A chronicle of my quest to learn how to write fiction by writing a book based on the Harry Potter universe by J.K. Rowling. I'll move on to my own original work when I'm finished.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Taking the Plunge – My First Writers Workshop

I did it.

After spending the last six years learning how to write fiction, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for a writer’s workshop in October. Signing up for a workshop may seem like no big deal to some of you veterans out there, but for me this was a major step forward.

I’ve toyed with the idea of attending writer’s conferences over the past few years, but never felt I could justify the time and expense this would entail, especially since I thought my writing skills were still too raw to properly benefit from the experience. This workshop, however, seemed to fit the bill. It’s an intensive two day course (Friday and Saturday), so I only have to miss one day of work. It’s only five hours away by car. And it’s run by David Farland, whose blog I follow religiously.

As it turned out, the decision was a bit more difficult than I expected. After consulting with my wife to make sure she was on board with this the idea (she’s very supportive, BTW), I decided I would sign up for the course the next day. Unfortunately, the next day turned out to be one of those down days that strike writers every so often. I’d gone back to one of my earlier chapters for some light editing and was horrified to discover how sophomoric the words sounded. And try as I might, I couldn’t think of any way to improve the wording. I know I’ll never be great with words—I’m just not wired for it—but I’d thought my writing had progressed beyond what was staring me in the face. And to top it off, I read the first chapter from another author’s book and was blown away by how smoothly the words flowed. And it was her debut book! Arggg! Suddenly, I began to wonder if this whole writing thing was just a silly pipedream.

So when I sat down in front of the computer that evening to sign up for the course, I got cold feet and walked away. Up to now I’ve treated writing as something approaching a hobby—one I’ve worked very hard on, mind you—but still a hobby. If I never became a published author, my life wouldn’t be over. I’d still have my day job. I’d still have made lots of writer friends. And I could still dream about what might have been. But spending money on a writing workshop meant I was officially branding my writing as more than just a hobby. It’s not as though I haven’t spent money on craft books and SCBWI memberships, but this would be ratcheting my commitment up a notch. And if turned out that this was a pipe dream after all, that my writing skills would never progress to the required levels, then spending money on this workshop would be like throwing it away.

So I crept off to a quiet spot in the house and pondered how my MC would handle the situation. About thirty minutes later, I marched back to the computer and signed up for the course.

Ha! Take that, muse! The ball’s in your court now.

ChemistKen


Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Links -- Volume 42

Did a little of everything this week.  Finished beta-reading a book for one author and am halfway through another book for a different author.  Read one of my chapters to my local crit group and received some great feedback.  And I forced myself to go back to some of my earlier chapters and make some hard decisions about scenes that I've been putting off for a year (or more).

Hope your week was just as productive.  Have a great weekend!

ChemistKen


15 Must-Have Website Essentials

Blurbs that Bore, Blurbs that Blare

The Art of Writing Back Copy: Boiling Your Book to its Essence

Why Should Anyone Help Your Protagonist?

5 Keys to Book Cover Success

Self-Publishers Aren’t Killing The Industry, They’re Saving It

How to Find Your Character’s Breaking Point



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Knowing When To Move On When You're Stuck On A Chapter

Whenever I run into problems during a scene or chapter, I have an unfortunate tendency to stubbornly slog away at the offending words, often for weeks at a time, until I grow so sick of staring at the pages I force myself to move on to another part of the manuscript, if only to maintain my sanity. Hardly what one might consider an efficient use of time.  A month or two ago, I resolved that I would no longer go this route, promising myself I would only work on a scene or chapter up until the point where my muse became antsy or bored and then move on to something else. And so far, the results have been encouraging.

My productivity has increased, and I’m a much happier camper these days. Yesterday, for example, after pounding away on a first draft of a chapter for a couple of hours, (first drafts are like wading through molasses for me), I rewarded myself by putting that chapter aside, jumping to an earlier, more polished chapter, and doing a light edit. Quite refreshing. Of course I do have to be careful. There’s always the danger I’ll misuse this technique to avoid working on challenging chapters, but I'm optimistic this won’t happen.

Some of you may be uncomfortable with the idea of jumping around so much, but this technique seems to fit my style perfectly. I’ve always been a multitasker, never happy to work on only one project at a time. I typically read six to ten books simultaneously, choosing to read whichever suits me at the moment. (I will admit this can be a real problem when trying to review books in a timely manner.) This multitasking behavior even influences my writing style. My best scenes come when I have multiple threads occurring at once. Some writers can write an entire chapter around one event. Not me. If I don’t have several subplots in a scene, the words just don’t seem to want to come.

So for now, I’m going to stick with method. By the end of the year I should know whether or not it’s a keeper.

ChemistKen

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Links -- volume 41

After spending last week relaxing (supposedly) on a vacation in northern Michigan, a trip that mostly kept me out of reach of the Internet, I came home to find my inbox overflowing with emails.  Took over a day just to clean up that mess.  Still, it's good to be back, even if my schedule is a bit hectic these days.  I'm beta-reading two different manuscripts, doing a structural edit on a third, helping my wife set up Excel spreadsheets for her new pet sitting business, finished a book review, and still made good progress on my own manuscript.  I even commented a couple of times on Facebook--something I'm trying to get better at doing.  All in all, a good week by any standard.

Anyway, I'm glad the weekend is almost here.  I wouldn't mind sleeping late tomorrow.

Many of this week's links have to do marketing, self-publishing, and  formating ebooks on your own.  Am I noticing a trend here?

Have a great weekend!
ChemistKen


How Bad Can One Page Be? The Hidden Dangers in Short-Form Contracts

Author Entrepreneur. How To Sell Books And Products Direct To Customers

Author Entrepreneur. Go Direct And Sell To Your Customers With Jim Kukral

Clean Up Your Ebook Files With HTML

Writing Basics: Formatting Your Manuscript for Submission

Are Facebook “Promoted Posts” Ever Worth It for Authors?

