April 30, 2012

writerly aspirations

A lot of people always say how there is no such thing as an aspiring writer. Either you’re a writer, or you’re not. Yoda logic. And maybe that’s true, but you can be a writer and aspire to something—to be a New York Times Bestseller, to sign with a Big Six publishing house, to get a great agent, to publish with an indie publisher, to win an award for your book, to sell so-many books, to self-publish, to finish a novel, to finish ten novels, to meet Neil Gaiman, to write a character that readers fall in love with, to have your book turned into a movie, and so on so forth, etcetera. These are sometimes dreams, sometimes goals, and sometimes just what if I did such-and-such; wouldn’t that be cool?—much like winning the lottery or something.

I have several aspirations as a writer. Most are goals. Others are dreams. And maybe sometime in the future, those dreams will become goals. Some of these aspirations are big and general and in the distant future, and others are specific and not so far away. But I do believe that having something to work toward is a vital part of being a writer. If you never try to be better or achieve something more, you’ll remain stagnant. And I really hate being stagnant.

April 27, 2012

plot revamp and costume making

Well, it’s Friday—thank goodness. It’s been one hell of a week.

I figured out what was wrong with my book, which is not good news. I can still use the 42,000 words that I have, but my plot needs a total revamp.  Right now, the book is rather episodic. The scenes don’t really link together, and the story jumps time a lot. Also, the two plots that I have are subplots by nature, meaning I don’t have a main plot. How I managed to plot a book without a main plot, I have no idea. That would be why I am in this situation.

April 25, 2012

establishing what is at stake

I’m drawing a blank this morning for a blog topic. I had one in mind last night, but of course, by the time I woke up I forgot it. From what I recall, it was going to be a really good post. Alas. So instead of wracking my brains for some sort of half-intelligent post about writing or yet another whiny post about how terrible writing has been going (which, actually, it’s going a lot better now), I’m going to repost an old one (from last January).

establishing what is at stake

Through the course of working as a literary journal editor, I've noticed a trend in the stories that I reject. They do a poor job of establishing the stakes of the story, and I ask myself—Why is the story being told in the first place? Why do I care what happens?

For readers and viewers to be involved in the adventure, to care about the hero, they have to know near the beginning exactly what is at stake. What does the hero stand to gain or lose in the adventure? What will be the consequences for him if he succeeds, if he fails?

April 23, 2012

writing funk

I am currently in the process of going through the early chapters of The Guild Conspiracy, the second Chroniker City book, and adding relevant story details—foreshadowing, character motivations, character relationships, location descriptions, etc. that I didn’t think of at the time of writing those scenes. It’s a tedious process, and a lot of the time, I wonder if what I’m doing is really necessary, or if I’m just finding a more productive way to procrastinate.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been in a sort of writing funk. I’m slowly starting to crawl out of it, but my average daily word count for the last three weeks has been a mere 300 words. I would really like for that to jump up to, you know, 1200, or maybe 1500. Heck. I’d be happy with 1000. For whatever reason, I haven’t been productive. It’s not for lack of trying. I sit in front of my computer for at least four hours a day, attempting to make progress on my book. But usually, when I get into one of these funks, it’s because something is wrong with the book. Either the scene I just wrote, or maybe the plot, a character’s motivation, or something in the first chapters doesn’t add up to what’s happening in the tenth. And so on so forth.

April 20, 2012

the chroniker city series

I’ve plum forgot about what I was going to blog about today. However, I did come the conclusion that half of what this blog is about is putting my thoughts on the page. It helps me think through things properly, and through Wednesday’s post, I realized that I didn’t necessarily need a completely different cover for my book. I just needed a better one. So, I spent Wednesday and yesterday morning working on covers. Not just for The Clockwork Giant. For all of them.

That’s right. I ended up going with The Guild Conspiracy for the title of the second book. I think a long time ago, I considered that title but didn’t like it for whatever reason. Well it’s back and here to stay. So thanks, internet, for helping me sort things out. I think these covers are fantastic. I hope you agree. Also, Rachel Desilets, internet friend of awesome, recommended that for the paperback versions of the book, there should be an image broken up into three columns to decorate the spine, so that when they’re put together, there will be a single image. Pretty cool idea. I want to try to do that at the very least, even though my paperback sales are minimal.

The new cover for The Clockwork Giant will go live sometime in June, when I’ll announce the release date for The Guild Conspiracy. It will be a new edition, with the first chapter of the second book at the end, and I’m considering writing a new back cover copy, or at least improving the one that I have.

I also had another thought last night. I think after I write a few more books outside of steampunk, I'm going to revisit Chroniker City and write a few novellas that follow various secondary characters from the first three books--and some new characters--taking place around the same time as the trilogy. Something I've also considered doing way down the line is rewriting the entire trilogy from Emmerich's perspective. Same-ish plot, but they would be completely different books. What do you think of that?

