Awesome books and a multitude of head trauma

I’ve had seven concussions in my life.

Seven.

As you can imagine that’s an impressive number for anyone at any age. I’m twenty three, so it’s safe to say I’ll probably have a few more concussions before my life is done. (Though hopefully I won’t die of all this head trauma :D) Still, it’s also safe to say that my brain isn’t always at the top of it’s game.

Mostly this is a pain in the ass. My short term memory is shit, I stutter when I’m tired, and sometimes I can open the refrigerator door ten times before I remember what I’m looking for and the name of the big fucking cold box I’m opening and closing.

But today I’m here to share the one pleasant upside to multiple dead spots on one’s brain.

Every time I reread my old stories they’re brand spanking new! Which is really useful. When I put down a manuscript for a few months, all the information drops out of my head aside from the basics.  Usually I stop working on a book when the material is so dead to me that I would rather burn all my notebooks than try and fix the problems with my characters or plot. Sometimes I really do rage quit my projects and obliterate them. But mostly I set them aside until I have completely forgotten everything about them but their existence.

Like the project I’m reviewing today.  I went back to the document looking for one key description of a character who is featured in a separate story. Instead of taking the five minutes I should have needed to look this up and be done, I’ve spent about an hour rereading sections of my story with awe. Not only because it’s not entirely a steaming pile of 1st draft crap, but also because there are some really intense moments in this book. And I have no fucking clue what happens next. Literally. No clue. If not for the general back story and the names of the characters, which I generally remember, I could have been handed this book and never known I wrote it.

It’s like a magic trick. My brain is a light switch. Two positions, work mode and oblivious. Of course now that I’m looking at the draft I’m itching to work on it and get back to these people who are slowly  becoming real to me again. But still, this is pretty cool.

So what’s the moral here? Well, I’m not saying that head wounds will help you be a better writer. But….

No really. Protect your squishy brain. That being said, maybe we should all make a little more juice with those sour yellow oranges life tends to throw at us. Seriously though, what the hell are those called?!

Nanowrimo losses and plans for 2014

Well, for the first time I’ve lost Nanowrimo…

Not so long ago, I would have counted that as a huge failure, but right now I’m feeling rather content. This November birthed a fantastic new novel idea, some fantastic characters and a spectacular setting that I’ve fallen in love with. What I did write, about 28 thousand, is well written and concise.

One of the many “tips” that inevitably rears it’s ugly head for Nanowrimo is to write as much as possible whether that means using prompts that serve no plot purpose, or create extravagant 4+ part names, or simply to explore every tangent. While Nanowrimo is about writing a lot in a short period of time, I do not believe that quality/content should be blatantly ignored in favor of more words. If your story is about aliens in outer space, then using a prompt which requires your characters to go to the store to buy milk and run into antagonists makes no fucking sense. Yet every year, people suggest equally ridiculous things in order to up word counts.

If you are writing just for the sake of writing something novel length, then more power to you. But I write with the goal of telling a moving story, full of characters you feel for, and content that makes you rethink your preset notions. Someday soon, I hope to be published. And not just once, but many times over. I plan to make a career out of writing so rambling for 50k is a somewhat pointless exercise for me.

To each their own of course, but I sincerely hope that those of you who participated in Nanowrimo feel accomplished, whatever your word count, and that you managed to polish some beautiful ideas over the course of the month.

 

So now that November is over, it’s time to get back into normal life mode. If you’re anything like me, January/the new year seems to be when I try out all new methods of being super productive/netflix addictions. Last year I tried milwordy from February-April, and subsequently spent the next several months recovering. I’m not entirely sure what my plans will be for this coming year, but I’ve got some ideas. Primarily I’m going to be reviewing what I read both here and on my new youtube channel, so stay tuned for links and lots of angsty YA reviews. And of course, I’ll be writing. If anyone has any suggestions for productivity or monthly/yearly challenges like wriye etc. feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Happy Scribbling.

Nanowrimo and brutal murder.

 

 

 

As you probably already know, it’s November, which means, if you’re a writer and you probably are if you’re reading this, then you should be around 35,000 words into your NaNoWriMo novel. And if you’re not… well.

 

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Then you’re in good company!

As you can see, I’m a bit behind at the moment, but never fear. I’m a somewhat consistently bad NaNoWriMo participant. What I mean by this is that I usually slack off/alphabetize my bookshelves/catch up on 6 years worth of sitcoms on Netflix/etc. instead of working on my novel until about the last week. Traditionally, I write about 20-30k in the first three weeks. And then I write 15 to 20k in the last two days.  -_-

I’m hoping to break with tradition this week, but only time/the frequency with which my youtube subscriptions pile up will tell.

