Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “Chuck Wendig”

The Muse Can Suck So Many Eggs by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Pumpkin spice. Like you had to ask.

By Julie

I’m a huge Chuck Wendig fan, and one of the greatest reasons I love him is because of his JUST FUCKING WRITE policy. Like this one: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/09/15/dear-writers-and-creative-types-you-dont-need-motivation/

I make no bones about how much I hate this elusive goddamn muse everyone talks about.

“I can’t write today, my muse is missing.”

“I have no inspiration to write, my muse is being lazy.”

“I could be writing but the muse wants to watch ten episodes of whatever this tv show is.”

This inspiration that has to punch you in the frigging face in order for you to write your book is an illusion. That broad works for you. You call the shots.

This isn’t a post about how you have to write every day or you’re not a writer. This is a post about how I make the muse show up for work and half the time I send her home because I don’t need her.

“How do you come up with your ideas?” We get this one a lot, right writers? Few of us have an answer. Our brains are built that way, we think in stories. I fuel the brain to make the stories. If you have a tough time finding inspiration, try this stuff. Because getting the inspiration is great—that blast of dream sequence brilliance that suddenly turns into a book? Love it. It’s fun. But writing is my job. So I work for it. I earn that inspiration by searching for it. Here’s some stuff I do to keep the ball rolling:

  • I get a scrapbook. One of my favorite places to get a really beautiful one that begs to be touched is https://www.etsy.com/transaction/1029658438. I fell on the Halloween one pictured and it took my breath away—how perfectly it fit THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS. Now I have a spot to put all the little things that remind me of my characters, and build upon. THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS started with one picture in a magazine. Then I built upon them by asking questions. What’s the relationship between these six girls? What’s different about them? What do they DO? Who’s the strongest, meanest, funniest, etc…? And I gathered things that spoke to me about each of them and putting them together in a scrapbook helped me keep them all distinctly different, but with an overall tone, a feeling that united them.
  • Coincidentally, I didn’t FIND stuff to put in the scrapbook–I SEARCHED for stuff. Celeste is the Witch of Stars. Suddenly I was looking everywhere I was for stars to put in the scrapbook. Then it became that I was looking for the colors associated with her—silver, purple, blue. I’d bribe the kids to let me dig through the clearance bins at the craft store, I’d look through things I’d saved over the years that could fit in. I search eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Pinterest of course….. Things that struck me I’d ask myself why they did, and how it related to the book. Sure, maybe I’d fall for a dinosaur soup ladle and that had nothing to do with anything. But a lot of times I’d come across something I knew would be in Celeste’s bedroom, a lipstick shade I knew one of the Witches would wear, a map, a piece of jewelry, all kinds of things that would be in their world. And the scrapbook filled up. More importantly, I was ALWAYS looking for things to put in it. Every place I went provided an opportunity to add ideas, to thicken the soup. Oh, maybe the ladle had something to add after all.
  • I think about words. No, I’m not kidding. Words that sound good together, pretty poetry, gross words mixed with beautiful words, and I write them down. And I build around them. I heard once that you buy a piece of art and build the room around it. I do this with words. The line, “I swallowed a Hell splinter,” spawned THE HARPY. THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS was a phrase that showed up in my head after seeing the magazine picture that gave me the idea, and I wrote around it. Write all the words down, whether they mean something or not. Then MAKE THEM MEAN SOMETHING IF YOU LOVE THEM.
  • I read magazines LOOKING for something to spark interest. Good interest, bad interest. A phrase, a look in the eye, colors that do or don’t go together, a picture I HATE and ask myself why, then make a character that would hate it too, etc…. But I never read a magazine just to read it. I’m LOOKING.
  • When I can’t think anymore and I do Buzzfeed quizzes? I take them from my characters’ points of view. You’d be shocked at what this does for me.

I have tons of this crap that I do. I won’t go into all of it here, but what I want you to get from it is that if you WANT to write, everything you do, see, think, don’t think, is story fodder. It’s all in the pot. Store shelves, movie theaters, commercials, tourist traps, museums, zoos, the post office, they all offer something. Because I want them to. No minute is wasted, but it doesn’t feel like work even though it is. I want to do it too damn badly. The muse can take notes.

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Worldbuilding: Preparing to Build Your World with Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Fancee coffee from Mistobox because Sam won’t let me go to the store to get cheap stuff, and hasn’t for 3 days.

By Julie

A friend suggested I write a post on worldbuilding. My immediate response was, “I’m not good enough at it yet.” So, this is exactly why I’m writing a post on it.

