Writing and Business and the In-Between

As of this evening my novelette “Torven” has a completed rough draft. Given its very small length (16006 words) I have been toying around with the idea of giving it away for free or really, really cheap (after it’s gone through a rigorous editing) which has led me to the normal marketing spiel/debate.

I’ve been here before. Often.

In fact, I’d like to say I’ve dipped my toes into murky depths of marketing since Sedition was first published five years ago. (Five years? Really? Sheesh.)

I have not, however, really committed to a marketing plan. Up until this point my focus was on my craft, wanting to just write the next story and grow as an author, and while none of those goals have changed (and never will, because that’s the whole point of taking ownership of your craft) … I can say that I am going to step intrepidly out into the realm of marketing.

I started, quite comically, with a giveaway of Tapped today on Amazon. The giveaway lasted all of an hour, which … really showed me how bad I am at math. (5 books + every 5th entrant wins = about an hour’s worth of giveaway time. Just in case anyone else needs this information.)

But I learned a great deal about what I want to do in the future. I’ve set up a pretty little timetable to follow for marketing – when I want to do what promotions and at what sites – and even color-coded it … because I’m a geek like that.

I am also in the process of revamping my website … with help because I’m really not great at it.

As to writing itself …

With “Torven” done I can go back to Dead Weight, the sequel to Tapped. I’ll be revamping the outline based on the things I learned in James Patterson’s Master Class (still an awesome thing and if you write, you should check it out.)

Basically, I’ll be going over the outline once a week through the month of April. Start to finish. Tightening the plot. Adding elements of the suspense genre into my science fiction … basically implementing everything Mr. Patterson set out to teach me in 22 lessons.

I’m excited.

It’ll be fun.

And I’ll record all the mayhem here because I can … and maybe it’ll help someone else down the road.

 

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Throwing Confetti! (AKA – Persona’s Re-Write is done!)

Technically I started this book over a decade ago while working at a Clinic & Hospital. I toted it around in a notebook and copied pages off for my mother since typing on the electric typewriter (shut up, I couldn’t afford a computer back then) took more time than I had.

Yes, she still has those copied pages buried in a closet somewhere and no matter how much I beg her, AJMaguire-PersonaCover-1280hshe refuses to use them for kindling.

Mothers, you know?

Anyway, seven drafts and a decade later I finally, finally have a completed story.

Many will remember that the original re-write was posted online, chapter by chapter, in 2013 but I hired an editor (like you do) and he loathed the ending so much I had to re-think what I was trying to do with this particular story.

After many nights with mint-chocolate-chip ice-cream, pouring over his notes and sketching outlines (there were at least a dozen before I came up with the one I used) and after an agonizingly long rehabilitation process from the avocado incident in 2014 (I know how to properly core an avocado now, so there’s no worry for me stabbing myself again) I have learned a great deal about the writing process through this one book alone.

First, I learned that editors are worth their weight in gold. Yes, they’re expensive, but I don’t regret the money I’ve laid out.

Second, and this is going to sound weird, but I work better with Courier New font during the draft process and then turning it into Times New at the end. It’s just a quirk of mine.

Third, sticking to a single point of view is hard. At least for me it is. But forcing myself to do this brought the character into more detail, forced me to dig deeper and really explore who she was and how she felt about what was happening.

Fourth, I must be careful of what I’m reading while I’m in the drafting process because my personal style begins to mimic the style of what I’m reading.

Fifth, I am a romance author. I may have Fantasy and Science Fiction and, now, Historical Fiction under my name but in the end, I am a romantic and I want to see my characters find someone who will support and build them up as people. The romance may not be the focal point of the story, but it is there and I refuse to be ashamed of that anymore.

Now then, this does not mean I’m going to start writing straight romance novels. I can’t. I tried that once and ended up with Witch-Born.

It just means that I’m not going to shy away from it anymore.

Love is an integral part of human life.

I mean, even Star Wars has romance in it.

