A to Z Blogging Challenge: S

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Signing Off

A to Z Blogging Challenge: S

I’ll be honest with you: when I first started this challenge, I didn’t expect to make it past the first week. I’m really happy that I did as many posts as I did. But the time has come for me to admit that blogging daily takes too much time away from other things I need to do, like writing and editing.

I’m going to try doing this blog on Mondays and Thursdays from now on, because I enjoy it. I’m not sure yet what I will write about, but I always find something.

Until then, thank you to all the amazing new followers and especially to those who took the time to comment. Now that I’m not obsessing with getting in two blog posts a day, I hope to catch up with all of you.

A to Z Blogging Admins, this is me, signing out. 🙂

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Q

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Quirks

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Q

So, I finally missed a post yesterday. Considering my usual track record (and the heavy workout my eyes got over the weekend), I’m happy that I waited until pee… er, P, to miss one. Consistency isn’t one of my strong suits.

That brings me to today’s post: quirks. Whether it’s as a Writer or as a Character, quirks matter. They’re what makes a person unique.

There are quirks that make a character fun and there are quirks that make a character annoying. I try to keep my characters right on the edge, like Next Door Neighbor Kid in The Annals of Bobian:

Then Next Door Neighbor Kid showed up.

Next Door Neighbor Kid was three or four or some other young age that The Bobian didn’t really remember and didn’t at all understand. Next Door Neighbor Kid was annoying in a way that made The Bobian want to practice acts of violence that would get him grounded. Next Door Neighbor Kid idolized The Bobian and followed him around whenever The Bobian didn’t find a way to stop him.

The sandbox was technically part of the community play area, so he couldn’t tell Next Door Neighbor Kid not to play there. Or he could, but it wouldn’t do any good.

“Hey!” Next Door Neighbor Kid always started his sentences with ‘hey’. He also used a lot of exclamation points in his sentences. The Bobian could almost see the punctuation in the air. “Hey, I’m going to play with you, okay?” Next Door Neighbor Kid also ended every sentence with ‘okay’, which was not okay with The Bobian. It was annoying.

The Bobian chose not to answer. If he didn’t answer, maybe Next Door Neighbor Kid would go away. It had never happened before, but he was a firm believer in the power of positive thought. Also, he couldn’t remember Next Door Neighbor Kid’s name, so he didn’t really know what to call him.

“I’m going to play with you, okay? I like playing with people. Hey, but you’re really dirty. Did you know you’re really dirty? I’m going to play with you, but my mommy said to not get dirty, so I’m going to play over here, okay?” Next Door Neighbor Kid settled in a few feet away. “Hey, this works for playing together, okay?”

The Bobian didn’t answer. He was building an ice cream cake out of dirt. This took artistry and concentration. Mostly, it took lots of trying, because the dirt didn’t want to stick together. It was still hot and very dry. He mounded it into shape until it stayed, then carefully patted it down. When he had a mostly-flat surface, he wrote “Happy Summer, Bobian” on the top. Perfect.

“Hey, that’s pretty cool.” Next Door Neighbor Kid was right next to him in spite of promising that dirt would be enough to keep him away. “Hey, that looks like I could eat it. You don’t mind if I try to eat it, right? I’m going to eat it, okay?”

The Bobian looked at Next Door Neighbor Kid, then he looked at the cake. He considered his options. He could say no. Next Door Neighbor Kid would throw a huge fit and run home to tattle. The Bobian would get in trouble for making Next Door Neighbor Kid throw a fit, even if he did the right thing.

On the other hand, he could let Next Door Neighbor Kid try the dirt cake. He would eat it. He would probably spit it out. Maybe he wouldn’t tell his mom that The Bobian had shared it with him because he wanted The Bobian to be his friend. As an added bonus, The Bobian would get Next Door Neighbor Kid all dirty and maybe his mother wouldn’t like him being all dirty. Then the sandbox would be a safe haven for The Bobian for the rest of the summer.

The Bobian stood up and took a step back, motioning to the cake. Next Door Neighbor Kid squealed in annoying pleasure and practically threw himself at the cake, scooping up a huge handful that wrecked the word “happy”. Next Door Neighbor Kid shoved the huge handful in his mouth and, after considerable effort, swallowed it down. The Bobian grudgingly liked him a little better for that.

As a Writer, I try to stay a little more on the side of The Bobian than Next Door Neighbor Kid. I want to be quirky enough that you have to see what I’ve been up to, but not so quirky that you go play in dirt to try to keep me away. That’s really how all Writers and Characters should be: like an itch you have to scratch, but comfortable enough that you don’t just get out the lotion to solve the whole thing.

