Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘writing process’

No One Right Way

In the open floor last week, a thread developed on how to tell if that idea you have is a story or a kumquat. There was discussion about how to develop the idea, writing, etc. I want to thank everyone who commented and talked about their process. One thing became clear reading the thread, everyone writes differently and that’s the important thing to remember. Too often, writers (especially new writers) feel like they’re doing something wrong because their process isn’t the same as others they talk with or study. So here is probably the most important rule you can ever learn in writing: quit worrying about how someone else creates and do what works for you. Read more

Banjo Fantasy

I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time, but this last week I was reminded I hadn’t done it yet. Oops? I got distracted?

So what, you may be asking, is banjo fantasy? Are there musical instruments and sprightly tunes?

Not… always. There could be, sure. Or it could be a reference to ‘paddle faster, I hear banjos!’ Read more

Say What? (Updated)

This post originally appeared on MGC in Feb. 2017. I’m repeating it here, along with additional comments, because I heard a trad published author saying much the same thing not long ago.–ASG

In one of my rare breaks from the keyboard yesterday, I went wandering around the internet in search of inspiration for today’s post. I’ll be honest. I thought the search would be fruitless. Why? Because so much digital space was being wasted on conspiracy theories about Envelope-gate from the Oscars or more screaming about politics. Then, there it was. A story that had me looking at my screen, looking away and then looking back, sure I wasn’t reading what I thought I did. Read more

Realizing when you’ve gone down the wrong path

The last month, I’ve been fighting the work-in-progress. I found all sorts of excuses about why I was having issues with it. There’s the knee injury that’s made it difficult to sit for long at the desk — or just about anywhere else — and write. Then there was Thanksgiving (which dragged out for three days with three large meals to plan and cook because of the different waves of company we had). There were other real life issues as well. All reasonable excuses for work not happening.

But they were excuses and I finally had to not only admit it but figure out what was going on.

This book, from the very beginning, has given me fits. I started it almost six months ago. The plotting went well. When it came to sitting down and writing it, the brakes slammed on and everything came to a standstill. So I did what I usually do when that happens and started asking myself questions about the plot, the characters, etc. I thought I found the answer. I needed to change the main character a bit and needed to do major changes to the plot. I did so and then the writing began again.

Then it stopped.

I finally threw my hands up in the air night before last and saved out the file on all the various back up media I use and closed down the laptop. Something was wrong and I needed to figure out what. Otherwise, the book wasn’t going to get written or, worse, I’d force it and be left with a sub-par product.

So I slept on it. Morning didn’t bring any answers. I pulled out my notes for the novel, going back to the very first handwritten notes and started reviewing them. As I did, an inkling of an idea came to me and I started searching my office for my series notes. There was something there, if I could just put my finger on it.

This particular series, Eerie Side of the Tracks, has been different from my other books and series from the onset. The stories are a mix of romantic suspense and urban/contemporary fantasy. The fantastical aspect isn’t in every story but it plays a huge part in others. Each title has a different main character from the one before. Even so, there is a core group of characters who appear in each of the stories.

Another way this series has differed from my other books is that I tend to plot them out in a bit more detail than the others. I am, at best, a mix of plotter and pantser but, in this case, I am a plotter. Each chapter has a paragraph or so of notes and there are overall story arc notes. Even so, once I start writing a book or novella in the series, I tend to simply review my notes and then sit down and write. It almost always leads to detours and changes but I at least have a general idea where the story is supposed to go.

So what was going on with the current book? Why had it ground to a screeching halt?

I couldn’t figure it out — until I got to the last sentence I’d written in my original notes for this particular volume in the series. Somehow, I hadn’t transferred that one sentence to the working file. And, reading it, the light went off. The book I’d been writing was just fine. Except it was the wrong book and in several ways.

Oh, goody.

Somehow, between real life and injured knee, I’d done two things. The first? I’d tried forcing the characters to do things they didn’t want to do. I know it sounds crazy, but the characters knew better than I did that I’d screwed up and had them doing things they wouldn’t do in the situations I’d set up. Yes, I know it wasn’t really the characters. It was my subconscious.

The second, and more important, issue with the book was even more fundamental. The book was not the next one in the series. It was, in fact, the book that will follow. So, in one way, I’m a step ahead in the creative process, I’m also behind the eight ball in going back and getting the right book written. However, for the first time in more than a month, I want to write. I’m excited to write.