It would be easy to write only about things I know, just like someone famous said about writing book, actually. If you know it, you have something valuable to add. Well, I think writing about things you’re unsure of is what drives you to become an expert in them. You try harder. You have to, or you’ll look like a jackass.

I didn’t think I built worlds all the time, but I do actually, and have a hell of a process for doing so. I’m going to do a short series of posts on what I do to build a world, because it’s hard work and something anyone can do if they put the work in. This post is about getting ready to build your world.

Even though I forge ahead and dive into my work as if I know exactly what I’m doing, I PREPARE to build a world.

I look to the greats: Chuck Wendig is always the first place I look. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/09/17/25-things-you-should-know-about-worldbuilding/

I take notes. On important stuff like know the world’s rules to adhere to them, but the reader doesn’t need to know them all. Oh wow, that’s important. You know how you keep reading articles and lists about the things you didn’t know about Hogwarts? Because Rowling knew the rules, but we didn’t have to. You WANT to tell the reader everything…..but it’s “masturbatory,” as Chuck says. I realized that in exposition of a world you’ve made, the same rules still apply….. if it doesn’t move the story forward, it has to go. Not to mention that yeah, it’s cool to have a world where the author has thought of everything and goddamn do you know it, but I want to create worlds that INSPIRE and have tone. I want my worlds to have mystery. There’s a fine line between having mystery and coming across as half-cooked.

How do you not appear to be half-cooked? Chuck also says to know how the real stuff works in your fancy-land. Do your research. I know what vegetables and fruits grow on the mountains in Japan in winter, for instance. Add in the flourishes of realism that make your place real. You can only do that by knowing them.

The other guy I pay attention to is John Scalzi, who said something that I won’t forget. Make sure your world is 2 questions deep. http://whatever.scalzi.com/2009/08/21/worldbuilding-briefly/  On every page, if a reader asks why, I should have answers for that, and a backup answer for it. Again, if  the reader asks. I don’t have to give all the answers first. Let their imaginations wander.

I pay attention to video games. I’m not a gamer, but video games have worlds as complex as any novel on a good day. There’s a lot to be learned from video game worlds for a writer:

  • They’re visual. I can see the world. The trick is to look at the game like a writer. Everything is both complex and simply done. Lighting creates a scene. How would I describe the lighting, as a writer? Watch a bunch of YouTube clips of games and ask yourself questions. Just from looking at him, what do I know about that character? How would I say it in my words? That kinda thing.
  • Video games suck you in. So if I jump into a game mid-story, what keeps me there? How can I make my reader feel like they’re already part of a story that’s been going on all along? How can I make my world easily understood, but still deep? Games show you that.
  • Read articles written by gamers and designers. They tell you things.

Stop me if you heard this one, but I read books. Read like you’re looking to learn. This is why I read so strategically–I have an agenda. I read a book looking for something in particular. With THE HUNGER GAMES, I wanted to know how Panem was so convincing and steeped in so much history, without us being hit over the head with backstory. With DIVERGENT I wanted to see how the world shaped the way characters spoke, how mannerisms were a product of their environment. With Valente’s Fairyland series I look for the ways in which the world is painted so richly that I can see it but never feel inundated with description. So on and so forth. Take notes.

Make your world all over you like a cheap sweater. Notebooks forever. For THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, I have two 5 subject notebooks PACKED, a 3 subject notebook, a scrapbook, an inspiration board, a million Pinterest boards….. I keep track. I surround myself with the world as much as I can so it’s bursting onto paper when I’m ready.

I make the minutiae central, but only to me. Goddamn do I have fun with this. If my MC wears a piece of jewelry to represent her place in the world, I search for the damn thing. Etsy, Pinterest, Amazon, art shops, craft stores…. until I have the vision of the thing I want so deeply ingrained and have turned down so many options that the one I’ve created in my head is more real than anything I’ve seen. I hunted down a decades old magazine for a photo I saw on some website because the tone of it was exactly what the tone of a particular scene was. I gather up bits and pieces of things that contribute to my vision like a frigging bobcat making a nest or whatever bobcats do. I like to see it all in front of me so I can make it REAL.

Then when I start to write, I boil down the feeling of it all into very careful wording so YOU feel that it’s real. Building a world has purpose: to give the reader someplace they feel they know, or to give them somewhere to escape to. Sometimes both. So take it seriously and get yourself ready. Commit to it so the reader will be committed, too.

