Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sacrifices in Writing

I stopped by the KillZone the other day and read a post by James Scott Bell on self-publishing. And one of the things he discussed was how writers needed to treat writing like a sacrifice.

Be prepared to give some things up (TV is a jealous mistress, too) in order to find time to write.”

And that prompted me to compile a list of the things I’ve given up the past couple of years to pursue my dream of being a published writer.

Television. I used to watch a lot of TV. Now I watch one DVR’ed show a night, together with my wife.

Video games. I was addicted to them several years ago, but that was before being bitten by the writing bug. The only time I play these days is online with my brother on Saturday nights – although I have been known to sneak in a few minutes of Minecraft whenever I’m stuck in the middle of writing a scene. I used to tell my kids which video games were best. Now they tell me.

Sleep. I’m sure all writers sacrifice sleep for their art. Sometimes my only chance to write comes when everyone else is in bed. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered my muse is usually asleep then too.

The Internet. Visiting websites having nothing to do with writing doesn't happen much anymore.

Gardening. I used to plan each year’s flower garden beginning in February and keep tweaking the design until it was time to plant in May. Now I plant as little as possible as quickly as possible and hope everything turns out okay as the summer progresses.

Free time. By definition, free time means writing time, so it's no longer free.

So what about you?  What have you given up for writing?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sharing is Caring: The Liebster Award

Thanks to Cherie Colyer for nominating me for the Liebster award.  I'm honored!  But with great honor comes great responsibility, so here we go...

First, eleven things about me:

1. I have to wear SPF 100 or I'll burn in no time.
2. I’m a research chemist by day and part-time writer by night.
3. I love magic, old castles, and Britain. I especially love magic when it occurs within old castles in Britain.
4. I rarely watch television in real time, preferring to DVR them.
5. My memory for names and faces is abysmal. Rarely can I make it through a movie without having to ask my wife who’s who at least once.
6. Autumn is my favorite time of year. Hands down.
7. I’m the one responsible for getting my kids hooked on video games.
8. I would love to retire in Britain someday. The castles and history alone would make it worthwhile.
9. I've visited every state in the continental United States except for two.  Unfortunately, I don't remember which two they are.
10, Our family is about to get a new cat.
11. My longest run ever (I used to jog) was 9 miles.

Now my answers to the eleven questions posed by Cherie

1. What do you like best about blogging?  Meeting other writers
2. Mountains or ocean? Ocean, especially odd since I don’t swim.
3. Favorite authors? Clarke, Asimov, Sanderson
4. Are you an outliner or a panster? Outliner, although as soon as I begin writing, I keep coming up with ideas that require constant changes to the outline. Guess I’m a plotser.
5. Where do you find your inspiration? Movies and books.
6. What fictional world would you like to visit? The Harry Potter world, of course.
7. KFC or Popeye’s? KFC, Never tried Popeye’s
8. Are there any books you won’t read? Boring ones. Also books with too much showing.
9. Name three people (living or dead) you’d like to meet? Linus Pauling, J.K. Rowling,
10. Do you have any advice for fellow bloggers? Post on a regular schedule – unlike me – but don’t let it interfere with your writing.
11. Is this your first Liebster award? No 

Here are the bloggers I would liked to nominate for this award.

Your new questions:
1. How long have you been blogging?
2. How many people in your family?
3. What was your favorite book?
4. Harry Potter or Twilight?
5. Where do you find your inspiration?
6. What fictional world would you like to visit?
7. Hanburger or cheeseburger
8. Cat or dog?
9. Do you believe in magic?
10. What advice would you give new writers?
11. Is this your first Liebster award?

The Liebster Rules:
1. The Liebster Award is given to bloggers by bloggers.
2. Each blogger should post 11 facts about himself / herself.
3. Each blogger should answer the 11 questions that are asked by the nominating blogger.
4. Choose 11 new bloggers to nominate for the Award and link to them in the post.
5. Create 11 new questions for your nominees.
6. Go back to their pages and tell them they've been nominated.
7. No tag backs

If you'd like to participate, feel free to snag the questions and begin your own round of the Liebster Awards!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Insecure Writer and Changes in the Publishing Industry

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

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

My fear that the world of publishing is changing faster than I can adapt.

We all know the publishing industry is in the midst of change. The rise of self-publishing, the changing roles of agents and editors, the increased competition for the reader's attention. All issues of concern. But I’m not discussing any of these topics today. Today, I'm worried about changes in how story openings should work – at least in the view of agents and editors.

Consider the opening lines from the first Harry Potter book.

 Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.

Now I happen to love this opening. It shows the author has both a sense of humor and an interesting voice. And it immediately makes me want to know what sort of strange and mysterious event is about to happen, which is exactly what opening lines are supposed to do. But a week ago I ran across a blog post that mentioned this opening and, to my surprise, the blogger seemed dumbfounded that the opening had worked. “There's no action,” the blogger wrote. “No conflict.” Why would anyone read on? And I could only shake my head.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard similar views on the subject. From what I unerstand, agents are now telling writers that if there’s no action or conflict at the beginning of a story, then their book stands little chance of getting published. And that worries me.

You see, three years ago, when I first began perusing the blogosphere for advice on writing, one of the first things I learned was that beginnings needed to hook the reader quickly or the author risked losing them. No long descriptions, no weather reports, no boring conversations, etc. Intrigue the reader quickly—that was the trick. And many ways were suggested to accomplish this. Pose an interesting question, show the reader something unusual, foreshadow something mysterious, use humor, begin in media res. And, of course, consider getting conflict on the very first page. All very good ideas. My point is that three years ago, getting conflict on the first page was only one of the ways to hook your readers. Now it sounds as though it’s the required method for hooking your reader -- at least according to the gatekeepers. Makes me wonder if Harry Potter would be published if it came out now.

The problem is, not all stories lend themselves to immediate conflict, which, I suspect, is one reason so many scifi/fantasy stories begin with action filled prologues. And this requirement for immediate conflict is leading to some unfortunate trends in books. Many of the MG fantasies I’ve been reading lately all start out in the same way -- with siblings arguing and sniping at one another in an otherwise boring chapter. The characters may be heading toward a haunted mansion, or a deserted town, or a suspected alien base, but instead of intriguing the reader by foreshadowing the upcoming events, the authors apparently feel obligated to generate artificial conflict by having the characters call each other names for several pages.

If you can begin your story with real conflict that leads to the main plot, then by all means do it. But sticking in artificial (and boring) conflict just to have it present in the first pages leaves me cold.

Sorry. I'm supposed to be talking like an insecure writer. I’ll get off the soapbox now.

Has anyone else noticed trends in books dictated by the new climate in publishing?