September 30, 2011

publishing battle swaperoo

Some of you may remember a post I did a while back about choosing to self-publish rather than go the traditionalroute. In that post, I talk about my evolving perspective of the publishing industry. I concluded with self-publishing because “in the eye of the reader, [the mode of publication] doesn’t matter.” They just want a good book.

Now, the problem with this line of thought is the fact that it takes a lot of work and even more luck to get a self-published book in front of a reader. If I have any insight into the everyday reader’s mind, they choose books based on a) recommendations from friends or Amazon, b) randomly stumbling upon it in a book store, or c) searching for a specific type of book.

Most readers choose books based on word of mouth. When a friend is reading a book, or two friends, most people who enjoy reading don’t want to be left out of the discussion. Why do you think Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games have done so well? People talked the books up to their friends.

September 28, 2011

different writing forms

So, it’s common knowledge that I’m a novelist. I write novels. It’s what I do. It’s all I do, and that may not be the best thing. When I start a project, I immediately think of it in novel format, an overarching story of 60,000–80,000 words. Maybe I should start thinking smaller.

Maybe I should write some shorter fiction, just to break things up a bit, to train myself in brevity. And of course, to have fun. I love short fiction. The shorter the better. Most of my short stories come in at less than 1000 words. The longer ones rarely go on more than 1500 words. Then there are the sweet select few that are less than 500 words. Those tend to be my favorite. They’re punchy, poetic, and rather alliterative. Here is one that I particularly love that’s less than 150 words. And it’s best read aloud.

September 26, 2011

the writer's curse

I’ve come to realize that as writers, we are cursed. I think most people who pursue some sort of artistic career can say the same of their profession. The curse eats away at us, makes us doubt, feeds us with insecurity and despair, until we dare to give up.

That curse is fear.

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately. Amazing books. I’m nearly finished with A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin, and I am in awe of how seriously epic his books are. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I think Why on Earth am I a writer? I could never write something so brilliant as this. I’ve regressed into that awful place of comparison, where I pit my writing against the greatest authors of our time and watch as my words are ripped to shreds, stomped on, spit on, and carried away on the wind. I can never compare to Martin, Rowling, or Jones. I can never write something so great, so why do I even try?

September 23, 2011

review: the princess curse

The Princess Curse – Merrie Haskell

Twelve princesses suffer from a puzzling—and downright silly—curse. Ridiculous though the curse may be, whoever breaks it will win a handsome reward.
Sharp-witted Reveka, an herbalist’s apprentice, has little use for princesses, with their snooty attitudes and impractical clothing. She does, however, have use for the reward money, which could buy her a position as a master herbalist.
But curses don’t like to be broken, and Reveka’s efforts lead her to deeper mysteries. As she struggles to understand the curse, she meets a shadowy stranger (as charming as he is unsettling) and discovers a blighted land in desperate need of healing. Soon the irreverent apprentice is faced with a daunting choice—will she break the curse at the peril of her own soul?

September 21, 2011

what i’m working on

I have no idea.

For the past month (plus a week), I’ve been dabbling in different story ideas, trying to figure out what to work on. First it was the love-triangle fantasy. Then it was the steampunk sequel. The time-travel adventure. The fantasy I’ve already written twice. Another fantasy. And now, I’m back to the fantasy I’ve already written. Next week, I might change my mind again.

I’m indecisive (which you are all probably tired of hearing).

September 19, 2011

based on the book

So, I’ve finally committed to reading A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. I’ve known about the books for a long time, but until recently, they didn’t fall into my usual reading preferences. I am a very picky reader, as any of my friends can tell you, and for a while, I didn’t like gritty, realistic, gory, political heavy fiction. However, a while back (I forget how long ago), my husband and I started watching HBO’s Game of Thrones, based on the first book in the aforementioned series.

We both loved it.

And for the next few weeks, months, however long, we debated on whether or not we would buy the books to find out what happens next. My husband is in one boat: reading the books will ruin the show for me. I was in the other boat: I really really want to know what happens next, and I don’t care if the show isn’t as good after reading the books. However, we hesitated buying the books, because well, there are five of them now, and even with the bundle, the books would cost us $45. Now, that’s really not that much money considering that I’ve already spent ten times that on books this year. The hesitation came from not knowing whether or not the books were as good as the show. Would the books be worth the cost? Since finishing the show, I’ve read several reviews ranging from loved it to hated it, and there was no one I knew that had read the books and could give me a good, honest opinion.

September 16, 2011

root beer bundt cake + blog award

So, I’ve decided that for some of my Friday posts—since they’re usually the ones that are random and/or have very little depth—I’m going to list recipes that I’ve used during the week that I think you might enjoy. If you aren’t interested in awesome baking splendor, there is a blog award after the recipe.

Yesterday, we ate dinner at a friend’s house, and I—as is usually the case—was in charge of dessert. I made this little beauty.

September 14, 2011

revision plan

Now that most of my beta-readers are getting back to me on the steampunk project, I can start working on a revision plan. I’ve never done a revision plan before, but a suspect that it works a lot like a plot outline does for a story. I have gotten excellent feedback from everyone so far. I still have a few more friends with the manuscript, and I hope they enjoy the story as much as the others.

One thing is clear: I’m no expert at characterization. I’m somewhere between novice and advanced beginner. My goal is to become, at bare minimum, competent. So as a major part of my revision plan, I’ll focus on further characterization of secondary characters.

September 12, 2011

stealing from stories we love

I think that for every writer, as much as we devour stories, we come across that one story, the one that speaks to us, the one we wish we had written.