That’s all the relevant news on my end.

What do you guys think of the new covers?

Have a great weekend. I know mine will be nothing short of awesome.

April 18, 2012

titles and covers

So, I came to the conclusion recently that The Chroniker Legacy does not work for the title of my second book. It better fits the third book, as originally planned. Of course, moving it means that I have an untitled book that is slotted for publication in eight-ish months. Naturally, I’m brainstorming for topics, and I’ll tell you—most of them suck.

My original title for The Clockwork Giant was just Chroniker City. A nice plain title. I lucked out when I came up with The Clockwork Giant. It worked on two levels, both referring to the automaton and to Petra. I wanted something similar for the next two books, but alas, my lack of titling savoir faire has led me to this point.

April 16, 2012

writing YOUR way

Still out of town. So here’s a post I wrote in February of last year:

Over the past few days, I've been reading several "Writer How To" posts on various blogs. They give lists of "do this" and "don't do that." For a while, I believed these posts. I believed I wasn't really a writer unless I was doing these things and avoiding those things. I can tell you right now...

There is no right or wrong way to be a writer.

You don't have to have an MFA from some prestigious school. You don't have to have years of writing experience below your belt before becoming published. You don't have to have an agent to get published. You don't have to go to conferences to meet agents. You don't have to blog or tweet or facebook if you don't want to. You don't have to write a book every six months. You don't have to follow anyone's writing advice if it doesn't mesh with you. You don't have to write outlines. You don't have to write by the seat of your pants.

The truth of the matter is, as long as you are writing, you are a writer. It doesn't matter if you write fifty words a day between school, changing diapers, and cooking dinner, or if you write five-thousand words in a three hour stretch every morning before work. It doesn't matter if you write with pen and paper or use a word processor or a fancy program like Scrivener. It doesn't matter if you write for your children, for yourself, for money, or for your cat.

There are obvious things that will help you along the way of course: having beta readers and critique partners, knowing how to write a query, knowing who to query, and having a master of the English language.

The beauty of being a writer is that you can create your own path. You don't have to drink lemonade or listen to opera while writing because it worked for someone else. You can write while watching television. You can write on the subway. You can write when the mood strikes. There isn't a right or wrong way to write as long as you are writing. So don't let the lists and the "how to" posts get you down when you feel like you aren't living up to their standards. Those are someone else's standards, not yours. Make your own goals, your own standards, your own path, and you'll be just as much a writer as R.L. Stine and William Faulkner.


And this goes for things I might say too. When I give advice on my blog, I’m merely saying what worked for me. It might work for you too, or it might not. And for posterity’s sake:

What works for you?

Your way might help someone else discover their way.

Happy writing!

April 13, 2012

write with feeling

I’m out of town both today and Monday, so instead of frantically writing enough blog posts before my departure, I’m just going to recycle some old ones. I figure you don’t mind.

I wrote this one back in December 2010, and I find that it’s probably one of my most relevant posts. Worth reposting I think.

So, here that is:

I'm an optimist to the ninth power. I believe in the power of positive thinking and dreaming and goal setting, but there is a time and a place and a limit to what these things can do. You can dream about becoming as famous as Stephen King. You can set a goal to be a best-selling author by age twenty-two. You can envision the movie version of your book, what the cover art might look like, if it will ever be banned, and if the President will endorse it. That's all fine and dandy, as long as you don't let the dreaming take over the reality. Nathan Bransford has a good post about dreams and expectations.

Writing a book isn't a gimmick. It takes hard work, determination, patience, and a lot of disappointment. How can you ensure that you write a book worthy of being published, worthy of living up to your dreams?

Write Passionately.

It doesn't matter that vampires and zombies are the thing of last year. It doesn't matter if steampunk and mermaids are on the rise or that historical romance is slow. Trends don't matter. Don't write to trends. Don't not write to trends.

Write with passion. If you are passionate about vampires, then by all means write vampires. It doesn't matter that they're supposedly "dead." If you are passionate about zombies, or 18th century homoerotic romance, or alchemy, or middle school, or steampunk vampire unicorns, or whatever... write it. J.N. Duncan, who I interviewed last month, has a great post on his blog about writing to the market.

If you write passionately... if you write what you love and what you can't help but write, no matter what the market says about it, then you will write a book worth publishing. It will take time, and it will need polishing and editing, but that's just part of the industry. If you write passionately, someone will recognize that passion, and they will share that passion.

So put your passion on the page, and you'll create something worth reading.


Something worth keeping in mind, I think.

What are you passionate about?

April 11, 2012

revisiting dead novels

I miss fantasy. Earnestly, I do. Don’t get me wrong. I love writing steampunk. I love writing Petra’s story, bringing the people of Chroniker City to life, and exploring the science of that era. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a character as much as I love Petra. But upon finishing my Renaissance Faire costume and starting a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign, I’ve come to the realization that I’ll always prefer the fantastic reality of an alternate universe, where magic pervades everything, where dragons and princes and witches are commonplace.

