Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “writing advice”

ALL MY OPINIONS ON WRITING by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: So much water, all the water I can find except toilet water

By Julie

Oh, some people probably won’t like this.

I’m seeing on Twitter lately an awful lot of writers feeling down on themselves for a variety of reasons. This is probably as ranty as you’ll ever see me. PREPARE FOR THE ALL CAPS. Were you ready?

A lot of people say, “Stop putting it off. Stop looking for the right time. Just do it.” Then a lot of other people say, “So if I can’t write every day I’m not a real writer? Stop telling me what to do. I have REASONS.”

FIRST OF ALL, WRITING ADVICE IS LIKE PARENTING ADVICE. LISTEN TO SOME, BLOW OFF WHAT DOESN’T WORK FOR YOU. THERE IS NO NEED TO DEFEND YOURSELF. THERE IS NO NEED TO LIST YOUR REASONS. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO PROVE TO ANYONE BUT YOU. NOBODY IS SAYING YOU HAVE TO DO IT X WAY.

Next, I see a lot of people skulking in the shadows about a certain pitch contest IT’S CALLED PITCH WARS. I HAVE OPINIONS. (shocking)

First, I have a problem with pitch contests in general. Publishing is a beast. You’re the tiny wave in the big ocean no matter what you do. It’s a fact. You’re one of thousands doing exactly what you’re doing, fighting to be heard, to be represented, to see your book on shelves, to just FINISH YOUR BOOK sometimes. Adding to that a peer-driven contest in a fight that we’re all TOGETHER in adds a layer of stress that just doesn’t need to be there. There are lots of success stories, lots of them, I’m sure. But I find that the people entering are scared to death more often than not, if they don’t get picked they feel like failures, and it’s all over Twitter constantly, in a positive way consistently, but if you’re one of the folks not entering? IT IS ALL YOU SEE. It creates this behind-the-eight-ball feeling at best. For me, it’s a struggle to see mentors talking about all their likes and dislikes personally while everyone else waits to see if it’s them they’re talking about. We are each other’s peers. Support comes in many ways, and I find adding competition to it to be the exact opposite of how I feel: that writing isn’t a competition. There’s room for everyone to write.

Which brings me to my next THING TO RANT ABOUT. Writers worry about failure. We worry about failure constantly, then put ourselves out there in a world where failure is fairly inevitable much of the time. You can feel to finish the book. You can fail to start it. You can fail at querying, at self-publishing, at traditional publishing, at NaNo, at revising, at getting agented, at your own goals every day. AND YET WE DO IT.

In regards to pitch contests, this works against us. Because there are a lot of folks that worked their asses off that didn’t get picked to be on the dodgeball team. They took a lot of hits, and still didn’t make it. Two things about this:

  • WHY IN HELL WOULD WE PUT EACH OTHER IN THIS POSITION WHEN WE GODDAMN LIVE IN THIS POSITION??
  • YES, MANY OF US WILL NOT BE CHOSEN ONES. BUT WE DID NOT START WRITING TO GET A TROPHY FOR PARTICIPATION.

Failure is in the eye of the write-holder. (I made up “write-holder.” *jazz hands*). Did you start writing because you wanted a trophy? Because you wanted to prove yourself to a bunch of people you met online? Because you thought it would make you rich? Because you thought it was easy? Because you were looking for an award for just showing up? NO. YOU DIDN’T. YOU WRITE BECAUSE YOU NEED TO WRITE. YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT, I’M SAYING “YOU,” BECAUSE I AM NOT JUST SPEAKING FOR MYSELF. SHOW ME THE WRITER THAT DOES IT FOR ANY OTHER REASON THAN THAT THEY NEED TO, AND I WILL SHOW YOU A PERSON THAT HAS SPENT TOO LONG OUTSIDE THEIR OWN HEADS.

