Writing Rituals – Round Robin

The alarm goes off at 5AM every morning.

I have it strategically placed several feet away from the couch, where I have collapsed to

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Nuisance – Don’t let him fool you. 

sleep some six to seven hours before. Dodging Nuisance (the kitten), I stumble my way across the room to turn the alarm off and stand there for several minutes in the dark, teetering on my feet because at this point I’m still trying to remember why exactly my alarm has gone off at such an hour.

Eventually I remember that it is a weekday and it is time to write.

Making what can only be described as a zombie-like shamble through my dark apartment, I locate the coffee machine and set it to brewing and stand for several more minutes, staring at the coffee level as it rises.

At this point I may actually be sleeping while standing up. It’s really kind of a mystery.

Camp NaNoWriMo mug in hand – full of coffee, thank heavens – I make a somewhat less zombie-like shamble to the computer and power it on. The trick, I have found, is to drink at least half a mug of coffee before I open the manuscript and begin to review what was written the day before. This means that I have approximately fifteen minutes to check email, Facebook, Google+, and possibly Twitter (really, I know everyone loves Twitter but all the hashtags make little sense to me, especially at 5AM).

Once the coffee hits the midway point of the mug I am sufficiently awake enough to really comprehend yesterday’s work. Now then, depending on the time of year, I am either in the middle of editing or I’m in the middle of creating.

296311_500604823329356_837081728_nThe first five to six months of the year are dedicated to editing. January through the end of May I can get through two major hauls on two different novels. This work consists of multiple colored pens and a printed manuscript and, if I’m doing it right, I can get five chapters done in a week.

My pens are color coded for each book. Different colors for different character arcs and development, a color for typos (normally red), a color for plot issues (often purple), and a color for graphic detail (green – which tends to be the heaviest color on the page.)

Monday through Friday I work on a chapter a day. Saturday I transfer all handwritten changes onto the computer. Sunday … I nap. Or play Star Wars.

June through December are my “creation” months. This is when I write new novels. I can do approximately two chapters a week while in “create-mode”. Sometimes more.

At present, I am in “create-mode” so after my first cup of coffee has been consumed I have gone over the previous day’s writing (and hated it, I always hate it at first) I begin working.

I pause for more coffee.

And then I pause again to hold my crystal ball.

Because yes, I have a crystal ball. It feels good in my hands, large and cool to the touch, and it helps me concentrate.

By 8AM I have gone through my second cup of coffee and must save all content to multiple places because I am obsessive-compulsive about making sure all copies in all virtual hidey-holes have been updated.

At random intervals I will have had to pause to pet Nuisance and Pest (the grumpy older

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Pest

cat) and informed them both that they are detrimental to the creation process, but neither of them seem to care.

Nevertheless, it is now 8AM and I must wake the child up and prepare him for school. At 8:25AM we are in the car and heading out for the day (because we are freaking awesome at that). For the rest of the day my writing rituals include keeping the outline of the novel on hand for note-taking and 3×5 cards for any scenes that must be written down before they are forgotten.

Check out what some of my fellow authors do for their writing rituals in this month’s Round Robin Discussion!

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2016/09/24/is-my-writing-right-for-you
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

 

The Countdown

I am now exactly three months away from Persona’s publication date.

What does this mean for me?

AJMaguire-PersonaCoverArt-ChrisHoward_rev28_ART_ONLYWell, it means a lot of work, actually. I have a list of things that need to be done like … hunt for virtual space (AKA – look for people online who wouldn’t mind me commandeering their blog/site for a day) and prepping advertising spots and getting reminder letters ready for all the wonderful people who agreed to advance review the book and … so much more.

SO. Much. More.

Side Note: Thank you so much to all of my advanced readers. I’ve heard from most of you already and I really, really appreciate the time it takes to sit down and read a book these days. You’re all awesomesauce on toast and I uber love you.

What happened to the Kindle Scout Campaign?

As predicted, this was not the right fit for me. Kindle Scout is made for people who really don’t mind shouting over and over and over again that their book is up and needs votes. I am not that sort of person.