TAKE BACK YOUR WRITING LIFE or Make a Damn New One with Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Fancy Mistobox blend with green apple and milk chocolate top notes. I KNOW.

By Julie

I used to pride myself on my 1000 word a day diet to get a book done. 1000 words every day no matter what, whether done from 5 in the morning to 7 or done in snippets of a sentence here and there all day, it’s how I got both THE HARPY and THE ANIMAL completed, as well as much of RUNNING HOME. But with RUNNING AWAY that structure didn’t work. And with my current novel, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, there was just no way.

I was so proud of putting myself somewhere near the top of the priority list and not letting that 1000 words a day get brushed under the rug that when that structure didn’t work–because hey, things change and different books require different processes– I fell apart. My personal life was falling apart, and my writing life did the same. I’m talking for months on end. My writing was inconsistent, and for someone who knows that I need to write every day that’s baaaaad.

Just as fast as the routine fell apart, my world started to come back together again. I’m healthy (er), all my other things and people are stable. The time came to pick up the book I hadn’t given attention to for so long. The book with no outline, a 5 subject notebook full of research, dropped off at over 50,000 words. In the meantime it feels like everyone I lay eyes on is putting a book out, getting great reviews, writing 5000 words a day and complaining it’s not good enough.

Not daunting at all. Nope.

BAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA BAAAAAAAHAHAHAH(gasp)BAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

I had no excuses. Time to get to work if I wanted to be in league with them again.

Guys. I did it. I’m steadily doing my 1000 words a day again after not having done it for probably a year, and I’ll tell you how.

I changed my thinking.  My rules had been flushed down the toilet, and I made the suckers anyway. Time to let them go. The first thing to go was the rules for my sticker chart. The lovely Victoria Schwab inspired me to have a sticker chart for my writing accomplishments. Small sticker for 350 words (this is the minimum I allowed myself because in the words of my hero, Chuck Wendig, if you can’t do 350 words a day, 5 days a week, you don’t want to be a writer; you don’t GET to be a writer. (Note: I’m not knocking either of these thought processes, they’re the foundation on which I’ve built my writing routine, and like any system, it should evolve to stay relevant.) After looking at months of a sticker here and there, and general failure by my own standards, I decided that writing at all when I haven’t been is an accomplishment. BIG FUCKING STICKER for getting down 150 words when I didn’t think I had one in me. 4 stickers if I damn felt like it for 300 words. Maybe I only want one sticker. FINE.

REWARD THE ACT, NOT THE RESULT.

Remember that your work has value.  I felt irrelevant. I’m sitting on a book that I pulled from my now former agent that I finished over a year ago. Still unpublished. I’m sitting on a book that’s been called “dangerous,” and not right for me right now. My vampire series isn’t new anymore by my own standard. So what the hell good was I in the writing community? Then a couple of things happened.

  • A few readers reached out that had just discovered RUNNING HOME and fell in love with it. Remember, fool. Just because the book has been out for a while doesn’t mean it’s not new to people who don’t know your work.
  • It gave me the courage to ask a couple of folks to read THE HARPY for me, now that it’s back in my own hands seeking publication. I just needed to hear from SOMEONE that it was worth reading.
  • A dear friend has been asking me for almost a year to read THE ANIMAL, at which I always claimed it wasn’t good enough, after it had been shot down by my agent. I finally said screw it, it has to be good enough because I’m not perfect and perfection isn’t real. I gave it to him to read and he loved it. Called it “amazing.”

Just because YOU feel down on your luck with your writing doesn’t mean it loses its value to others. Get excited to mean something to people again.

Screw the getting-to-know-you phase.  How do you just pick up a book you haven’t messed with forever and start writing again, especially if you’re a classic pantster like myself and don’t work with an outline? Of course, you need to re-read what you wrote, go back over your notes, watch all the movies that inspired you, take long walks and go to museums and climb a mountain for inner peace first.

  1. NO YOU DO NOT.

I realized if I took the time to refamiliarize myself with the first 50K of THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS that it would be another month before I started writing and by then I would have built up the pressure so much that I’d stumble and fall in the first paragraph.

YOU CAN DELETE STUFF, YOU GUYS. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT. BUT IT DOES HAVE TO *BE* THERE.

So I just started writing. A paragraph or two here and there. I didn’t clean the desk first, buy all new pens, demand extreme quiet, none of that. I sat down and just did it. IF I MAKE WRITING AN OCCASION THAT REQUIRES FANFARE EVERY TIME I WILL NEVER GET TO IT. If you want it to be a routine, it has to fit into your life like all your other ones….toothbrushing, making coffee, checking your email. You don’t “get ready” for that stuff, you just do it. JUST DO THE WRITING.