So for those of you also participating in National Novel Writing Month, I extend to you my deepest apologies for your families, and my sincerest hopes that you survive the month and have a less than craptastic novel to show for it afterward. We aren’t all so lucky.

Personally, my novel is coming along rather nicely, but some other writerly friends of mine are struggling at the moment. The question of time vs. perfection, a typical NaNoWriMo debate, came up this morning and I awkwardly stumbled upon a metaphor for writing that I thought I’d share.

Writing a first draft is like interviewing witnesses of a brutal murder.

I promise this makes sense so stick with me!

Okay, imagine you’re a journalist and you’re talking with 10 witnesses just beyond the line of neon crime scene tape, a mangled body reeking in the distance. Of all the people you interview, perhaps two or three of them really saw something. But of course they didn’t all witness the same things, each noting the chain of events from their own perspective, location, and damaged mind frame. Between these two or three people you can get a very good sense of what actually happened between the victim and the assailant.

Now if you could stop your interviews here, you would be well off, but when you first look at your 10 potential witnesses, you have no way of knowing who’s who. So you continue the interviews. The next two people give you completely conflicting stories.  The he said, she said of it all doesn’t make any sense. But there are a few more witnesses left to interview and one way or another you’ve got to finish this piece or your boss/the editor is going to have your head. So you have a chat with the last few people gawking over the yellow line, making faces at the police. They turn out to be attention/camera whores. No real information to be had from them, but they’re good for a momentary laugh.

At the end of the day, you sit down with your collection of facts/theories that you managed to wrangle from the police, and a stack of interviews or transcripts of what the “witnesses” had to say about what happened. In order to make this into an article that will move people, while informing them, and entertaining them, you have to weave all these bits and pieces together. Some of what you found out is irrelevant, so you cut it. Some is unreliable, so you cut it, and some of it just isn’t interesting or has been said before.

But the point is, in order to make a good article, or even a good book. You have to have all the facts, the theories and the crazies on paper before you can really begin. See where I’m going with this?

A book isn’t written in it’s first draft. It’s created, brought out in pages upon pages of clerical mishaps, setting mistakes, unreliable characters and broken chunks of story. It’s what you do once you’ve got everything on the pages in front of you that matters.

I wish you all good luck in this coming week of NaNoWriMo. May your inner editors be gagged, and may your fingers be swift. Remember, we can edit in December.

Happy Scribbling.

 

Phase Outlines FTW(For the win)!

So I’ve probably mentioned phase outlines here before but if I haven’t they are basically a super detailed run through of your novel that can amount to many thousands of words being written before you ever start “writing”.  I’ve used them in the past and loved them, so on when a recent project needed a new, in depth outline, I knew that a phase outline would be the way to go.

To give you a little background, I started a draft of a book I knew nothing about in June of 2012. I wrote the first 32k in one week. And then I didn’t touch it. For months and months, until I’d almost forgotten about it. And then in February I started writing on it again. I added another 30k to the stories first draft and declared it good in March. I thought I was happy with it. I’d reread the first 32k and I felt comfortable with where I’d take then story. So I set it aside for the rest of March and then April while I worked on Camp Nanowrimo (which was a blast by the way and is occurring again, RIGHT NOW!)

Ahem… So in May I pick this story back up with the intention of giving a quick once over and sending it on its way… but oh what a foolish dream. I’d still been wearing my rose tinted glasses when I’d read it over in February. You know the ones we all pull out when we write a first draft and don’t judge or nitpick because we’d never get anywhere. Yes, well those came off in May and boy did I have a lot of work in front of me. I started editing and I realized there were some big plot holes. More than that, my characters where great by themselves, but every time I put them together, it seemed forced and well, stupid. So I made some note cards, revised on sticky notes, and worked on getting my plot ironed out.

This is where the phase outline comes in. As I started outlining/fixing major plot points I realized that the first half of the book was going to be almost entirely rewritten. I had made two characters switch their roles in relation to my heroine, and decided to weave in 5 subplots that had all been created and then promptly forgotten at one point or another during the first draft. And that was only the first half of the book. The second had just as many changes, but they were nuances and continuity and plot hole fixing and explaining away. I had an out of control potentially hazardous book on my hands and no way to tame it.

Enter the phase outline. I love phase outlines, because they allow you to simultaneously work and rework your plots/subplots while including things like setting info, dialogue and thoughts. Everything And the kitchen sink is welcome.

I’ve been working on my outline for about a month now in between shifts at my new job, family time, reading and goofing off and about an hour ago I finally finished it. How’d it go? Well.