Granted, if I were that sort of person it is entirely possible that I would sell a lot more books. The tactic seems to work very well for a lot of people. For my part, I cannot justify being that much of a pest. And if I spend all my time promoting, I get no writing done. (I am a single parent. My time is limited.)

Having re-read the manuscript hunting for any last-minute errors and the like, I have to say that Persona is a favorite of mine. While I may have bemoaned all the research I had to do writing a historical fiction, it is still one of my favorite stories. Megan is a gentle hero, which I believe to be one of the more common and less noticed heroes in the world today.

In any case … the countdown has begun! Three months and two days and this novel will finally be out for sale. It’s been a long but very satisfying road to see it get to this point and I’m excited for the next step.

 

 

Round Robin Discussion – Scarring your characters

This month for the Round Robin topic we are talking about emotionally scarred characters. The questioned posed is; “What mental, physical or spiritual wounds or scars have you used in your stories?”

The truth is … we all have scars. Whether they’re big or small or whatever, we have them. They define us as people. And the same should be said of any fictional character.

Now as a writer I don’t sit down with a particular “scar” in mind for the characters I’m dealing with. It’s really a discovery process for me. But once I’ve discovered that particular “wound” in my character’s personality I make sure to highlight it during the editing process and really draw it out.

Because being a writer is really being a student of humanity. We’re here to show what it is to be human and touch on subjects, both painful and joyful, that are often too complex to be fully expressed.

But which scars have I actually used?

Well, Trenna Dyngannon (Sedition series) had a serious issue with her mother that was really brought out in the second book of the series; Saboteur. Basically there was neglect and self-worth issues that Trenna had to battle through, which I found very interesting given how very strong Trenna is as a character.

One wouldn’t expect someone like Trenna Dyngannon to feel a sense of inadequacy, but due to close contact with her mother she finds herself struggling to remember that she isn’t actually defined by what her mother does or says.

In the Tapped series, both Seach and Jorry are deeply scarred by the fact that they had to abandon their former Captain. Relo’s absence is a deep burden for both of them given that they know exactly what has been done to him at the clutches of the government.

On top of that, Jorry and Seach are haunted by things that happened during the war. Moments that they wish they could forget, and truly traumatic orders that they found themselves bound to follow. This particular scar carries through the whole series (I’m in the middle of writing the second book now) and, inevitably, will come to a crisis point where they have to make a decision to either fight again, or try to find some other way to change the galaxy as they know it.

But perhaps the most noticeably scarred character of mine is Reesa Zimms from the book Deviation. Reesa is a science fiction novelist who has used her writing as a means of therapy for herself (no, this is not even remotely autobiographical, I promise) and in the book … well … let’s go ahead and give a snippet. I haven’t done one of those in ages.

“I’m dying, Matt,” she whispered.

She felt him move to her side, felt his knuckle graze her cheek, and heard him sigh.  “David is very good at what he does.  You should have a little faith,” he said.

Opening her eyes again she met his gaze. “And why should I be spared from a fate I forced onto the whole female race?”

He frowned, gently pushed a lock of hair behind her ear, and made a thoughtful hum.  She waited for his answer, praying it would be right.  She needed him to have an answer, to have some form of redemption for her.  Perhaps justice was served in her death, but even death-row inmates were given a chance at clemency, weren’t they?

A final prayer, a last wish, she thought.

“I think we’ve come to the matter of your own motivations, Reesa,” he said. “Tell me why you really wrote the books.”

Her heart might have stopped at the sudden wash of pain.  She certainly wished it would.  Fixing her gaze on the juncture between wall and ceiling above them, she was transported through her memory, to the small clinic exam room when she was eighteen years old.  Her mother’s voice rang loud in her ears, calling her irresponsible and thoughtless, convincing her that a child would ruin eight years of modeling competitions and progress.  And in her hand, Reesa could still feel the coarse, politely brown paper bag of contraceptives she’d been given after it was all over.

