A brief update, some future plans, and thoughts on editing novels.

Confession time: It’s been quite a few months since I’ve posted here.

In part my absence is due to laziness, in part because of my second blog which I’ll talk about it in a bit, but mostly because I haven’t been writing. I didn’t exactly fall of the planet, or give up on my goal of being published. Instead I’ve been grappling with editing.

PSA:  So for anyone interested, my secondary blog is HERE, and it’s a bit more personal. I’ve been posting reviews of books, shops and the like, as well as my feelings about my nerd loves, and rants. Why am I telling you this? Well, this blog has played host to a few rants in the past, and a few book reviews I believe, both of which will now be appearing on my other blog. If you’re into that sort of thing check it out. If not, I’m not heartbroken. Wrampage, will remain a writing oriented blog. Onward.

A Word on Editing

For some writers, editing is kryptonite. I’ve also found that editing seems to be where many writers lose their non-writing friends and family. I can’t fathom a guess as to how many times I’ve heard people ask when the book will be done? I’ve tried explaining the process, the plot holes that need plugging, the wayward characters who need a map, the inconsistencies vast enough they’d confuse Moffat. But honestly, if you’re not a writer, and you’ve never edited something, you just won’t get it. Sorry. It’s not about seeing the words “the end” on the page. They’ve been there for many months now. It’s the stuff that comes before that phrase which worries me.

I suspect that some of the trouble arises in the unsubstantial definition of “editing”. Sure I’m editing when I fix misspellings, or punctuation, but am I still editing when I create an entirely new character to add to the story after I’ve written it? What if I delete a character? Change POV? Add/subtract whole plot lines?

Where do we draw the line between writing and editing?

In the case of my current novel, the process has been messy. The first draft was written over the course of three months, back in June-August of 2011, to the tune of 147,000 words. It was the first novel I’d ever written start to finish, and I had no idea what I was doing. Fast forward three years to today and I’ve add characters, combined others, completely changed the focus of the original plot, and added in a plethora of new subplots. As it stands, that one novel, is now the first book in an arc of 9 books within a series of 21.

But it’s taken nearly three years of “editing” to figure out who my characters are, what they’re really doing, and what they want. Many months of world building, and systems of keeping my information organized before I converted to Scrivener(=god). But to the people who know that I wrote a book three years ago, what exactly have I been doing? Nobody knows.

Being a writer, creating a world, and making people care, are all hard things to do, let alone to do well. If you’re in the middle of editing right now, firstly, I apologize because it’s supremely hard, but secondly, I’d like to let you in on a little nugget.

Writing is easy. You throw every trick you’ve got at the page, and at some point after far too much caffeine and rambling, you declare the project complete. It’s easy. One word after another. But editing, is were you take that brainchild of chaos and sleepless nights, and you mold it into something that makes sense. You give it purpose, meaning. Editing is where you test your problem solving abilities, not just your spelling. The shifting words, and restless characters and meandering plot can come together to provoke feeling from readers and writers alike. When you write a book, you give life to a world, but when you edit, you teach that world how to live.

 

Peace.

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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?!

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.

FocusWriter – The program that gives your writing sessions moods.

So as I type the draft of this post for you today, I am not on the clean, white, streamlined pages of WordPress. Nor am I writing to you from the blank pages of a word processor. I’m actually word deep in a lush red and green forest. Spindly tree branches brush up against the text and light filters through the tree tops in jets and streaks.

 

How?

 

This super duper program I stumbled upon while wasting time at a fellow writer’s blog instead of working on my own novels. FocusWriter, aptly named, is a distraction free word processor to change all word processors. It’s not feature filled for your average project use though, so it isn’t going to replace your normal word processor, however, it is perfect (imho) for creative writers.

 

FocusWriter is a program which allows you to take pictures of anything and place them behind your word documents, so that you can really feel the environments of your story. Say that your latest novel is set at sea? Oceans, ships, and lighthouses ahoy! In a castle? Well I’m sure you can find some suitable creepy image of that crumbling mansion threatening to fall into the sea on the edge of a cliff somewhere on google for your writing purposes.

 

Not working on a easily picturesque novel? Well, why not pull up any of the thousands of motivating images such as d0474885d006cf65a7aa8d1aeb57a7f8

 

or how about this one?

 

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Also worth noting, the scroll and tool bars are not visible until you run your mouse over them. My favorite feature (aside from being able to add practically any picture you want behind your documents)? The bottom bar which will let you know your word count, pages and the percentage of your goal complete. By the way, you can set goals in this program of either time, or word count. So say you have to write 1,000 words for the day? No problem. Only have fifteen minutes before you have to leave for work? Set the clock and the program will let you know when you have to go.

 

Seriously, how cool is this.

screen shot focus writer

I’m thoroughly enjoying it so I figured I’d clue the rest of you in to it’s existence. The best part? It’s free.

 

Go try it out and let me know what pictures motivate you to write in the comments below!

 

Happy scribbling.

 

All pictures belong to whomever posted them on tumblr originally???? If you want me to take your pics down let me know, thanks.

Midnight Musings – Taking inspiration from dreams and nightmares

This morning I woke up shaking. My heart raced in my chest and a cold sweat seeped through my blankets. I lay beneath the covers, only my eyes visible to the room, terrified, both of what I’d just seen and the strange noises that occur in ones home that are never a problem until you’re alone in the dark.

Minutes passed and still I couldn’t shake the fear that lodged itself in my stomach. I wanted to sleep again, my eyes heavy, but with just the barest of blinks I could see the terrors, and the hear the screaming.