A lot of writers will respond: Oh, I wish I would have written Harry Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games because then, I’d be rich right now. Not me. Of all my favorite books, there isn’t really one that I wish I would have thought of. I love Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, but I know for a fact, that even with that spectacular idea, I never could have executed the story as masterfully as she did. The same goes with the Harry Potter series. I love the books, but I couldn’t have written them better than J.K. Rowling. Even if I took those ideas—a cursed girl stumbles upon a moving castle owned by a wizard; ordinary boy discovers he is a wizard and that he is the only person to have survived the killing curse that killed his parents—and made them as much my own as possible, my stories would still be second-rate compared to the original, if not considered plagiarism.

September 9, 2011

interview + wishy-washiness

Fellow blogger and commenter here at ye olde blog, Reece Hanzon, did an interview with me yesterday, mostly about me and my writing. If you are interested in that, you can check it out here.

In other news, I am perhaps the most wishy-washy writer there ever was. Last week, I committed to writing the princess-peasant magical swap story. This week, I thought I’d write the time-travel adventure. Today, I’m thinking about a completely different story that I started on last year but never finished.

There are too many ideas bouncing around in my head and I can’t decide which one to pursue. And the biggest problem: they're ideas, not plots, not stories. They’re all so alluring, promising to fill that empty hole of not-writing, but they aren't right. Maybe I just need to stop worrying about writing and just let the right idea come to me. Trying to force an idea into a plot isn’t going to make things better for me, especially if I decide I’m not ready to write it. I’m not ready to write the princess-peasant magical swap story or the time-travel adventure. But what book I am ready to write remains a mystery.

Maybe all these failed attempts at writing a book other than the next Chroniker City novel is a sign that I should stop trying to write something else. Maybe I should write the sequel. I thought that maybe I would get burned out on it, but now I’m not so sure. Especially after reading Merrie Haskell’s The Princess Curse yesterday, I realize that having to wait long periods of time for a sequel (if there will even be a sequel) is really frustrating. I don’t want to do that to my readers. But at the same time, I don’t want to wait several books before writing a fantasy novel.

Like I said: wishy-washy. I’m probably the most indecisive person on the planet (and my husband can attest to that).

So it looks like I have a bit more mind-sorting to do. In the meantime, I have a few books that I’m definitely going to read this weekend and the following week:

A Tale of Time City – Diana Wynne Jones (the reason my blog post is so late this morning; I stayed up reading)
The Dark Lord of Derkholm – Diana Wynne Jones
How to Be a Pirate - Cressida Cowell
How to Speak Dragonese - Cressida Cowell
How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse - Cressida Cowell
How to Twist a Dragon's Tale - Cressida Cowell
A Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons - Cressida Cowell
How to Ride a Dragon's Storm - Cressida Cowell

(I loved How to Train Your Dragon so it’s only fitting that I would purchase the remaining released books)

I also have other books that I bought several months ago but have yet to read. I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t seem to get into them. I want to. I paid money for these books. I would hate for that to go to waste. But it seems like they’re books that I should read, rather than books that I want to read. Maybe I should stop feeling so guilty about not reading them and just get around to them sometime in the far future. Or never read them at all.

Anyway, I hope you all have a grand weekend, filled with cuddly, rainbow things. Happy Friday.

September 7, 2011

story instincts

So, you know how last week, I talked about my next project being Princes, Princesses, and Peasants, Oh My!? Well, now I’m not so sure. Over the weekend, I did a lot of thinking and word-fumbling. I had several people ask me what the story was about, and would you believe, I couldn’t get it across within three sentences. After the first two or three explanations of three or four paragraphs to each individual, trying to insert as much detail as possible to get them to see how interesting it was, without giving away the key plot points, I decided that I would just respond “It’s too complicated.” And that’s when I realized that maybe this isn’t the story I need to write. Maybe it isn’t as good as I thought it was. Or—and this one is probably the right answer—it’s not the story I need to write now.

I don’t know about you guys, but when I first started writing, I tackled the most difficult story my little teenage brain could think of. I have no doubt that it was a good idea. However, the execution was poorly done. At that time in my writing career, I was not a good enough writer to bring that story to life. I know I’m still not a good enough writer for it. I could write it, but it would be as good as if I wrote it five or ten years from now, when I have several novels already under my belt.

September 5, 2011

the purpose of books

Last week, my husband and I had a conversation about the purpose of books.

When I was in college, I was surrounded by those literary snobs who believed that commercial fiction was utter garbage. I still remember their snickers.

Oh, you write fantasy? Ha! You’ll never find success writing genre fiction.

This came from professor and student alike.

These people honestly believed that there was no value in commercial fiction. They believed that fantasy, science-fiction, romance, mysteries, etc. did not deserve to be labeled “literature”. And maybe they were right. Literature is a bunch of plot-less, purple prose, in my opinion. The author is more interested in the sound and arrangement of words than character or plot development. The day that someone refers to my work as “literature” is the day that I’ve failed as a writer.

September 2, 2011

plotting process

Yesterday, I worked a bit more on the plot for my next novel, still untitled. It’s codename is Princes, Princesses, and Peasants, Oh My!

Wednesday evening, I finished writing up the scenes that will go into PPPOM. Yesterday morning, I took those scenes and started rearranging them into whatever order I thought was best. But first, let me take you on a little tour of my plotting process.

You already know that I do character sketches. This is more of a feel of who is going to tell the story. Who is the most interesting character? Do I want to tell this story through their eyes? Do I like them? I figure out their wants, fears, what obstacles stand in their way, etc. Most of the time, the characters take on a life of their own after this and resemble nothing like what I first envisioned them to be, but that’s fine. They come alive, and that’s what is important.