Thank You, Random Newbie Writer!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, exactly HOW new do you have to be at writing to have JUST discovered Grammerly, yet still feel the NEED to tell a writer’s group you belong to that using it is lazy?  That writers should just pick up a book or a dictionary?  (Shall we tell them about Pro-writing Aid, Scrivener and the other dozen-odd programs that give writers a hand?)

Thank you, random newbie writer; I really needed a laugh today!

Mostly, because I’m still processing events from this weekend, and I wish I could say I was surprised, but it feels like I’ve been watching this happen in slow motion for a very long time.  So many warnings were ignored by those who needed to listen.  (Will they listen now?)  I also really, really wish I believed this would be the last incident.  My fears tell me the worst is yet to come.

As for my editing/revision adventure, I have tightened up the first chapter in the WIP, and already foresee things in later chapters that will get the CHOP.  I doubt there will be only one pass through the whole thing.  I haven’t really started incorporating the notes, yet, plus there will be a round of text-to-talk, and a round of Grammerly or one of the other aids.  Once that is finished, I will either start seeking an agent or small press, or take the chance on self publishing.  The plot thickens (hopefully).

Happy writing, y’all!

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“Ping!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile I was patting myself on the back last week for having a Good Excuse ™ for not writing, and the resulting blog post hid the fact that I was a bit panicky about not writing, I was unaware my brain had sifted into a different mode.

Yes, I was right in the middle of a fight scene.  Yes, it was THAT fight scene: the one with the inappropriately erotic words snuck into it.  I was also working on the second draft of another short story, where I tackle the nearly illegible pen and paper scribbles and try to type them into a coherent story.  Both are highly creative forms of writing, at least for me.

And they fell flat.  Just gone, and hardly missed in the crazy prep for an anime con.  When they didn’t come back on my first normal day for writing, I panicked a bit.  Truthfully, a LOT.

I could feel them fizzing, or burbling, like a  warm pot on the back burner of a stove, waiting for the right time to have a last-minute ingredient added.  I’ve felt this sensation before, so I was soothed, because it comes back, the creative side of writing, when it is ready, and not a damn minute before.  But that still left me stuck in front of blank pages…

Until I realized I had done something unusual to the novel that I laughingly refer to as my Work-In-Progress, despite the fact that I haven’t been able to stand the sight of it in nearly a year.  I had been re-reading it in the evenings, to unwind, instead of my to-read pile.

And it’s rough, and I have made my usual mistakes, and I’ve made eighteen pages of notes for changes over the past year, but I still love the story, and I’m ready to work on it.

You know, being a writer would be a lot easier if we got some kind of notice when our brains sifted to another mode.  I didn’t realize I was IN editing/revision.  There should be some kind of “ping,” or spider-sense, or notice hammered to our front door.  Instead we are suddenly swimming against the current, and struggling.

I’m better prepared for the task, this time, due to research and time spent working on smaller projects.  It seems a less insurmountable mountain, shrouded in thick clouds.  I can at least SEE what I need to achieve.  My intention is to have a ready manuscript for either agent shopping or self publishing by the end of the year, if not sooner.  Time will tell if I am up to the task.

Happy writing, editing, revision, or whatever!

 

Daydreaming “In Calabria”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeter S. Beagle published “The Last Unicorn” in 1968.  He was twenty-nine.  I was born the same year, so that book was not immediately on my reading list.

In fact, I did not discover the story until the 1982 animated film.  It would not be an exaggeration to say it helped shape my life.  It was one of many films and books that molded my view of the world, including my fascination and love for animation, movies, storytelling, myths, and fairy tales.  I never grew out of those first loves, and over time I learned that was a fine thing.  I still dream of the Red Bull, waves of unicorns coming in on the tide, human folly, and a unicorn’s regret.

