginning—what our weaknesses are, what’s missing in our stories, cringe-worthy dialogue, etc. Even after we have a few stories under our belt, we still need that vital feedback because we’re often blind to our own problems.

Basically, we don’t know what we don’t know.

Last week, at one of my critique group meetings, the nominal head of the group spoke to one of our newer members about their latest submission. She complimented the writer for already being at a place on her writing journey where her words were in reasonable shape. There were still a few problems, but as the leader pointed out, new writers often have so many problems with their writing that it’s hard for the critiquers to know what to say or where to begin, and this writer was definitely past that stage.

All well and good, but as the leader was saying all this, she kept glancing back at me, as if expecting me to confirm this or something. Finally, after about the fourth look, I finally asked her why she kept looking at me, and after she hemmed and hawed for a while without actually answering, I finally realized she had been talking about me.

I’ll admit I was stunned. I’ve been getting good reviews on my submissions over the past twelve months and this very same leader had publically announced (more than once) that my writing had grown immensely over the past year or so, and how much she enjoyed reading my submissions. So all is good now, but apparently, back when I joined the group three years ago, my writing was pretty bad. Bad as in “we don’t have enough time to tell you everything that’s wrong, but here’s a partial list of where you might want to start.”

I went back and looked up some of my earliest submissions to the group, and yeah, there were some glaring problems that would have been hard to critique. Nothing technically wrong, the grammar and punctuation were fine and the sentences made sense, but my submissions were full of sentences that didn’t quite fit together. There was no glue to bind them together into a coherent whole; no mortar to smooth out the bumps and potholes. In other words, it was kind of hard to figure out where my story was going. But somehow, the advice my crit partners gave me at the time pointed me in the right direction and as a result, I’m a much better writer today.

So the next time I’m asked to look over a submission that turns out to be a mess, I’ll think back to when I first began many years ago and remember that we were all newbies once. When we didn’t know what we didn’t know.


P.S. Actually, if I had known what I didn’t know back then, I probably would have given up writing right then and there. Ignorance does have its advantages.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Insecure Writer and August's Pet Peeve

Today is August's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

I'm stuck on a particularly vexing scene and the wall next to my desk has dents in it from all the head banging I've been doing trying to figure my way past that scene. Oh well, it’s not the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last.  I’ll figure it out eventually and move on, so let's jump to the IWSG question of the month.

What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

My biggest pet peeve involves reading.  Over the past six months, I’ve noticed more and more books within certain genres are beginning to sound remarkably similar.  Take paranormal fantasies, for example.  Almost every one I see these days starts out in exactly the same way. The main characters all sound the same. The eventual love interest always sounds the same. The worlds sound the same. The writer's voice sounds the same.  It's like the authors are following the same template.  I know every genre has certain conventions a writer must follow, but come on people, at least try to be a little original.

Space operas are beginning to show some of the same problems, although at least they have the advantage of having five or six standard ways for them to begin.  The ex-prisoner/retired spacer/old miner who  just wants to retire in peace, but who immediately gets pulled into something that will decide the fate of the galaxy.  Or the bounty hunter/space scavenger/salvage reclamation person who discovers an ancient alien artifact that will decide the fate of the galaxy. There's nothing wrong with these themes, but it's gotten to the point where you could swap first chapters between these books and not notice the difference.

Have any of you noticed the same trends?


P.S. For those of you who write paranormal fantasy and space opera, I'm obviously not talking about you. :)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wonder Woman and Superpower Inflation

I saw the Wonder Woman movie the first week it came out and immediately decided to write this post. However, between life getting in the way and the fact that I’m a procrastinator, I’m only now getting around to it. 

First off, let me say I liked the movie. It was fun and had plenty of action, and, unlike the Superman vs. Batman movie, mostly made sense. But something did bother me about the movie, something that’s been bothering me about superhero movies for a while now. 

Superpower inflation. 

Now I understand the writers need to keep upping the ante in order to keep people flocking to see these kinds of movies, and it’s certainly easier to make the good guys (and of course the bad guys) more powerful than it is to come up with more compelling stories. But for a guy who grew up reading superhero comics back in the day, I find this trend disturbing. 

I don’t want to date myself, but back when I read comics, superheroes had to walk three miles to get to work, uphill—both ways. Back then, Wonder Woman wasn’t a demigod. She wasn’t picking up tanks and throwing them. Being an Amazonian, she was stronger than most people, was good at fighting, and had a strong sense of right and wrong. But other than her magic lasso and invisible plane, that was about it. Now my daughter tells me Wonder Woman has been rebooted so many times that now she’s supposedly almost as strong as Superman. Sigh… Back when I read comics she was basically a female version of Captain America. 

Of course, Captain America has been getting stronger and more invincible with every movie too, so I guess it’s only fair. In the beginning, Cap was great at absorbing punches. In Captain America: Civil War, the characters were surviving 20 to 30 foot falls onto hard metal platforms over and over again with apparently nothing more than a few bruises. Everyone else on the planet would have been dead. 

And it’s not just that everyone’s superpowers are getting bigger, it’s that they’re gaining powers they’re not even supposed to have. In Deadpool, for example, during the final climatic battle, every character started out with different powers, but once the battle began everyone seemed to be pretty much the same, super-strong and super-resistant to damage, even if that had nothing to do with their original abilities. After a while, all the characters became interchangeable. And that’s the real concern. That all the superheroes will eventually morph into the same SUPER superhero.

I could go on, but I’m probably in the minority here. Maybe superpower inflation is necessary to keep the superhero movies coming. And more superhero movies is (probably) a good thing. And to be honest, this inflation has been going on for a long time. Heck, in the first Superman comics (long before I read them), he couldn’t even fly—just jump long distances. I suppose when they finally gave him his flying abilities, the Superman aficionados of the time probably railed against superpower inflation then too.

That’s my two cents. 

What do you think?


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