Wednesday, April 18, 2018

How Being A Writer Has Changed My Book Buying Habits

Photo Courtesy of Visual Hunt

I’ve noticed a trend in my ebook buying habits over the past year. My purchases tend to fall into one of two camps. Camp number one represents either a book by an author I love (and hence a no-brainer purchase) or the rare book that really catches my attention (interesting premise, great voice, etc.). Camp number two involves books that are merely okay, but which have a voice or style similar to mine. I buy these books because I want to learn from them, to see how to craft sentences that work—not because the story is great. In other words, I buy it to satisfy the writer in me, not the reader. 

Not that I can't learn from the first group of books, but their writing is usually so far above my station it’s difficult for me to pick out the nuances. What I learn from this group involves aspects of story structure. Where did the character arcs occur? How did the authors pull off that intricate subplot? Why did they choose one method over another? The high level stuff. 

The end result of all this is that I’ve become jaded in my book buying habits. If a book doesn’t grab me immediately, then I won’t buy it unless I think I’ll learn something from it. No more middle ground. No more fun little reads. I already have so many TBR and IKINR (I Know I’ll Never Read) books on my Kindle, there’s no incentive for me to do anything else. 

Is it just me? What are your book buying habits these days?

ChemistKen


Friday, April 13, 2018

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 187

This Week's Writing Links
Photo Courtesy of Visual Hunt

After not being able to write for two weeks because of bronchitis, I had to speed-write for a week in order to complete my submissions for my two critique groups, both of which met this week. I plan on spending this weekend relaxing, although my wife may have other plans in mind. 

We saw Pacific Rim: Uprising last weekend and were moderately entertained.  My my, how computer graphics have evolved over time. Mass destruction never looked so good.  The story itself was rather contrived and full of plot holes, but I've come to expect that in these kinds of movies.  Just load up on the popcorn and soda and watch the explosions, thank you very much.

Enjoy the writing links! 


ChemistKen 



Showing vs telling: ‘Show don’t tell’ in narration

How to Publish with Createspace & Ingram Spark at the Same Time

How to avoid spam filters and reach the inbox

Pros And Cons Of Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing

Writing a Synopsis

Mining Our Characters’ Wounds

7 Ways to Master “Show, Don’t Tell” During Exposition



Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Insecure Writer And Knowing If You've Got the Skills To Be A Writer


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

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I still wonder if I'm one of those people who'll never be a good/,average/passable writer. no matter how much I work at it. 

I’ve read posts and listened to podcasts that say anyone can be a writer if they work hard enough at it, but I know that’s not the case. We may not wish to discuss it in public, but the truth is some people will never be able to grasp the concept of being a writer—whether it’s an inability to write coherent sentences, or a lack of imagination, or being unable to describe a scene so that someone other than the writer understands what’s going on, or any of the dozens of other skills a writer must have. 

I have a knack for chemistry. I don’t know why; I just do. It makes sense to me. It’s not always easy, but I can solve complicated problems because I don’t have to worry about the basics. I used to think that anyone could pass a chemistry class if they worked hard enough, but after years of teaching I was forced to admit that some people will never get it. They might be smart and/or hard working, but chemistry will never click for them. And that’s okay—assuming they’re satisfied with never being a chemist. 

It’s the same for writers. Even passable writers wield words in a way that are beyond the ken of non-writers. They breathe life onto the page without consciously thinking about it. They may struggle at times, but the basics come so naturally to them they don’t even think about them anymore. Unfortunately, there will always be those aspiring writers who will never "get" these basics, no matter how hard they work. 

I’ve met all sorts of aspiring writers at meetings and conferences. Their skill levels vary widely, but I can see the understanding in their eyes. But I’ve run into a few people I know will never have that understanding. They’re enthusiastic and attend conferences and read books, but after speaking with them for ten minutes, it’s clear they’re never going to get it. I recall helping someone with their synopsis once and when I asked her to explain what her story was about, it was an absolute mess. When I suggested her story needed some kind of conflict she just stared at me like I was an idiot. 

It's a dirty secret, but some people will never be writers. It’s not their fault, and I feel bad for them. My only question is: Am I one of those people? 


Oh, by the way, I'm one of the IWSG co-hosts this month. Don't forget to stop by the other co-hosts too.   Olga Godim Renee Scattergood Tamara Narayani 

ChemistKen






Friday, March 30, 2018

Is The Three Act Structure No Longer Useful?

