Thursday, November 7, 2019

My Belated IWSG Post for November

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

Why makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

Not knowing what the coming months will bring.  

Needless to say, despite last month's post that I might be doing NaNoWriMo this year, a lack of progress on my outline had caused me to decide I won't be competing this year. A variety of life events, including a cat who's been ailing for the last month and a half, have kept my attention elsewhere. Unfortunately, I'm the kind of person who can't concentrate on writing when I have other things on my mind, especially when it comes to health issues for family members (which, of course, includes all our cats.) 

This month's IWSG question is:

What's the strangest thing you've ever googled in researching a story?

I can't think of anything particularly strange, but I've done plenty of research into alchemy and old legends, both of which can be huge rabbit holes once I get started. I've come across some seriously weird stuff in there. 

I've also been researching chemistry for my current WIP, deciding what my antagonist's secret plan for taking over the world should be. I don't find much of the chemistry strange, but I suppose a non-chemist might disagree.

In other sad news, Halloween is over. 😔 And to add insult to injury, last night it snowed. I was hoping we could put it off a little longer.

For those of you participating in NaNoWriMo, good luck!


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Insecure Writer And The Run-up To NaNoWriMo

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

Why makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

Not knowing if I’m participating in next month’s NaNoWriMo or not.  

NaNoWriMo, for those of you who don’t know, stands for National Novel Writing Month, and is all about writing 50,000 words during the month of November.  Despite being a slow writer, I attempted it once years ago, but only made it halfway through before calling it quits. Although I had a rough outline before I began, that outline rapidly fell apart as the days passed (new ideas occurred to me, old ideas suddenly were no longer plausible) and there was simply no point in writing another 25k words that I knew would be thrown away anyway.

But as I near the completion of my debut urban fantasy, it’s occurred to me that I should already be working on, or at least thinking about, the sequel. After all, the best way to market your book is to write the next one in the series. Allowing two or three years to pass between books is a great way to kill interest in your books. In addition, knowing what the next book will be about will allow me to add the necessary hooks to the first book.

This year, I’m going to have a much more detailed outline in place. Or at least that’s the plan. Something I’ve thought long and hard about before I begin writing on November 1. It won’t be a perfect outline—many of my best ideas don’t come until I begin writing—but as long as I don’t veer too far off the range, it should be good enough for 50k words. 

So October marks my prep month for NaNo.  I’ve given myself 30 days to concentrate on the sequel, jotting down as many notes and ideas as I can. If I haven’t made any real headway by November, then I’m calling it off. But if I have a real idea of what the story will be about, then I may go for it.

I’ll let you know what I decide on November’s IWSG day.

Until then, wish me luck.


Monday, September 23, 2019

Are Your Fight Scenes Boring the Reader?

Photo courtesy of Sander van der Wel on Visual hunt.

After many years, I’m finally approaching the climax of my urban fantasy. It’s been a long time coming, but as I struggle with the final chapters, I realize the journey isn’t quite yet over. My heroine is breaking into the antagonist’s hideout, ready to take him on, and based on the obstacles I’ve set up, it’s going to take a bit of thought to get everything to work out the way I want. 

I’ve gone back and searched through my collection of urban fantasies and space operas for inspiration on fight scenes. This has been useful, but along the way, I’ve been reminded of things NOT to do in fight scenes. Here’s a partial list: 

1. The author sets up a scenario that appears pretty much impossible for the MC to win, at least based on the author’s description, then promptly has the hero successfully fight their way through all the obstacles doing the same standard stuff they’ve done throughout the book. What the heck happened? Did the opposition go on break? And no, having the hero take some minor damage in the process doesn’t make up for this. 

2. The author tosses in a battle scene simply because there hasn’t been any conflict in a while, or because it’s the only way the author can meet their word count. This is an especially common problem for writers who pump out a lot of books per year. Generic fight scenes don’t amp up the tension. Readers skim through them. At least I do. 

3. The fight scenes scattered throughout the story are so generic most of them could switch places and readers wouldn’t notice. Don’t be lazy, folks. Spend time crafting each battle until it’s unique. Use the setting to set up interesting problems for the MC to solve, or that allow the MC to find novel ways to defeat the bad guys. Add some factor that neutralizes the methods that worked for the MC in previous fights. Let knowledge gained by the MC over the course of the story be used to develop new tactics. 

Several examples of entertaining fight scenes can be found in Allow of Law by Brandon Sanderson. They’re fun to read and almost always do double duty by delivering important story information along the way. No one is skimming over them. 

Have you ever come across fight scenes/battle sequences that leave you yawning?


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Transitioning Into a (Mostly) Full Time Writer.

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

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because  after six months, I’m still not settled into the routine of being a (productive) writer.

Some of you may know I was downsized from my job at the end of February. Although it was a bit of a shock at the time, I eventually considered this to be a sign that I should devote myself to writing (at least during my more optimistic moods). However, the transition to writing has not come easily.

Feeling guilty for not bringing in as much money as I had before, I dabbled with the idea of taking a less well-paying job, at least for the short term, in order to cushion the financial blow to the family. Not only did searching for such jobs take away from my writing time, but guilt made it harder to concentrate on writing. 

Eventually I began tutoring chemistry students, and although the pay isn’t nearly as lucrative as a job in industry, it lessened my need to find another job.  Still, learning the ins and outs of the tutoring business took more time than I expected, further limiting my writing time.

And then there was the constant feeling that the time I spent writing was taking away from things that were “more important,” like helping my wife around the house, interacting with the kids, or tackling projects that have been on my to-do list for years. I felt pulled in all directions, guilt gnawing at me every time I sat in front of my computer.