Do NOT let other writers and mentors, or agents and editors or ANYBODY ELSE make you feel like a failure. WRITE THE BOOK YOU WANT TO WRITE. IT MAY NOT BE AN AWARD WINNER, IT MAY NOT BE SOCIALLY RELEVANT, IT MAY NOT BE AN AMERICAN CLASSIC BUT IF IT IS THE BOOK YOU WANTED TO WRITE, COMING ACROSS THE WAY YOU WANTED IT TO IN THE END, THEN NO AMOUNT OF AGENTS, PEERS, REVIEWS, ANYTHING CAN MAKE YOU FEEL LESSER ABOUT WHAT YOU’VE CREATED.

YOU WRITE BECAUSE YOU HAVE YOUR OWN VIEW OF THE WORLD AND IT’S ONE THAT HASN’T BEEN SEEN YET. DON’T LET ANYONE MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

AND ANOTHER THING. *YOU* CAN CONTROL THIS FEELING. NOBODY ON THE OUTSIDE IS GOING TO MAKE ME FEEL LIKE THE THING I CREATED ISN’T GOOD. NO CREATION IS BAD. NO. CREATION. IS. BAD.

*breathes deeply* *coughs*

So, I would also like to say that no matter what stage you’re in of writing, you are no less a writer than published ones, famous ones, self-pubbers, traditional pubbers, none of them. You’re a writer if you write. Every writer has moments of self-doubt. That’s good. Self-doubt makes us work harder. I had the conversation earlier today with a writer that said she was starting a book that was so ambitious it was inconceivable even to her. I said that’s the work that’s always best because we worry over it so much that there’s no chance of anything slipping by. But you do have to write it to find out.

And we come full circle. Telling writers that they have to write is like saying you’re not a student unless you go to school. You’re not an architect unless you build. You’re not a Subway employee, especially if you just go behind the counter and start making sandwiches and get removed from the building. What.

It is a fact. TO BE A WRITER YOU HAVE TO WRITE. Nobody is trying to make you feel bad about yourself when they say it. They’re trying to encourage you to create the thing you want to create, even if maybe you don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like going to the gym a lot but I always feel better after I did it. Unless I didn’t eat first, and then I mostly pass out. But anyway, don’t fail yourself by looking for ways out of writing. Whether it be every day, every week, only on Christmas, whatever. Coincidentally, if anyone tries to tell you that your process of writing is the wrong one? They suck. We are writers because we suck at sticking to rules. Because we were tired of looking for approval. Because we create, and do it our own way.

THE ONLY STEADFAST RULE THAT CAN’T BE BROKEN BECAUSE IT IS GODDAMN SCIENCE IS THAT TO BE A WRITER YOU HAVE TO WRITE.

No one is better than you at telling your story. Nobody else can do it like you do. Write it for you, not for anyone else’s approval, and you’ll shrug when even the most disappointing of “rejections” or bad reviews roll in. Above and beyond anything else, writing doesn’t have to be solitary, but it starts there. Trust yourself, writers. You know what to do.

The Writing Spark and Why Writing Happens All the Time

TODAY’S BREW: 8 o’clock Hazelnut

By Julie

Creating a book takes more than words on paper. It takes watching the world. It takes paying attention to things you normally wouldn’t. It takes breathing and wondering and finding new things to inspire you every single day. It’s the random line that means nothing but creates a context to be fit into.

Writing a book is living life and committing it to paper, fictional or non. Without living your life, you have nothing new to offer. A writer has to sometimes let their brains flow freely, make notes on five different books, cut pictures out of magazines, doodle and re-read old books, take walks or watch tv all day. Writing is something a writer is always doing. Everything beautiful and ugly and powerful is a book in their heads and that can’t all be bolted down into a thousand words a day.

A writer is the deconstruction of goals over and over, the tearing apart of their own rules and limitations. A writer knows that nothing can stop them from creating, no matter what medium they use. Life is their medium.

