Congratulations to the Class of 2014!!

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Congratulations to the high school graduates of the school year 2013-2014. You’ve made it. 

You’ve endured twists and turns, ups and downs, and things spinning in circles. You’ve discovered people and subjects that have made a huge impact, for better or for worse, on your life. You’ve taken major steps with your life. Sometimes they were forward, these steps. Other times, they were backwards. You’ve lived with rumors about you, you’ve possibly helped spread rumors yourself. Through it all, you have survived. 

Know this.

What you have planned for your future will undoubtedly change. Where you see yourself and where you will actually be one year, two years, and five years from now are two different things. Life has twists and turns. You will stumble along the way. You will be challenged in ways you never thought possible. You’ll make new friends. You’ll discover more about yourself, about you like and what you don’t like, as the years roll by.

Some of you have plans to attend college. Good for you. Keep learning, keep growing. College will be tougher than what you can imagine, but it will be worth the experience.

Some of you simply plan to find a job and just work for a while. College isn’t in your immediate future. Good for you, but know that the learning doesn’t stop because you’re no longer in school. Jobs require training so keep learning, keep growing. If you decide to attend college later in life, that is entirely up to you. Know that you can do it.

Congratulations to the college graduates of the school year 2013-2014. You’ve made it! 

You’ve earned a degree, be it an Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, or PhD. You’ve proven to yourself that all of your hard work has paid off. It’s a brand new world all over again. You already know that your life probably hasn’t panned out the way you intended, and you’re becoming okay with that. Some of you have found your significant others. Some of you pushed through while married, married with children, or just with children. You’ve managed course work with jobs, friends, and family obligations. You’ve pulled through. The future is whatever you want it to be.

Congratulations to the students graduating. You guys are awesome!

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Writing Update

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Yeah, I don’t have anything. I’m very, very, very slowly plugging away at my novella, which needs a new title. I’m not happy with how much I’m progressing the story along (nor Frost Giants or Dragon’s Rain, which I don’t want to be on the backburner for too much longer). I am a little discouraged. I’m not entirely sure on how to deal with this. Would it help if people said “You can do it, you can do it!”? Probably. Would it help if people said “You can’t do it. You should give up now and think of something else to do with your life”? Again, probably. The encouragement and discouragement, however, will only go so far. 

I feel tapped out at the same time ideas for new novels are coming to me, but I don’t want to give up. I don’t intend to give up. I will reach within myself, find the strength, the courage, and the inspiration to carry on. Many people have said don’t wait for inspiration, and that’s something I agree with – waiting for the inspiration to come will just lead to more heartache, more frustration than it is to work the ideas out in my head and on paper. I’d rather work through the frustrations of a character not always behaving, not wanting to tell me what he or she wants rather than wait for a lightning strike moment. Nothing against those lightning strike moments, but they’re unreliable at best. 

I will work through this. I will get something published and soon. The novella is complete, but it’s also under heavy revisions. The original (as a 13k+ short story) wasn’t as great as I’d have liked it, and that’s okay. The harder the work, the better and more rewarding the final product will be. I’d rather have this agony than put something out there or submit it to a writing contest with my name on it that’s less than stellar. I want to impress the people who read it, and, most of all, I want to impress myself by writing an awesome story.

The writing is slow. It’s something I can deal with, fix, and come out stronger in the end.

Series vs. Serials

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This is a follow-up to last week’s entry of “Writing a Series vs. Writing a Stand Alone Novel”. My friend, Teri Cross Chetwood, shared the link to that particular entry on facebook, and a friend of hers commented in agreement with what I wrote then said, “would like to add that writers should respect the difference between a series and a serial. To split a long stand alone into 3 or 4 parts and call it a series hoping to some how cash in on the phenomenon is both unsatisfying and dishonest.”

There is an inherent wisdom to what he said. As a reader myself, there is a good chance I would be very displeased if an author did that to me. There’s also an inherent wisdom for why this is done. Here’s my breakdown on why this happens.

1: Self-published authors do this just to get something out there and start bringing in the money. They also want to create a sense of intrigue as to what happens next and to generate sales for the next installment.

Beginning self-publishing authors: Please do your best to avoid this particular publishing practice, especially if your story is incomplete but meant to be a stand alone novel. Publishing your single novel in chunks has a fifty-fifty chance of backfiring on you. This is the digital age, and the Kindle isn’t exactly fanfiction.net, where an author can take his/her time in posting chapters. People are paying you money for your novel. Fanfiction authors are posting for free, and are usually doing their best to finish while working full time or attending school. Readers can be very harsh in their reviews, and their reviews on your self-published piece on Amazon will either drive your sales up or kill them. Be wise in how you do this because I do understand that it may not be entirely possible to publish the story as a whole.

2: There’s a word count cap.