Photo courtesy of VisualHunt

As some of you may know, I’m big into story structure. My ability to take a scene in my head and convert it into words on the page may be lacking, but story structure is a whole 'nother beast. Three-act structure, along with its requisite story beats at well-defined points, just makes sense to me. So much so that I’ve given a few lectures on the topic at local libraries and my SCBWI writing group. I can scarcely watch a movie these days without noticing the first plot point or the midpoint reversal. Heck, I’ve talked about it enough that even my wife and daughter can spot the “All is lost” moment. 

But lately I’ve come across a few writers who suggest that the three-act structure is no longer necessary for a good story. That writers can use whatever structure they want. And that makes me want to go hmmm… 

I first saw this advice a couple of weeks ago in the book Layer Your Novel by C. S. Lakin. I enjoy her books on the craft of writing, and this book does a good job of defining the important story beats and where they should go in the story, but she spent several pages at the beginning of the book telling writers that they don’t have to use the three-act structure if they don’t want to. She even pointed out that one of her books had seven acts. All a writer really needs, she said, is to have the proper story beats in the right places. 

I have to say I found this attitude rather confusing. First of all, there’s nothing about the three-act structure that says you can’t break it down into more than three parts. All you really need is the story setup, the journey, and the final battle. Pretty basic stuff. I haven’t read her seven-part story, but I suspect that it follows the three-act structure more than she would lead us to believe. In fact, if her story follows the story beats that she espouses in Layer Your Novel, then I’m positive it follows three-act structure. Because if you have all the necessary story beats and you put them in the right places, then you basically have the three-act structure whether you call it that or not. 

And then yesterday I watched a video by John Truby, another writer attempting to explain the art of writing. Not only did he knock story structure, but he claimed that following “The Hero’s Journey”—another method of characterizing three-act structure—would lead the writer to disaster. (I think his explanation was that since everyone else was doing using it, new writers would be better off doing something different. Yikes!) What I found most amusing was that the three stories he constantly held up as examples of what writers should aspire to—Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Lord of the Rings—all follow the Hero’s Journey to the letter. 

Hey, I’m all for not being a slave to writing rules, but I see no reason for telling newbie writers that the three-act structure is obsolete. All good stories follow it to some extent and writers would be wise to learn what makes a story tick before discarding it.

Have a great Easter weekend and enjoy this week's writing links!


ChemistKen 


5 Most Common Mistakes with Setting

Understanding Your Ebook Formatting Options

What's So Wrong With Clich├ęs in Our Fiction? This.

The Dangers of Premature Editing: Pruning Our Stories vs. Pillaging Them

Publishing Tips for 2018 and Beyond

Word Choice for Character Strength

7 Frequently Asked Writing Questions




Monday, March 26, 2018

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 186

This Week's Writing Links
Photo Courtesy of Visual Hunt

For all those asking about my wife's ankle last week, I can announce she's much better now, although she's a bit slower than the usual.  The bad news is that she proceeded to catch my cold and ended up with bronchitis. :(  Actually, my cold turned into bronchitis too, so we were both coughing and hacking around the house this week, much to the annoyance/amusement of our kids.  A round of antibiotics seems to have done the job, which means my head is finally able to concentrate on writing again.  It's about time, too! We're almost a quarter of the way through the year and I'm already falling behind my goals for 2018. 

My wife and I saw Tomb Raider this weekend. It was your typical treasure hunt movie--a fun action romp with well choreographed action scenes--but it didn't have much in the way of plot.  There were a few twists, but nothing I didn't spot coming a mile away.  But my wife will watch almost anything if it means she gets to eat movie popcorn, so a good time was had by all. 

Enjoy the writing links! 


ChemistKen 



How to Link your Kindle Book Edition to your Paperback Edition on Amazon

Book Description Basics

Writers: Grow Your Instagram Account Organically

Turning Points: Three Act Structure for Novelists

Can Slick Marketing Sell Bad Books?

Characters in Cars Thinking, or, How to Deal with the Passage of Time

Stealing Hollywood - Character Introductions



Saturday, March 17, 2018

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 185

This Week's Writing Links
Photo Courtesy of Visual Hunt

Between being sick with a bad chest cold all week and my wife spraining her ankle, there wasn't much progress on the writing front. And now I have to focus on critiques I owe three other authors.  Spring can't get here quickly enough. 

The family and I saw A Wrinkle in Time last weekend. It was okay, in my opinion, but I admit I was expecting more. I never read the book, but my impression was that they skipped a lot of the story in order to give us lots of visuals. 

What did you guys think? Did you enjoy it? How did the book compare to the movie?

Anyway, have a great weekend and enjoy the writing links! 