It’s 26 pages long and 14,561 words long. It’s a pretty boss outline if I do say so myself. I’m super pleased and tomorrow I get to start really cutting into the meat of writing. Wish my luck. I’ll let you know how the outline helps me with my new draft. ^__^

Happy Scribbling folks. And if you’re interested in trying a new method of outlining. If you’d like to read about them Go HERE! Bye everyone!

 

Dear Amazon, A letter from Fan Fiction Readers and Writers

Dear Amazon, stop creating spectacularly poor platforms for writers. I just want to be able to buy books and pogo-sticks from you. Is that so much to ask?

In case you haven’t heard, Amazon has recently announced their intention to create a new platform connected to their self publishing program, called Kindle World. What is it for? Well, that remains to be completely understood, however, their intention is to bring fan fiction to a whole new level. The kind of level where you get paid to write and pay to read that is.

Am I the only one a little confused with how they are going to get away with this? Fuck. Where to begin? Let’s start with the proposal.

Essentially, Amazon will acquire licensing from various authors, publishers, film studios etc. for books, tv shows and films. So far, you can write fiction for Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries… I’m just going to come right out and confirm that only one of those is actually decent, and I’ll give you a hint. It doesn’t feature bitchy, whining, rich girls. I know, I know, baffling isn’t it?!

Excluding the poor choice of available series, there are a few other factors that will enter into your writing plans. Namely, the restrictions on what you can write. If you’d like to see your stories on Kindle World, they can’t include, graphic or violent material, pornography, foul language or cross overs. Come on Amazon. No violence or sex? There’s a reason why people watch HBO (and pay for it) and it’s not the commercials.

So assuming you get your story past Amazon publishing’s powers that be, you may submit and may get published. Why do you care? Well, if you manage to jump through these hoops, you’ll get a cut of the royalties from the sale of your fan fics. But it’s not just you. The authors, or creators of the original piece also gain royalties for your work. Sound like the best of both worlds? Wrong. 

Let’s take a look at what this means for original authors and creators. First of all there are a lot of authors who don’t approve of fan fiction and have publicly spoken up against it . Namely because the content of these fics, is usually either unsavory or completely out of line with cannon. Even without these details, it hasn’t escaped my notice that none of the series Amazon has acquired the licensing for, were negotiated with authors. They’re licensing was for the tv shows. Big surprise. Just because they might make a little extra money on the side, does not mean that authors are clamoring to rent out their hard earned creations.

Now putting authors and their finicky opinions aside for a moment, let’s talk about fan fics in general.

I like so many other writers of the last twenty years, began writing “seriously” *ahem, with fan fiction. And while the days when I explored just how Professor Snape might make you serve detention are over,  I’ve continued reading fan fics for a long time and I’ve got to say… Sex.

What ridiculous percentage of fan fics are just pwp? That’s porn without plot. Seriously it’s a thing, look it up.

But come on Amazon… The majority of fan fics exist to produce more sex for existing relationships or to explore the losing side of love triangles. It seems like this idea of making money on fan fiction is partly the fault of 50 Shades of Gray. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that this “book” was originally a Twilight fan fiction. It should surprise you less to learn that it’s well ridiculed both on and off the internet for it’s bad writing, sex, and badly written sex. Why? Because it was a fanfiction! That’s practically the definition of fanfiction.

Sure there are some really great fics out there that are incredibly well written, detailed,  moving, etc. But at some point or another, they all converge on one topic. You guessed it, sex. With my experience of about 12 years of reading and writing fan fiction, I would estimate that about 95% of it revolves around sex of some kind. And considering both the naughty and the tame sides of genre, about 3% are worth reading. Whether you’re looking for Harry Potter, Star Trek, Hunger Games, Xena the Warrior Princess, or Alice in freakin’ Wonderland. Very few fan fics are worth reading and telling your friends about. And chances are, if it is, it’s still got sex. 

Why you might ask? Why does fan fiction focus so heavily on what goes on between the sheets, on desks, in plane bathrooms, and behind slightly open doors? Because legitimate fiction refuses to go there. How many times have you been reading a book, and whether romance or relationships was the major plot or a secondary one, when the characters finally get together, they take of each other’s shirts, kiss a little and close the door on the reader? Whether you’re a fan girl or not, this is frustrating. Which is why it shouldn’t surprise anyone when fan girls and guys recreate or re-envision their favorite characters doing the nasty. 

And while most will claim that it’s only girls writing about Edward, Jacob, and whatever other half built, shirtless man is popular at the moment, there are plenty of male oriented fan fics as well. And rightly so. I don’t know anyone who watched Star Trek Voyager and didn’t fantasize about what Seven of Nine looked like out of that cat suit. It was practically a theme of the show. What is she wearing today?

