Why on Wednesday: Why Are YOU Writing?

There’s a crazy notion out there right now that everyone should publish a book. I’d like to break this down logically, but I’m a Figment, so I’ll break it down Figment-logically: Everyone should birth a baby. Yeah, that makes sense. Those who can’t birth a baby (men, women with fertility issues, small children, the elderly, aliens, and animals), those who don’t want to birth a baby, and those who shouldn’t birth a baby makes a pretty compelling argument against this. The same thing goes for book publishing: some can’t (lack of skills, finances, commitment, etc.); some don’t want to (which is perfectly valid); and some simply shouldn’t (I’ve read a few published “books” I wish hadn’t been published because… ugh). Everyone should sell a piece of art/ craft work. Really? Because not everyone will ever be good enough to sell something. Everyone should become a rocket scientist/ brain surgeon/ marathoner/ concert pianist.  All ridiculous, right? I am not saying people shouldn’t write. Everyone should write. Anyone who wants to should write a book. Hurrah! I’m also not saying we should stop anyone from writing a book or publishing it. But there’s a big push out there to get everyone to publish a…

Feature Friday: I Need a Hero/ Villain/ Sidekick.

There’s been some discussion going about my social media regarding villains. I don’t write villains. I’ve never written a villain (no, not even Ellie the Evil Queen is a villain). Here’s why: a good villain isn’t a villain; they are the foil to your hero. A good villain, in another book, might be your hero. I also don’t write sidekicks. Sidekicks have their own story going on. That story is every bit as important as the heroes story. Just don’t tell the hero. Sidekicks tend to be a lot lower on the ego scale than heroes. Take a look at your WIP. If you’re writing a romance, you may not have a villain, but you’ll still have a foil to your main character. Look carefully at your villain/antagonist, love interest(s), and sidekicks. Do they have a backstory? It doesn’t need to be in the story, but you need to know a little bit about them. Do you know their personality type or motivations? If Myers-Briggs is too much, do a simple zodiac bit or a character archetype. Then do a little twist so the character isn’t just a stock character. (I hate stock characters.) If you’ve ever played at tabletop gaming,…

Motivation Monday: Novel Structure

I’m currently plowing my way through KM Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel. There is a very good point early on that I want to address today: writers are afraid that structure will take the art out of their writing. There are writers who get away without consciously outlining their novels, including Stephen King. It seems to work okay for him. However, he’s also a prolific read and I’m sure he at least understands story structure. Story structure takes nothing away from art. Here are a few examples from other artforms: Architecture relies on buildings being structurally sound. Yet for every plain row house out there, there is a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright creation or an IM Pei glass pyramid. They both use structure; in fact, they have to understand it innately to create the buildings they do. But their structure only adds to their artistry. Michelangelo and da Vinci are both known to have studied human anatomy excessively to give their artwork more lifelike reality. They knew that the underlying structure of the human body is what influences the outward beauty. So why are writers so afraid that structure will destroy their art? “The three-act structure is intrinsic to the human brain’s model of…

Feature Friday: Time to Commit

I can tell you all sorts of secrets for getting your book written. Once you have it written, I can give you all sorts of tips for getting it to market. However, until you’ve actually committed yourself to doing it, it’s not going to happen. “Well, of course I’m committed. I keep reading your lousy blog for advice, don’t I?” That just means you’re committed to learning how to do it. You haven’t committed to doing it. “Okay, semantic-laden Figment, how do I commit to doing it?” Set a deadline. I’ve heard all the excuses (really). Don’t bring me your excuses. I’ve used them myself and probably made them funnier (because, well, I’m funny). There are no excuses. You can work to a deadline, even if you’re a creative. You can write a full-length novel, even if you’re the busiest person ever. The only reasons you can’t finish a book by your self-imposed deadline are either that you were too ambitious or you quit. We don’t do quitters. You can modify your deadline if life happens or you can suck it up for a little while and pretend you don’t have a choice, but you don’t quit. Clear? Now, let’s…

WorkIt Wednesday: Create-a-Plot and Pushups

This is a two-part WorkIt Wednesday, as always. For the physical part, my goal is to hit 100 pushups throughout the day. I can do a single pushup or all 100 at once (no, really, I can’t). As long as they’re all done by midnight, I reached my goal. Define a pushup: Because not everyone is at the same level, you can do any type of pushup you want. Do you have some physical limitations? Do wall pushups. Maybe you have some minor lower back issues? Do knee or “girl” pushups. If you can, do the regular pushups. If you’re feeling really ambitious, go for one-handed pushups or another variation. You don’t have to do the same kind all the way through, either. Start out at the hardest level you can and, if you need to, finish up with wall pushups. The goal is to get all 100. There’s a good tutorial here. Now for the written part of the day, inspired by this article on The Write Life. Depending on which resource you go to, there are only seven/ twenty/ thirty-six plots in literature. For simplicity’s sake, we’re going with seven for this exercise. Also, because I’m a simple…