But all that is in the past. Six months later, I’ve come to accept my new position in life and no longer feel guilty about not having a regular 9 to 5 job. I’m definitely more productive on the writing front and no longer find myself having to write feverishly at the last minute so as to have something to submit to my monthly critique groups.  However, my transition to being a writer isn’t complete. It may be easier for me to sit down and work on my WIP these days, but there are plenty of other writing related activities where I’m falling short. For example:

•  My lack of blogging. Last week was my first non-IWSG post in several months. Heck, I use to post twice a week back when I had that 9 to 5 job!
•  I’ve been bad about visiting other writer’s blogs, except on the first Wednesday of every month.
•  I haven’t touched my Hogwarts fan fiction in months, despite the fact that I’m supposed to be uploading the chapters to Wattpad once a week.
•  I haven’t been making contact with other authors in my genre, although that task was one of my New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve come to realize I will have to structure my time better if I expect to become a productive writer. At the moment, all my focus is on finishing my debut novel. Not that focusing on the actual writing is a bad thing, but sooner or later I’m going to finish the darn thing and then the real work will begin (editing, publishing, marketing, etc.) So, I better have a structure in place by then or things will get very ugly, very quickly.

Let’s move on to more enjoyable topics, like this month’s IWSG question: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

This one’s a no-brainer.  It would be in an old castle somewhere in Britain (preferably Scotland), surrounded by fog shrouded moors, preferably in the autumn.  If you don't know why… well, I guess no amount of explanation would suffice. 

My future writing space

Be sure to stop by and say hello to the other ISWG co-hosts this month: Gwen GardnerTyrean MartinsonDoreen McGettigan, and Cathrina Constantine


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Do Readers Really Become the Viewpoint Character?

Every so often I come across a piece of writing advice, or rule, or opinion that leaves me perplexed.  Here's one I've been seeing a lot lately.

Readers become the POV characters in the stories they read.

What? Really?

Here's an excerpt from Deep Point of View, by Marcy Kennedy.

As readers, we're not simply experiencing the story along with the viewpoint character. We become the viewpoint character. We climb inside their mind and body.

I don't know about you, but that's not the way it works for me. I may feel that I'm in the same room as them; I may even be peeking around inside their heads, but I'm definitely not them. Not even close.

I've often wondered if the people who say this don't quite mean what they appear to be saying. Perhaps they really mean "We ride along with the viewpoint character.", But I've seen this sentiment voiced so often I think they really mean it. So are they wrong, or am I simply different from everyone else?

I don't mean to imply that I sit back and watch the scene at a distance, like I'm at a movie, although that can be the case when the POV is distant enough.  But no matter how deep the POV, no matter how much I'm inside their head, I'm still a separate observer. I may be sitting in the same roller coaster as the viewpoint character, experiencing the same sorts of thrills, but there's no overlap between the two of us.

To be honest, I don't understand how anyone could feel as though they were the viewpoint character.  He/She constantly makes choices or says things that I would never consider doing, so I'd never be able to maintain the illusion of being them. Heck, authors typically go out of their way to have characters do the exact opposite of what we readers expect them to do. For example, when the POV character sees the magic ring that will allow them to vanquish the bad guy, and  we're yelling at them to pick the damn thing up and fulfill their destiny, but the character says "no way" and does their best to ignore the ring. Or how about when readers scream at a character because he's not asking the girl to dance even though the girl is so obviously smitten with him that my cat rolls his eyes at the character's stupidity. Are we screaming at ourselves?  I think not.

So is it just me, or do the rest of you become the viewpoint character when you read?



Wednesday, August 7, 2019

On Vacation!

I'm returning home today from a family vacation at Virginia Beach, and since I somehow convinced myself that the first Wednesday of the month would not occur during the trip, I don't  have an IWSG post ready for this month. However, I can still answer this month's question: Has your writing ever taken you by surprise?

I'm still early in my writing career, but the first big surprise I received from my writing was the first time I looked back at an earlier chapter and realized it wasn't a mess (which up until then hadn't been the case). I guess practice makes perfect after all.

I won't be visiting other IWSG sites today since I'll be on the road, but I look forward to seeing you all next month when I'm one of the co-hosts.

Happy writing!


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Approaching the Publishing Threshold

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

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I’m approaching the point where I'll be transitioning from a wannabe writer to a published writer who needs to worry about all the many facets of marketing.

For years, I’ve contemplated all the things I’d have to do if I ever got around to finishing a book. Things like setting up an author website, learning to format ebooks, newsletters, street teams, Amazon keywords, email lists, finding a cover designer, finding an editor, learning how to get reviews, Facebook ads, social media, book trailers, audiobooks... The list goes on and on. Almost makes me think writing the book was the easy part. (Please tell me it's not!)

But the time has come where I can no longer just fantasize about these duties.  I’m three-quarters of the way through my urban fantasy, so the clock is ticking, especially since many of the aforementioned items should be started long before a book comes out. 

It’s not like there aren’t a ton of resources out there to help guide me.  The IWSG website has a section devoted to marketing tips. Our very own Chrys Fey has 100 marketing tips on her site.  This month's IWSG post by Tara Tyler discusses how to get buzz for your book.

Now I just have to get around to implementing all this advice without going crazy. 


This month's question is:  What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?

I usually give my main characters a sense of inferiority, often plucked from somewhere out of my own past. My characters worry that people will think they're too young or inexperienced, or that their skills aren't good enough for them to do what they need to do to win in the end. The kinds of things that used to bother me. Like the experts always say, write what you know!

Have a Happy Fourth of July!