Matt made a soft, soothing sound and wiped the tears from her face.  Reesa closed her eyes, unwilling to look at him as she made her confession.

“I wrote a book where everyone was as ugly as I felt.”

Take a look at what others are saying about scarring their characters!

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2016/08/27/the-wounded-healer
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

 

Crappy First Drafts

The last several weeks I have been focused on Dead Weight, the sequel to Tapped, and I’ve been taking my NaNoWriMo approach with it.

What is my NaNoWriMo approach?

Well, for those of you who might not be aware, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is held by the Office of Letters and Light, and it is basically a free-for-all competition where you try to write 50,000 words in 30 days. They have little competitions run throughout the year, but the main one starts November 1st.

That’s a lot of words in 30 days and in order to achieve this lofty goal, one must set aside certain things …

Like their internal editor.

So when I say I’m taking my NaNoWriMo approach with Dead Weight right now, I mean that I have gagged my internal editor and shoved her in a dark closet somewhere. She’s still screaming at me, especially about Chapter 14 because I think I broke the rules of gravity in there somewhere, but I’m not listening.

Not yet.

The focus is to get a draft down that I can edit. The focus is that the story line makes sense, the plot is engrossing, and the basic elements of the characters are fleshed out. I can add more color and life to the page later.

The goal is to have a completed crappy draft by the end of October so that … I can participate in NaNoWriMo for real this year. I think I say that just about every year and I end up having to use November as a motivational month to get my current projects done, but this year …

This year I’m going to win NaNoWriMo.

With a paranormal romance novel, no less.

That’s right. I will be writing a full-on romance novel. I know several of my books are in the “fantasy romance” category, but when push comes to shove those are more Fantasy than they are Romance.

It’s going to be fun.

It’s going to be a challenge.

And I am going to win … leaving me with two crappy first drafts that will desperately need editing in 2017.

The Versatile Writer

One of the most important traits a good writer has is versatility. And I don’t just mean in life, but in the writing itself.

Yes, authors who want to see their books completed have to be versatile in their lives just to squeeze writing time into a day. Parents have to find times that don’t clash with the whole parenting regime (get ready for school, take child to such-and-such event, help child with homework, get child ready for bed.)

Those of us with day jobs obviously can’t write while at work, so there’s that obstacle to get around. And then most of us with children also have a day job, compounding the aforementioned things that take up our 24 hours.

So yes … writers have to be versatile.

But that’s not what I’m really talking about today.

You see, once upon a time I did a lot of interviews with a lot of different writers and I started to notice a somewhat alarming trait in most of them.

A lot of them, not all of them but the vast majority, were very stuck in one particular genre. It’s all they read. All they write. All they pay attention to.

I can only imagine that this mindset comes from the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” or “Why mess with a good thing” mantra that we’ve all heard. They found one genre that works for them. They like it. And they don’t see a need to expand further than that.

They “know what they like” and it made me just a little sad.

A book is a whole world, a whole life for the reader to live. By limiting yourself in your reading and writing habits, you’re limiting your readers too. Not only that, but you’re missing out on some really awesome learning experiences in regards to your craft.

Every book is like a cat. They have different personalities and different needs. Such as my cat versus my son’s new kitten.

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Pest. The Grandpa Cat.

My old grandpa cat (Pest) likes to laze around, talks to me while I’m on the phone, and lets me know I’ve been on the computer too long by attacking my head.

My son’s kitten (Nuisance) has a lot more energy, runs about, attacks anything that moves and recently chewed right through my headphone cord because apparently it looked really tasty. (Bad Kitty.)

I can’t approach Nuisance they way I do Pest. He attacks my hand when I do. I have to wait for him to come to me, curl up on my neck in the middle of the night and start to purr before I can really pet the creature.

It’s the same with books. You have to adapt to each one.

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Nuisance. The Kitten.