Motivation Monday: Getting Past The First Chapter

I’m going to assume if you’re reading this you’ve taken me up on my challenge to write and publish an indie book. If you haven’t, go back and read the earlier posts first. I’m pretty sequential for a Figment. Doing things in order is always a good idea. You have an outline (or you’re humoring me and pretending). You know why you’re writing. You have a first chapter. And now… you’re bored. Or you think you’re blocked. Here’s my take on it: there is no such thing as Writer’s Block. Before I get a bunch of angry replies, let me clarify. People to get blocked, but it’s not truly writer’s block. Writer’s block is this mystical thing where your muse has deserted you. Sorry, cupcake. While there are real muses, they don’t cause writer’s block. Here are some reasons you can feel blocked, though: Your story is going in a dead-end direction. If your story isn’t making sense, your subconscious may be trying to tell you to turn it around. Break the rule about not editing and go back and find what isn’t working. If you can’t find it, get a trusted but brutally honest friend to tell you. You…

Feature Friday: Writing the First Chapter

There are some who find the last chapter to be the most difficult. There are a few who struggle through the middle. For most, however, the first chapter is the hardest to get out there. There’s good reason for this. The first chapter is what draws, drags, or defers. Either it is so clever that the reader must read; it is acceptable enough that the reader chooses to read; or it is so bad that the reader refuses to read. But no pressure. Really. See, the nice things about first chapters (and first lines) is that you have the most time to get them right. You have the entire time you’re writing the book through the editing process through just before publication. That’s a lot of time. (Longer for some, say, whose last name is Martin, than some others.) “I don’t edit while I’m writing.”  Very smart of you. Really. Just try this with me for one work, though. Edit that first chapter. Here’s why: if your first chapter does what it should (set up the story), then you have an easier task ahead of you. Instead of dragging the story uphill to get to the first plot point, your…

Motivation Monday: WHY Write a Book?

If you’ve been following along, we’ve worked on how to write, what to write about, and done an outline. (You did do your homework, right?) Before we go any further, though, you really  have to understand why you’re writing a book. There is no wrong reason for writing a book. None. But if you don’t know why you’re writing, you may go about it the wrong way. (Yes, there is a wrong way for you, just like there is a wrong way for me.) I’m writing a book to get down the stories my dad/mom/next-door-neighbor told me. If you’re not planning to publish (or you’re only planning to publish to adoring family and friends, then the format won’t matter as much. Good grammar may be optional. You can create your own cover and learn design or get one online for $5 (Fiverr.com). This is a labor of love, not a polished product. Enjoy the ride, but don’t stress over it. I’m writing a book because I love to write. I might publish, someday. Go as slowly as you want. You’re doing this for the story. This is where pantsers excel, just letting the story move them. If you eventually decide…

How to Write a Book: Outlining

I am aware that I just lost a lot of pantsers. I’m going to ask you to come back and give me an opportunity to woo you. I’ll even hold your hand if you want, but I’m running at the first sign of a restraining order. Stick with me through this post. Let’s see what we can do about this outlining idea. There’s a reason we learn to outline in school: it’s a very useful skill to have, even if you’re not a writer. If you are a writer, it can be invaluable. But, Zan, I hate outlining. Here’s a thought: if you hate it, maybe you’re not doing it right. But I’m a pantser. I like to just let the story flow. There are people who can do this. If you’ve already finished books and published, ignore me. If, however, you either can’t finish a book or you get stuck in forever edits, let me try to help you. It might not work. The fun thing about anything artistic is that there is no real right way or wrong way; there’s only the way that works for you. So, how do you outline a novel? Start with the basics. Every…

How to Write a Book: Getting Ideas

  Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” – Orson Scott Card I once belonged to a writing group. It was a mixed group, with experienced, published writers shuffled in with complete newbies. There was one thing that often made the newbies stand out. They’d come in, participate for a while, and then say, “I need help. Does anyone have a story idea I can use? I can’t come up with any.” This is a relatively safe place. I try to not mock much…. Wait. Who am I fooling? I write humor, parody and satire. Mocking is my middle name. So if you are a sensitive soul who doesn’t like being the butt of a good poking (but not a poking in the butt; that’s just rude), you may want to pull out your blankie. A good writer learns to see the millions of ideas out there. You cannot be a good writer unless you can come up with ideas. The good news is that fourth word: learns. This is something that can be learned. I’m here to help you…