As much as we might hear, “Don’t worry about word count, don’t worry about word”, the thing is, we do have to worry about word count by the time the revisions and editing are done. While I’m not entirely sure if there are any word count caps for self-publishing digital books – I’d have to ask the self-published authors at Scribophile about this – actual print books do have a limit. Tolkien faced this when he wrote The Lord of the Rings. What was originally meant to be a single novel turned into a trilogy because the publishers at the time chose to do so. I’m forgetting the logic behind it – War and Peace is a significantly longer book but was never broken into three parts when it was translated into English.

Anyway, there’s only so many pages a printing press can handle, be it through a major house like Tor and Forge or Amazon’s CreateSpace. At some point, an author does need to consider exactly how much that 500k novel (after all editing and revisions are done) is going to cost in the end and whether or not the reader is going to fork over that kind of money. And publishing houses do need to know whether or not that it’s a 40k novel or 100k. They pay by the word, and they can tell when an author is padding.

3: Traditionally published authors sometimes don’t have a choice in the matter.

This does tie in with the word count issue. Publishing houses are going to maximize profit on their investment in the author as much as they can. How this would actually work – do the editors talk to the authors and discuss or do they just find the right places to cut – I don’t know. The one author I know it happened to died before I was born. But the possibility does exist that it can happen. 

For all publishing authors, be mindful, be careful. Readers don’t like they’ve been cheated. If they think you’re trying to scam them, it’s going to show up in negative reviews and affect sales.

The Path to Publishing, Writing For Yourself

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This is definitely in response to a friend’s blog entry about some of the issues she’s encountering in trying to get back on the writing horse. I feel her pain on a lot of it. I do struggle with some of the same issues myself. How can I not? I currently have a lot of free time that really should enable me to finish project after project, critique like crazy over at Scribophile, and get something published. You’d think I’d have done so already for the insane amount of free time I’ve had since 2010. Of course, as I mentioned in a previous entry, I’ve been really great at holding myself back due to fear. For as long as I’ve been blogging about writing, I should have had something happen by now.

Anyway, I’m digressing a little. I read my friend’s entry from last night, and, in replying to her to hopefully encourage her, I realized she also gave me some great ideas for today’s entry when it comes to publishing and writing.

There is more than one path to take when it comes to publishing. In the last decade, the publishing industry has been revolutionized by the likes of Amazon. This led to traditional publishing houses and agents as well as major bookstore chains scrambling to keep up as authors who would normally receive rejection letters self-published to the Kindle and people started buying e-books they could carry with them while traveling. By capitalizing on e-books ahead of the competition, Amazon has almost successfully eliminated the middle man for publishing. The dust is still settling from the outcome. It’s still a “Writer, Beware” kind of situation all around – Amazon likes to dominate. Publishing houses and agents are out for profits. The best and least any of us should is make sure we understand and know what we’re signing before we take those first steps. But the paths are now there, and, until another revolution comes along, they’re not going away.

Now, I understand self-publishing is not for everyone. There’s a lot of hard work involved to be a really successful self-published author: the self-promotion is entirely on the author’s shoulders on top of the need/desire/ability to produce more. It is a path someone can choose to take. It can be a stepping stone for finding an agent or a publisher, or it can be the author’s choice to never even approach editors and agents and self-publish for as long as he/she likes. The only one limiting the author in this is the author. Self-publishing is just an option, and, in my mind, takes the worry of writing something “commercially appealing” off the writer’s shoulders. If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now: Commercial appeal for writing fluctuates. Tropes in fiction trend. I feel fortunate enough to be at Scribophile and to follow Tor.com on facebook to have learned theses things and to feel confident in passing this along. Don’t worry about mainstream appeal. If what you want to write just isn’t commercially “viable” right now, chances are, it will be soon enough. (And, if you’re testing the waters by self-publishing before seeking out the Big Guys, you can prove what you’re writing has some kind of appeal.) I say this as someone who wants to be published by a traditional publishing house. Not just any publishing house, either, but Tor and Forge. That has been my dream publishing house for years now. 

Also, for publishing, I must note this: Being published will not and does not spare authors rejection letters from agents and publishing houses. If they don’t like the idea you’re pitching, you will be rejected. I wish I could remember where I read this – it was either an internet article or in one of my books on writing – but it was a story about a woman who was a writer and a college professor. She shared with her class at the time the rejection letter she received from a publisher. Stephen King received rejection letters while he wrote as Richard Bachman. Rejection happens to everyone. I don’t want to delude anyone into thinking that, if you self-publish, you will find a traditional publisher or agent. Self-publishing will help in making you marketable to agents and publishing houses, if that’s your goal. It still will not spare you rejection. So choose your path wisely.

Finally, take the time to write something just for you. Writers are like artists and musicians. We’re creating something, and it’s okay to create something just for us. Artists and musicians do this. It’s a practice that helps to keep them sane. They don’t share everything they draw/paint/write/compose, and they’re not obligated to do so. The same goes for writers. Write something for you and you alone. 

Have a good Thursday!