I can write things like that. I enjoy writing things like that, so I’m going to.

Round Robin Blog Posts – Social Issues in Fiction

I’m so happy to be joining the Round Robin Blog Hop this month. This month’s topic discusses social/current event issues that are important to me and how, when, or if I allow them to seep into my fiction. 

Deviation-510Let me start off with admitting that I definitely allow social issues to be addressed in my fiction. Anyone who has read my work, particularly my science fiction, will have noticed this for certain. Deviation, for example, has the very blatant conversation about women’s rights. Tapped is the start of a much larger conversation on religion that will be spanning several novels. The Abolitionist (which I’ll start later next year) is fairly self-explanatory.

All of these issues are very important to me and I believe that every author has the responsibility to Scornedsay something with their fiction.

However …

I also believe that every author has the responsibility to thoroughly research, understand, and clearly provide counterpoints to any social issue they address in their writing.

I shy away from making my personal opinions known here on the blog because honestly, I hate fueling the fire for these sorts of debates. They’re pointless and detract from the more important social issues that we should be spending our energy debating and attempting to fix … like homelessness, children living in poverty, the fact that some employment applications (or other legal forms) still ask for your “ethnicity” and therefore support a racist social structure, or the shameful amount of people going hungry everywhere …

But all of those things I can and do address in my writing. I “address” them, but I do not answer them because honestly, if I’ve written it right then I won’t have to.

Readers don’t need me to tell them poverty is bad, they already know it. My job as an author is to help somehow bridge the gap between the Reader and that poverty, to help them experience it so that they understand why poverty is bad.

This is terribly idealistic of me but I truly believe that we can change the world. Books can change the world. Stories can change the world. Authors … can change the world. Not by telling the world what to think, but by exposing these issues for what they are and bringing them forward in a terribly intimate way.

Have a look at what some of my fellow authors believe in and write about in today’s Round Robin Blog Hop …

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/
Margaret Fieland  http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/
Victoria Chatham  http://victoriachatham.webs.com/
Connie Vines  http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Bob Rich  http://wp.me/p3Xihq-vQ
Rachael Kosinski  http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Helena Fairfax  http://helenafairfax.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Rhobin Courtright  http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/

Writing While Unmotivated

I know there are lots people out there who just plain won’t write if they do not have the proper inspiration. They follow their creative muse and lean heavily on the concept of being an artist, and those things are true. Writing is an art and yes, sometimes you just plain don’t want to write.

I’m not talking about those moments when life steals your writing time. I’m talking about those moments when you sit down at the computer for your designated 2-3 hours of writing time and just don’t want to do it. The words feel stale in your mind, feel stale when you get them on paper, and you think that a thousand other authors could write this better than you are right now.

How do you push through that?

Well, I imagine it will be different for each person but I can tell you a couple of things I’ve learned about myself.

1) These moments do not last for only a day.

If I allow it, this feeling of drudgery can last for months at a time. So when I discover myself stuck in one, I have to take measures immediately. Sometimes this means going for a walk, cleaning the house, going to the gym or jumping in a pool. Anything where my brain can wander wherever it wants.

2) Rely On Craft

Yes, it does feel like I’m slogging through my work when I’m in this particular mindset. Yes, I groan and grump and get only a little bit of progress done on my manuscript. But the truth is, if I write anyway then I find myself looking at the work through the mindset of my craft, instead of the mindset of my muse.

Yes, it’s hard.

However, when I look at the work through the mindset of my craft I generally find a solution that would never have occurred to me any other way. It zooms the creative lens out and forces me to think outside of the character and onto the book as a whole, which produces a far stronger book.

The awesome thing about relying on my Craft, is that eventually something sparks and the inspiration snaps back into place. It might take several weeks, but it’ll get there and I’ve learned to have faith in that.

3) Read

When I start feeling unmotivated, I start reading anything and everything I can get my hands on. Fiction, Nonfiction, News, Poetry, literally anything in my path I will read. This not only stores new concepts and story ideas somewhere in my subconscious, but it makes me a better writer when that motivation finally does return.