C’mon, Book Marketing Isn’t That Hard

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Insecure Writer and Poor Internet Access



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




Why am I an Insecure Writer this month? 

Because I don't feel as secure about the Internet as I did before.

Don't get me wrong.  I love the Internet, especially now that I have a smart phone.  But I've learned I shouldn't get too used to having it around.  My family and I were on vacation up in northern Michigan this last week, and while I enjoyed the time off, I also discovered that Verizon doesn't cover that region well at all.  I also discovered that just because restaurants say they have wi-fi doesn't mean it works.  Needless to say, I had only sporadic access to the Net.

Now some would say this is not necessarily a bad thing when you're on vacation. But when you have a book review scheduled on the SherAHart blog  in the middle of that vacation, and you can't get online long enough to find out if the post published correctly (which it didn't), it's not a good thing either.

So even though my phone has allowed me to become closer to the Internet, it's also shown me what my world would be like if I lost that connection.  Especially once I begin publishing books.  Kind of scary. 

Anyway, I'm reposting the book review here as part of my IWSG post.  If you enjoy YA fantasy, check it out.



Review of Messenger

Hello! Ken Rahmoeller here with a review of Messenger, a YA fantasy written by Scott Rhine.  First, let's take a look at the book blurb.


About the book: When we close our eyes at night, we all see the same ancient place.  Exploring Astra is like living a video game. Tomorrow, I'm going goblin-tipping with some of the other wizards. The first rule of being a dream wizard is "no photos."  You don't want the bad guys finding you where you have no powers.  The waking world sucks.

Since Mom went to prison, the Nevada foster system sent me to Minnesota to meet an Uncle Joe I never knew I had.  Snow loses its charm after five days. Only music and the dreams make my life bearable.

The weird thing is that elements of the worlds are bleeding into each other.  Someone is trying to kill me, and I'm not sure who: the criminal underworld, the elves, or the crazy wizard causing these freaky storms.  



Now on to the review!                My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

After a car accident leaves his younger brother dead and sends his mother to jail, fourteen-year-old Daniel discovers he is one of those rare people with the ability to travel to an alternate world when he sleeps.  Forced to spend his days with an adopted family that could be described as a midwesternized version of the Dursleys (ala Harry Potter), Daniel looks forward to his nights when he can escape his mundane life and travel to this strange new world in pursuit of action and adventure. 

The first half of the story plays out much as you’d expect, with most of the story focusing on his adventures in the dream world, interspersed with short scenes demonstrating how crappy his life is during the day. Once Daniel comes up to speed with his new surroundings, he joins a band of adventurers (other people with the same dreamwalking ability) and embarks on quests to build up his experience and bank account. Anyone who has played MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) will feel right at home with this book.  Plenty of unusual things are happening in this alternate world—mysterious storms, political intrigue, unexplained deaths—and it appears that Daniel will be the hero destined to set things right.  

But then the story throws you a curve.  His adoptive family stops acting so Dursleyish, Daniel discovers he has a knack for music, and suddenly his day life becomes just as important to the story as his nighttime excursions, especially as he struggles to keep the two worlds from affecting each other. 

What I liked:  The writing was good and tension continued to build throughout the story.  I found the world imaginative and fun to explore, and it was refreshing to see a story that utilized folklore from less used sources (Native American, for example) instead of depending entirely on European mythology.  Also, in these kinds of stories it’s usually the lessons the main character learns in the alternate world that teach him how to behave in real life.  By the time you get to the second half of the book, it’s his real life experiences that are teaching him how to behave in the alternate world.  A nice twist. 

What I didn’t like:  The story felt a little disjointed at the beginning, although it smoothed out by the end of the first chapter, so don’t base your opinion of the book on the early pages.  And Daniel seemed to accept this whole dream world concept much too easily for my tastes.  I suspect the author just wanted to get on with the adventure, but a little skepticism on Daniel’s part at the beginning would have seemed more realistic to me and could have revealed more about his character.  

I also felt some of the rules explaining how or why various things worked in the dream world could have been described in more detail.  I’m not asking for infodumps, but there were times when complex concepts were summed up in a single sentence that might leave some readers confused.  It’s not necessary to have played role playing games to follow some of these explanations, but it helps.  

To be honest, my biggest disappointment was with the ending.  I’m not going to give away any spoilers here, but after spending most of the book setting up all sorts of mysteries for Daniel to solve and introducing us to the bad guy who grows ever more powerful over the course of the book, the story just kind of ends, leaving most of these issues unresolved.  Apparently, some of these plotlines are addressed in the next book, but I would have liked more of them resolved in this book. 

Still, I enjoyed the book, which is as much about Daniel growing up as it is about his adventures in a strange world. I’m giving Messenger a 4 out of 5, knocking off a half star because of the ending.

I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an  honest review.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review of Messenger

I'm taking time off from the blog this week, but I posted a review of the YA fantasy Messenger on the SheraHart blog today.  If you're interested in reviews of MG or YA, you should bookmark the site.

See you next week.
ChemistKen

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Links -- Volume 40

Began editing a new chapter this week and was appalled by how much work it's going to need.  So it's pretty much business as usual.  I'm still waiting for that moment when I go back to one of my older chapters and think "Hey, this is in pretty good shape!"

Have a great weekend!

ChemistKen


Writing Active Settings, Part 2

A Better Way to Open Your Novel

Do you know who owns your book cover?

Building a Killer Email List

Are Your Scenes Causing an Effect?

Why You Should Be Mercilessly Hacking Apart Your Favorite Stories

Build a Story, but Leave the Door Open

Kindle Unlimited: The Key Questions