Writing a Series vs. Writing a stand alone novel

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Recently, a fellow Scribber posted a link to his blog then posted what he wrote in his blog to the forums about how amateur fantasy writers don’t just plan for one book but for a whole series of them. He cited the popularity of Game of Thrones and Wheel of Time and said it made sense. He, however, thought it was a bad idea. He said, in practice, writers don’t determine sequels. Readers do. He didn’t exactly list why it was bad for amateur fantasy authors to do this, just that it was bad, that readers should be the ones to determine the outcome, and it led to an interesting discussion.

In truth, from some of my own research into, I do believe it was formatting and inquiry letters, this is a bunch of hog’s wash. If you’re not sure what I mean, here’s another way of saying it: 

His words are false.

I won’t even say there’s a debate on just how false his assumptions are because, for me, there is no debate. 

I will respectfully disagree with the notion that readers determine whether or not a sequel is written. Major publishing houses, based on my now ancient research, want authors to present a series. They want to know that they’re investing in someone who can produce more than just one story. 

Readers want stand-alones. At first. Readers do not want to take a chance on an author they’ve never heard of before. The best advice I’ve heard for a beginning author is to write a stand-alone but to also plot a series. This way, the writer can please both readers and publishers if the goal is traditional publishing. I’d say it’s a good bet for self-publishing authors, too. 

And here’s where I really take issue with what he said: Readers are the ones who determine sequels. This can be interpreted as “It doesn’t matter that the author wrote it to be a stand-alone story, if the readers request/demand more, the author is therefore obligated to provide”. Extreme thinking on my part, I’m sure, but I’d rather take some things to an extreme to make a point.

This is false. I doubt very much many readers are going to clamor for more of a set of characters when the novel itself is a stand-alone. There’s a certain understanding that this is an individual story with no remaining arcs left to be told. I don’t pick up a Stephen King novel and expect it to have a sequel. In fact, the only time sequels have occurred for Stephen King has been with movies. Not novels. The author is also not obligated to continue a story he/she has deemed complete. I also don’t care for the idea that readers should be determining what an author writes next. Most readers, if I’m not mistaken, are usually very content with a favorite author’s output, be it for series or stand-alones.

This is also a bad practice. If an author has planned to not write a series and the readers are clamoring for more, the sequel could end up being a disaster. What story is there, really, for the author to tell if there’s been no room left for a potential sequel? This makes me think of Stephen King’s Misery, where an obsessed fan forces her favorite author to write a novel where her favorite heroine comes back to life. 

Finally, and this what truly bothers me about this “advice”, as it were, the author, if this is applied, loses some control over what he or she is allowed to write. The project then becomes “incomplete” based on alleged demand, and that could be an even split down the middle.

Now, this isn’t to say an author can’t pull off a sequel or more if the first book didn’t end ambiguously. There are certainly authors out there who can do so. If an author thinks s/he can pull off such a feat, that’s absolutely fine. I do encourage that person to try. I dislike the notion that some authors feel the need to say, “If you’re starting out, do this, don’t do that, and you’ll be a success”.

My advice to someone beginning this journey or perhaps coming back to it is this:

If you want to write a stand-alone novel, do so. If you want to plan writing a series for your first publishing attempts, do so, but do make sure that everything you write is well-written. There is also nothing saying you can’t write a stand-alone and a series both. You, as the writer, know what projects are appealing to you. Trust that inner, creative voice, and allow yourself to stumble, to fall, and to get back up again. 

Speaking up

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Written in a way I never could, and I’ve had someone threaten to come and kill me once because I refused to do what he wanted me to in terms of writing. I was able to at least laugh off his idiocy. I live in the country. If someone showed up out here, you can bet my neighbors would notice. (I live close to some farms.) And if he had shown up and tried to claim “diplomatic immunity” to get away with his crime (like he claimed he could do), no one would believe him because of my location.

Not everyone can do this so I encourage everyone to Brian Keene’s words and lend their voices to this.

http://www.briankeene.com/2014/05/02/on-rape-and-repugnance/

I’m also going to take Brian Keene’s words one step further. I will not tolerate threats of any kind towards another human being. You may be sitting at a computer, faceless and anonymous, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t traceable. You’re not being cute, you’re not being funny, and you’re not even acting like a decent human being if you think it’s okay to threaten someone over the internet with rape or death. As a writer, there are some people I don’t wish to offend with my beliefs, be they religious or political, but this is where I draw the line. If I’ve offended you because I think you’re a coward for hiding behind a screen and threatening someone, great. I’m with Brian on this. I don’t want you as a reader or a fan.

I will post an update on my novella sometime this weekend. I want this to stew for a day or so. I know haters are going to hate, but it won’t be tolerated. And I want the people fighting for social justice to know I’m on their side.

Have a safe and fun weekend, everyone!

“We’re not gonna take it! No! We ain’t gonna take it! We’re not gonna take it anymore!”
– Twisted Sister