I was in my twenties before I got a hold of a copy of the book he had written.  It was sublime.  I found more of Mr. Beagle’s books in my thirties and forties, but not all, to my current embarrassment.  The books I read were all very fine things.  He’s not a rock-star author, nor a household name, but I adore his command of language.  His prose weaves a subtle spell created from ethereal mists and hard labor.

I was shocked to find his latest work, “In Calabria,” in my local library’s new arrivals, but in a pleasant way.  I honestly didn’t realize he was still writing at 78.  This is a new goal for me, to be still publishable at that age, even if it’s too late to match being published in my twenties.

So, I’m currently in book-dream-land.  It’s a timely vacation, since I am at a point in my life where I need help believing in the intangible magics, like love, justice, and hope.  Writer whining, unhelpful suggestions, and ridiculous posturing will be lacking this week, and maybe, that is a fine thing, too.

Happy writing, and please support your local library!

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.”

Writer’s Crack!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWriter’s crack is real!  No, this isn’t about the pants-sliding-down-while-you-type crack, like the plumber’s crack of comedy gold.  We’re talking about things that put you into a frenzy to write a newly inspired story.  Every writer has triggers, and if you’re lucky you can find them and use them to get out of a slump.

A couple of years ago, while browsing through a used book store, I found a book about English fairy tales and–of course–purchased it.  (That’s it, up on the need-to-read shelf.  The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries by W. Y. Evens-Wentz.)  The subject has always fascinated me; it was not my first, and certainly not my last such book.  Some weeks later, on a lazy Saturday afternoon, I had a moment to crack it open.  The introduction (Yes, I read introductions, prologues, glossaries, appendices, and maps.) was both pleasantly surprising and completely cringe-worthy, in the way of dusty, old, and almost forgotten books.  Apparently, I had in my hand a recent reissue of a book that JRR Tolkien had referenced for his world building.  Even more pleased with my lucky find, and hopefully under the influence of a little mystical foresight, I happily delved into the first chapter…

AND FIRMLY SHUT IT, bookmarked on chapter two.  The after images in my head, while my body lay snugly anchored on my couch with the book clasped in unmoving hands, spun like leaves heralding the start of a stormy spring.  The stories!  Characters!  Battles!  Lighting, tempests, swords, grief, love, fear, and loss that is an ache that pierces to the soul’s depth.

I held completely still.  The overfull brain must not be disturbed.  A new/old world sloshed against the sides of it.  For a dry and dated tome, first published in 1911, it held a surprising lushness.

I was aware of movement deep in my psyche.  There was something lurking in my mind.  Lurking like an elder god and getting called to the surface.  The Leviathan rises, or worse…

Unfortunately, I already had three multi-book story arcs that had been clawing at the insides of my skull, rudely pushing each other out of line and snarling to be first.  I closed that wonderful book HARD–like the doors of Tartarus–just to preserve my soul from the punishments I likely deserved.  It contained the breath of Titans snoring, and (as anyone who has lived with a chronic snorer learns) I heard the sound of something nearing an awakening.

It sits on my shelf, unobtrusively, but whispering to me I quiet moments.  I know that like Pandora, I am doomed to open it…

Eventually.  For now, it sits.  It’s writer’s crack, or something like.

Hopefully, a story is really in there, but I think I may need to be a more experienced writer to do it justice.  It’s not the only story I have saved for later in my career.  For now, I have my other stories that I am currently passionate about, and willing to learn on.

This past weekend I added three more of The Lost Library book series to my shelf, risking collusion among them.  Myths are my weakness, and my wellspring.  I–apparently–like to live dangerously.

And that, folks, is about as close as I get to a written book review.  Not an Amazon review (I’ll do those anytime for books I like, especially for independent authors), but an actual blog review.  It’s not my thing, and lots of other people do a really good job of them.  And despite the heavy-handed use of metaphor in this post, it really doesn’t begin to describe what was happening to my brain.

But, I am curious if this has ever happened to any of you?

The Low-Budget Writing Program: Part 4 When the Manuscript Goes in the Garbage…

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When the manuscript is going to the garbage can, what do you save?