So yeah, there is a lot of gratuitous sex in fan fiction, and with good reason, but selling publishers and original authors on this fact, is exactly why fan fics are disliked.  

It seems to me that the idea behind this whole program was the idealistic goal of eliminating pesky, dirty fan fics/making money. I’m about 99% sure that they aren’t going to do a whole lot of either. 

For reasons previously mentioned, it should be pretty obvious that no matter what happens, the people reading and writing, dirty fics won’t be getting them from Amazon, and as such, there will still continue to be a demand for them in the free market.  But in terms of any writers making a whole lot of money? I just don’t see it.

The biggest barrier to this is, of course, the limited selection of titles on which you can write. Even as someone who is a fan of The Vampire Diaries and has previously looked up fiction for it, I don’t really give a damn if I can get it on my kindle now. I can read fan fics on my iphone which is essentially my kindle, for free. Why would I pay them for something I can find myself in less time, for no money? Short answer: I won’t. And I doubt many others will either, which means, that it doesn’t matter if you get 20% of the royalties. 20% of 0$ is still 0$.

Which brings me to my other point. There are hundreds of books that I would rather spend money to have on my shelves than fan fics any day of the week. Regardless of how well written it is, or how many people recommend it to me (although they won’t because it won’t have SEX) I’m not going to buy it. I don’t have the money and let’s face it. No one can write or create your favorite characters like the original authors, and if you’re telling me that the two things I want them to do most, ie. have sex and kill each other, aren’t going to be in your fics, then why can’t I just enjoy the show, or book, or movie as it was originally intended? 

Fan fiction thrives because it offers fans a way to express their love for series, to act out the threads or actions they feel are missing from the original material, and to hone their writing skills. None of these things are available with Kindle World. So tell me Amazon, why should I care?

-Sincerely,

Going back to reading my Harry Potter Fanfics, for free.

Conversations with the people in your head.

My tried and true method of getting information, motivations, and potential golden nuggets from my characters is the conversation writing exercise. You know the one, where you sit down say something like…

“So, what do you think about mmc? Hot huh?” says author smirking.

Fmc raises an eyebrow and replies, “Are you kidding me? He’s a self absorbed dog. I wouldn’t go near him with a ten foot pole…”

Sighs… “I thought you’d say that. Well, have you got any better ideas?” 

“Yeah actually, put that bartender back in my path and I’ll get cozy.”

“You can’t do that, he’s your brother.”

“What?! No he’s not. I would know if I had a brother.”

“Not if he was given up at birth and hasn’t been seen since.”

Fmc narrows her eyes. “Really. Why? Why does it have to be the bartender? If no one has seen him since my mother gave him up, then why can’t mmc be my brother?”

“’Cause then, I couldn’t annoy, infuriate and ruin your every waking moment, by sicking mmc on you.”

… “You weren’t going to do that before…”

Smiles wickedly. “I am now. Thanks for the idea. Oh and by the way. You can break the whole brother news thing to the bartender. He’s coming over here right now.”

“Wait what-”

Waves lazily. “Good luck!”

At no point in the next ten projects I have planned did I intend to include a bartender or this fmc or mmc, but I may have just started a new wip…

Regardless, this is one of my favorite writing exercises. It’s something that no matter where you are in the process, planning, writing, editing, it can do wonders. Haven’t tried it? Well, despite, how awkward it may seem at first, you should give it a try. The key is to use it when you have questions to answer, either about relationships, background or motivations in your character’s world. Of course it doesn’t always work out the way you plan.

More often than I’d like to admit when using this method, the first question I ask, is something huge and unanswerable. So let your mind wander.

“So, how exactly do you plan to defeat the evil queen? You have no weapons, no friends, and the entire royal guard is out looking for you.”

“Not my problem.”

Mmc crosses arms. “Actually it is your problem. The whole point of the book is for you to defeat the woman who killed your father and stole your kingdom.”

“My father was an ass, and I don’t want to rule. Send someone else to do it.”

Exasperated author grunts. “I can’t do that, I won’t have a book if I do.”

“Don’t care. I’m going to go back to the village to open a bakery.”

Raises eyebrows. “Yeah? And do you know anything about cooking? Have you ever baked anything in your life? Do you even have funds to open a business?”

MMC glares… “Fine. I’ll go to the village and apprentice somewhere. Anything is better than being king.”

“What’s the real reason you don’t want to do this?”

“That is the real reason. Besides, you dangled that beautiful baker’s daughter in front of me in chapter three. I’m gonna see about putting a bun in her oven.”