What quirks make you (or your favorite Characters) unique?

A to Z Blogging Challenge: O

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Ocular Impairment. Do Not Adjust Your Station

A to Z Blogging Challenge: O

Yesterday was the first time since April started that I wrote no words. Zero. Zilch. Zip. Less than one.

This is okay.

I’ve been pretty hardcore about getting in my one poem a day and not missing any days of the blogging challenge. Yesterday, I missed my poem, but I’m pretty sure no one else will miss my attempt at a Petrarchian sonnet.

On Friday, I had an event that challenged me to move 5k (walk/run) and write 5k. I got the words in, but it was a hectic day and I abused my eyes.  I also did it on four hours of sleep.

On Saturday, I got to play host and I was a guest at a thirteen-hour online event. On three hours of sleep. I took one 30-minute nap, one 15-minute Starbucks run, and a quick dash to the mailbox. Beyond that, I was in front of a computer all day.

Last night I tried to get a book cover finished, do a social media graphic, and write up a short story before I got to my poem for the day. I didn’t finish. By the time I got through my social media graphic, my eyes were burning and I was seeing in double-3D (I don’t know any better way to describe it). I was done.

I have to get my words in today– after all, I am a professional writer. That brings me to the hard choice:

I’m going to be retiring as a professional writer, at least until I figure out how to work with macular degeneration.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ll still write. In fact, maybe I’ll write more, since I won’t be spending time on book covers, editing, formatting, and marketing. I just don’t think I should put out sub-par work and I can’t afford to pay someone to do the quality of work I would do myself. Not right now.

So… Beta Beware is the last novel I have slated for publication in a year when I was shooting for six books. And I’m okay with that.

It all comes down to priorities. Priorities are the difference between the wannabe writer who never finishes anything (I just don’t have the time) and the prolific writer who puts out books on a regular basis. Priorities are also the difference between an ex-writer (I need to save my eyes) and the prolific writer who puts out books on a regular basis. In none of these options are the priorities bad. The priorities just determine what gets done and what doesn’t.

I’ll still write. I’ll always write. I just can’t put out quality right now, so I won’t publish. Again, priorities.

What are your writing priorities? Have you ever sat down and written them out?

A to Z Blogging Challenge: N

A to Z Blogging Challenge: No. Nope. Nyet. Nuh-uh.

A to Z Blogging Challenge: N

There is a time when you just need to say: NO!

Today is going to be one of those times.

I’ve been doing relatively well keeping up on this challenge (I hate doing anything on a daily basis, so it’s been a challenge). Today, however, I am spending all day at an online event and I just can’t even.

There will be days you can’t even either… or that you shouldn’t even. People are always going to want your time (or money or skills) and you only have so much.

You have to know where your priorities are so you can figure out when to say “yes”, when to say “no”, and when to say “maybe later”.

Blogging regularly is pretty low on my priority list, so it’s getting a “no” today. Supporting my friends for promotional events is pretty high and I didn’t even have to think about it. Sleep is important, but I can get by for one day, so I told sleep “maybe later”.

Getting in the habit of labeling things this way will keep you happier, healthier, and more able to do the things you really want to do.

What things do you need to say “no” to?

A to Z Blogging Challenge: M

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Mapping It Out

A to Z Blogging Challenge: M

Do you map things out?

I’m not referring to making a map like a Tolkien book (and please don’t get me started on how geologically impossible Tolkien’s maps are in the first place). I mean, do you map out your writing journey?

First, do you map out your book?

Of course not, you say. I’m a pantser.

You can be a pantser (or at least a plantser) and still have a map. Depending on the genre and style you’re writing in, your book needs certain checkpoints. Some people manage to get them automatically, but I find having the little checkpoints means I don’t have to stop to think about it (which means I spend more time writing). For my current WIP, I’m using “The Hero’s Journey“. It’s can also be called the three-act character arc, although I see it as four acts. Here are the main checkpoints:

  • The starting point/ real world/ normal world: introduce things as they currently are and always have been
  • The inciting moment/ call to adventure: something happens that gives the protagonist a kick in the pants (but he’ll refuse the call)
  • Major plot point/ personal test/ baddie #1: the protagonist gets another kick in the pants. Reluctantly or not, he’ll end up heeding the call this time.
  • Switch over to the adventure/ road/ trials (starts Act 2)
  • Major plot point/ personal test/ baddie #2 (also called a pinch point): puts the protagonist to the test again and reminds the readers there’s a big bad world out there
  • The protagonist starts to figure things out and act on his/her own
  • Major plot point/ personal test/ baddie #3 (2nd pinch point): after the protagonist seems like he might win, the antagonist deals him a blow that shows it’s possible the protagonist won’t win. This leads to emo time for protag.
  • The protagonist, at his lowest, makes a decision to carry on
  • The climax/ showdown/ Big Baddie: battle of one sort or another
  • The resolution

Even if you’re a fly-by-night pantser, your story will almost automatically contain all of those. However, by having a map, you can look to see where you should be heading next any time you get lost. Helpful in preventing those pesky blocks.

So there’s that. But what about your writing career?

I just write for fun.

Good for you. I think you wanted the door down to the left. I mean, you can stay, but this part is more to help you plot out your six-book series.

If you have a number of books you want to write, list them all. All of them. Be honest.

Now, what are you writing first? How long does it take you to write? To edit?

I’m a bit of a hyper-focused Figment with no life and a boredom issue. I schedule 45 days to write my first draft. Then I give myself 15 days off. That gives me some squirming room.

I do a fast, run-through rewrite in about a week. Note that I edit a bit as I go.

Then I send it to betas. I give them four weeks, but I pad that with two weeks if necessary.

More edits. Lots of edits. Finish up covers and blurbs. Then formatting.

All told, because I cycle quickly, I put a book out in three or four months. However, I write short books. You may need a full year… and that’s fine. You just need to know what you need. Because, if you really want to get that ball rolling, you’ll want to start writing your next book while the first one is with the beta readers.

It gets a bit complicated on my end, so there is a spreadsheet. Mostly I just liked messing with a spreadsheet, but it does work.

How do you organize your books? Your writing plans? What has worked (or not worked) for you?

A to Z Blogging Challenge: L

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Losing My Motivation

A to Z Blogging Challenge: L

I write parody songs. I have quite a few in my wheelhouse, in fact. Today, since I am still lacking the motivation to write anything truly useful, I thought I’d at least spawn an Ear Worm.

Ohhh, to write is bigger
It’s bigger than myself
And it’s not easy
To show and to not tell it
And I want to cry
Oh no, I’ve failed too much
Have I failed enough?

That’s me with the laptop
That’s me on the internet
Losing motivation
Trying to keep my plot intact
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve played too much
I haven’t played enough.

I thought I could write forever
I thought I could write bestsellers
I thought my words could make men cry.

Every chapter
Of every single scene I’m
Losing my conviction
That this is something I can do
Like the words have all fled my soul
Oh no, I said too much
I failed to set it up.

Rewording this
Rewording this
The novel is writing me
Rewording this
This book has
Brought me to my knees
What if all my fantasies aren’t
Good to go around?
Now I’ve cut too much.

I’d rather be somewhere reading
I’d rather go try to clean
I’d rather give up both my eyes.

I think I’m gonna scream
This writing makes me scream.

That’s me with the laptop
That’s me on the internet
Losing motivation
Trying to keep my plot intact
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I wrote too much
I didn’t write enough.

I thought I could write forever
I thought I could write bestsellers
I thought my words could make men cry.

I think I’m gonna scream
Whine, cry, sigh, scream
I think I’m gonna nap
Just go dream, just go dream.
Dream.

 

A to Z Blogging Challenge: K

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Kidding Around is Pretty Serious

A to Z Blogging Challenge: K

I’m known for my comedy. Humor is my wheelhouse. Most of what I write is pretty lighthearted. But I think humor writers, in some ways, have the harder task: we have to tackle reality with laughter instead of with pitchforks. It can be trying.

In my soon-to-be-released book, Beta Beware, DJ has to deal with religion in terms of how the Figments see it:

“So you never have to do something in real life you don’t want?” Shiv asked.

DJ slapped at his hand before he could pat her head. She wasn’t sure if he was trying to console her, but she didn’t like it. “Well, of course. That’s called being responsible. My kids call it ‘adulting’. But no one is making me.”

Eric put a finger to his nose. “Not as far as you remember. But what if all those times you adult someone is moving the pieces to make a move? What if you really have no choice in the matter?”

DJ was starting to really miss the snarky game text. At least she knew how to deal with it. “Then I don’t see what the purpose would be in trying. I believe in free will. If my life was like that, I might as well be a…”

“Character?” Eric suggested.