So when I finish The Chroniker Legacy, I’m going to take a break from steampunk and write some fantasy. I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to do between finishing the first draft of The Chroniker Legacy and beginning the first draft of the next book. I don’t want to sit around and do nothing like I did after writing The Clockwork Giant. I need something to do to give myself distance from The Chroniker Legacy between drafts, and I’ll need something to do when beta readers have the manuscript. I can’t start the third book until the second has been finalized (meaning published), and that will leave me a pretty wide time gap, like six months, intermittently punctuated by edits and redrafts.

April 9, 2012

march sales

March wasn’t too bad of a month as far as sales go. Nearer to January’s sales numbers, which is fine. I have a feeling sales will just sort of taper off after next month. Which is cool. I need to stop obsessing over how many books I’m selling and write the next one. A hard truth to accept, but I think I can manage.

March Sales for The Clockwork Giant

Price: ebook $4.99, paperback $10.79/$11.99 (depending on where you buy it)

Kindle: 5 copies; $17.20 in royalties
Kindle International: 1 copy; $1.75 in royalties
Nook: 3 copies; $9.72 in royalties
Smashwords: 0
Createspace Expanded Distribution: 1 copy; $1.06 in royalties

So, ten sales in all, scoring me $29.73 in royalties last month. And to express just how quitting your day job to write is a bad idea, since December, I have made $305.26 selling 89 books. But I’m realizing now that it’s not about the money. It’s about the actual distribution of the book, the fact that people are reading it. Does that mean I’ll drop my prices to $0.99 or make it free so that more people will buy it? Nope. I still feel like it’s worth the $4.99 price tag. When the second book releases, I will drop the price, but no lower than $2.99. Maybe when I have ten books out, I’ll drop the price lower. But that’s a long way away.


April 6, 2012

writing mojo

So, now that I’ve finished the subseries on the Hero’s Journey, I’m going to take a break from the Back to Basics series for a while. Possibly the entire month of April. I kind of burned myself out. Besides, there’s no need for me to finish the Back to Basics series as soon as absolutely possible. I’d drive myself crazy trying to set a date to finish it. There is so much material, and a lot of it, I have to research. Hence the burning out. So, until May, I’ll be blogging about various things, and yes, there may be some nuggets of writing wisdom thrown somewhere in there, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be entirely accidental.

As many of you know, I’ve been having trouble with writing The Chroniker Legacy lately. Last week and the earlier part of this week were the worst. March in itself was pretty awful. I averaged about 1000 words a day last month, writing less than 16,000 words. I was hoping to knock out about twice that. Last week, I averaged less than 500 words a day. Granted, I was sick one of those days, but still. Not impressive. And between Monday and Wednesday—didn’t write Tuesday—I wrote a whopping total of… drumroll… two words. TWO WORDS. In all actuality, I wrote 465 on Monday, and then deleted 463 on Wednesday. Yep. Super progress.

April 4, 2012

back to basics: the hero's journey, stage twelve

Continuing with the series on the Hero’s Journey, today we’re going to talk about the final stage of the mythic structure: the Return with the Elixir. To see all the posts I’ve done so far, check out the “writing help” navigation tab at the top of the page.

Having survived all the ordeals, the heroes leave the Special World. Sometimes, they begin a new journey, and other times, they go home, but in both cases, they are leaving this adventure behind them and starting anew. They proceed with a sense that they are starting a new life, one much different that their previous one. The reason the stage is named Return with the Elixir is because of the idea that for the adventure to have meant anything at all, the hero must return with something from the Special World, proof that he actually went on the journey.

April 2, 2012

back to basics: the hero's journey, stage eleven

Continuing with the series on the Hero’s Journey, today we’re going to talk about stage eleven of the mythic structure: the Resurrection. To see all the posts I’ve done so far, check out the “writing help” navigation tab at the top of the page. There is one post left after today, and then we’ll be taking a break from the Back to Basics series. Getting burned out on being the writerly font of wisdom. And I imagine some of you are getting tired of me talking about this stuff too. So after we discuss stage twelve, I think I’ll take a few weeks off and go back to blogging about whatever so happens to cross my mind between waking up and sitting down at my computer. Anyway…

We’re coming to the end of the Hero’s Journey. The hero is on his way home, on his way toward a new adventure, just on his way somewhere. Now comes one of the trickiest and most challenging passages for the hero, and for the writer. For the story to feel complete, the audience needs to experience an additional moment of death and rebirth. This is the climax. The first half of the story may have been building to a particular moment of seizing the sword, but in all reality, this is the point of the story where everything comes together and confronts the hero with the last and most dangerous ordeal. Heroes have to undergo a final purging and purification before returning to the Ordinary World. They must be resurrected.