I know what to write.

But it wasn’t easy getting to this point. I fought admitting there was something wrong with the project for weeks. Why? Because I let myself fall into the same trap so many writers do. I blamed writer’s block. I blamed real life interference. It was easier to find excuses than to sit down and take a hard look at what was happening and why.

And that is something we, as writers and especially as indie writers, have to do. We have to remember to turn a critical eye not only to our finished product but to our writing process as well. The latter isn’t easy, especially if your process changes project to project, (Please tell me I’m not the only one this happens to.) It’s also not easy because it means we have to learn the difference between a real problem in the process vs our craft has improved and so writing doesn’t feel the same as it did before. When that happens, it can be scary. But it’s a good scary. It also shouldn’t bring the writing to a stop. It will, often times, push the writing into overdrive.

So now that I know what the problem is, I found myself not sleeping last night. Instead, I reviewed all my original notes and then what I’d written. Some of it can be salvaged and made part of the book that needs to be written. Most of it will be put aside until time to really write Book 4 in the series. Better yet, the opening I wrote for it originally can be used with a little modification.

Fingers crossed.

(You can see the opening on my blog.)

 

We Want to Hear From You, Pt. 2

I don’t usually continue these sorts of posts but we had some good discussion going on Sunday and I’d like to see where it goes. I’ve started compiling the recommendations already made and, in one case, responded. I’ll expand on the response later in this post.

Most of the comments left Sunday had to do with the technical side of either preparing your book for publication or writing blurbs. So here’s the first question for you. Regarding the preparation of a manuscript for publication, do you want a checklist sort of post or do you want an actual series of posts with exercises, etc., that you can do and the rest of us can help you with? In other words, say we’re talking about setting up the first page of a chapter. You can follow our instructions and just do it or we could give you some general guidelines and you can fiddle around with them to see what you think looks best and then post a screenshot in comments and get feedback. Which would you prefer? the same questions apply to anything we do regarding cover design, so let us hear about that as well.

Something else to think about is if you want a post on different software titles that can help writers. Is that something you’d be interested in?

Someone else suggested a blurb clinic with a second commenter adding that they’d like a clinic or post on writing pitch/query to agents or editors.

There were suggestions about how to make this site easier to search, etc., and we appreciate the feedback. We’ll look into it and see what we can come up with.

Now, for those of you who aren’t writers or who don’t yet identify as writers (I know there are some of you who still think you can avoid the writing bug), what would you like to see more of from the bloggers here? Writers, as readers, what would like to see us cover more?

Finally, regarding putting together a book of posts, we could do it. The first problem, however, is that much of what we write about here has changed since we wrote about it. If you look at the various posts we’ve done about formatting, you’ll see that. While the basics remain the same, many of the limitations we had even a couple of years ago no longer apply. Conversely, others have been put in place (or look like they will be as demographics change). Markets have changed as well. So have some of the players when it comes to traditional publishing.

So any gathering of posts would have to include time to edit and bring them up-to-date. But that pales when looking at the sheer number of posts we’ve made here on MGC. As of this moment, we have just under 3,200 posts. Can you imagine having to mine those posts to find those for a book? Add to that the issue of whether we go with just posts or with comments made by our bloggers. We’d have to be careful not to include comments made by anyone else. Otherwise, we’d have to take time to check with them to get their permission to use their comments. We’d face the same issue when it comes to guest posts. To be honest, the time involved in planning out the book and its contents, then culling through posts to find those we wanted to include, plus editing and updating them could prove to be a herculean effort. It would take time away from writing for all of us, especially for whoever does the initial culling of posts. Even if we wanted to outsource the editing of it all, the original work would still fall on us. I can’t speak for the others, but that would cost me money because writing is how I make my living. I’m not saying we won’t do it. I am saying not to hold your breath because there are a lot of strings to pull and plans to make before something like that happens.

But getting back to the main gist of the post. What else would you like us to cover in a single post or a series of posts?

Until later!

What is long enough?

Thanks to Sarah for filling in for me yesterday. Family always takes precedence over blogging and my son is home on leave.

