In which I give my two cents on what makes a real writer.

I know I said I’d open up nominations today, but I decided this is a bit more important.

See there’s this little discussion going around on google plus about what makes someone a real writer.

Here’s the highlights of what people said that I’ve read before I decided to write this. And hey, maybe it’s completely unnecessary. I have no idea how many new writers come to my blog.

But I guess you all figured out that I have a heart for helping them. I love encouraging people to write. I love giving advice on stuff I’ve learnt that helps them to crack stuff that took me years. Because honestly, I know that the stuff I write on plot, structure, characterization etc. doesn’t really interest the veteran writers. They know all this already.

The thing is, being a writer, in its purest form, is dedication to writing.

It’s not about you writing like me. Or me writing like you.

It’s not about writing the perfect first draft.

It’s not about a deep knowledge of grammar. It’s not about having a huge and obscure vocabulary.

It’s about dedication to the craft. It’s about writing until you want to cry because you don’t think the story will end. And then, it’s about writing some more until you do get there. All that stuff about having a good manuscript, and fixing grammar, and picking the better word to say exactly what you mean, the way you mean it, come later.

All that stuff, even if you can write like Mark Twain or Ernest Hemingway or whoever, doesn’t make you a writer any more than putting icing over a brick turns it into a cake.

What makes you a writer, is wanting to write when you can’t. And writing whenever you can. Even if it means giving up t.v. time or sleeping an hour later.

Yes, there are some writers who are better than others. That is determined by the icing I mentioned. So I’m not saying that it’s wise to publish without editing. I am saying that you should learn how to build a story around a structure.

But don’t put off writing until after you’ve learnt. You’ll never learn the perfect amount of writing knowledge. There’s nothing that will qualify you as a writer.

Except. For. Writing.

Thanks for reading.

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Let’s talk about world building.

Before I start today, I just want to let you know that I’ve been invited to join the bloggers of Untethered Realms. I know most of them, and know that they’re seriously talented, so I do hope you’ll go check out what they’re doing…

But for today, I want to write about plot.

Until last night, I thought I was a character driven writer. But then I sat through a fantasy world building hangout, and spent the whole time repeating the same mantra in my head. (I couldn’t turn it off.)

How would it be relevant to the plot? 

The thing is, I know that nothing technically has to be relevant. Some people make a lot of money off books with slow plots. I can’t slam them.

Personally, I like my plots thick and fast. Rich with detail, yes, but not so as to yank me out of the growing story in order to describe the finer details of a given culture or political system or whatever.

To me, writing a fantasy world is pretty similar to characterization. If I write a character, I usually know millions of little details about him or her, without them ever making it into my book. Yes, it’s super important that I need to know them. The reader, however, only needs to know enough for them not to wonder what the heck is going on.

It’s precisely the same with the world-building. For the Doorways series, I know enough about the world’s history to write a whole other series just about that. Heck, I know enough history from a single one of the world’s country to write a series. And there are four. The thing is, if I put all of that into the books, I’d swamp the reader with information which (while it could be argued that the history is relevant) isn’t strictly necessary to put them through the plot.

I actually take it further. I don’t explain the history. I don’t explain the political systems. I don’t spend pages and pages of description. What I do is to explain what’s needed right now and trust the reader to put together the full picture themselves. Yes, some people might grow impatient, because it might take a few books to build a complete picture. But the pay-off is that my plot moves along at a faster pace.

Which I like.

But like I said, my way isn’t the only way. Any writer working on a spec fic novel eventually needs to decide on an approach to the world they’ll develop.

1) Do you want to showcase your world as a character in itself? 
2) Do you want your plot to move slower? (If so, exploring the world is a good way to do it without boring people. Just keep in mind that it’s a fine line to toe.)
3) Which factors of the world determines your plot and characterization? If you have some macro issues coming down on your characters (say a world where tributes are sent every year to kill each other for punishment of an old rebellion), you’ll need to spend some time explaining. Do try to keep the explanations relevant to the moment, though.

There are probably other questions that’ll come from answering these questions, but those are the big ones. If you know those, you can probably figure out how you want to represent your world in your novel.

So, spec fic writers, how do you usually prefer to represent your worlds?

And readers, how do you prefer your fantasies? Slower and rich in detail, or directly to the point with some fantasy thrown in?

I’m feeling the heat

Sorry for not posting the past two days. I had a bit of a productive streak for the past. The first one, I added four sections to my WiP. The second, I edited Doorways. 

