How Do I Avoid ALL of the Vampire Tropes and Clichés When Writing About Vampires?

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How do you avoid ALL of the Vampire tropes and clichés when writing about Vampires?

You can’t.

Seriously, you can’t.  If you have a story idea, just write it.  Yes, it has all been done and said before, especially if it involves vampires.  Or dystopian futures.  Or romance.  Or aliens. Or magic.  Or pretty much everything you can think of.

Who cares?  Do you have an idea?  A twist?  Are you mixing in science?  Or back to gothic supernatural?  Horror?  Something lighter?  Does it sound like it would be fun to write?  Then write it.  Later you can decide if it is useable or publishable.  People love this stuff for a reason, and a good story is always a good story.  Just don’t tell the same old story in the same old way.  Tell YOUR version.  Don’t you realize that EVERYBODY ELSE GOT IT WRONG!

I follow a couple of writer’s  Facebook pages, and I keep seeing questions like the title of this blog (or similar questions), over and over.  I used to comment, but I was one of many voices, and lost in the landslide of opinion.  Now, I just shake my head and scroll past.

Your choices are to not write about vampires at all, or just get in there and mix things up.  Play with the tropes.  Joke about them, and laugh with the reader.  Or make them scary, again.  Turn ideas on their head, inside out and upside down.  Build a world with hard and fast rules, or merely guidelines.  Find the source material and mine out the purest elements.  Take the mythology apart for the parts you want, and ignore what doesn’t work for you.

It doesn’t matter who or how many have written about vampires before.  Nobody else in the world has the exact personal mythology as you.  It is made up of all of the stories you have come across, real and fictional, liked or not, and the order they arrived in your life.  You are different from everyone else. Books, movies, family secrets, TV, conversations, cultural traditions, arguments, lucky happenings, personal tragedies; they all affect how YOU see the world.

Tropes and clichés–as annoying as they can be–are our shared mythology.  Don’t fear them.  They are your friends.  They show us that we are similar enough to understand each other, but different enough to learn from each other’s point of view.  They link us to people we have never met.

Don’t let writing what you love make you afraid of being repetitive.  Write the story you want to read.  If you decide you want to be published, then revise and edit to current standards.  It’s hard work, so decide if it’s worth it.

Just remember lots of people won’t like it , no matter what it is.  Make peace with that, or tell them to feck off, whichever is your style.  Hopefully, you will find an audience that loves the world and characters you created, and beg you for more.

Most importantly, and in the words of Noah Lukeman, “Don’t bore the reader.”

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Today, I Will Nap.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, I got through the Beautiful Freaks Fest with most of my brain intact.  I don’t feel it was my best writing, and the fiber arts/artifact creation/photography caused lots of insomnia, and nearly gave me a panic attack by Sunday.  Sooooo many things got cut out of the posts because my imagination far exceeds my time and abilities.  I had to be vague with specific details, like dates, names, and locations, because the second I commit, I HAVE to make sure everything is 100% historically accurate, and I would have never pushed the “publish” button, AND that would have been its own kind of failure.  Also, I was so busy trying to get my own posts out, I couldn’t get to the other writers/artists to look/like/share their work, too.

I also ignored a lot of weekend chores to get anything posted, and there is a vague sense I was only half aware during the conversations I had with my family.  Writer’s fog, I call it, although it affects all creative types.  I will hope for their forgiveness, and try to do better in the future.

BUT, I did it!  Three fiction posts in three days!  The links to the fest are still open, so I will spend the week visiting my co-conspirators.  Please, visit them, too.

I didn’t realize how comfy I had become with the “publish” button while running a blog.  All the old anxieties came roaring back when it was a work of fiction.  This does not bode well for future self-publishing, and puts another tick mark in the traditional publishing column.  Hmmm…

When I wrote the original short story six months ago, a letter from a man to his sister, begging her to come home and help him deal with the aftermath of the Fae touching his life, I had no idea it would go in this direction.  Now, I have the beginnings of a blog serial, and perhaps I’ll collect it into a novella.  (Although pic heavy e-books are difficult to format, from what I have heard.)  There is so much more to that short story than I thought.  Time to dig deeper into the research.  Yay!  Research!