So, writers, when those moments hit that you lament you didn’t take a free hour to write, remember that you have. Writing starts in the heart, and it makes it to your brain in a hundred different ways. It isn’t always about throwing slobber on the page to weed through later. It’s surviving the ambush of images and sentences that you live with every minute.

Write. Do it your way then make all new ways to do it. Have ten notebooks, write the middle first, spend half a day at the craft store digging through clearance bins. Find the spark. The spark is what writes the book. The spark is what makes you need to create. A writer lives their work, and their work lives because of them. Don’t let anyone tell you that the way you do your art is wrong. There is no wrong way to make art except ignoring the spark in all its various forms.

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.

Making Rejection Easy With Your Host, Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Target brand Candy Cane. It was less than $3.

By Julie

Writers put themselves through the ringer. We beat ourselves to hell getting words on paper to give to critique partners and welcome their line by line shredding. Then we do it all over again. And as if finishing the book isn’t enough, now we have to put it out into the world and seemingly beg for rejections. From advanced readers, from agents, from editors and publishers, and eventually readers. This thing that you’ve bled into, and you’ve sent it out to be

REJECTED

I watch writers sob, question their talent, their self-worth, all of their choices over ten or twelve pints of ice cream and booze after those rejections start rolling in. It kills me to watch. I have to say that one thing I am wildly proud of in myself is my ability to handle these rejections. I never let them get me down, and can count on two fingers the number of times I’ve cried over them. This is how:

    • I prepared to be rejected. Rejection is part of the process. Not everyone is going to love your work the way you do, and querying takes practice. You’ll think that your query is perfection and look at it in a month and think what in hell crap is this that I’ve conjured up? Knowing that, I didn’t query my dream agents first. I had practice agents, if you will. So when those rejections showed up, they were part of the plan. I felt in control. Those first queries are the pawns in this game of chess. I viewed that first wave of rejections as Step One, and I checked off that I’d done it. Easy.
    • I don’t give my work ultimatums. I of course have dream agents and dream publishers. But if they don’t like my stuff, or if they do but can’t sell it, I refuse to see it as the end for my book. I stand behind my work unfalteringly, and have had this attitude from day one: My books are coming out, one way or another. So shoot for the stars, the dream agents and publishers, but don’t hit the ground if they don’t catch you. Write what you want and if you believe in it, it will find its way out into the world.
    • Don’t take the rejection as a personal blow. Sure, some of the rejections baffle me. I have publishing houses on Twitter that follow me and rejected my books. But it isn’t ME they don’t connect with, it’s that they don’t think the project is safe enough for them to make money off of. That’s okay. Watch Shark Tank. Those folks like a lot of people and products but know when they can’t do the project justice and pass on it.
    • See the thing that gets you rejected and make it your point of pride. I’ve got a list of these bitches. Vampires. Paranormal. Abrasive female characters. Risky. Too cerebral. “Dangerous.” Well hell yes! All of this sounds like my favorite stuff. So if I do this to the point that it overtakes the tone of the book, then boom, I’ve done exactly what I wanted and you’re scared of it. I’m not. This is the voice I want to see in the world; mine.
    • Have backup plans from the start. This is important part for me, so listen, because I feel like it’s helped me keep my sanity. I’ve known from the first day I started querying that my book was coming out because I’d make it come out. The dream was everyone’s: Get an amazing agent, have said agent sell you to an amazing publisher, become famous. But this was the dream. And dreams can come true, but if they don’t I plan on creating my own reality that looks pretty damn close. I queried a million agents, and I knew that if I never landed one, I’d go to small presses. If small presses wouldn’t have me, I’d self-publish. My safety net was that the book was coming out.
    • Don’t let them tell you anything you don’t already know. I got rejected by all of my dream publishers, even the one that I was really sure would love me. But all of these big press rejections told me something I already knew and I took great pride in it: my work is too different and unsafe to be a sure thing. So when those rejections came, it was just what I needed to show me that indie was probably best for me anyway. If they’d come back saying the writing was poor, I would have been surprised. But I looked at my work from every angle and knew that it might just not be right for traditional publishing as it is right now. They more or less agreed with me. Know your work well enough to not get any surprises.