This morning, as I was talking with Kilted Dave about what to blog about, I came across a post from an author wondering if they should change how they write. No, they weren’t talking about their writing process but more the length of what they sell. They were noticing how some authors are releasing titles every month or so but that those titles are shorter works. So they were wondering if they needed to move away from novel-length work to shorter work in order to sell more.

My first response, after beating my head against the proverbial wall, was shake my head. Yes, it hurt to pound it against the wall and I needed to clear the cobwebs. But also because you can’t judge what is right for your work by what other authors are doing. You have to look at each individual work and decide what length best serves the story.

Oops, there I went and did it. I said the icky word: story.

Let’s face it, story is what we need to be worried about. Have we written enough, well enough to not only give the reader an enjoyable and engaging story or plot but also characters they can identify with and cheer for or against? If we haven’t, it doesn’t matter how long or short the piece is. Without that development, it won’t sell for long and you certainly won’t garner the sort of reviews that help other readers decide to buy your work.

There is something else to consider when you are looking at how long a story should be and that is the way you write. Not everyone is a natural long fiction writer and not everyone finds writing short fiction easy. I can take almost as long to write a 12,000 word piece as I do a 100k word novel. Why? I’m not really sure. Well, in one way I am. You can’t go into as much detail, have as many scenes and sub-plots in a 12k word piece as you do in something longer. So you have to pare it down to the essentials — plot, character, message (if you have one).

Now, Amanda, you can release a novel in serial form.

Yes, you can. But what about the reader who accidentally misses one installment? Or what happens when your reader realizes that those $0.99 installments or episodes are suddenly costing them as much — or more — than a traditionally published e-book? I quit doing episodic fiction as a reader when I realized that the novel when and if it ever finished was going to cost me much more than I am willing to pay for an e-book.

I also realized that a number of authors releasing their work as “episodes” really didn’t get the idea behind serials. They hadn’t spent time reading the serials from magazines like If and Analog back in the Golden Age of SF. They hadn’t watched serialized shows like Flash Gordon and others (no, I’m not THAT old but they used to play them late at night on the weekends). There is an ebb and flow to a good serial that most of those trying to do them now simply don’t get.

The basic lesson is you have to give the reader a reason to come back and pay you more money to keep reading your work. Going hand-in-hand with that, for me at least, you have to prove you are going to finish the serial. I do NOT want to spend $0.99 or more per episode only to have the author decide in the middle of the thing that it isn’t worth finishing. Then there is the problem of making sure your reader remembers to go grab the new episode when it comes out. Unless you have figured out a way to make a subscription to the serial work, you run the very real risk of losing readers simply because they don’t remember to go back each month to grab the new title.

So I will repeat the rule we’ve all been told who knows how many times. A book or story is as long as it needs to be. Quit putting artificial word count limits on yourself without taking the plot of your book into consideration. Anyone who has been around short story writers knows the agony they go through after writing a story and then having to cut words to meet a word count requirement for one publication or another. There are times when they have to say the market they initially wrote the story for won’t work because they can’t cut it any more than they already have.

Also, don’t go into a project with the mindset that you think you only have so many words in you for it — ie, you don’t think you can write more than x-number of words — and then limit yourself to that number. I have known writers who, before they have put the first word down on paper have said they really don’t think they have more than 40k words in them for a certain project. What always happens is they either wind up not giving the reader the description the reader needs to truly enjoy the book or they rush the ending — something that is very noticeable. If you have spent 38k words building up to the climax of the story and then you have the final showdown and the cigarette moment in 2k words, you have probably just done your reader a disservice.

In other words, don’t worry about what other people are doing. Yes, there will always be writers out there who write faster than you do. They may write long fiction or short fiction. It really doesn’t matter. All that does is putting out the best work you can.

And now, for the mandatory author promotion. Nocturnal Rebellion will be released in the very near future. To help ramp up for its release, I have lowered the price of Nocturnal Origins, the first book in the series to $0.99.

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

I have also started working on the “Special Edition” version of Vengeance from Ashes. I’m really excited about this project. These special editions will include new material and it has been fun planning them and, once Rebellion is out, I’ll be working on them in the evenings after the days are spent writing the next book in the series. Well, not really writing as it has been drafted already but taking a very rough draft and making it publishable. Then it will be on to the next project, whatever it might be.