What else is in my future?  Finishing the other short story, catching up on beta reading for friends, overdue reviews for other friends, revising and editing my novels, more blogging with my creative brain exposed, and hopefully–somehow–getting my work out into the world and published.

But first, I’m going to take a nap.

Happy writing!

I Promise to Write Every Day

A writer tries to take a picture of the writing space.
A writer tries to take a picture of the writing space.

There is an article traveling through the Facebook writing pages about an author that wrote a book, quit the day job to write a second, then panicked when it didn’t happen.  She went back to  working day jobs, still unable to write, because…lots of reasons.  Why?  Because working two jobs sucks!

Writing–whether it is full-time or just during your lunch break– is a job.  A hard job, that you can’t leave behind when you go home for the day.  It’s in your head, ticking away, plotting, noticing characteristics of the people around you, keeping track of stories, watching TV with you, and playing with your dreams.  You can ignore it, stop writing for “reasons”, but it’s still there.  You can try to switch to another hobby.  (Good luck with that.)

Or you persevere.  You edit, revise, edit, submit, revise, submit, etc…  At some point you get accepted, or push that publish button yourself.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are done.  That’s not the way an artist’s brain works.  We’ve all seen the warnings; the wise advice from prolific writers.  Don’t ignore the danger signs, like the author from that article did.

This is why you try to write every day, people!  Finished that manuscript?  Find another project the very next day.  Write anything.  Don’t lose that momentum.  Find the next thing you are excited to write.  Even if you type random words for days, even if everything is a steaming pile, keep going.  Carve time out of each day that you can.  Revise as much as you need, just don’t forget to play with fresh thoughts.  New thoughts.  Exciting thoughts. Scary thoughts.

Family crises?  Journal it.  Short of ideas?  Find daily prompts.  Sick of novel length?  Try flash fiction.  Can’t stick with it?  Try a writer’s group that will poke you.  Blog.  Tweet. Engage in pointless Facebook commentary.  Jot limericks on napkins.

Do I write every day?  No.  I suck at it.  I’ve fallen between projects, so I know exactly how hard it is to get up and get going again.  You have to forgive yourself, and push yourself harder.  Eventually the mind starts working again.  A couple of years back I did write every day, for a year and a half, so I know what it is like, and it was good.  Damn good.  I want it back.  I crave it.  Food, drink, air, & words.

Place your hand on whatever book you respect and say it with me.  “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”

Wait.  Wrong promise.  Let’s try that again.

“I promise to find a way to write every day.”

Find.  Write.  Every.  Day.

Do it for you.  You deserve it.