Delilah S. Dawson tweeted the other day, “ONE OF THE HARDEST PARTS OF FIRST DRAFTING=REMEMBERING THAT THE TENSION AND GLITTER HAPPEN IN LATER DRAFTS. SCAFFOLDING IS ALL DULL STEEL.” 

I reintroduced rules when I could reach them.  Once I wrote a couple of chapters over a couple of weeks, I realized I was about 15,000 words from finishing this book! That sure happened fast! And if I DID sit down and do 1000 words a day, I could finish it in two weeks!

Don’t let your own rules hurt you.  When you look at 1000 words and it seems like a million, DON’T LOOK AT THE WORD COUNT. JUST WRITE STUFF. Put a piece of tape over the word count for chrissakes. Just write.

Be a better friend to yourself.  If a friend told you they only got 100 words written that day would you say to them that it sucked? No. You’d tell them “hey! 100 words more than yesterday!” Give yourself the same credit. Give yourself the same pat on the back. Treat yourself like you treat the ones you love. Make yourself a priority. Give yourself that 1000 words a day when you feel ready. It’s your gift to you. You’ll feel better afterward.

Speaking of feeling better….  The cookies I’d eat as a pre-comfort to writing? They made me feel like I was already nursing my wounds after failing at writing. I stress eat. So you know what? I stopped. Yeah, that’s right. I stopped. I EAT, man. I love to eat. But eating the crap I was while I was writing was not setting me up for success. It made me feel crappy, and when you feel crappy you think crappy. Then I’d get crappy results. Do I still eat cookies? Yes. But because I want them, not because I’m stressed out and feeling bad for myself. And when I got up from my laptop I felt good. And I wanted to go back to the laptop and do it again.

There you have it, guys. I hope it helped. Now get to work.

Fighting For Unsuckitude: Editing

TODAY’S BREW: Mocha mint and probably beer.

By Julie

Editing RUNNING AWAY looks like this:

That’s me, in the middle, with the glasses.

I LOVE THIS PART. Right now I’m in the phase where I dig through my Terrifying Binder for bits that didn’t make it into the first draft that I think still have relevance. Before that I went through my notes from hearing Donald Maass speak with Kristen at Backspace Writer’s Convention during Hurricane Sandy last year. And I found this:

NICHOLAS LURES ELLIE IN. FIND 3 MORE WAYS HE CAN DO IT

When I first started to write RUNNING HOME, Nicholas was fated to be Eliza’s creator, her Shugotenshi. That was the extent of their bond. I wanted it to have an intimacy, but not be just your happy go lucky love story. So I darkened it up, and I made their story as complex and questionable as it should be. Think about what he’s telling her, what his appearance in her life means to who she is and what’s happened in her life. (Trying not to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read. But it’s happening.) So, I did this:

WAYS NICHOLAS LURES ELLIE IN

  1. Shinigami have scents that tailor especially to the victim or person they’re trying to lure in. Nicholas’s becomes a scent of comfort, home, being with people who love you. Appeals to the thing she wants most and never has.
  2. Ellie is never sure if Nicholas really cares for her, or if he just has a duty to her.
  3. The Shinigami have their classic vampire thrall that even they don’t realize they’re using, and Ellie may just be a victim of it and not be in love with Nicholas at all. She questions it.

After making this list, I found myself questioning things about how Nicholas felt, too. Naturally, he would wonder if Eliza was actually in love with him, or if she was just under a sort of spell that he himself placed on her unwittingly. He’d wonder if he was feeling love for her, or if he was just feeling the draw between vampire and their fated offspring, their unmei fumetsu. There should be as much insecurity on his behalf as on hers, no matter how much of an egotistical thing he can be.

Apparently I'm volatile, self-obsessed, don't play well with others.

Apparently I’m volatile, self-obsessed, don’t play well with others.

The great thing about editing for character development is seeing the domino effect of what one little change can make. (It’s how I realized I wanted to start Editing For Cash, also known as Undeaditing.) How would the feelings of both the characters affect what happens next? What will these feelings make them do? (Remember, characters make the action happen, the action doesn’t happen to the characters.) And the most fun; how can I make it worse?

So, for those of you in Editing Land, give this a try, and for the love of Jesus, read one of Donald Maass’s books. First, read all of Chuck Wendig’s blog at http://www.terribleminds.com. THEN read the Maass book. Prepare for this edit like you’re going into battle. Fight for the Unsuckitude of your book. Believe in it with unconditional love. Give it the A at the start of the class, and make it earn the A. Delve into all the aspects of your plot and characters and think of 3 more ways you can make it more intense.