So this is all my stuff. Rejection is a sure thing in the publishing industry. Know you aren’t above it, and you’ll learn to work around it. But always remember: Write what you have to write, and that will show through in the manuscript. A book like that always finds its way into the world.

Dry those tears and make a path for your work. Look past the trees to see the forest.

The WereMerUnicorn That is the Perfect Writing Time

TODAY’S BREW: Pumpkin Pie Coolatta! THAT IS A THING.

By Julie

Oh, summer. Your blazing death rays and constant reminder that I should be Doing Things is nigh.

This girl is a lover of rain and cold. The hoodie and the hot coffee, curled up with a book or a movie, scribbling away in a notebook about all the new ideas that the bright colors outside framed against the iron gray sky sparked in me.

Things that do not mix well with me: HOT, BRIGHT AND LOUD.

Not to mention that I am the twenty-four hour entertainment system in place for Bennett starting in 5 days. Any semblance of a writing schedule I had is as lost as the sweatpants I won’t be able to bear for the next three months. That being said, I’m actually…..looking forward to summer a little this year??

The kids are of the age where we can do things together that don’t necessarily involve me carrying a caravan of supplies with me. Parents, you know what I’m talking about. This also involves not having to carry a child. This is the first year I haven’t had to do it in too many.

But the writing and editing. This needs to have a place in my life every single day. My former go-to schedule of waking up at 5 to get things done before the kids wake up is not going to work every day this summer, what with Sam’s sleep habits which are another story altogether. I’m too exhausted at the end of the day to write anything of quality, but I can edit at that time. I have the senses about me to do that well.

But if I can’t write in the morning, and I can’t write in the afternoon because I’m Doing Things, and I can’t write at night–

WHEN THE HELL DO I WRITE?

I love a schedule. Routine and me are the best of friends. Change and me? Not as much. But you not what I love more than routine and what is more important than holding a grudge against change in my day? My writing. This book that I’m working on. They’re critical in my life.

I’m coming to realize that having a cut-out writing time is something I may not have the luxury of this summer. Then I realized–I haven’t had cut-out writing time for a looooooong tiiiiiiime. But I still write.

THEN I realized that like parenting and eating and breathing, writing finds its way into my day one way or another, forcing itself out there like that cougar neighbor of yours who never quits.

AND THEN I realized that the perfect writing time is just like having the perfect writing space–free of toys, clear of a stack of bills, with your favorite comfy blanket and your favorite pen and your favorite songs playing and your favorite unicorn riding into the sunset while you have your favorite piece of pizza delivered to you by your favorite Robert Downey Jr. THIS IS ALL A LIE THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AND IF IT EVER DID YOU ARE SO LUCKY. The Perfect Writing Space is a MYTH, people. Even if you are lucky enough to have this tranquil nook that you can escape to in order to spill out the words, once you get there, the words are GONE. Or you’re too tired to do it. Or you’d rather read and be on social media. I KNOW IT’S TRUE, I SEE YOU ON TWITTER.

My routine this summer is going to be digging for the treasure of that 1000 words a day between going to the park, the beach, Walmart, Anywhere Air Conditioned, not to mention the Things That Keep Your Home Somewhat Liveable. So, I’ll be the mom at the park writing like a fiend under a tree BECAUSE MY KIDS CAN PLAY FREELY NOW. I’ll be writing notes that I can type in faster than fast later that night while they eat dinner. I’ll be reading, because reading is the first half of writing–at the park, in line, in the car while they nap after all that playing and having fun with Mama.

This book I’m writing is non-negotiable. It’s screaming for air. And I’ve long since learned that showing your kids that you have a passion is as important in parenting as playing Legos with them. They need to see me say when we get home, “All right, Mama needs one half hour (which will become 15 minutes) to write. Time me!” And I’ll be running word sprints with them. Reporting into them what I’ve gotten done as much as I do Twitter. It’s all an experiment, but so is writing and parenting.