 

 

Planning Ahead

There was a time when I never knew what my next writing project was going to be. Writing was something I did in the privacy of my room, never intending for anyone to see it. Even when I started getting serious about my writing, I was more of a pantser, even when it came to what I would write next. Somewhere along the line that changed — even if Myrtle the Evil Muse sometimes throws my plans out the window.

I’m not sure when that started changing but, as I sat down to work the other day, I realized that was no longer the case. My calendar has project dates on it now — dates showing when I need to have drafts finished and edits done, when I need to send work out to beta readers and when I need it back. What gremlin has been working with my electronic devices when I wasn’t looking? Surely, my process hasn’t changed that much.

But it has.

It’s had to. With four active series right now and several stand-alone books planned, I’ve had to get more organized about what I’m working on. What surprised me, however, was finding that I’ve made actual notes, some very detailed, about where two of the series are going over the course of the next few books. I’ve made less detailed notes about the other series and the stand-alones. But that is something I used to never do. I have a plan and it scares me.

Why does it scare me?

Because that is when Myrtle the Evil Muse usually rears her well-coiffed head. With a smile, she then tosses out an idea I can’t ignore — for something that is totally unrelated to what I’m working on.

So far, however, she’s being good. I have finished the final draft for Nocturnal Challenge, the fifth book in the Nocturnal Lives series, and have started the final edits. I have the next Honor and Duty novel mapped out (as well as some other exciting things in the series I’ll be announcing later). There’s one novel and several novellas mapped out — and one novella basically written — in the Eerie Side of the Tracks series. Best of all, inspiration has finally hit for the third book in the Sword of the Gods series. It is very loud right now, not loud enough to write but loud enough that I can jot down some plot notes for later.

Of course, Myrtle isn’t one to cooperate for long. She tried pushing a story — or two — on me last week. In fact, she gave me this opening and is all but daring me not to drop everything and get to work on it.

I was five when they came for my brother. Two men, one tall and thin the other short and stocky. Both wore uniforms I had never seen before with lots of medals shining on their chests. Mom cried. I’d never seen her cry before and Dad’s hands shook as he read the paper the tall man handed him. Then, with tears in his eyes, he told Mom there was nothing they could do. Before I knew what was happening, Aiden was gone and I haven’t seen him since.

I was thirteen when they came for me.

Not that I’m going to fall for it. I have saved that, as well as notes for the other story, in my future projects file and I’ve crossed my fingers — and my toes — that Myrtle is satisfied with that. In the meantime, I’m finishing the edits on Challenge, preparing to write a quick novella in the Eerie Side of the Creek universe. Then it will be the next Honor and Duty book followed by the third Sword of the Gods book. There’s more in the hopper but, if all goes as planned, there will be a new title, either short story or novella or novel, every other month. You see, if I don’t keep that busy, Myrtle gets bored and that’s when she’s her most dangerous.

In the meantime, here’s a teaser for Nocturnal Rebellion, coming soon.

***

The bullpen fell silent as Chief of Detectives, Luis Santiago, moved to the front of the room. The look on his face mirrored how they each felt. Disbelief, sorrow and anger – but mostly anger – burned in his dark eyes. They knew why he was there. Every cop, not to mention every cop’s family, faced this possibility each time they reported for duty. But that didn’t make it any easier, especially not when it hit this close to home.

Santiago looked around the squad room, making eye contact with each person there. It didn’t surprise him to find more than the day shift present. He had no doubt were he to check the other squads under his command, he would find the same thing. When a cop went down in the line of duty, no one worried about vacation or sick leave. Every cop, no matter what their rank or their assignment, would report in, ready to do all they could to find the perps responsible. That knowledge made him proud to be part of the long blue line. Not that it made this part of his job any easier. Fortunately, it was not something he had to do often, but even once was one time to many.

Standing there, seeing how each of those assigned to Homicide waited, hoping he had good news for them but knowing he did not, he drew a deep breath. He could have let someone else handle this. But that would have been the easy way out and he had never been one to push the uncomfortable parts of the job off on someone else. Besides, he owed it to them, and to their lieutenant, to make sure they understood that even though he no longer worked cases on the board, he was still one of them. He hurt with them and he thirsted for the same vengeance they did.