Or I’LL DO IT GODDAMMIT.

Julie’s Bookie Gifty Recommendations

TODAY’S BREW: Pumpkin Spice. Because I will love it forever.

By Julie

CHRISTMAS IS COMING! IT’S PRACTICALLY HERE!

Today I shall give you my book recommendations for when you inevitably screech “OH SHIT I NEED TO GET AUNT TRUDIE A PRESENT AND SHE’S SO RACIST AND SO MEAN AND SHE COOKS LIKE SHIT! WHAT DO I GET A PERSON LIKE THAT?!”

You’ll get that bitch what I get everyone on earth, or wish everyone would get for me. BOOKS. I give books that I like. Period. Don’t be afraid to get someone a book they might not get themselves, but that you love. Fucking discovery and shit. It’s science. I shall give you both paperback and eBooks. Commence reading!

These books, in particular:

  1. Oh yeah, it’s happening. RUNNING HOME. Seriously, it has snow, and Christmas, and romance, but weird romance, and betrayal and blood. And more Christmas, and even Christmas ornaments. And it smells like peppermint brownies. http://t.co/wXBPE87nMX. And the cover is so pretty!
  2. SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater. I’ve read this series over and over. Again, beautiful snowy feel to it, but with a dynamic cast of characters and a fantastic, intriguing storyline, written by a true poet. Gorgeous. http://www.amazon.com/Shiver-Wolves-Mercy-Maggie-Stiefvater-ebook/dp/B002JWD6AS/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1
  3. THE SHINING, Stephen King. It’s a classic holiday horror, and even if they’ve read it before, fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke. This book is worth reading every year. http://www.amazon.com/The-Shining-Stephen-King/dp/0307743659/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1387466695&sr=8-1&keywords=the+shining
  4. SHADOW AND BONE, Leigh Bardugo. This book took me completely by surprise with its stunning imagery, complex relationships, incredibly original plotlines and worldbuilding. One of my favorite books of the year by far. http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Bone-Grisha-Trilogy/dp/1250027438
  5. NEVERWHERE, Neil Gaiman. You can’t go wrong giving someone who’s never read Gaiman this book. If they don’t like it, they don’t get any present next year at all. http://www.amazon.com/Neverwhere-Neil-Gaiman/dp/0380789019
  6. BLACKBIRDS, Chuck Wendig. I’m in love with Miriam Black, her story, her mouth, her abilities, and I’m in love with the attention Chuck gives to making sure there is a complexity to this story. Holes Black gets herself into that you pray she can find her way out of. An incredible read with endless possibility. http://www.amazon.com/Blackbirds-Chuck-Wendig/dp/0857662309/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387467578&sr=1-4&keywords=chuck+wendig
  7. DISCOREDIA, J.C. Michael. Brand new author who’s been poring over this novel for a long time. I have waited over a year for the paperback of this book to come out to hold in my grubby little mitts, and now I can have it. And it’s set at New Year’s, so winning. http://www.amazon.com/Discoredia-J-C-Michael/dp/1927112214
  8. AGENTS OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS, Simon R. Green. I’ve given this book to so many people, I might be on Green’s PR staff now. He’s my favorite author and this is my favorite work of his. I can’t say enough. http://www.amazon.com/Agents-Light-Darkness-Nightside-Book/dp/0441011136
  9. HOLIDAYS ON ICE, David Sedaris. I read this book years ago, and it never left me. Perfect for this time of year, and it’s a sure winner with any reader. http://www.amazon.com/Holidays-Ice-David-Sedaris/dp/0316078913
  10. DEEP KISS OF WINTER, Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter. I’m reading this right now, and really enjoying it. I wanted something with bite, but light enough to feel like an escape at the end of the day. This is it. It would be a great gift. http://www.amazon.com/Deep-Kiss-Winter-Kresley-Cole/dp/1451600054

AND FOR THE PEOPLE YOU DON’T WANT TO SPEND MORE THAN 5 BUCKS ON, E-BOOKS.