In other words, I completed the whole round of edits in a single day. Which left me completely tired, but at least I’ll be able to get on with my rewriting once more.

I’ve actually been in a strange place, emotionally, making my drafting efforts a bit more difficult. I love the story, but at the moment, the only thing that’s not giving me a ton of stress in my life is my writing.

Problem is, as the pressure grows, my creativity goes.

My rhyming skills, remain.

Yeah… weird… Weird place. Anyway. Pressure or no pressure, I know one thing.

Writing makes things better. Not only does it take me away from my issues, but it helps me deal with them.

But damn. The issues don’t help me to sit down and write.

Still, I do. Almost every day. I sit down and find what I want to say. Usually, it starts off wrong, uncomfortable. Stiff. But as I go, I start living myself into my character’s worlds and problems (and let’s face it, theirs make mine look like inconveniences) and the words come. First a trickle, then a flood.

Hopefully, I can keep this happening for as long as I need to.

Anyone else have issues with writing when the rest of your life is somehow out of whack?

Marketing is Coming…

Before I start today, I have three announcements:

1) I’ve still only received a handful of paying forward prizes and I want to open the nominations next week. Please please please don’t forget to volunteer!

2) Because my life is steadily becoming busier, I won’t be doing the Word Master Challenge this month. Much as I love it, I just can’t do everything at the same time.

3) Entries for my Crazy Goals Bloghop are still welcome. Any crazy/important goals are welcome.

And now, on with today’s blog.

Marketing

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Doorways (announcement about that coming soon) might be published sooner than I thought. It depends on a variety of factors, like when I’ll have my tax stuff officially sorted out and how fast I’ll be doing the final edits, but the release might be before the end of this year. Maybe. *crosses fingers*

Even though it might be later, though, I’m assuming it’ll be sooner, which means I need to put together a marketing plan A.S.A.P.

Obviously, there will be bloghops and reviews, but I’m thinking a bit further ahead.

This book is part one of a series. It’ll be kicking off, a series. As such, I’m going to brand and market the series. Yes, the book will be what draw people in, but I’m not doing multiple images for multiple titles. And because I’m the go big or go home type, I’m seeing graphic artists tomorrow to put together a kick-ass campaign.

Sound premature, maybe, but I want everything as ready as possible so that I can simply slot together everything I need to do a few weeks/months ahead of time. Hopefully, I’ll generate enough buzz to get a nice debut release going. I’m hoping some of you will help.

More than that, I also need to figure out the timing of a few announcements. Like: The series title. And Doorways‘s real name. After all, the last thing I want to do is spam my bloggy friends.

Just hoping that everything goes smoothly from here…

Any advice from the veterans?

Meme Time!

Hi all!

Gwen Gardner nominated me to continue with this meme, so I decided I’d do so and see what you’re up to. I’m supposed to nominate more people, but I’d much rather see your answers in the comments. So do me a favor and at least answer some of them?

1. What are you working on right now?
Since I finished drafting that sequel I mentioned in IWSG, I’m now rewriting a high concept urban fantasy. 

2. How does it differ from other works in its genre? 
It doesn’t have humans, vamps, angels, demons, werewolves or fairies as main characters. 

3. What experiences have influenced you? 
Playing Assassin’s Creed, actually. Weird, I know. 

4. Why do you write what you do?
I write whatever interests me. And these characters are danged interesting. 

5. How does your writing process work?
Rough draft by hand, rewrite to computer, revisions and edits (many many times)

6. What is the hardest part about writing?
For me, it’s either discovering my direction while drafting, or keeping my interest alive while rewriting. Guess it depends on what I’m doing at the time. I always long to do anything except what I’m doing right now. 

7. What would you like to try as a writer that you haven’t yet?
Well… Uhm… See… I wanted to say write a mystery, but I did that as a short story. So I guess I’ll say write a mystery novel…

8. Who are the authors you most admire?
Right now, Robert Galbraith J.K. Rowling. 

9. What scares you? 
My biggest fear at the moment is that Doorways won’t interest readers. I wish I could say it’s irrational and unfounded, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a well-conceived and edited book went largely ignored. 
Can’t wait to read your answers! 
In the meantime, I just have two things I want to remind everyone of. 1) If you have a crazy/important goal, you might want to check out my new bloghop. 2) Please please please don’t forget to volunteer for the new Paying Forward Awards

