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?

A to Z Blogging Challenge: G

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Giving Up

A to Z Blogging Challenge: GOne of my favorite movies in all the world is Galaxy Quest. I mean, what’s not to love? Spoofing Star Trek, spoofing cons, and still making a great movie… it’s a no-brainer.

In the movie, Tim Allen’s character has a recurring line: “Never give up, never surrender!”

In real life– or even Figment life– it’s not so easy.

Yes, I have it easier than most Writers. I’m a Figment. I get to just run away when my limited exposure to Reality gets to be too much. Most Writers, though, have to deal with Reality in the form of children, spouses, jobs, parents, school, blah blah blah.

It’s enough to make you want to quit.

Here’s my tip: listen to Tim Allen. Don’t give up. If you give up, you might never put out the book that would make you famous, beloved, or at least be-liked.  If you give up, you might not release a character on the world that will get someone through a hard time. If you give up… you learn to give up.

Instead, when you feel like giving up, set yourself up for a break. Figure out how long the break will be and then make it a real break. Don’t write for  a week.

If you’re meant to be a Writer (and I don’t mean just to write; I think everyone should do that), you will probably be itching by the end of the week.

If you’re not itching, maybe writing is just a fun hobby for you… and that’s okay. Or maybe you’re too burned out and you need a longer break. Or maybe you need to wait until this season passes.

The important thing is to not quit. If you have to make a decision to stop writing, make it the same way you would for a job. Sleep on it (that means getting a good night’s sleep, not three hours). Talk it over with those you trust. Then put in a two week notice. If you are able to go through with it, move on. If not… go back to writing.

Just never, ever, give up.

A to Z Blogging Challenge: F

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Figments

A to Z Blogging Challenge: F

Although I have other series, either published or in the works, the Figments will always be my first and, to a degree, my favorite. I am, after all, a Figment myself.

Figments are those Characters that get created but never fully finished. Every Writer has at least one. This Figment wasn’t likeable enough. That Figment didn’t fit the storyline. That other Figment insisted on taking the story in a direction the Writer didn’t want it to go.

Sometimes Figments are in stories that were completed but didn’t come to light. That WIP that sits in a desk drawer (or in a file folder on the computer) and never gets revised is full of Figments. The story you sent out to publishers that got rejected until you stopped trying? Figments.

My Figments are a little different. They’re still trapped in the Figments world because I wrote them there, but they are published. So they get to be real without being Characters (okay, Eric and Shiv are still Characters).

If you’ve never read my worlds, you might not understand this, and that’s okay. You still understand the concept of Figments because you have one.

Here’s my challenge to you: set your Figments free! Find a story for each and every one of them. Give them a home. Don’t let them moulder away in some lost file. It’s like setting your ghosts free when you’re in a sappy movie. If you hang onto them, you’re not only hurting yourself, but you’re hurting them.

So set them free! Which Figments in your life are you setting free?

A to Z Blogging Challenge: E

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Endings

A to Z Blogging Challenge: E

Endings are the hardest thing in all the world. Beginnings are easy. One cute hook or interesting premise and off you go! Middles can be rough, but you’re still moving, heading somewhere.

Endings are the thing Readers will remember most. Endings are your last chance to make a good impression. Endings are your signature on a letter.

Endings suck sausages.

I struggle with endings. I’m a planner who then lets the story do its own thing. Unfortunately, you can only plan the ending so far. I know what happens at the end, but… how to do it?

I haven’t yet come to a satisfactory conclusion, but I do know an ending needs to do a few things:

  1. An ending needs to wrap up all the loose ends. Even if you’re writing a series, you need to close up the story of the book itself. You can leave the main theme open (does the hero beat the Big Bad?), but you need to shut every door that is specific to that book (does the hero beat this level?).
  2. An ending needs to restate the theme of the book. Even if your theme is just “writing is hard and funny”, that needs to show up at the end.
  3. An ending needs to come back to the beginning in some way. Books, like life, are just one big circle. Whatever a Writer starts in the first chapter needs to come back in the final chapter.
  4. An ending needs to end. Don’t leave it on a cliffhanger or a tease. End the book.

Are there exceptions? Of course. Some Writers make a living out of cliffhangers and ignoring themes. However, a book that ends on a good note will leave more Readers wanting to read the next one than one that teases you along without the satisfaction of “The End”.

Endings are still hard, but at least I have a map to get there.

What do you do with your endings? What do you hate or love about endings?