There was no way I could go back to sleep.

So I did the next best, most logical thing. I pulled my laptop onto my bed and wrote about it.

No matter who  you are or where you come from, everyone dreams and whether good or bad, dreams can provide some great inspiration for creative individuals everywhere. Certainly artists and writers tend to benefit the most from dreams and nightmares, though I would wager that while artists can capture one individual scene particularly well, it’s harder for them to capture a story through one image. Writers on the other hand can transcribe large chunks of a dream and then use our super powers of deduction to come up with a reasonable plot and some wayward characters to follow.

This method of taking stories based on dreams and nightmares is certainly not a new one, what with some of the great writers having done just that. Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Stephenie Meyer (just kidding, I’m pretty sure, when she said Twilight was a dream that she had, she meant a wet one). In any case it’s clear that this resource can spawn some really interesting creations.

I’ve currently got a handful of terrifying pages whose plot is quickly solidifying in my mind, but it led me to wonder about the rest of you.

How often do you find inspiration in your sleep?

Any full books come out of those midnight ramblings?

Please leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Scribbles.

The best laid plans – When life gets in the way of writing.

We’ve all been there. The day you woke up ready to write and your kid is sick, or your computer breaks down. Maybe you had errands to run that took way longer than expected, or your pipes freeze and suddenly everything else is more important or more pressing than writing. It happens. You can’t beat yourself up for it. Expect the unexpected and all that.

So today I’d like to share my unexpected. Being of the mid twenties age, I’m at the lovely time in my life when my wisdom teeth have reared their ugly heads. Or actually they haven’t. They’re still festering away in my gums making snide remarks at inappropriate times, and just like any other rude house guest, they have overstayed their welcome in my face.

I’ve known that they would have to come out for quite some time now. What I didn’t expect was going into  my consultation this afternoon and having it end with, “Come back tomorrow morning and we’ll take care of them then.”

 

… Sigh.

 

I had hoped that when the time came to get them removed, I’d have a little bit of time to write more in the days before hand. Time to get ahead on my goals so that I wouldn’t be completely behind when I regained feeling in my face and could think without the Vicodin making me feel like a five year old on meth. Rest assured this is not an exaggeration. The last time I had to take Vicodin for a kidney infection, I spent a week watching the first two seasons of My Little Pony on repeat. Sometimes I would even be surprised by the endings, regardless of whether or not I had just watched the episode an hour earlier.

Clearly this doesn’t speak well to my ability for the next day or two in terms of my writing, and unfortunately that means I’m gonna be behind at least for a little while.

And basically I’m here to tell you that it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes we can’t or don’t write for reasons that we could have controlled. And then there are times like this where you cut your losses and say, “I’ll get back on track in a day or two. Until then, I’m gonna go back to Ponyville.”

 

Happy scribbling.

Dealing with rejections – Projected failure in the quest to be published

At some point in every writer’s career, rejection rears it’s ugly head. It’s nearly impossible to sell or publish something without sending it out more than a handful of times. That’s just how it goes. But realizing the reality of modern publishing and being able to cope with having someone dismiss your work and the time you spend perfecting it, can be hard.

I recently had a rejection of sorts put in my path. I had entered one of my novels in the Amazon-Break through novel of the Year contest and unfortunately my novel didn’t make it to the second round. A few other writers that I chat with are  also in a similar boat, either with the Amazon contest, or a number of other smaller contests. So the other night we had a chat about rejection and how we handle it. Of course everyone had different responses as is to be expected. But it led me to wonder what you, my followers, do in the face of rejection.

Do you cry? Mope around? Get back to work? Burn your manuscript?

I hope no one seriously contemplates the last one…

In any case I’m curious, so please feel free to leave a comment below about how you deal with being turned down. I’d love to hear from you.

I try to look at rejection like a test of sorts. My favorite author J.K. Rowling, was rejected 12 times for the first book in the Harry Potter series. Now, being fully aware that I am not J.K. Rowling, nor are any of my books at that level of awesome which the Harry Potter books achieved, it would be silly of me to feel like I failed as a writer just because my book got rejected. I’ve got to send that thing out and fail at least 12 times before it gets anywhere. More over, as I said, my book isn’t as great as HP1, so maybe I have to have 24 rejections before someone will decide to pick it up? Who knows.

While I may reevalute this line of reasoning when I’ve had 30+ rejections, for now, in the beginning of sending my work out, this method does me some good. It sets a standard by which I can fail. Eventually if I just keep sending it places, it’ll get published one way or another.

Now, I used J.K. Rowling as my example because the Harry Potter series is my favorite set of books of all time, however the same could be true for any author you idolize. Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 20 times. (So my standard, if I were a writer of horror would be 20-40). The Diary of Anne Frank was rejected 16 times. (16-32)

What this system of projected rejection really allows me to do is to put aside those feelings of failure and slog my way through that first batch or two of rejections. Just like when you write your first book, it’s incredibly difficult yet your second or third or fourth are each easier than the last to complete. I expect the same idea holds for sending out queries. Each time you draft one of those letters, each time you have to give a synopsis for your book, you become more precise, more apt at explaining yourself and thereby you improve. As you improve, at some point, someone is bound to notice you.

Basically what I’m telling you to do is to A) tell me how you accept rejection below and B) if you like my method of reasoning with failure, pick your favorite author, find out how may times they had to query their first book before it was accepted somewhere.

As with all things, if you persist, you will improve, and if you persistently send out your improving work, you’ll make it one day or another.

Happy Scribbling.