5 Things I Have Learned About E-Book Reviews

  1. Authors NEED Your Reviews.  Maybe not famous authors (like J.K. Rowling, she’s doing fairly well), but those writing for a small genre e-press or the independent e-publishers really need reviews.  Really, really need those reviews.  If by some chance someone from their social media circle looks their book up, OR they get browsed while someone is swiping through pages and pages of books of a favorite genre, the number and rating of the reviews can make or break that sale.  Most readers learn to shy away from zero to few reviews, or if the reviews are all low stars.  (I’ve learned the hard way that these rough draft monstrosities–typed by a monkey and formatted on LSD–are often not worth the money they’re printed on.  Get it?  Printed?  Sorry.)
  2. Authors Need Hard Numbers.  The numbers game is always changing, and it’s hard to find hard data, but the word on the street is that currently 25 reviews will put an author on the “you might also like” Amazon list.  Fifty puts them in the running for feature exposure and other benefits. Sixty is the minimum rumored for BookBub, often cited as one of the most helpful platforms.  (Personally, already having sixty reviews sounds fairly successful, but I guess it’s just the start of becoming the next big thing.)
  3. Authors Shall Not Engage Their Reviewers.  Thank them, if you wish, on your blog or somewhere else. Don’t get cozy on the review page, you are setting a dangerous precedent.  I think authors get surprised by that first one star review, and jump to defend their work.  Don’t.  Even if it’s a wildly inaccurate review, or even a personal attack.  It is always the author that comes off as unreasonable, and they are the only one with a real stake in the review process.  Goodreads is starting to get a bad reputation for authors getting trashed by other writers and proto-writers, and that includes deliberate catfishing.  Setting your followers on them is probably a bad idea, also.  Mob mentality is particularly nasty in the online world. (Don’t be the orc that whips the trolls into attacking.)
  4. It’s a Review, Not a Book Report.  Keep it short and to the point.  Most people will not bother to read your ten paragraph critique and summary.  A single paragraph, or even a sentence or two, is plenty.  Everybody has things to do, and you can spend the time reading and reviewing another book.  (I also don’t bother with less than a three star review.  For my reasoning check my blog, “Why I Won’t Give a One Star Review.”)
  5. Five Star Reviews Don’t Promise a Good Book.  Sometimes an author has a fan base that is rabid, despite the book being a drug fueled, simian screech pounded into unreadable prose.  Feel free to poke that hornet’s nest with a one star review, but I prefer to back away slowly.  (It’s a tactical withdrawal.  Really.)

I’m still the newcomer to this madhouse of self-publishing, but I’m beginning to find my footing on the black light lit, mattress strewn, maze of contradictions.  My heartfelt thanks go out to those who are helping us noobs, holding our hands and lighting a penlight in the darkness.

Revision’s Threshold

I feel the edges of a new threshold pressing around me.  It’s the Cave of Revision, and it’s dark.

I take comfort in the knowledge that many other writers have passed this way, some famous, some not so much. Some of these writers are my friends, who have given me advice, or written books or blogs about how to keep going.  How to keep pushing yourself into a better writer.  How to push yourself toward being published, past the level of the hobby writer.

I do note, however, the few who wistfully warn me away from going any farther down this road.  Their forlorn words are weathered signposts, encouraging me to stay on the path of the blissful hobbyist.  Keep Away!  Turn Back Before It’s Too Late!  Don’t Go This Way!

But it is too late.  I need to tell the story that burns too brightly in me.  Not for fame; I see how it ruins so many lives.  Those it touches contort into impossible shapes to keep that limelight on themselves.  And not for riches; that is its own kind of hair shirt.  I have no need to get-rich-quick.  I simply want to be spoken of with affection by those that know me, and make a comfortable living doing something I love.

Writing is my second chance, my “do-over”, but only because I am already doing it.  I have other choices, and some of them could earn me a living if I focused on them.  Art is in my hands, and in my head, and in my heart.  I will still do other arts; I’ll never give up my anarchistic hobbies, and the soothing rhythm of needle and thread can free your mind to pull apart plots and characters, then stitch them back together, better.

My beta readers have given me enough to see my way, at least the first steps.  I have some hard work ahead, and even harder decisions to make. I’ll hone the edge of my skill against the words of my bookish mentors, and hopefully kill my darlings mercifully. They won’t stop the story burning its way out.  (Hey, maybe I should get a Doctor to check that.)

So, like the archetypical Hero, I ignore the warnings, tighten my belt, gird my loins, and check my weapons.  Looking back down the path, I see the lessons I’ve learned.  Some were painful, some were fun, all were necessary.  I glance at my companions, those I’ve gathered along the way, and step forward, into the Cave of Revision.

Damn, anybody got a light?

Why I Won’t Give A One Star Review

It’s a review, not a critique.

In fact, I don’t give less than a three star review.  Call me crazy if you wish, but a real person is behind that book.  Someone who (hopefully) tried their best.  I am not going to gleefully rip apart their work, just a faceless troll who lives for pain.