Writing the Voice

Voice is something everyone’s looking for, but that everyone’s struggling to define. Many people insist that they should find their author’s voice before they start writing. Mmm… maybe. If you’re writing about themselves or non-fiction. 
To me, though, Voice is a given story’s tone and mood. It’s responsible for the way a story feels. I believe that if the story’s fiction, this feel should be determined by its characters. Not the author. The author shouldn’t be seen at all. 
Instead, the Voice lets the reader gain insight into the character. Because writing he/she/it is a bit tedious when done repeatedly, I’m calling today’s character Tom. 
Now. To nail Tom’s voice, we’d need to look at his likes and dislikes. We need to take into account what excites him. What bores him? What sort of person is he like? Straight and to the point? Or is he poetic? You can ask a million questions about this guy’s personality and about a million of them will have relevance to his Voice. 
Think I’m kidding? Watch this. 
This is me the author. 
Tom saw a pretty girl at the bar. She sat alone, drinking a cocktail. The barman kept glancing her way. 
This is from the point of view of Tom, the slightly arrogant, but not unlikable (at least not to me) alpha-male. 
Today, a lone babe occupied his usual seat. Not that he minded. It would give him a fun night buying her more of those pink drinks she drank. Maybe it would lead to a pay-off, maybe not. In the meantime, he sauntered over to her side and ordered a straight bourbon, sending a too-bad look to the barman, who’d been eyeing her too. 

Now. To Tom, the shy, thoughtful, sensitive guy with a confidence problem. 
Simply put, the woman sitting two bar stools down was… well… stunning. A touch of elegance completely out of place in this tacky pub. She sat with her posture gracefully straight, sending coy little smiles to the barman, who obviously enjoyed the attention. Lucky guy. He’d probably get her number while Tom spent the rest of the night wishing he had the guts to introduce himself. 

Same scenario. Same author. Two very different characters. What part of those paragraphs made up the voice? 
To me, everything. 
Tom1 has a more direct approach. Shorter sentences. Often shorter words as well. Also, it’s clear what his aim is. And the moment he’s next to the girl, he stakes his claim.
Tom2 has longer sentences. He spends more time thinking about something than Tom1. He also keeps his distance, regretting his choice to do so. 
All of those factors add up to the two Toms’ voices. Because all of them add up to what we’d use to tell the two of them apart. The sounds of their narrative voices, as it were. 
I’m not saying you need to nitpick every single word you draft, trying to make every sentence conform. What I am saying is that you’ll need to get to know your character. Not only the stuff you thought you knew. Use your rough draft to find out everything the character shows you. And then when you edit, make sure that everything he thinks, says and does fits with how he or she sounds in your head. 
Yep, the concept really is as simple as that. 
Best of luck with the application! 
If you want to practice, though, write the example sentences I wrote from the PoV of Tom, the nice guy who’s wondering if he should make a move. Feel free to leave in the comments. 
Anyone else have tips on nailing the Voice? 

Insecure Writers Support Group

Welcome to another Insecure Writers Support Group meeting. If you haven’t come across it yet (although I think that’s highly unlikely), IWSG is about sharing your insecurities and encouragement with other writers. The wonderful thing about this is that once your insecurities are out there, there are always people who are in the same boat, or who’ve learnt how to deal with the problem. I highly recommend that any writer join up. 🙂

And now, on to my post. 
Those of you who haven’t been to my blog in a while might notice that it’s undergone a name change. And that the count down timer is back. I’ve basically set myself this almost impossible goal and gave myself  a time until I do it. 
All very good and well. Gives me something to strive towards. And motivation to keep going. 
Problem is that I’m not all that sure about how I’ll do it. I mean, I understand that I need to finish as many books as possible in order to even stand a chance of getting somewhere close to my goal. 
But how? See… I have something like four finished drafts that need to be rewritten. Then I have sixteen story ideas and rough drafts in progress. (I limited myself to these for now or else I’d go insane.) Common sense would say that I should rewrite, revise and finish the four I’ve written. 
Except for one thing. I have the first two books in a series under contract. They’re both done. The sequel to the second is an unfinished draft and since I have to assume that I didn’t spend over five years working on something that’ll sell badly. So. The third will need to be done. 
And I am a slow drafter. Especially when it comes to this series. There’s just too much to keep track of for me to just rush through. So. I need to get book 3 done to the point where I can simply rewrite it. 
Which is exactly what I’m doing now. I’m drafting like mad. And I will be doing so until book 3 is done. 
But am I doing the right thing? 
Anyone else have mad or madly important goals? (Check out my bloghop if you do.) How do you pick what to write when you have too much writing to do?