Friday, October 26, 2018

NaNo Prep: Do you even NaNo, bro?

It is that time of year again!

No, not Halloween, though that's cool. Not pre-Turkey Day or pre-pre-whatever wintry holiday is on your calendar. I'm talking about NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month.

'Tis the season for writing hundreds and thousands of words each day. It is a serious challenge - there's a reason we only do this once a year - but it does have a purpose. Getting ready for the challenge is only the first step, but it is an important step.

Why Should You NaNo?

Having a writing challenge is a great way to push through a writing slump. Or to get that first novel finished. Or get the latest novel finished. Or to get another work done for your backlist. Whatever the WIP, the result is the same - you have a built-in challenge and support system for getting it done.

And the support system is great. Even if you aren't writing a novel. You can find a group in the forums who write poems, comics/graphic novels, screenplays. You can find people who are writing children's books, novellas, collections of short stories.

If you are a student, there's a group for that. If you are a parent, there's a group for that. If you are an older author, there's a group for that. If you are a young author, there's a group for that.

Prefer tea over coffee for your liquid stimulant? Group. Want to write a western fantasy? Group. Live in Antarctica? Group.

Any issue you might have with time, with life, with plot or characterization, you can find others who are going through something similar. So get your writing on and join me!

NaNo Prep

Whether you are a pantser or a planner (like me), you might need to do some NaNo Prep. It could be getting the title and general idea nailed down in your head. It could be a full outline.

Here are some other ideas:

  1. Research for that historical or other setting you have in mind.
  2. Plan a murder... you know, that one in your story.
  3. Get some snackies to stash for quick energy when you are in the zone and don't want to stop for lunch/supper/midnight pizza run.
  4. Make sure you are stocked up on your fav drink.
  5. Create a vision board with pics of buildings, characters, and/or scenes.
  6. Make a playlist for your writing.
  7. Learn how to shut off your computer's internet. Also, the easiest way to mute your phone.
  8. Plan meals - especially important if you have kids and a hubby who expect you to do stuff during NaNo. Planning meals will streamline grocery shopping, and you'll always know what meat to defrost for supper. #Winning
  9. Make plans for family events, such as Thanksgiving, before the writing starts.
  10. Have fun!

Rock it!

Don't forget to enjoy the process! Join groups, get into word sprints, go to write ins, and get that 50k on the paper/screen. This is about achievement, not "doing it right" by someone else's standards.

Just get it written.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Code-Switching in Writing

Code-switching is a term often used in liberal circles to describe how (usually) minorities change the way they communicate in their own communities versus mainstream situations. In this case, I am using code-switching in its broader definition: the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation.

People use code-switching all the time in their lives - you don't use the same words, jargon, slang, etc. when you are talking to your friends, your family, or in a business situation. Sometimes, it's about fitting in with a group. Sometimes, it's a matter of how easy it is to communicate. Sometimes, it's even for emphasis. Capische?

But what does this have to do with writing?

Writers can code-switch, too, not just by using slang or other language words, but also by choosing how formal they are with grammar and colloquial phrasing, or even using a specific vernacular.

It's like, you gotta have a kinda voice when you talkin' to casual peeps or they get all up in your face 'bout how snotty you come across.

Alternatively, certain personages require a level of formality and adherence to formal grammatical practices that are often--but not always--agreed upon. Sadly, the assumption of the universality of these grammatical rules is not quite factual.

Right-o. There's some things that are seen as being more common then they really are. People have some wack perspectives about what's right and wrong, or correct and incorrect. And, most of the time, it doesn't even matter, except for how you want to come across, which is completely dependent on your audience, not some style book.

However, don't be fooled into thinking that less formal means less structured. There are now classes people can take to go over the very real and firm rules around African American Vernacular English (formerly known as Ebonics). Another fascinating dialect with similar characteristics to AAVE is Creole in the New Orleans area.

It is important to note that code-switching often involves using English that will make style-strict editors twitch. A good editor will acknowledge the code-switching involved in writing particular genres and with character POVs. If you are writing urban fiction, you probably don't want to use a formal (read: white, European, upper-class, historical) format. If you are writing high fantasy with royalty and ancient secret societies of wizards, etc, you will want a more formal writing style.

However, you also want to skew your non-dialog prose towards the formality level your target audience is familiar with. I recommend keeping the non-dialog formality level within one or two steps of the dialog of the main character(s) for consistency.

Blah, blah, blah. What could my point possibly be?