The moral of the story, those of you who dread summer as much as love it, is that your feelings on how much you need to write or do whatever it is that makes your heart tick, needs to be weaker than your determination to do it. Get yourself into Creation Survival Mode. Be Spartan in what you need to get it done. And see how bare your art comes out and how clean you feel when it’s done.

My Opinion and My Advice and Listen To It: Paranormal and Supernatural Stuff

TODAY’S BREW: Red Velvet Rainforest. (It’s the last of both bags)

By Julie

We’ve all heard how very dead the undead are in literature. Vampires, zombies, there’s not a spin that hasn’t been put on them, no depth of ridiculousness that hasn’t been explored. Then you’ve got your paranormal, supernatural what have yous. I have something that’s never been done before! It’s a hybrid monkey wereselkie dragon that turns cyborg!

I’m not fool enough to deny the constant warnings from agents and publishers that paranormal isn’t selling. We’ve been hearing it for YEARS. I’m not arrogant enough to crow from the rooftops that they’re wrong. THEY AREN’T. Agents are having an impossible time selling paranormal for mass market. Publishers seem to both want something that’s wildly different and stands out from the crowd, and yet when you look at the “shelves” it appears to be more of the same, over and over again.

Monsters are classic. They never go away. From the Grandfather of Soul, Dracula, to the creature from the Black Lagoon, to every obscure werechickenselkiewolf..ahem….harpy to grace the limitless minds of readers who forever want a little monster in their brains and beds. Because they’re classics, icons, everyone wants in on them. Hence, the barrage of supernaturals and angels and all the fancy froo hahahas. Some are fantastic. Some are–not. Imitation and all. Imitations of something beautiful when done over and over and over are bound to have shining stars among them and also a lot of rocks you have to sift through to find the gold. Not everyone is going to write this generation’s Interview With The Vampire or be the next Maggie Stiefvater. That does not mean the entire subject matter is dead, but that those who have to sort through the subject matter are both desensitized to a degree and over the entire thing.

In the meantime, more and more supernatural and paranormal stories burst into the sunshine through all the slush piles of the world.

So, do I think the future of supernatural and paranormal romances and horrors are dead? Absolutely not. Here is what I say to summarize:

  • WRITE THE BOOK YOU HAVE TO WRITE. Don’t let trends sway you. Writing is a mini revolution. If you write the book in your heart, it doesn’t matter what’s going on around it, it’s going to make itself known. A book that is felt strongly by the author will come through as something that needs to be read. Period.
  • PAY ATTENTION. What is the common thread that unites every successful paranormal and supernatural work? Don’t repeat it, but model after it. FINE, I’LL TELL YOU WHAT IT IS.
  • THIS IS WHAT IT IS. Your amazing new take on the supernatural means NOTHING if you don’t have a character that we NEED to know. The “thing” about your book needs to be the character that makes the thing interesting. You know what I mean? Your monster may have the most wildly innovative backstory and premise in the history of such things. It doesn’t matter if that’s all there is. The thing that sells your book is the character that makes it happen. I REPEAT. THE CHARACTER MAKES THE BOOK HAPPEN. Now I make this sweeping general statement:

THE THING A SUPERNATURAL OR PARANORMAL NOVEL NEEDS IS NOT PRIMARILY AN AMAZING PREMISE; IT IS AN AMAZING CHARACTER THAT DRIVES THE PREMISE.

The supernatural and paranormal novels will never die as long as have characters that MAKE the story happen. Think of it this way; name your top three favorite paranormal, supernatural, whatever you want, romances and zombie stories, you know what I means, and describe them or say what your favorite thing is about them.