  1. BECAUSE THE NIGHT, by our very own Kristen Strassel will be under everyone’s E-tree this year. http://www.amazon.com/Because-Night-The-Songs-Collection-ebook/dp/B00GFCRJRO
  2. ON THE LIPS OF CHILDREN, by my brother at Books of the Dead Press, Mark Matthews is only 99 cents right now, and wow, what a goddamn read. I love this book so hard. http://www.amazon.com/On-Lips-Children-Mark-Matthews-ebook/dp/B00D71FE0Kv
  3. BOUND, by J. Liz Hill. For Chrissakes, the cover is so goddamn pretty. http://www.amazon.com/Bound-Mirrors-Bershan-Elizabeth-Hill-ebook/dp/B00A92CWOQ
  4. SINGULARITY, by Joe Hart. I love the way the man writes, and impatiently await my copy of his new book in the mail. http://www.amazon.com/Singularity-Joe-Hart-ebook/dp/B00B7CI62Y
  5. UNTETHERED, by Katie Hayoz. “Sylvie isn’t comfortable in her own skin.  In fact, there are times she can’t even manage to stay inside it.” That’s all I need to hear. http://www.amazon.com/Untethered-YA-paranormal-ebook/dp/B00C7A8YW2/

Here’s What I Do & Maybe You Should Too Or Not: Starting Your Book

TODAY’S BREW: A lot. I’m writing almost around the clock

By Julie

I was crybabying a little bit about the writing process of Running Away recently, and that it was HAAAAAAARD. This is one step away for me from saying “my muse left the fucking building” or something. Books don’t happen; you make them. No muse required.

MY BOOK BELLYACHE: AN OUTDATED MIX OF OLD MATERIAL AND NEW IDEAS THAT DON’T MESH AND I HAVE TO MAKE THEM.

I can pussyfoot around it, or I can write a book. (hehe. pussyfoot. ) So, I buckled the hell down on what I need to do to get this book where I want it, when I want it. My characters work for me, not the other way around. But this is not a post about how badass I am. This is what I did to get my shit handled. Maybe it will work for you, too.

1. I DETERMINED HOW MANY WORDS I WANT THIS FIRST DRAFT TO BE.

Start at square one. I generally go with a 65,000 word first draft goal. This allows for plenty to be added later, and still space to cut as well. Use whatever number you like.

2.  I GAVE MYSELF A DAILY REQUIREMENT OF WORDS. NOT GOAL. REQUIREMENT.

Look. A “goal” that you give yourself implies that you might not achieve it. A requirement, on the other hand, allows no room for fault. DON’T GIVE YOURSELF AN OUT.  This is your dream, nobody else’s. 1000 words a day is good for me. A challenge, but achievable.

3. DO THE MATH.

That means I have 65 days to write this book, not counting what I have already written. That’s my buffer if I get sick, or whatever. But 1000 words a day, every day, until November 1st. Boom.

4.  ACCEPT THAT THE FIRST DRAFT IS GOING TO BE FAULTY.

There’s going to be more drafts. As many as you want.

5.  MAKE A LIST OF THE DRAFTS YOU WANT TO DO.

This is tough, but doesn’t have to be. There’s a million things you want for your novel, and there’s a level of complexity I want in mine, and it takes a few tries to get it there. I give this process the attention it deserves. This is a long one, so pay attention, bitches. This has now moved on to LETTERS.

A) Draft 1: OPERATION SPIT IT THE FUCK OUT.

Get the words out, all 1000 per day. You can make them go away later if they’re awful, but you have to start. You have to.

B) MAKE A LIST OF DRAFTS FOR ALL THE AWESOMENESS YOU WANT IN THE BOOK THAT YOU’LL HAVE TO REVISIT AND MAKE HAPPEN AFTER THE SHITTY FIRST DRAFT.

My list of drafts is as follows (and yeah, I’ll share it with you, word for word).

DRAFT 1: GET THE WORDS OUT. BAD AND GOOD. MINIMAL RESEARCH.

DRAFT 2: CLARIFY STORY. MORE RESEARCH. ASK WHY, OR IF THERE WAS ANY OTHER WAY. MAKE IT WORSE (for your MC).

DRAFT 3: THEMES….THICKEN IT (for me, death, crows, fate, fire…)

DRAFT 4: VAMPIRE STUFF

DRAFT 5: DIALOGE/VOICE. MAKE SURE THEY SOUND LIKE THEM. AND DIALOGUE IS CONVERSATIONAL.

DRAFT 6: GET RID OF THE FUCKING WORDS JUST, I FELT, I WAS. (your list of words that show up too often may be different. Chuck Wendig keeps his in a file in a drawer, and pulls it out during editing.) If you don’t know who Chuck Wendig is, start here. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/02/26/how-to-karate-your-novel-and-edit-that-motherfucker-hard-a-no-foolin-fix-that-shit-editing-plan-to-finish-the-goddamn-job/  I’ll try not to judge you.