Well, because English has outright stolen borrowed so much from other languages (like Old Norse), it has rules that only apply maybe most of the time, backwards syntax, and a whole load of non-English words from literally random other languages. English is hard. Native speakers get it wrong all the time. Those with a degree in English but not linguistics get it wrong all the time. Even those who study the linguistics side of it get it wrong ALL THE TIME.

I used to joke that I used up all my language slots to be really good at English (cuz I'm not great at learning other languages despite trying... a lot). I still say it, but it isn't so much of a joke now. English is just hard.

Yet, people in the writing communities online throw hardcore shade if someone makes an error, even in a non-writerly, non-business situation. I seriously got into a discussion about whether a dangling participle was acceptable for an author in a FB post. SERIOUSLY?!?

You would think that people who know how hard the making of the words is, the people who grok the evil conspiracy of aut
o-correct, the people who literally spend money to correct their errors... THOSE PEOPLE would be a little more lenient about "teh" in a post someone makes about their kids driving them crazy after a day at the park.

Come on, authors! We can do better. We can be better. We can cut each other some slack and acknowledge that a dangling participle is linguistically appropriate in common vernacular. We can back up off the lack of an Oxford comma in a tweet. We can accept "gonna", "cuz", "kinda", and "prolly" as casual, easily-understood shortcuts in a world of smart phone keyboards and *instant* messages.

And sometimes, we just don't want to go back and fix the stupid little error on a social media post about kitteh wut can haz skritches. Cuz KITTEH!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Dark Heroes and Why We Like Them

Everybody loves an anti-hero these days. Whether it's the massively successful Deadpool or the growling, scowling Wolverine, heroes that kinda aren't are huge.

But why?

Perhaps it's the frustration with the rules and laws that so many people see in their lives.

People get busted due to technicalities while others walk free due to loopholes. Laws that are unfair or unjust may be passed, or fair laws may be reinterpreted in ways that no one anticipated. Whatever it is, there is an undeniable growth in people's anger and fear about the Law of the Land and how it is enforced. Even if you don't agree with that assessment.

We've all had something unfair or unjust happen to us. We each have had that one person who used the rules to hurt us or someone we cared about. We've all had our Umbridge to deal with. We all know what it's like to want to get revenge on someone who was only technically right.

Perhaps it's the freedom that the vigilante style promises. The Merc with the Mouth can say pretty much anything he wants to, and consequences are temporary at best. How awesome would that be? We spend a lot of time thinking about how what we say will affect us, usually through how it makes other people feel. Whether we agree with such consideration or not, it can be stressful.

Perhaps we want to be able to dispense justice where none is available. The Punisher was able to give "untouchable" criminals what they deserved. Of course, that was by his determination. If more people did that kind of thing, they'd likely start hunting each other down. Which might be amusing...

Perhaps we are just sick and tired of having to process so much, care so much, invest so much with so little return. Maybe we would rather not give a damn, like so many anti-heroes do in their own lives. Maybe we want something so sweet and pure that it makes us want to care again, like so many anti-heroes encounter.

The point is, we live in a world with a lot more gray than black and white, perhaps more than ever before, or perhaps that's just the perception we have. Who knows?

Either way, we have a very dark and nihilistic view of the world, right now, as a society. Our heroes and protagonists are reflective of that, and we want our heroes and protagonists to reflect some secret, closely-held part of ourselves.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

3 Fantasy Series (and 1 Non-Fantasy Series) That Inspired the Runespells

There are a few series that directly inspired my writing of the Runespells series. Whether it was how the characters talked or the way the magic worked, the following series helped me develop what became Too Wyrd and the rest of the Runespells books.
  1. The Dresden Files - This one is pretty obvious - I talk about it a lot. The truth is, the Dresden Files solidified a really vague concept in my mind by showing me what a good magic PI story looked like. While I didn't end up doing a magic PI story, that was the original idea, and I left a lot of the elements of that style in the series.
  2. Stephanie Plum series - This may seem a bit out of place, but having a woman main character in a mystery/thriller series was a bit of a new thing when I was developing my concept (around 15 years ago). The first book of this series, especially, showed me a woman who didn't need to be the romantic interest to carry the story.
  3. The Rowan Gant Investigations - MR Sellars did a spectacular job bringing in Pagan beliefs and magical realism for his paranormal PI series. The story arcs with the individual books, as well as the series arc, were so well done, I couldn't help but learn a bunch about plotting by looking closely at this series.
  4. The "Dark" Carpathian series by Christine Feehan - Speaking of plotting, nothing has shown me the power of plotting series arcs like this series. It's a paranormal romance series with over 30 books, and the overall series plot is still rolling strong. Looking at how the hints in the beginning build into full plots in later books is a thing of authorial beauty. I've picked up a lot from reading this series, and I recommend it for a good series arc example.
Those are my selections for series that have inspired me. I will be posting more, focusing on individual books, and things that inspired other of my works.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

"A Time & a Place" in Counterclockwise: A Time Travel Anthology Released

My story, A Time & a Place, is a prequel short for the M.A.G.U.S. Chronicles. I will be releasing the first of the series, Threadreader, early 2019.