“Ugh.”

“What, did you see her breasts? I mean damn.”

“Enough, enough.” says author, pinching bridge of her nose…

Mmc shrugs. “Plus everyone loves her. She’s a real sweet young lass and I could use some of that in my life. Compared to being banished, having my father killed, and my kingdom corrupted, a shack and bit of ass is just the pick me up I need.”

Smirks. “And if the queen heard of your new love interest?”

“Why would that happen? She doesn’t even know where I am.”

Shrugs. “In a village that size, someone’s bound to notice a strapping young lad such as yourself flirting with the village beauty.”

“Well-”

“And it would be a shame if the guard plucked her from your grasp and used her as bate.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t I?”

“Aw come on…”

“And the whole village would blame you for her disappearance. News of what happened to their sweet young lass, is bound to travel. You’d be a pariah in your own land.”

“Fuck you.”

“Hmmhmm. And in order to restore your good name, you’d have to get her back.”

Mmc throws his hands in the air. “And how do I do that?”

A grin breaks across the authors face. “By defeating the evil queen of course.”

“Of course. I thought we already decided that I can’t do that.”

“You can if the whole village wants their girl back. I’m sure all the other wiry gents would hate to see such a beauty lost. I sincerely doubt your the only one looking to get in that oven.”

“Why I oughta-”

“Plus, that’ll give you a whole band of eager companions to fight with.”

“Which is exactly why this won’t work. They’ll hate me!”

“Oh yeah, they’ll hate you I’m sure, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to screw up and redeem yourself. You might even live to rule the kingdom.”

“You know on second thought, I don’t think I want to go back to the village. I’ll find another lass in another place.”

Author grins. “Too late.”

So, again, not something I was planning or gave any thought to at all before starting this post. This sort of exercise can be massively helpful and I encourage you to try it the next time you’re stumped. It’s also worth noting, that it aids tremendously in developing a separate voice for each of your characters so don’t just use it on your mmc or fmc. Try it out across any of your major players, and you’ll get results. Plus it’s sort of a stress/tension relieving exercise because it’s whatever you make of it.

Enjoy!

The trouble with to-do lists.

Okay, so the way I see it, whenever you have a bunch of things to do, the number one bit of advice people tell you is, make a list. I am normally all for this. I love lists. I love checking things off and feeling that sense of accomplishment in my day. But I’ve noticed this problem with them. Namely, they don’t freaking work.

Sigh. Okay. I should be more specific. To do list work really well for people with business or jobs and who have kids to pick up and activities that they need to work around. You know exactly how much time you have free in your day and with a list you can optimize your life. Fan-freakin’-tastic. But for those of us who are unemployed writers, whose days are empty as my bank account, to do lists suck.

It’s like, sure, I could write a scene right now, or I could watch an entire season of a show on netflix. Or yeah I could get up and workout or just move from the dent I’ve made in the couch, but I could also take a nap. After all the dent is really comfortable. Seriously. To-do lists, for people with nothing to really “do” are crap.

 

As far as I can tell there are three kinds of to-do lists for those of us who write at home with no reason to leave the house or get dressed but to buy a new tub of ice cream.

To-do list Number 1: The checklist. You know the kind with the little squares that you write up quick on a whim when you have five seconds of motivation. This is the list that winds up with things like, take the trash out, and go to the bathroom right next to finish the book and write a series. The most mundane things and the totally unachievable in 24 hours things wind up here, because you need to cross something off, and at this point, making it ten feet from your computer is a challenge.

To-do list Number 2: The Military regimen. This is the list that looks more like a battle plan than a set of things to do. Sure there may be check boxes, but here we also have time goal. It usually reads something like

2pm-3pm solve world hunger

3pm-4pm write 10k

4pm-4:15pm find sustenance

4:15pm-5pm finish book

If just one thing doesn’t happen when you expect it to, or a single interruption occurs, you’re screwed, because now you’ll have to eat at 4:30 instead of 4:15 and since the list is screwed up, you have to make a new list. That could only take another 5 minutes and 3 hours of netflix later, you can get back to checking off those things you meant to do.

 

The 3rd and certainly most illusive type of to-do list: is the one that actually works. It’s the one where you gave yourself some middle of the road, not to vague, not to specific goals, and actually managed to accomplish them all. This kind of list seems to be as hard to catch as the legendary birds from Pokemon. If you did not experience the 90’s as you should have, this means it’s really fucking hard to catch.

So seriously, this whole writing thing, it’s pretty hard. But I’ve got some ideas to improve my productivity. I just need to make a list.