All posts filed under: The Craft

The process and tools of writing.

Mirror, Mirror

So I turned myself to face me But I’ve never caught a glimpse Of how the others must see the faker I’m much too fast to take that test. -Changes, David Bowie Now that I’ve talked about how you shouldn’t try to make everyone happy, let’s talk for a minute about criticism. Now, I don’t mean reviews, although certainly reviews may contain criticism. Usually reviews are just critical, which isn’t the same at all. When I say ‘criticism’ I mean an honest appraisal of one’s work, made early enough to actually do something with the information. When an author sends a book off to a beta reader or a story editor, they are looking for critical feedback. This is about that, especially when someone tries to skip that step. We tear ourselves down all the time, don’t we? We succumb to the tiny goblin voices whispering insecurities into the dark corners of our souls. Writing is about ignoring that voice, and pressing on regardless. The problem with teaching yourself not to listen to that goblin who …

How to Find an Agent in 4 Easy Steps

So here’s how to find an agent, as far as I’ve been able to piece together: Step 1: Write a book. No, don’t just start writing a book. Finish it. Revise it. Edit the hell out of it. Then start on the NEXT book, because this whole process is going to take a while. Keep writing while you search. Step 2: Craft an excellent query letter and send it out to agents who would be a good fit to your work. Step 3: … Step 4: Land an agent! Okay, okay, so I admit it:  I have no idea. Really, I don’t. I know the first two steps are important, but I haven’t a clue what step 3 looks like. The fun plot twist? I now have an agent. So I should know. Right? RIGHT? I find the whole thing especially funny because I’d pretty much given up on the idea of finding an agent. I have on several occasions described the process of landing an agent as being akin to trying to find a date …

Updates and Motivation

So I’m about 85,000 into the first draft of Making Shiva, and progress is slowing. Much of that is due to real life issues that I won’t get into and the release of Blood Chimera (which has required a lot more active marketing support than my self-published titles,) but at least the ‘wall’ has nothing do with actual writing this time. Still, what I’d hoped to finish in one mouth will definitely take two, maybe three (although hopefully not more than that.) That said, I thought we might talk a little about motivation. You know that thing that actors are always asking? “What’s my motivation?” That. I was recently watching a movie (it will remain nameless but it rhymes with Gorilla) where the primary motivation for the majority of characters was “what will advance the plot to the next action scene?” The characters had no other plausible motivation. They made decisions that seemed to be based solely on what the director needed, not what was internally consistent for their own histories and personalities. Self-interest wasn’t invited to …

Leaving Carcosa: Post-Mortem on True Detective

This is coming in a bit late for those who have already finished watching the first series of True Detective (I wrote this the night after the season finale, but real life interfered with the posting,) but I figure the show will have a long tail as people watch it later, so here we are. So first, some background: I only started watching True Detective because I heard about the King in Yellow connection. For those unaware, the King in Yellow is the name of a collection of short stories written by Robert Chambers, published in 1895. He borrowed the city of Carcosa from writer Ambrose Bierce, but otherwise introduced the idea of the mysterious titular entity, a occult ‘Yellow Sign’ and a play that would drive its viewers insane. Only four stories in the collection directly concern the King in Yellow, but that was enough. Chamber’s work was lovingly appropriated by H.P. Lovecraft and merged with the greater Lovecraft milieu, becoming part of a rich body of horror mythology, the King in Yellow accepted …

SFWA blows up…again.

For the last year, pretty much coinciding with my determination to make this writing thing really happen, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America has been embroiled with multiple strings of ugly controversies involving sexism, racism and the unfortunate growing pains of a changing marketplace and industry. Full disclosure: currently, I can’t join SFWA, because I’m a hybrid author who doesn’t meet their minimum qualifications for book advances, something that I don’t see changing until they modify their requirements to be more inclusive of self-publishing and indie-publishing. (Hugh Howey, making $40K a month from his Wool series, wouldn’t have qualified either before he signed his recent print publication deal–they really do need to update their by-laws, which currently exclude a whole lot of authors who might otherwise benefit from membership.) So I am an outsider, and I’ve never been a member of the organization. That does not mean, however, that I don’t look to the organization, and that I don’t expect them to represent my interests. I do. I find Writers Beware to be …

Reviews: Books on Writing

Over the holidays and into the new year, I’ve been reading two books on the craft of writing itself: Dwight Swain’s Techniques for the Selling Writer and Stephen King’s On Writing. Dwight Swain’s book is pretty old, a bit hard to find, and honestly I’d never heard of it before I started to wonder why YWriter (my program of choice of late for book writing) had some of the special features it does for action and reaction scenes and the like. I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Dwight Swain’s book at first: it’s pretty clearly meant for pulp writing and some of the advice seems better suited to short stories than novels. While Swain himself is quick to point out he is simply describing tools which may be used or discarded at will, some of his most fervent advocates take his advice nearly to the point of religious gospel. Despite this, it’s a terrifically meaty book, filled with some of the best advice I’ve ever seen on pacing and creating tension. One could …

Make Believe

The above link goes to a Ted talk a friend sent to me earlier. I had a very strong, visceral response to it, as did several other women who saw it. Let’s just say it’s a high-emotional impact piece, particularly if you’ve ever been powerless, introverted, or felt like you were a fraud. Go and watch it by all means, but one of the things that Amy Cuddy brings up is the idea that if you pretend at a thing, you can inadvertently believe your own lies — and that’s not a bad thing. Force yourself to smile, even if you’re feeling melancholy, and (lab studies indicate) your mood will improve. Pretend to be angry and become angry. The physical body and how we chose to use it can directly affect brain chemistry, which means the little choices we make in how we stand, sit, and present ourselves to others can directly affect how we actually feel about ourselves. Is that not the scariest and most wonderful idea ever? I’m not quite buying into the …

A toast for 2013

This was the year everything changed. It started with a Cracked article. Yes, Cracked. Now, Cracked sometimes sneaks in life lessons with their weird history and nerd comedy, and at the beginning of 2013, David Wong of Cracked issued a challenge to his readers: make 2013 the year that you close (warning: Alec Baldwin says mean things in that clip.) No excuses, no bullshit, no tired old lines about how you couldn’t because (insert whatever excuse is your preferred reason for not getting it done here.) No trite promises quickly abandoned, no self-defeating battles with the mirror. 2013 wouldn’t be about what we are, but what we do. He left what up to the reader. Learn a language, a martial art, make a painting, write a book. Learn a tangible skill, create a tangible result, do something. CLOSE. Kick some items off the bucket list, figure out what makes life worth living and DO THAT THING. Not too hard to guess that my vow for 2013 was to finish one of the three books that had floundered …