I’ve been lucky enough to have writer friends who will loan me books they think will be helpful to me. It’s amazing how timely these incidents can be. My observations of synchronicity in my own life make me more aware when my instincts tell me to do things–random things–even when I don’t know why.  Even if I will never know why.

So, I am going to insert a passage from a book I’ve just read, and I’m not going to tell you who the author is, or what the title is, yet.  Just play along, as if it’s your manuscript…

On impulse, I held up her manuscript.  “Okay,” I said.  “We both know there’s a problem and we don’t know how to fix it.  Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m going to throw this manuscript into the garbage.”

She leaned forward in her seat, hands gripping the arms of her chair.  I dropped the manuscript onto the floor beside me.

“It’s gone.  Into the garbage.  You’re never going to be able to write it now.  You’ll never see the characters again.  I want you to think about that.”

I could feel her thinking.

“If you could reach in and pick out just one part of that story, just one thing you don’t want to let go of, what would it be?”

Did you come up with anything?  Instinctually, did you grab for something in your own WIP?  I sure did. Hold on to that thought.

The book I got that from?  “Writing Romance” (Self-Counsel Press, Bellingham, WA 1997) by Vanessa Grant.  It’s written in the workbook style and full of helpful information, and I have found it far more useful than I thought I should.  Since it is nearly twenty years old some of the information is outdated because publishing and the internet has changed, but the Romance genre still has a lot of the same expectations.  Vanessa Grant has a soothing but insightful way of picking apart what makes a good, satisfying story.  She cautions, throughout her book, that anything not working for the entire story must be cut.  (My Sci-fi Romance has some issues I can’t afford to ignore.)

But tucked into that genre specific writing book was THAT little gem.  The Vanessa Grant Garbage Can Test.  Brilliant.   There is a formal exercise included in the book, but I found the narrative  of the original incident far more helpful.  Since my blog is geared for newer writers, like myself, I couldn’t help but pass on that little bit of insight.

WHY are you writing your particular story?  You need to know.  If you lose what is important to you, how can you hope to make it important to a reader?  Anything that doesn’t serve the core of the story will be cut out (and filed away for another story).

Anyway, my own copy of this book will go into the permanent collection of my after-the-rough-draft revision guides.  The rest of the books in that helpful collection are in this article, safely tucked next to the rescued manuscripts that took part in the above nerve-wracking photo shoot.

Back to my revisions.  Good luck with your own WIP.

The Low-Budget Writing Program: Part 3 Take Over the Literary World!

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This is a short post since it’s my vacation week, and there aren’t many writers tackling how to take over the literary world.

To date I have only found John Warner, the master of the fake famous writer quote, in the form of his helpful “Fondling Your Muse” (Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati 2005).  From the confusing dedication to the ridiculous blurbs on the back of the book, it’s packed with awful rules-to-live-by and terrible advice. He explains how and why to write your Manifesto, the place you alternately smash all writers who have come before AND promise to be the light in a dark, sewer-like world.  He also touches on the importance of preparing your Acceptance speech for all those awards you are going to receive.  Don’t miss the quiz, “So You Want To Be A Writer,” that proves only a self-destructive ego-maniac would choose to be a writer.  There is also some stuff about writing, like plot, character, and point of view and such nonsense.  I wasn’t paying attention.  I was envisioning the life of wealthy ease he promised if I followed his path to writerly fame.

Seriously, if you need to share in venting about the ridiculous contradictions of a writer’s life, or you just need a break from Serious Writer Stuff, pick it up and enjoy.

If you missed last week’s post, “The Monster in My Manuscript,” it was about books that will help you analyze and revise your rough draft.

Next week I will start in on the topic of syntax and grammar, in “How to Slay the Many-Headed Grammar Hydra!” [OR, I will keep putting that blog off, in a state of numb panic over my inexperience, and next post about putting your manuscript in the garbage.]