ChemistKen 



Foreshadowing in a sentence: Connecting story events

Assemble Your Street Team: How to Mobilize Your Fan Army to Promote Your Books

Want to Push Your Protagonist Over the Edge? Add an Emotion Amplifier

Back to Basics--Imagery

The Difference Between YA and MG Novels

3 Tips to Hook Your Reader’s Emotions

Character flaws: Creating lovable imperfections



Friday, March 9, 2018

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 184

https://pixabay.com/en/users/josemanuelbotana-958941/



Woo-hoo!  Both a Wednesday AND a Friday post this week.  Will wonders never cease.  Actually I have to thank the Insecure Writers Support Group for making me post on Wednesday. There's nothing like the threat of being dropped from the group for not posting on the first Wednesday of the month to keep those juices going. 

Last night's critique group meeting went well, and I just discovered my other critique group is meeting on Monday.  Whoops, I should have paid better attention at last month's meeting. I hope my submission is in good shape, or I'll be staying up late tonight polishing it up for critiquing.

Have a great weekend! 


ChemistKen 



Book Promotion: Do This, Not That – February 2018

5 Quick Ways To Shift Description and Setting Into Deep POV

6 Tips for Writing Characters Who Captivate Readers

Writing a Synopsis with Pintip Dunn

Garlic Breath For Writers (aka, Bad First Pages)

The 5 Turning Points of a Character Arc

How Should a Character Say Nothing?



Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Insecure Writer and Deciding Your Genre


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

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I don't know which genre I should use to describe my story. 

I mean, that’s kind of weird, right? Not knowing what genre my story falls into? It’s not as if I’m writing some sort of weird crossover that’s never been done before. It’s straight fantasy about a college freshman who suddenly finds herself thrust into the middle of an alchemical war that’s been secretly raging on Earth for nearly a millennium. There’s no magic, but these alchemists have the power to manipulate chemical elements. 

My original thought was that it would be considered urban fantasy. However, these days it seems that urban fantasy falls into one of two camps. Either the protagonist is female and she’s a demon/vampire/werewolf/etc slayer in a world full of paranormal creatures or he’s a male warlock, usually with a checkered past who needs to fight some terrible evil to redeem himself. And I’m a little concerned that if I call my book an urban fantasy, people will be expecting something my book is not. 

My story does have subatomic-sized creatures (the ones responsible for the manipulation of elements), so some writers might classify my story as paranormal fantasy. In fact, according to this post, the main thing that differentiates urban fantasy and paranormal fantasy is the presence of magic. Since there is no magic in my story, that would make it paranormal fantasy. 

Heck, I’ve even considered just calling it science fantasy, since I basically take one fantastical element (the subatomic beings) and weave a story around them using science to work out most of the rules and consequences. But I’m not sure if anyone uses the term science fantasy any more. 

This may seem like needless worrying, but book covers these days are highly dependent on the genre and if my cover gives the readers the wrong impression, they won’t be happy. 

Let's move on to the IWSG question of the day. 


How do you celebrate when you achiever a writing goal / finish a story? 

Since I haven’t finished a story, I can’t answer that part of the question yet. As far as smaller goals are concerned, every time I finish a submission for my critique group, I consider that a victory. I celebrate by allowing myself a little time to work on my fan fiction. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine, and as such, feels like a reward. 


ChemistKen

So how would you classify my story? 






Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Using Modern Day Slang In Non-Modern Day Stories

No Way!

Photo provided by Visual hunt 

Lately, I’ve noticed a trend in the books I read, a habit of using modern day language or euphemisms in stories set in other time periods or other worlds. The example that pushed me into writing this post was in a story set in late medieval times. The language used by the characters wasn’t particularly old sounding, but it was good enough—that is, until one of the teen-aged characters complained of being put “on lockdown” by his parents. Man, did my suspension of disbelief take a kick to the gut.

Now I don’t mind an occasional deviation from period language for the sake of readability. “Thee”s and “Thou”s can get hard to read after a while, but the use of slang that’s only been around for about a decade or so (at least in the connotation of “being grounded”) is just too much.

And it’s not just stories set in the past. I’ve read science fiction set in the far future that used current day slang, pop phrases I’m pretty sure will be dead and buried long before that future arrives. For example, I’m reading one book populated with spaceships and space stations, and was jarred when one of the characters used the phrase “you go, girl.” Now I’ll admit this phrase has been around for a while, and may hang around for a while yet, but it’s already in decline, used these days mostly as a punch line in TV comedies or to make the person saying it appear unhip.

Maybe this doesn’t bother anyone else, but contemporary slang in non-contemporary settings just irks me.

What about you?

ChemistKen


 P.S. If the writer is deliberately doing this to have fun, for example, A Knight’s Tale, then that’s different.