My favorite thing about Frankenstein isn’t the premise–which I LOVE, obviously–but it is the monster’s character and Dr. Frankenstein, and what they do. My favorite thing about Beautiful Creatures isn’t the love story between a witch and the boyfriend who’s too close to her history,  but Ethan and Lena themselves. What I love about Shiver isn’t the werewolves; it’s Grace and Sam and how in love with THEM that I am.

These are a few instances of novels I love, that couldn’t be more different. But the thing that makes them all so utterly DELICIOUS is that they have very cool stories, but the characters are what make the story extraordinary.

IF YOU HAVE AN AMAZING STORY, DO IT JUSTICE WITH AMAZING CHARACTERS THAT BRING THE STORY TO LIFE. A book that does this well will always prevail, regardless of how saturated the market is. The future of paranormal and supernatural in literature isn’t dying, it’s waiting. Waiting for the next character that gives us something we need, and a story to back it up that gives us something we want.

Write the CHARACTER that haunts you and it will force itself into the world.

How To Not Be Stupid at Conventions

TODAY’S BREW: Red Velvet from Target. God, I do love Target.

By Julie

Penguicon was my first convention for writerly stuff. It seemed like everyone on the frigging planet knew everything there was to know about conventions before I went, and there’s these badges and ribbons and everyone knows their way around, and I’m just sort of a “take a left at the tree” kind of girl.

But being brand new to this, I wanted to come away with something from this convention, and I always will. Here a few things I knew for certain that I taught myself, and they might help you out, too. Conventions are an investment, and should be treated as such unless you’re a trust fund baby or a high priced call girl. If you don’t have unlimited cash and want to treat your weekend like a giant party, go for it. If you want it to mean something to your writing career, these are my suggestions:

  • GO WITH THE INTENT OF GETTING SOMETHING OUT OF IT. Sounds basic, but yeah. Make it your mission to go home with more than a hangover, a pile of books, toys and bruises. I wanted to come away having met some people that are important to my writing, and inspired to work on my newest book. Mindset changes everything.
  • MAKE YOURSELF USEFUL. Volunteer to help out. Not only do you meet some folks, but you learn about the con fast and you loosen up really quickly. I worked at Penguicon like an animal. I helped set up the con suite, refilled all the food for the guests, answered questions, all that stuff. Trial by fire. I threw myself into the middle of it, and put my resources to work. It made me feel like I was giving something back.
  • LOOK AT THE DAMN PROGRAM AND MAP, AND STRATEGERIZE THE PANELS. I was psyched to put my two cents in at the Obligatory Undead Panel, talking about whether or not the undead are really a dead topic. A kick ass worldbuilding panel helped me figure out what exactly I need to keep in mind while building the world for my new book, and taught me something I should probably already have known; building convincing worlds for games is a different aspect of complexity than building worlds for novels, and there’s a lot to be learned there. (Now I get to play games for “research.”)
  • INTRODUCE YOURSELF IN THE DEALER ROOM. Those folk working at the tables? YEAH, THEY’RE AWESOME. The tee-shirt guy writes, the comic illustrators and writers are selling their stuff, and probably sitting there a little awkwarded out at the idea of selling shit like a mall kiosk nightmares. Introduce yourself. Talk. Now the comics and other things I got came straight from the hands of the people who created them and I talked shop with those folks. FOR THE WIN.
  • OH YEAH. INTRODUCE YOURSELF IN GENERAL. For real, put yourself out there. My agent, the illustrious Eric Ruben, Esquire, will say all day long that writing is showbiz. People want to connect with the author. YOU’RE THE AUTHOR, ASSHAT. CONNECT. I saw a lovely lady in a super short elevator ride that had the same expression on as me. I mentioned it. We got coffee and hung out and she’s goddamn awesome, and an author of the same stuff as me, and was later on a panel with John Fucking Scalzi and Holy Shit It’s Cory Doctorow. Yeah. Speak up, introvert. These are your people.
  • ALSO MAKE EYE CONTACT AND SMILE. I don’t mean like a politician, but walk with your head up and smile at everybody. These are some of the friendliest, most talented people I would never have met if I didn’t walk around like I owned the place. Not only that, but you have so much to learn from each other, and I learned that I’m not as dumb as I thought about stuff, too.
  • KNOW WHO YOU WANT TO MEET AND MEET THEM. I was fucking determined to meet John Scalzi, so I did. I went up to him after Ask the Author and introduced myself. I looked like an ass, sure. But next year, I won’t have to do it again with as much flourish. I was still too scared to talk to Cory Doctorow, but he tweeted me and I felt like a million bucks
  • PLAN FOR NEXT YEAR OR NEXT CON. I already have put the feelers out to speak on panels at the next Penguicon. I wrote a quick list of do’s and don’ts for next time.