Shiv said, “Or a Figment, even?”

“I was going to say ‘slave’,” DJ said. “Stop putting words in my mouth.” She frowned. “But I see your point.” She didn’t like the feeling she was getting in the pit of her stomach. “Do you not get any say at all in what happens to you?”

Eric just shrugged, but Shiv said, “Sometimes we get to feel like we do. There are Writers who like to think their Characters write the story. They leave things more open to chance.”

“It’s not really chance, but they think it is.” Eric gave another shrug. “It is what it is.”

“Doesn’t it bother you?”

“This is our theology, our religion,” Shiv said. “Your world has gods. Our world has Writers. Do you resent your gods when they cause something to happen that you don’t agree with?”

“Sometimes,” DJ admitted. “But my religion believes in free will. God has the ability to make things happen, but He lets us make our own choices.”

Eric wove a daisy chain from flowers that popped up one at a time, the next one growing only when he picked the one before it. “Then your god is a pantser, really. He lets things develop without a plan.”

“No, there’s a plan. At least, that’s what our religion teaches.”

Shiv took a daisy before Eric could, which earned him a frown. “Then a plantser or plotser. A little of both.”

Eric waited patiently for the next daisy. “Plotters don’t like to give up control.”

“Hey, I’m a plotter!” DJ muttered.

Shiv nodded. “I already pegged you as a bit of a control freak. That’s why the helplessness bugs you so much. A pantser like Christopher just goes with it.”

DJ glared at him, but couldn’t put a lot of fire into it. “I don’t like this comparison. It’s like you’re saying my whole life is nothing more than someone else’s story.”

“Doesn’t your religion have its own book? Most of them do.” Eric finished his daisy chain and made it into a full circle.

DJ sighed. “I get more and more confused here. I thought you said this was a game, not a book?”

“Game, book… just two sides to the same coin, really. The difference is only in how it’s presented.” Shiv looked around. “Discussing theology makes me hungry. You don’t have any food, do you?”

Do you use humor to tackle tough concepts? Do you like reading tough concepts tipped on their side in a parody?

A to Z Blogging Challenge: J

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Just Write… Wrong

A to Z Blogging Challenge: J

There is advice going around that tells new writers to just write. They’ll get better if they just write.  I’m going to go out on my own personal soapbox (which is teetering, because who needs a box of soap big enough to stand on?) and say, no. Don’t just write and think you’re going to get better.

Let’s see how that works in other occupations:

  • Just do taxes. Eventually you’ll get it right.
  • Just treat patients. Eventually you’ll learn medicine.
  • Just slap paint on the canvas. Eventually you’ll make a pretty picture.

I could go on, but that would be silly… just like the advice. You can’t “just write” and think you’ll be a better writer. Here’s what you can do to be a better writer:

  • Write daily until it becomes a habit. The habit will serve you well.
  • Read about writing. If you’re not regularly reading “how to write” or grammar books, taking courses, or learning more about the craft, it’s going to be very hard to improve.
  • Critique and edit your own writing.
  • Critique and edit others’ writing (it’s easier to see the parts that need a rewrite when it’s not your own).
  • Have other people critique and edit your writing. Then don’t sit and argue with them. Don’t take it personally. See what you can learn from it.
  • Read good writing. You learn from the masters. I can’t stress this enough.

Seriously (and I try really hard to not be serious for long, so listen up), uneducated writers, even if they have talent, aren’t doing the craft any favors. Every writer (I don’t do many absolutes, either) should:

  1. Write consistently (if not daily, pick your regularity and do it; I take off one day a week).
  2. Take one course on writing craft each year. Free courses count.
  3. Take one course on writing technique a year (grammar, punctuation, styles). Free counts. Books count.
  4. Critique and be critiqued.
  5. Read widely.

That’s it. Don’t just write. Write with the intention of becoming a better writer.

By the way, if you are following me, commenting, or reading and I haven’t returned the favor yet, I will. I am making note of who visits me. I will be visiting you all after the challenge ends. I just cannot carve out enough time to write blogs, read blogs, do poetry, and keep up with my WIP all at the same time. When the blog moves to twice a week, I will read on two of the days I’m currently writing. Promise!

What do you do to improve as a writer?

A to Z Blogging Challenge: I

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

A to Z Blogging Challenge: I

Art imitates life. No, wait. That’s not what I meant to say. I imitate art.

Probably a little more accurate.