Source: Tumblr

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Insecure Writer and Forgetting ISWG Blog Post Day


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

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I forgot this was the first Wednesday in February, which means my IWSG post is due.  Arg!!!!

My only excuse is that it’s been a busy week for me, writing-wise.  My monthly SCBWI meeting was on Saturday, I met with one of my critique groups on Monday evening, and my other critique group meets tomorrow night. At least I'm keeping busy.

Thank goodness the IWSG supplies an optional question to answer every month.

What do you love about the genre you write in most often? 


I write fantasy for the same reason I read it.  The sense of wonder. I love escaping to worlds different from the one I live in.  But it's not just about escapism. I love how fantasy (and science fiction) trigger my imagination, letting me see and experience things that would never happen in real life (or at least not in my lifetime).

I enjoy reading mysteries and thrillers too, but wrap them in a fantasy setting and those stories just seem to pop for me.

My IWSG post is kind of short today, but that just means you all have more time to visit the other writers in this blog hop.

So go forth and read! 

And don't forget to stop by this month's co-hosts.  Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

ChemistKen





Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Does Lots of Writing Time Guarantee Productivity?

Photo on Visual hunt

I managed to get a fair amount of writing done back during the holidays. I suspect the biggest reason for this increased output had to do with my having large swatches of time in which to write. I don’t just mean lots of time, I mean large contiguous blocks of time, where I could write interrupted for several hours at a sitting. 

Life usually forces me to sneak my writing in whenever I can, which often means writing in fifteen to thirty minute increments. That kind of piecemeal writing isn’t so bad when I’m tweaking sentences, but it’s not so great when I’m fighting my way through a difficult scene. I scarcely have the chance to figure out where I previously left off before it’s time to quit again. 

With that in mind, sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I won the lottery, quit my job, and could spend all day writing. I’d like to think my productivity would skyrocket, but I suspect it wouldn’t quite work out that way in real life. I believe one of the reasons I enjoy writing is because I have to work so hard just to find the time to write. Would I enjoy writing as much if I had all the time I wanted? If I spent four to eight hours writing every day, would it start to seem like work? Would my passion for writing fizzle after a couple of books? 

I don’t play the lottery, so I guess I’ll never know the answer. 

(Unless my wife inherits a fortune. Then all bets are off.)

ChemistKen



Friday, January 26, 2018

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 181

https://pixabay.com/en/users/josemanuelbotana-958941/


Well, this week was pretty much a disaster writing-wise. Instead of making up for last week's lack of production, I doubled down and managed to write even less this week. 

I left work on Friday with good attentions, determined to spend the late evening hours writing up a storm, but then decided I was too tired to be creative and headed off to bed. The plan was to rise early the next morning and write, but that's when I discovered the family (including me) was spending the day at the North American Auto show down in Detroit. 


So much for writing. 

(Side note: The Ford exhibit featured a virtual reality simulator that made you feel as though you were diving off a skyscraper. Whoa!)

On Sunday I realized I had a beta read due for another author, so no writing on my manuscript that day either. 

Monday through Thursday was then ruined by a bout of bad intestinal flu, so I missed my Wednesday blog post--again. 

At least I managed to post these links today. Enjoy them and have a great weekend! 

Oh, and stay healthy too!

ChemistKen 



An Agent or Editor is Interested! What Next?!

Cut Your Fiction to Pump Up the Jam

What Kinds of Social Media Go Viral?

What Does Your Protagonist Want BEFORE the Story Starts?

Says The Editor: Dialogue Tags

Overcoming Adversity Through Adverbs

The Secret of a Successful Mystery: Making the Reader a Participator



Friday, January 19, 2018

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 180

https://pixabay.com/en/users/josemanuelbotana-958941/


If you recall from last Friday's post: 

I've had good writing weeks before, but they were usually followed by a week or two of almost non-existent progress, mostly because I allowed myself to ease off the writing. But not this time! One of my resolutions this year is to keep pushing forward, no matter what. Wish me luck! 

Sigh... I'm already falling off the wagon.

Hides face in shame...

Well, that's not entirely true. I did write a fair amount over the three day weekend (we get MLK day off where I work), but I haven't touched my story since. Three days without writing isn't the most horrible thing, but that's only if I don't allow that behavior to drag on for another week or so. 

So I'm determined to work on my story tonight. No matter what! 

Enjoy the links and have a great weekend! 

ChemistKen 



The Long Con: Ten Things You Need to Know About Going to Conventions as a Writer

5 Key Ways to Balance Internal Monologue with Pitfalls to Avoid

Internal Monologue

How to think laterally about editor feedback

The One Thing That Will Kill Book Sales Dead—And 10 Ways to Avoid it.