4) … And this is going to sound terribly geeky … Play a Genre specific game

If I’m writing a science fiction, I will play wither Star Wars or Star Trek. If I’m writing fantasy, I play Dungeon Siege. Historical Fiction … well, I haven’t found a game for that one but I do watch tons of WWII movies and documentaries. My creative mind soaks up the visuals of those games (and/or movies) and often bounces me right back into wanting to write again.

And that’s it. Those are my four steps to getting back into the swing of things. Generally, I do all four. They aren’t a guarantee that my muse will start working again quickly, but I know that eventually it’ll come back. The main focus is that I keep writing regardless because I know that my Craft is capable of moving forward.

Breathable Text

Every book teaches me something. Even the books I hate teach me what I want to avoid in my personal writing.

I might rage about certain aspects of the story or throw the book across the room when I’m done with it (if I have it on hard copy instead of Kindle, of course) but in the end I always learn something.

Perhaps the most humbling moment is when I pick up a novel that I wrote years ago and see, quite clearly, everything I did wrong. There’s nothing more heartening or heartbreaking than that moment.

Heartening because it means I’m growing as an author and my craft has improved. Heartbreaking because the text I loved so much back then … I kinda loathe now.

I’ve come to expect this moment in the writing process so when I picked up Persona to begin editing I had myself braced for impact, you know? But sometimes the “impact” is really a “click” in the brain that recognizes a broader problem and I sit back and go … “Oh, I get it now!”

The proverbial light coming on in the brain.

The moment in school when algebra suddenly made sense.

Or, in this particular case, the realization that my text isn’t breathable. It isn’t livable. The character might be sympathetic, a woman I admire and want to emulate in my real life sometimes because she is so kind and she does overcome her own fear while facing down terrible circumstances, but the narrative itself doesn’t breathe.

I’ve identified this as a “lens” problem.

A “lens” problem in the writing world is a matter of distance between the character and the narrative. In this case, my lens was too tight on Megan and I wasn’t taking into account the setting, tone, or secondary characters.

On the one hand, this makes Megan very clear as a character but it also makes the world feel flat.

So!

I’m adding to my writing toolbox today and throwing the “narrative lens” in there as a means of bringing the world and setting to life. Don’t get tunnel-vision with the character because the character is informed and influenced by the world around them.

Creation Phase

In answer to everyone who has ever looked at me and said; “I just don’t see how you do it.”

It never starts with a blank page so let’s go ahead and toss that myth out the window. The blank page comes later, and it never stays blank for long because the moment pen meets paper or fingers meet keyboard things start to happen.

There is a second as the writer’s brain gropes for the correct words where the undisturbed white of pen or screen is daunting, but eventually that right word, phrase, character or situation snaps into being and the story begins. Unless, of course, said writer gives up and walks away.

Maybe they walk away for a day, maybe forever.

It seems important to note that the one who comes back, the one who braves the glaring white of the unmarred page, is the real writer. The one who never comes back … well … Enough said there.

But none of that really matters because this isn’t where the story starts.

The story started ages ago with a flicker of an idea, a foggy dream barely remembered, or the name of a character who simply will not go away. That’s the beginning of the creation process, the start of a new, grand tale. It could be months or years before the story is physically written, but it is constantly being cultivated in the back of the mind.

Notebooks or 3×5 cards or little documents are made with character thoughts, plot suggestions, and mental images that capture the mood of the story. These are all compiled, stored away for the moment when we finally find ourselves ready to take the plunge and begin writing.

Maybe there’s an outline. Maybe there’s just a character with a problem.

The creation phase for any book is beautiful and fragile and unpredictable. Most of us bemoan the drafts that come after, the editing and the synopsis and the querying and everything that has become synonymous with novel-writing, but the beginnings of a new story …

That we seem to treasure.

Bring it on 2015!