So, there you go! That’s how I write a book. Well, not all books, just this one, but man, I do feel good about it. And I’m off to a great start, which means I’ll have a great finish.

I leave you with this thought, and this is me tooting my own horn a little, because finishing a book is a big fucking deal. If it sits in a drawer and never sees the light of day, it’s a big deal. 30% of people who start writing books never finish those books.

I WILL FINISH THIS BOOK, AND EVEN MORE ON POINT, I WILL FINISH IT BY THE DEADLINE I SET FOR MYSELF. I always goddamn do. Because if I can’t remain true to what I want, what’s the point? If I don’t push myself hard enough to make it happen, how good can it be? Writing isn’t supposed to be easy and comfortable. It’s supposed to bleed your fucking soul a little. Revel in your own suffering and challenges. WRITE THE FUCKING BOOK.

Blackbirds: How It Created A Wendig Trash Picker

TODAY’S BREW: A spiked watermelon. It’s cookout weather.

By Julie

 

Many of you may know of my love for Chuck Wendig. Others of you may know that I have been spotted kicking raccoons and squirrels aside when he brings the trash out at 8:40 every other night so that I may delight in the splendors of his used packagings and such.

WELL, HERE’S WHY A LITTLE BIT: BLACKBIRDS, BITCHES.

Blackbirds (Miriam Black, #1)

Miriam Black knows when you will die.

She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.

No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

Please, you know you want to read that.

Blackbirds has had its share of not so positive commentary, specifically from female readers, due in no small part to Miriam’s voice. This is what I want to talk about. Nay, this is what I want to YELL ABOUT.

If you are looking for a book where the heroine is given a horrific gift that has all but destroyed her life and is still a cupcake eating, kitten loving, sunshine smiling breath of fresh air, then you want a book that doesn’t make any fucking sense. Miriam Black has been cornered into being anti-social and street smart. To get close to anyone in this wanderer life she leads would be a nail in her emotional coffin. Throw in that she will absolutely know how long the clock is ticking for anyone she touches, and you’ve got a character who is closed off, defensive, silently afraid and is covered in mental scars.

Women who don’t understand this are not looking for a female heroine they can be sympathetic to. They are looking for one that they don’t have to see the dark underbelly of. You can’t tell me that I am supposed to want to have a cup of tea with the heroine of a novel like this. I don’t have to like her, I have to understand her. And in Miriam’s defense, I do like her. She’s a tough broad, not because she can kick the ass of anyone who looks at her cross-eyed, or because she has a no bullshit attitude. I see enough of that, and frankly, it is not enough to make me give a shit. On the contrary, I am sick of wisecracking bombshells with a chip on their shoulder. NO MORE OF THOSE. Miriam may have some of these qualities, but she’s tough for this reason—she goes on. She continues. She drives forward in a world that offers her zero compassion or comfort. That’s strength.

As for people who find her voice to be too “masculine,” I am almost as offended by this as I am by the need for pink dumptrucks for little girls. So a man can swear, be bitter and offensive as a hero, but a woman has to be girly for you to like her? That’s the most fucking sexist thing I can think of, and insanely unrealistic. So what if Miriam were a lesbian, would it be okay then? Let’s pull out some more stereotypes to mold our brains into as we read TO RELEASE OUR INHIBITIONS. If you want to read a book about someone that sounds like a pretty, pretty princess, maybe you should not be reading a novel with the edge that this one requires. Because, once again, IF SHE SOUNDED LIKE A TEACUP TOTING DEBUTANTE I WOULD NOT BELIEVE THAT SHE HAD SEEN THE DARK SIDE OF THE WORLD THAT SHE HAS SEEN.

To wrap up this motherfucker of a rant, I need to say that this is not a novel that focuses on making the heroine something out of the ordinary and never seen before. Miriam is exactly who she needs to be. This is a novel about choices, fate, and control. It has a multifaceted plot line that delivers depth and  complexity. While Miriam appears to have no control, she is still forced to make choices that will reap scathing results no matter what. She is partially responsible for the disasters she creates, and yet has little other option. Grueling twists drive this story forward, and bring it to a crescendo that has you burning to know Miriam’s next move.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a trash hat to make. It’s cold and windy outside Chuck’s window in the night.

Don’t be stupid, follow Chuck’s blog here.  http://t.co/xCjRAsl4K3

Obviously, follow Chuck on Twitter @ChuckWendig

How Not To Be A Writing Loser by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate Something or Other

By Julie

You don’t just get to be a writer because you like to write.