5 Ways That Playing with Pricing Can Sell More Books

Blogging as a Writer



Friday, January 12, 2018

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 179

https://pixabay.com/en/users/josemanuelbotana-958941/


It's less than two weeks into the new year, and I'm already happy with my writing progress. I finally worked out how to extricate my character from the dire situation I put her in last year, and based on the positive comments I received from my critique group last night, they approved of my solution too. 

I've had good writing weeks before, but they were usually followed by a week or two of minimal progress, mostly because I allowed myself to ease off on the writing. But not this time! One of my resolutions this year is to keep pushing forward, no matter what. 

Wish me luck! 

Enjoy the links and have a great weekend! 

ChemistKen 



11 Creative Ways to Boost Reader Engagement

So What? Making Readers Care About Your Story

Understanding Your Print Book Formatting Options

Author Platform Cheat Sheet

Publishing Wide: Selling Ebooks And Print Books Direct From Your Author Website

Writing five minutes a day for a year equals a book

How to Stand Out in the Slush Pile 101



Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Being Where the Readers Are

Photo on Visualhunt
Last week I posted that I had no plans to schedule anything as far as my writing was concerned. However, I’m already rethinking that position. Let me preface this by saying my number one goal for 2018 is to (finally) finish a story. To be honest, I had that same goal last year, but was so far off the mark I knew I was in trouble by June. Fortunately, I made enough progress in 2017 I think it’s a realistic goal for 2018. Crosses fingers! 

In any case, it’s time to start thinking about marketing, and this is where the scheduling aspect enters the picture. One of my secondary goals for 2018 is to visit blogs with a fantasy/sci-fi focus. Up until now, most of the blogs I visit either discuss the craft of writing or belong to IWSG members. Not that the support from my fellow IWSG members hasn’t been great, but if I expect to be a successful seller of fantasy books, I need to expand my horizons a little. 

One of the things I’ve learned about book marketing is that you need to be where your readers are. The IWSG is full of great and supportive people, but the writers cover a wide range of genres. Thrillers, romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery. This diversity in genres gives me a great perspective on the industry, but it's not where most of my readers are.   

One of the most important items that show up on your Amazon book page is the “Customers who bought this item also bought…” list. Amazon’s algorithms track the buying habits of the people who buy your book and use that information to decide who else they should show your book to. It’s one of Amazon’s primary techniques for promoting our books. Unfortunately, these algorithms can be pretty touchy. 

For example, if I sent out a general broadcast about my new book to everyone in the IWSG, and everyone bought the book, Amazon’s algorithms wouldn’t know what to do with the data. Instead of finding that fantasy readers are buying my book, Amazon would see an eclectic mix of genres and reader buying preferences. And if there's one thing I’ve learned about book marketing, it's that you definitely do not want to confuse the Amazon algorithms. 

So my plan is to visit and interact with at least one new fantasy or scifi blog every week. This doesn’t strike me as overly ambitious, but I kind of slacked off on my blog visitations during the final months of 2017, so this new habit may require more diligence on my part. We’ll see. 

What new thing are you trying this year in regards to your writing or book marketing endeavors?

ChemistKen


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Insecure Writer and Starting Out In 2018


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

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

The answer is: I'm not.

It's not that I don't have writing insecurities lurking in the back of my mind, but who cares, it's January.  And along with the new year comes the completely unjustified euphoria that promises all my writing dreams will come true.  There's nothing quite like naive optimism to banish those nasty insecurities.  At least for a month.  I'll probably be moaning in February, but I'll worry about that later.

Isn't being a writer great?

Seriously, part of my good cheer stems from the fact that I made lots of progress on the writing front over the holidays.  We'll see if I can keep the momentum going throughout 2018.

Let's move on to this month's IWSG question:

What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?


I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I don’t have any sort of plan to schedule my writing activities and I don’t expect to have one for the rest of 2018.

It's not that I don’t want to succeed, but scheduling has never been my strong point, whether we're talking writing related projects or not. Back in college I learned how to juggle classes freestyle, working on whichever class my intuition told me focus on.  A rather chaotic technique to be sure, but it served me well and it's a habit I still follow to this day.  And even if I was the scheduling type, there's way too many things going on in my life for me to plan when I'm going to write.  I write whenever I can find a few minutes to spare.

Marketing is probably one of those areas where scheduling is important, but as I don't have a book out yet, the point is moot.

With that said, I admit that social media is one area where I should be scheduling. My social media forays are chaotic at best, and as a writer, that's something I need to fix.  Hopefully I'll get the hang of social media before my first book is published.

I hope you all have a great new year! 

ChemistKen



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