“I’m not going to tell you this gets easier. It doesn’t and each of you knows it. Let’s be honest. This squad has faced more than its fair share of challenges these last two years.” He paused and reached up to rub his eyes, burning with unshed tears, with thumb and forefinger. As he did, he felt every one of the last twenty-six hours he had been awake. Twenty-six hours of sitting vigil at the hospital and then talking with family members, of briefing Chief of Police Darnell Culver, and of doing all he could to head off any interference by the feds. Three of his own had gone down and he was damned if he was going to let the feds or any other agency take over the case. Then he cleared his throat and continued. “Each and every time, you have risen to the challenge and done what was necessary to carry out your duties as members of the DPD. I know I’m asking a lot now, but I need you to do so once again.

“The next few days are going to be difficult for the entire force, but especially for you. You not only lost one of your own yesterday but others of the cop family as well. I’ve spend a great deal of time with the families of our fallen brethren and they’ve asked me to let you know arrangements have been made. They thank each of you for all the time you have spent with them since the ambush. They have asked that, until the funeral, members of this squad continue to be with them. They know you were all family and they will feel better having someone who knew their loved one with them. Sergeant Collins, I’ll leave it to you to arrange schedules to accommodate this request.” He glanced at the squad’s acting commander and she nodded, her expression grim.

“In three days, we will lay the first of our fallen, to rest. I expect each of you to be there in dress uniform, representing not only this squad but the best of the force. Show the city that we bleed blue. Then show them that DPD does its job, no matter what. Find the bastards responsible for the ambush and bring them in to face justice.

“It would be easy to seek vengeance. I understand that feeling because I share it. No one, no matter who they are, is allowed to kill one of our own. But we will not lower ourselves, or the rest of DPD, down to those bastards’ level. Find them and bring them in. We will let the courts deal with them and, when the time comes, we will be sitting on the front row of the viewing chamber when they are brought in for their executions.” He glanced around as detectives, uniformed officers and clerical workers nodded grimly. “Do your lieutenant proud and find those bastards before they manage to kill anyone else.”

As one, everyone present turned to look at the darkened office with its closed door and silence so profound it felt almost alive filled the squad room. Then a tall blonde with short cropped hair, her expression stone-cold, pain reflected in her eyes, stepped forward. The others waited, watching as she approached Santiago.

“Sergeant Collins, the squad is yours,” the Chief of Detectives said. “Close this case before the feds try to take over. We will not step aside for anyone, not this time.”

The blonde nodded. As she did, she blinked back the tears swimming in her eyes. “Yes, sir.”

He nodded once and shook her hand. Then he turned and left the squad room. As the door closed behind him, Pat drew a deep breath. Whether she liked it or not, the squad was hers and she had a duty to do, a duty to the DPD, her partner and her squad.

“The Chief’s right,” she said softly. She did not try to hide her grief. Each person in the room shared it. “We have to work this like any other case, but let’s be honest. This isn’t just any other case and it never will be. We will have the press looking at everything we do, questioning each move and every word spoken. Worse, IAB is going to be nosing around.” She held up a hand before anyone could protest.

“Hear me on this. No one likes the idea of the rat squad poking around. This squad has first-hand knowledge how they can twist things to meet their own needs. So I want every i dotted and every t crossed in this investigation. Work this case like your life depends on it because it very well may. We have cop killers running loose on our streets and none of us are safe until we find them. So, when IAB comes calling, we will answer their questions. The quicker we do, the quicker we get them out of the squad and out of the investigation. Don’t play games with them. If they ask or allude to anything that sets off your warning bells, let me know.

“From now until this case is solved, it’s all hands on deck. All vacation time is canceled until further notice. If you call in sick, you’d damn well better have a doctor telling me you are on your death bed. Work your contacts and get your CI’s on the street and asking questions. Finding these bastards is our priority now. That said, make sure your other cases are worked as well. Don’t miss any court dates. But hear me,this is our priority. We will find the bastards behind the ambush and we will be the ones to bring them in.”

With that, she strode across the bullpen. Pausing before the door to the office that had been her partner’s she reached down to turn the knob. As she did, her hand shook. A sob rose in her throat. She choked it down. She had to maintain control until she was behind closed doors. The squad was hers, at least until Chief Culver found someone to replace Lt. Mackenzie Santos, not that anyone could ever fill her shoes as a cop or as a partner and friend.

Damn it, Mac. I wish you were here.

***

Nocturnal Origins is the first book in the Nocturnal Lives series.

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.