You don’t even get to be one because you’re good at it.

I like to drink coffee. Doesn’t make me Juan Valdez.  I’m good at getting all the laundry done. Doesn’t mean I get to run a Chinese laundry as a front for a drug cartel where I sit around in an awesome suit and make my laundry minions do my bidding.

Liking to write and having some amount of talent for it is the entry fee. It doesn’t win you the writer badge for your coffee-stained sweatpants and tanktop uniform, though.

This is not a new notion: WRITING TAKES WORK AND PRACTICE.

Sure, natural talent helps, but it is far from the being the crux of succeeding as a writer, no matter what way you determine success to be. I don’t just want to succeed as a writer, I am succeeding as a writer. It is a process, like anything worthwhile.

SUCCEEDING MEANS MAKING MEASURABLE PROGRESS AS A RESULT OF A PLAN.

There. Easy, right? I will continue to make it easy. This is what I’m doing to win writing.

I HAVE EXPECTATIONS.  When working on a new book, I’m on a 1000 word a day diet. I get up at 5 in the morning to do it. (Thank you, #5amWritersClub) I get right in the shower, to wake myself up and give this process the respect and attention it deserves.  Sometimes I screw off on Twitter too long and don’t get as much done as I should, but I don’t say “I’m unmotivated today, blah blah blah, I don’t have any words blah blah.” No, the expectation is 1000 words. Do it or you aren’t as good as your word. (See what I did there?) So I write in 20 word sprints all day or something, but I do it. I check in with Twitter to see who’s doing writing sprints and I join in, reporting my word count back.

I make sure I write a one liner that is solid enough to tweet out in 140 characters. Like having a trophy to show off. Then I build my writing around this one exceptional line like you build a room around the one piece of artwork you had to have. If you were all artsy fartsy and what have you.

IF IT’S CRITICAL, YOU MAKE TIME FOR IT. IF IT’S NOT CRITICAL, YOU’RE NOT A WRITER. There can be no such thing as not having time. The other day, in a half hour, I wrote a bunch of words, made a fort and dealt with a toddler yogurt disaster. Work it in. Don’t live in a world of can’t.

If you really can’t find the time (insert mocking whining), find it. Find it like this; keep a log of what you do every day for a week. 15 minutes eating breakfast, 20 minutes playing Uno with the kid, 10 minutes planning neighbor’s murder, 5 minutes on phone with police. Look for the pattern, look for what you don’t really need to do, or what someone can help you do, look for the spot that has no description. Time is all we have; make it have meaning.

I ALWAYS WRITE. Here’s the kicker, guys. When I finish the book, even while I am letting it rest for a while, I still get up at 5 every day and write something. Keep the mind trained. I don’t take breaks. Because I love it, it isn’t hard for me to write every day. And if you love it, it shouldn’t be hard for you either. I quoteth the great Chuck Wendig when I say, “If you can’t write 350 words a day, you don’t want to be a writer. You don’t get to be a writer.”

Have notebooks everywhere. Get your kids to write with you. Let them see you at work. This can enrich them if done the right way. Writing constantly is what helps develop your voice, what sets you apart from all the other writers out there.

HERE’S THE BIG SCARY. NOW DO SOMETHING WITH IT. Being a writer means taking the plunge every way that matters. You worked hard, now move on it like a goddamn army. I make sure to query with Running Home every week, to Kristen’s anxious cheerleading. I’m submitting short stories to magazines and anthologies all the time. (THANK YOU MATT SINCLAIR AND ELEPHANT PRESS FOR PUBLISHING ME THIS SUMMER.) I’m making the right contacts on Twitter, setting up interviews, going to conferences and meetings, and for a reason. Fun, sure. Means to the end, absolutely. This is my dream, and I will think out of the box to make it a reality. I don’t wait for the first thing to get published before moving on to the next thing. Have a bunch of things to be constantly putting into circulation. Don’t get caught in the wave, be the wave.

SHORT STORY: Even when I wasn’t training for a fight, my Sensei picked me up on Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving to work out. When I asked him why I was doing this, he said “Because your competition isn’t.”

Being a writer is more than just having it in you. In all facets of life I have seen people that had everything it takes to win come in second because they relied on their talent, because they underestimated the one who works harder than they do, and sweats a little more.

BE THE WINNER. PRACTICE AND TAKE THE WORLD BY SURPRISE WITH WHAT YOU CAN DO.

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