It’s alright if you really love writing in just one genre, but every genre has elements of the others in it. There’s mystery, romance, crime, adventure, and history in just about every single book you pick up. So if you’re not reading those genres, you’re missing out on seeing it done really well. (Or really poorly, depending on which book you pick up.)

So … versatility is more than just how you manage your time and adapt to your life, it’s about how you approach your craft. Are you willing to try something new?

Read a book you normally wouldn’t.

If you normally write in first person, try third. And vice versa.

Be a chameleon, you know? Your book is going to be versatile, or it should be, and how you approach it should change to match.

Kindle Scout

Alright, so we’re sort of in a mid-way point with the Kindle Scout campaign for Persona and I figured I’d do a little update to give you the sense I’m getting of this thing.

If you didn’t know already, I’m pretty awful at marketing.

Let’s just be honest with that one. I’d rather go to the dentist and have teeth pulled sans Novocaine than market myself. I do the bare minimum by announcing book releases and sales on FaceBook and here on this Blog.

I don’t know why that is, it just is, which makes this Kindle Scout campaign significantly harder for me.

Why?

AJMaguire-PersonaCoverArt-ChrisHoward_rev28_ART_ONLY

Cover Art by Chris Howard, who is absolutely amazing.

Well, because if you want to win this campaign, you’ve got to market it. You have to blast your friends, neighbors, strangers on the street, EVERYONE with news about the campaign for the entirety of the 30 days your stuff is running.

30 days of me shouting to check out my campaign and please, please, pretty please vote for it?

Yeah, no. I can’t do that.

It’s not that I’m not confident in Persona.

I love this book. I love where it started and I adore where it ended. It is a solid book. My style has grown and my understanding of the craft has become such that I know it’s better than anything I’ve written in the past.

So it’s not that I don’t think the book is good enough to be marketed. It is. It really, really is.

The problem is that, in our virtual society today, shouting at everyone for 30 whole days to nominate your campaign is … well … rude.

I know I get annoyed when someone is telling me the same thing over and over again. That little snarky judge that needles at my brain says; “Geez, vain much?” Or … “Ugh, I heard you the first time.” Or … “There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, my friend. Be careful cause I think you’ve crossed it.”

She’s a mean voice. I really try not to listen to her.

But she’s also a voice that I’m pretty sure exists in everyone’s head. So if I’m thinking that about other people … well … Obviously other people are going to think that about me should I start following suit.

Which leaves us to the problem at hand …

How do you market a Kindle Scout campaign for 30 whole days, keeping it fresh in everyone’s heads while not becoming that annoying, arrogant voice that everyone wants to shut out?

…….. I have no idea.

But then, I also have no idea how to really market my books either. So if you, brave author, already have a marketing plan in place and know how to use it, then Kindle Scout might actually work for you.

Because I’m like … 95% sure it’s not working for me.

Doesn’t mean I won’t try it again in the future, just means that next time I’ll know what I’m walking into and how to prepare for it.

Oh … and … um … here’s the campaign again. (See? Told you I was bad at this.)

 

 

Happy Release Day!

41SPrUMbf+LTorven is officially released!

You can find it on Amazon right now in both Kindle and Paperback versions. However, if you purchase the paperback then you can get the Kindle version for free.

Torven is a novelette, which means it is very small – just eight chapters long. It is a fairy tale and I did write it for my eight-year-old son, so it’s safe for all ages … as long as you don’t mind a little violence.

From the back cover:

Torven knows he is no normal beast. What little he can remember of his past tells him that he was a man once, not the wolf he roams as now. And he had known love once; a love that ran so deeply he can feel it even in his cursed form.

The Witch who controls him seems to delight in his torment, and under the watchful eyes of her minions Torven can find no peace. But when a poacher comes into the Blightwood Torven finds himself with a new assignment, handed down by the Witch herself.

Unable to combat the Witch’s magic, Torven goes on the hunt only to discover that this poacher is a woman. And not just any woman, but the woman from his memory. As time runs short and the Witch’s patience grows thin, Torven must find a way to communicate with the girl, to warn her of the danger, before an even more tragic fate can befall them.