I am dubbing 2014 as a success in spite of the avocado fiasco and am seriously excited to see what I can accomplish in 2015. I’ve already got a couple of things planned but today we’re filling out the writing schedule for the whole year … which I’ll admit is like my favorite part of the holiday season.

This is mostly for me but if you’re brave enough to peek into my writer’s brain then … welcome to the mayhem!

This is like my personal pep-talk and I’ll reference it throughout the year just to keep myself revved up and ready to write and … well, attack life with fervor. Because really, if we’re not deliberately living then we’re missing out.

So! Here’s what I want to do in 2015 …

1) Publish Tapped (Scheduled: January 13, 2015)

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I’ve decided to try my hand at the self-published market. I’ve learned quite a bit from the two small presses that have published me over the last couple years and while I adore them both, the Tapped series requires just a little more freedom.

2) Edit Persona (Scheduled: January – March)

Starting January 2nd I will begin implementing edits from my editor(s) for Persona. (Thank you Michael Keenan.) This edit requires a major overhaul of the ending. As soon as it is done it will go back in to said editor so I have a hard deadline of April 1st.

3) Residual Haunting Wrap-Up (Scheduled: January – March)

Back in October I started serializing Residual Haunting at Wattpad and its own Story Blog. We’re currently on chapter 12 and there are 13 more to go. Needless to say, the serialization will continue after the New Year. I chose not to post anything over the holiday break due to people being away with their families and such.

4) Edit Usurper (Scheduled: April – June)

Trenna fans can stop hounding me. As soon as this edit is complete it will go in to the publisher (Wings ePress) who has first rights to all things Dyngannon.

5) NEW CONTENT WRITING (Scheduled: April – June)

My brain is funny sometimes. I can work on 2 projects at a time so long as one is being edited and one is being created. That’s why you see the first three months of 2015 I am editing Persona and finishing Residual Haunting. I have several novels on the back burner that are just waiting to be written so I get to pick from the following;

Dead Weight (sequel to Tapped) / Alex Huntley (Civil War) / Warpath (4th Trenna book) / Primal (Dragons)

6) Query Goals (Scheduled: August – December)

Given the professionalism of my editor I know that by July 2015 I will have Persona back in my hot little hands. I’ve carved out the months of July and August to go through those edits again. It’s a shorter time frame because there should be less work involved (meaning no major over-hauls and such) but once it’s done I will begin querying the book out.

7) NEW CONTENT WRITING (Scheduled: July – September)

Obviously whichever one I manage to do in April-June is off the list here, but the choices are the same. Dead Weight (sequel to Tapped) / Alex Huntley (Civil War) / Warpath (4th Trenna book) / Primal (Dragons)

8) Edit Residual Haunting (Scheduled: October – December)

By the time October rolls around I should be ready to pick up Residual Haunting again and start editing the crap out of it.

9) Participate in National Novel Writing Month (Scheduled: November … and probably December)

Because I just can’t seem to get enough of this program I’ll be trying my hand at this competition again. Depending on what I’ve managed to get finished earlier in the year I will likely pick from my list of 4 back-burner novels. If I’ve written Dead Weight then I know there’s a third Tapped novel (Inmate) that should be added to this list as well. And I have an Aliens vs. Vampires novel buzzing in the back of my brain too.

10) Poetry Reading and All Things Not Writing

I want to read a poem a week. I like poetry, I just really suck at writing it. So! I’ll read it instead. One a week through 2015.

Also in 2015 I want to learn at least 6 new martial art forms/kata (trust me, I have the means to do this.)

I want to read 12 new books from authors I haven’t read before. If you know a book you think I should try please let me know. This is a book a month and I know I read tons more than that so this should be easy.

I want to climb mountains with my kid and generally enjoy the adventure that is being a parent. (AKA – we’re going to go find some fun.)

And that’s it. That’s my 10(+) for the year of 2015. I can do this. I know I can do this. Bring it on!