There’s some snobbery in the writing community about having your own voice. Don’t get me wrong: I do not approve of plagiarizing. However, there’s a huge difference between plagiarizing and using something for inspiration.

Art students often start by mimicking the Masters. Musicians frequently try to copy their idols (why else would American Idol have made it through fifteen seasons?). When writers try out another writer’s voice, though, there’s generally some outrage.

“Fan fiction is bad!”

“Writing like someone else is bad!”

“Bad. Bad! BAD!”

Bah humbug.

Copying a writer’s voice, like anything else, is how you learn. Sometimes, it’s how you make a living, especially if you’re a satirist or write parody. There are writers who make really good money as ghost writers learning to copy someone’s voice. But there should be limits.

  1. Use copying someone’s voice to a humorous effect. Parody is generally considered fair use (although I’m not a lawyer and the Figment lawyers hate me, so they wouldn’t give me any advice).
  2. Use copying someone else’s voice for practice. Whether you write fan fiction or flat-out try to rewrite something that’s already been published, there’s nothing wrong with using it for practice. Just don’t publish it. (Note: Amazon has some exceptions to this, but I haven’t tried out their fan fiction area, so I can’t say much more than “it exists”.)
  3. Use works that are out of copyright as the basis for a new story (I’m looking at you, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), but be sure to make the new story still your own. Just because it’s legal to reuse the work doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Unless you have a good twist to it, leave it be.

Imitation is a sincere form of flattery… just be sure you flatter in a legal and ethical manner.

Have you ever used other works in your stories (like I use Alice in Wonderland)? How about for inspiration?

A to Z Blogging Challenge: H

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Heave Ho!

A to Z Blogging Challenge: H

I have to admit, I have a few unfinished projects out there. In my case, it’s not terrible, because unfinished projects mean more Figments and more Figments mean new friends (or enemies). But there’s still something disconcerting about knowing I started something, thought it was a good idea, and then let it go. But maybe not every project is meant to be.

I was looking through some of my old things, including my Camp NaNo project from last year. I discovered I never finished that project, so I skim-read it. Oh, right. That’s why I didn’t finish it.

Sometimes a project is great in concept, but doesn’t work out. Sometimes you just can’t get into it. Sometimes it’s just not time yet. How do you decide which projects to keep and which ones to give the old ‘heave ho’?

  • You can’t find any enthusiasm for the project. Yeah, you’re going to go through periods when you just aren’t feeling it, but if you can’t find even a twinge of interest in the project, it may not be the right project. (Unless you do this a lot. Then you may need to work on your follow-through.)
  • You (or someone else) keeps finding plot holes the size of Alaska. The project may be salvageable, but not in its current state. Set it aside for a bit, then see if you can fix the plot holes.
  • You are in a constant state of writer’s block. I’ll be honest: I’ve never had writer’s block.  I have had projects I didn’t want to work on. Usually, there was something wrong with the project; occasionally I was too stressed out from constantly being on the run from The Conductor. If you are regularly hitting a block, though, you need to decide if it’s you (stress is a creativity killer) or the project.
  • Your characters feel flat. You may have the wrong main character or you may be trying to force your characters to act out of character, but maybe it’s the project itself. Try shifting some characters around. If that doesn’t work, set the project aside.

Reasons you shouldn’t give up on a project?

  • I’m too busy. Okay, then don’t write for now. Save it for later… or for when your priorities change.
  • It’s too hard. Suck it up, buttercup. (Sorry, was I supposed to be nice?) Writing is easy. Writing the good stuff is hard.
  • It’s taking too long. Again, we seem to think writing should just flow magically off the page. Sometimes you can get a novel off in 30 days (note: it’s usually a crap novel and needs major rewrites). Sometimes, though, that novel is going to take a year or more just to get out the first draft. (No offense, NaNoWriMo, but you created a monster when you made everyone think they could write any novel in that 30 day period.) Don’t be afraid to work on the hard novel in bits, but also don’t be afraid to fill in with other writing along the way.
  • I’m a terrible writer. Hurrah! You probably are… but you can improve. There tend to be two main types of beginning writers: those who aren’t nearly as good as they think they are and those who are much better than they believe. It takes practice to get to a middle ground. So keep practicing.
  • That one person hated it. Get a second opinion. Or a third. If you get three people who hate it, see if you can fix it. If not, then maybe it’s okay. But never give up just because one person hated it.

So I’m off to write, because I realize my current WIP has none of the reasons I should give up and plenty of the reasons I shouldn’t. How about you? What are your reasons for giving something the heave-ho?