Now that I’m home, I’ve referred to the few notes I’ve taken a million times, and feel re-energized like nobody’s business. This is what I needed, and now I’m full steam ahead. Basically, grab your convention by the balls and run with it.

60 Ways to Not Write Your Novel

TODAY’S BREW: Enough coffee that my heart may beat so fast it will finally just stop. You can’t even imagine the puke fest I have lived through last night.

By Julie

I am so in love with the reality of this post, I want to cross stitch it onto several pillows then cry into them. Coincidentally, I also love Gina Denny, who is an amazing writer, with a voice that will kick your ass off of your ass. She did an amazing piece for Josh Hewitt’s blog series “World’s End” called SERENITY. Go read it. http://hewittwcc.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/serenity-by-gina-denny/.

Okay, you’re back?  Okay, NOW go look at what she did for our little side project The Midnight Type, for our “SantaCLASH” series. http://themidnighttype.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/19-days-til-christmas-thriller-title-to-come-by-gina-denny/

Follow Gina on Twitter @ginad129 and check out her blog, http://t.co/uofYCtDzyG.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

60 Ways to Not Write Your Novel

1. Blog about writing.

2. Read a book about writing.

3. Join a fan forum.

4. Listen to Writing Excuses.

5. Make a snack.

6. Join Twitter.

7. Post “Twitter is confusing!” on facebook.

8. Read a book you’ve been meaning to read for a long time.

9. Write a review about that book.

10. Read all the other reviews about that book.

11. Get into a Goodreads war.

12. See the @ column on twitter.

13. “Ohhhhhh… THIS is why people love twitter!”

14. Join a blogging community.

15. Write your synopsis.

16. Write your query.

17. Write back cover blurbs. For the entire series of eight epic fantasies you plan on writing.

18. Have a “job” that pays you “money” for “doing stuff” that “isn’t” writing.

19. Remember Chris Farley did an SNL skit with extraneous sarcastic air quotes.

20. Look up the skit on YouTube.

21. Fall down the YouTube rabbit hole, emerging four hours later with a new-found appreciation for Nerdfighting.

22. Organize your desk.

23. Vlog.

24. Download the More Beaute2 app and edit a selfie.

25. Take way more selfies.

26. Research mundane details of your novel.

27. Fall down the Wikipedia rabbit hole, emerging five hours later with a working knowledge of pulley systems, Napoleon Bonaparte, and cheese.
28. Say it with me: NETFLIX.
29. Write your acknowledgments page.
30. Write your dedication. Make sure it’s so steeped in inside jokes that no one but the person it’s meant for can understand it.
31. Have a social life.
32. Fake a social life on Instagram.
33. Agonize over your first sentence. Minimum time spent on this task: three to four hours per day, for no fewer than nine days straight. 