I have limited time, and it’s not my job to beta read and critique a published work.  If I liked a book at all, despite any problems, I’ll give it a favorable review and maybe point out something that threw me out of the reading groove.  The rule of thumb I was given while judging works of art was two positive comments for every negative, and it has never steered me wrong.

If it was too deeply flawed, I’ll skip the review.  My silence is my opinion.  My upbringing deeply instilled an ethic of, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything, at all.”

The book review is not the place for a deep critique.  Unless the author knows and trusts my opinion, it’s just a jumble of hateful words.  I won’t be that person.  I know how to give constructive criticism, and the review is too late.

If you chastise me for unbalancing a system that tries to rate books according to their merit, to you I say, “So What?”  At what point, in this screwed up system, does true fair play come into effect?  Shall I point out the people who admit to not finishing the book?  How is that fair?  Shall I point to the recent trend of ‘catfishing’?  How is that fair?  The person hurt in those situations is the author; dammed if they fight back, dammed if they don’t.

That being said, If I haven’t reviewed YOUR book (there are a few of you, and you know who you are), I’m not being silent and judgey.  I’m being overwhelmed with learning to blog, tweet, beta read, self-edit, navigate Word, my homemade writing course, make a website, figure out formatting, and one… other… thing.

Oh, yeah.  WRITE.  Apply butt to chair, tear thoughts out of my head, organize into words, lather, rinse, & repeat.

Wait.  Is that right?

Anyway, I’ll get you that review, ASAP.  I promise.  🙂

The Editing Pit

 

I think unpublished manuscripts are like the Home of Dreams from the movie “The Money Pit.”  I can picture Tom Hanks laughing like a maniac as more and more time, money and work get funneled into the manuscript.

But, as he was told, again and again, “If the foundation is good, everything else can be fixed.”

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is proving to be a daunting task, despite it’s deceptively thin appearance.  I’ve made it through the first three sections on sheer goat-headedness.  The elements seem to come in three Flavors for me:

First, rules I understand and already try to use.  (“Yes,” she whispers, as she pumps the air with her fist.)

Second, rules that I am unfamiliar with, but understand and will try to apply to my writing.  (“Hmmm.”  The writer scratches her head thoughtfully, brows crunched together, and tries to appear dignified.)

Third, rules that… can’t… brain.  more examples, plz…  halp…  (The room echoes with the sound of a head hitting a desk, while the soft pat, pat, pat of brain tissue, slowly leaking out of an ear, marks the passage of time.)

I think it’s going to take more than a single read through to get a good grasp of it all, although my worst offences seem to be related to #18.  My style seems to favor two clause sentences, giving my paragraphs a singsong sound.  I’m trying to control the urge, but it just seems to happen before I realize it.  I’m not doing it on purpose, because it can get really tedious. My brain just seems to organize thoughts this way, and sometimes I….   DAMMIT!!

My favorite section so far, Misused Words and Expressions, is full of fun, archaic words.  I feel at home, among these words, and easily grasp his points.  If I was being tested, I would expect a good passing grade, although most of what I would get wrong may be simply outdated.  I’m sure I have never applied the word ‘clever’ to a horse, incorrectly or otherwise.

However, I think the section would be better titled Pet Peeves and Things That Really Piss Me OffI swear I have felt the sting of a ruler on the back of my hand from his tone of writing.  Despite only being in the ‘F’ words, I am already flinching from a smack on the back of the head.  I know it’s coming…

For now, I keep shoveling grammar and style into the manuscript, hoping to turn it into the Dream Novel.  (Don’t laugh!)

My last post referred to a bunch of writing books by author, but not the titles.  It was a presumption on my part that everybody else has read them all, and I was last to the party.  In an effort to help those who haven’t gotten around to them, I will post an extra blog with an annotated bibliography of the books I have found helpful to date.  Look for it in the next week or two.