A to Z Blogging Challenge: C

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Cover Art

A to Z Blogging Challenge: C

“You can’t judge a book by its cover”. Maybe not, but we do. Really, we have to do this. Books are an investment of time, money, and energy. You can read reviews and do a quick peek inside to guess if you’ll like it, but most of us look at covers and try to figure it out just from pictures. Pretty funny, really, for a “literate” group of people.
A book’s cover should tell you several things right off the bat:
  • The title. Someday I might write a book with a mystery title, just to see if anyone buys it. Mostly, though, we count on that title to pique our interest. As a writer, I hope the hours I spend agonizing over this are worth it.
  • The author’s name. Sometimes authors get to have their names bigger than the title, but you have to be Serious Business for this. As long as someone manages to squeeze my entire name on the cover, I’m pretty happy. As a reader, this helps you binge read your favorite author.
  • The genre. While this isn’t a perfect science, there are still things you expect from different genres. Romance: half-dressed Characters. SF: something spacey or techy on the cover (this is the technical term). The list goes on. If a cover is dark and jagged, I expect scary. Don’t disappoint me.
  • Some vague idea of the storyline. I try to make sure my cover reflects something in the actual story. It’s not nice to promise a reader a beach story and then send them to the desert for most of the book. Sending them to dessert, on the other hand, is always acceptable. Especially ice cream.

You get the idea. The cover is a sort of contract with your reader. If you don’t keep that contract (or put any effort into it), maybe you don’t deserve your readers. Yep, I went there. Do you agree?

A to Z Blogging Challenge: B

A to Z Blogging Challenge: (The) Bobian

A to Z Blogging Challenge: B

When I first created the Figments universe, I was sure this was where I was going to spend the majority of my time. I mean, other writers had done it: Xanth. Stephanie Plum. Honor Harrington. Create a world big enough and you can play in it for decades.
Then I discovered The Bobian.
The Bobian is (currently) a twelve-year-old boy with no other desire than to eat ice cream. He’s got a good imagination and, really, a far better sense of focus than I do. He knows what he wants and he’s going to get it, come broken bones, broken friendships, or angry Queen Mothers. Okay, maybe not angry Queen Mothers. Some things are just insurmountable.
Nevertheless, when I discovered The Bobian, I realized I had found something just as special as my Figments. In fact, The Bobian may be better, overall, because I like the kid better than I like Christopher (no offense, Christopher, just in case you’re reading).
The Annals of BobianThe Bobian is really what I want my books to be: easy to read, easy to laugh at, and hard to put down.
What are your goals as a Writer? Are you out to change (or at least educate) the world? Do you want to create an unforgettable world of your own? Do you want the romance, glitz and glamour?
What do you want as a Reader? Are you looking for happily ever after? A good whodunit? Deep intellectual books that make you think?
What’s on your list?
A: Alice in Wonderland

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Alice in Wonderland

A: Alice in Wonderland

You may have noticed I have a fascination with Alice in Wonderland. There’s something about Lewis Carroll’s crazy world that appeals to me. It may be the rabbits. It may be the Mad Hatter. (It’s probably not Alice.) Whatever it is, I love it.

Alice in WonderlandMy first book, Veneri Verbum, made use of the same craziness as the original Alice in Wonderland. My next Figments book, however, takes this a step further. I took Alice Through the Looking Glass and used it as a rough guideline for what would happen in my story.  Not exactly, but just enough to get the wheels turning.

Of course, my characters never do what they are supposed to. There’s something about Figments that makes them think they get to have opinions. Still, the guidelines was there.

So what is the appeal?

Lewis Carroll creates a zany cast of characters. In fact, the supposed main character, Alice, is really the most boring of the lot. I’m not saying Christopher is boring, but… well, it’s a good thing for him there are more interesting characters to help carry the story. My goal was to have the same draw with my non-main characters.

Carroll also breaks structure rules, which has a certain appeal to me. I’m not very good with rules. His books are far more free-form than structured. I tried to keep the same freedom when I was writing.

The last thing Carroll’s books have that mine seek to emulate is a sense that anything is possible and actually pretty reasonable to expect. After all, a hookah-smoking caterpillar and a cat who leaves its grin behind are no less impossible than a man who pops back into being after each death or a judge with a hot dog for a head. However, as the Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass said, “I used to believe six impossible things before breakfast.” My goal is to make it eight. Overachiever, I am.

So if you notice a tendency toward ‘shroom-induced changes of perspective in my works, that’s the reason. I haven’t had a mushroom pizza on a portabella mushroom crust: I’m just paying homage to one of my writing heroes.

And maybe I had a mushroom or two.


A to Z Challenge

A to Z Blogging Challenge

A to Z Challenge

I was wandering around the internet (no, not browsing; I actually wander the sites on foot) and found a site called The A to Z Blogging Challenge. Since I’ve been trying to remember to blog, I thought, I can do that. So I signed up.

Then I realized it starts tomorrow.

Apparently I have some work to do. I’ll see you all on my blog for the next thirty days.