34. Research agents.
35. Research editors.
36. Research movie options and rights and merchandising clauses.
37. Use imdb to cast your novel’s movie adaptation.
38. Design your own cover in Photoshop “just in case” you ever decide to self-publish.
39. Realize all the pre-installed fonts on photoshop are worthless.
40. Scour the web for the “perfect” font.
42. Worry a lot about your klout score.
43. Register for a conference.
44. Research conferences.
45. Create your own business cards to hand out at the conference.
46. Eat.
47. Exercise.
48. Sleep.
49. Be involved in your family’s life.
50. Write short stories to “break up the monotony”.
51. Create a short story event.
52. Pick a title for your book.
53. Google that title to make sure no one else has used it, or if they have, that their book sucks sufficiently for you to feel confident in outselling them someday.
54. Change your title.
55. Watch movies to “analyze” them
56. Analyze your favorite books. (Fan forums are really helpful for this)
57. Analyze your family. For research.
58. Create a Pinterest inspiration board for your book.
59. Fall down the Pinterest rabbit hole, emerging three hours later with a new commitment to health, wellness, and Nutella.
60. Make really long lists of pointless stuff.

How Not To Write Meaningless Stuff

TODAY’S BREW: Spiked Eggnog. Basically, I’ve been drinking it for a month

By Julie

I’m lucky enough to be reading THE SHADOW OF LIGHT by Summer Wier, a YA novel that I cannot wait to be published. We’re working on doing something you don’t hear much about—ADDING text, as she’s a sparse writer, something that I can identify with after writing THE HARPY and THE ANIMAL, and something I have to loosen up on in writing the sequel to RUNNING HOME, as that series is written with a bit more flourish.

Summer does a great job of still giving little details that tell you so much about  the characters without hitting you in the face with backstory and a lot of “she was this” and “she likes that.” Here’s the example that made me need to write this post:

“We brought your favorites—black olive and jalapeno pizza and strawberry cake.”  Faye was the only other person I knew who liked jalapenos on pizza.

I winked.  “You know me so well.”

This could have so easily been:

“We brought pizza and cake.” Faye loved pizza, and I didn’t care what I ate as long as it was edible.

“God, I’m starving.”

This is a tidbit that is absolutely meaningless in the long run. They got pizza and cake, whatever. But in Summer’s version, we see that our main character likes strong flavors, implying that she has strong opinions and probably isn’t a quiet onlooker about much of anything. I love the cheeky little wink. You also see that Faye is very close to her, that they know each other well without her having to say so.

In the two liner I wrote, it says nothing specific. It implies nothing, except that maybe this character is passive.

Take the interactions and transitions and seemingly unimportant lines in your work and make them actually say something. Remember the books you’ve read where you breeze over the more humdrum action, the cooking of things, the driving to places, the going to class or work or whatever. How could the author have made that part that probably bored them to write into a bit that has significance to the character?

An English literature major with a creative writing minor, I take this shit a little too seriously. It also means that I look to add depth where there could easily be none.

I do shit like this to keep me thinking. There’s a brown bowl on the table in front of me right now. I could say “I looked at the brown monkey bowl and lacked the initiative to put it in the sink again.” Or I could say, “the only reason I’d bother to put the bowl in the already sky-high sink was because the monkey on it looked at me like I was doing something wrong. Like my entire life revolved around what it thought, and like I should be doing something to wash the brown out of my life in general.”

Sure, not fucking Shakespeare, but I haven’t even had a second cup of coffee. You see what I mean, though? Of course you do, Smarty Pantalones.

Your work as an author is to write something that nobody else would have written. Not just could have written, but would have written. It’s your job to come up with stuff that makes us see inside the character’s minds and their hearts. There’s a level of thinking that you naturally let us in on, but what does the character feel without saying “it felt like I sucked at life.” You get it.

Thank you, Summer, for giving me inspiration again to write with more depth and complexity, and for learning about characters in the most obscure ways.

Here’s an idea. Try this with like, regular people. When you’re cashiering at Stop and Shop, what does the crappy Boba Fett Velcro wallet say about the guy in the suit who’s carrying it? That lady who never smiles no matter how many times you smile at her, what would make her smile? Who took it away from her?

Long story short, be active in your work and interactions. It’s more fun that way.


You can find Summer at http://t.co/MgTqtKYFe6 and follow her on Twitter @SummerWier.

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.

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