Tianna is a Timesinker, a fae-blood magecrafter with the ability to travel through time. Her journey begins when she is caught in the cross-fire of a battle between magecrafters, but it doesn't end until she learns how easy it is for a timesinker to cause both the beginning... and the end. The enemy crosses her timeline more than once, but can she be on the winning side every time?

Grab this anthology to get a great assortment of stories, and to get your taste of the M.A.G.U.S. Chronicles!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

New Challenge and Website Forum

I've begun a rather intense challenge. I've set up a schedule to make 13 publications in 24 months. That means writing around one novel or short story every 2 months for two years.

The good news? You can join me! Maybe just for a few months, or for the whole 24 - your choice. Post your updates, chat about hiccoughs and life stuff, and get a bit of accountability in my new website forum, Writing Talk!

Sign up today!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Creative Writing Coaching - Do you need it?

Writing a novel is hard. Period. It is a lot of work with virtually no feedback during the process. While some people prefer the void when getting the words down, others need someone who has realistic understanding and expectations of where you are in the process. Sadly, as supportive as friends and family can be, they don't always know that a first draft isn't going to be a clean story.

This is where you might want to consider a writing coach.

What is Creative Writing Coaching?

Well, it's when you pay someone to encourage and advise you on your creative writing project. A good coach will be a sounding board, throw out some ideas for you to use or to launch from, show you the value of each step of the sometimes painfully slow writing process, and get you to keep going!

When do you need a writing coach?

You can use a coach when you first start, to help you learn the ropes and make sure you don't get discouraged by the whole, daunting process. You can also use a coach on your 50th novel to keep you on track, because we all need that at times.

While you usually want to get a writing coach in at the beginning of a project, in the idea stage, you can hire a writing coach at any time during the process. Be aware that a coach may require an additional fee or (paid) time to get caught up if you hire them halfway through.

What should you look for in a writing coach?

  1. Communication Style While a coach who is familiar with your genre is helpful, the point of a coach is to advise you on the more general writing process. So, it is more important to find someone whose communication style resonates with you.
  2. Experience in Format/Length You should look for someone who has experience writing the length of stories that you are working on. A short story plots and writes very differently than a novel. Many coaches have worked on writing various lengths of story, but you'll want to make sure the one you are looking at can do the format you need.
  3. Availability Be upfront with deadlines, and make sure the coach you are looking at hiring can work with that schedule. Rush jobs may warrant a rush surcharge to make up for the coach having to rearrange other aspects of their schedule.
  4. Accessibility This is how the writing coach plans on communicating with you. Most coaches use primarily text based communications, such as email, instant messaging (IM), etc. However, some coaches will also offer regular voice or video conferencing via phone, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. If you prefer to be able to speak to the coach, it may be a priority to find someone who can do that.
  5. Pricing A lot of factors go into pricing. A coach who is in high demand will likely charge more, as will a coach with years of experience. A coach who offers more in accessibility may charge more simply to cover the costs of any software needed to maintain that accessibility. While writing coaches, like editors, are an investment in your writing, you still need to find someone within your ability to pay them.

How do you find and hire a writing coach?

The best way to find a coach is by word of mouth. Ask your favorite editor or writer(s) if they know any. You can also ask around your writing groups, IRL or online.

Another way to find coaches is to google it. There are dozens of listings through writing journals, publishers, organizations, etc. The disadvantage here is that you don't know anything about them, and listings may be outdated.

Once you find someone, take the time to talk with them about their services. Pay attention to how quickly they get back to you, and how well they communicate with you. This is a good indication of how they will do the same while rendering services.

Lastly, don't forget to leave a review! As with authors, editors and writing coaches love having customers leave feedback, which they can use to promote their services. Even a few sentences is awesome! You can also ask if they offer any referral bonuses or discounts!

Good luck!