Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

WriYe and Writing Tips

How’s it going, squiders? I did put my first chapter of my trilogy up for the summer marathon and hence have fallen behind on my other writing stuff, since part of the deal is critiquing other people’s stuff.

Of course, this is week 7 out of 8 of the marathon, so everyone else is several chapters into their stories and thus far I am mostly confused. Oh well.

I hope to finish a serial story bit for TDP either tonight or in the morning, and then it’s back to World’s Edge full speed ahead and whatnot.

Anyway, let’s do the July blog prompt over at WriYe.

Quick! Name your top 7 writing tips of all time.

Seven feels like a weird number to me, but, uh, okay.

  1. Make time for writing. If you don’t plan your writing in (and I find the earlier in the day the better) it’s hard to get to it.
  2. Don’t focus on perfection in a first draft. Worry about getting the story done before you worry about whether it’s any good.
  3. Don’t compare yourself to others. That way lies madness.
  4. Also, don’t make your goals dependent on other people. Madness lies that way too. Plus it just makes you frustrated. I guess that’s more of a life tip than writing specifically.
  5. All progress is good progress. Sure, 100 words a day doesn’t feel like much, but it’s still better than nothing, and even planning gets you closer to a finished story even if it feels like you’re not getting anywhere right now.
  6. Don’t get weird with speech tags. Make sure it’s something you can actually do with your mouth.
  7. When revising, do big picture fixes before easier polishes. Nothing sucks more than spending a bunch of time on a scene that gets cut out.

Why those 7?

Uh, cuz those are the ones I thought of? I’ve actually been avoiding this prompt, because it has felt very intimidating. Are these my best writing tips? Probably not. But these are kind of general tips that are useful in most situations.

And a lot of them are good outside writing too! So, yay me or something.

How are you guys doing? Thoughts on my tips? Tips of your own?

Re-Evaluating Writing Goals

Well, guys, I’m back from camp, and, in theory, I can rev up my engines, or some metaphor that makes sense.

Last week we talked about my writing journal and also how it’s July and my word for the year, Polish, just has not been happening. The idea being that I would use said writing journal to look at my goals for the year and either figure out how to re-focus on Polish or change the focus for the year to be something that fit in better with what I’m actually working on.

However, it turns out it’s kind of hard to get going on re-evaluating your goals. So, eventually I decided to ask myself a pointed, direct question:

What do I want, more than anything else?

If I can only accomplish one thing, what do I want it to be?

And the answer was that I want to get my fantasy trilogy published.

Which led me to the revelation that maybe the reason that I have my fingers in so many pots is because I am avoiding working toward this particular goal.

Hold on, let me see if I can clarify.

I have been working on the Trilogy for SO LONG. It’s been 17 years since I wrote the first draft, 22 since I first came up with the idea. I have written the first book, in its entirety, three times. It holds a special place in my heart as the first book I ever finished, and at this point I know the characters like I know my family. It’s near and dear to my heart.

BUT when something is so important to you, it’s hard to put it out there, to be rejected. So I think I write other things, work on other projects, because if they fail, oh well. Or maybe I’m putting other things out there because if they work, then it shows that I’m good enough, my stories are good enough, and I can risk putting out the Trilogy.

But the fact of the matter is that I’m all over the place–other novels, trying out new genres, working on the nonfiction stuff–because I’m avoiding fully committing to the Trilogy and potentially getting hurt.

Oof. It was a realization, I tell you what.

It seems logical what I should do now. If the Trilogy is what really matters to me, I should switch over to it. “Get the Trilogy published” isn’t a good goal, because as we’ve talked about before, any goals that rely on other people are frustrating and leave you without control, but “Polish the Trilogy and get it ready for submission” is a perfectly good goal.

But I’ve got to tell you, dropping the defensive behavior is not easy. When I even thought the idea it made me wildly anxious. Landsquid knows how long I’ve been doing this. Years, at least.

So I’m going to compromise with myself. I’m going to take steps toward the main goal. There’s two weeks left of the summer critiquing marathon over in one of my writing groups, so I can at least get feedback on the first and maybe the second chapter. I have beta comments from previous critiques that I’ve already put into my document. So, in theory, I should have enough feedback to get going on the next step after the end of the marathon.

Meanwhile, I’m still going to work on finishing this draft of World’s Edge. It’s the same world as the Trilogy, so it’s arguably related. I’ve got a couple of commitments that need fulfilling as well–the next part of a serial for TDP, and a novella that needs to be written over the next few months. Those need to be done.

But I’ve got to finally commit to the Trilogy–really commit–or it’s never going to go anywhere.

Blah. Scary. Stupid journal, revealing all my deepest secrets to myself.

Anyway, how are you?

Ah, Summer

I hate summer. Sorry. I really do. It’s hot, and I despise being hot. There’s no rhyme or reason to the days, there’s too much going on, there’s too much going on and yet it’s too hot to do anything…

Also it thunderstorms but so rarely rains.

ANYWAY, this is a long way to say I’m sorry about missing last week here at the blog. I blame it on coming back from a 16-day road trip (I hope you liked my story ideas!) and then immediately having to teach songs/dances to children for three hours a day.

When you dance outside for three hours a day, in the sun, it takes a surprising amount out of you. I honestly don’t know what I did any afternoon last week.

And I apologize again because this will probably be the only post this week. There’s the off-chance I’ll manage to put something together, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Writing-wise, June was, well, not impressive. Most of that is because of the 16-day trip immediately followed by the dancing. I think I managed 1100 words during the trip, on a few mornings where I snuck out of a hotel and found a coffee shop.

For June I also started working on a writing journal, but I ran into issues pretty fast. It was great the first few days, planning out the long-term and immediate next parts of the draft of World’s Edge. Then I planned out the blog posts for while I was gone, and I did a couple entries about being frustrated about my current lack of writing time, and one about a mystery short story idea.

But then…it got weird. Because I wasn’t working on World’s Edge actively, I kind of ran out of things to talk about. I mean, I could plan out a wealth of short stories, or things along those lines, but without doing the writing part, it felt like spinning my wheels. So that kind of died off too.

But now we’re back, and after this weekend, things should settle into something of a routine, at least enough that I should be able to get momentum again.

It’s July now, and I signed up for 10K for Camp. This is my sweet spot–I can almost always get 10K for Camp Nanowrimo–though I’d like to finish my draft. We’ll see. My first couple days of the month were very productive, and then there was birthday madness that I won’t bore you guys with.

I think I will use my journal for refocusing my year. If you remember, I picked Polish for my word for the year, with the intention of editing the drafts I have sitting around. And here we are, halfway through the year, and aside from poking impotently at Book One for the first couple of months of the year, I’ve made no progress along those lines.

So it won’t hurt to re-evaluate and see if I can refocus on something else. Or see if there’s a way to switch gears. Things to do in the writing journal.

Oh! Did I tell you guys I finally submitted my Landsquid picture book to a few agents? Thus far nothing’s happening over there, but it does feel like a threshold has been passed. And I’m debating signing up for a spot in the Art Show at MileHiCon in October, if I can put together some nicer pieces.

So many plans, not enough time, too easily distracted by YouTube.

Anyway, I hope you guys are doing well! Do you hate summer too? Got any big plans?

See you next week, if nothing else!

Stories I’d Like to Write: Fantasy That’s Really Scifi

Okay! This is the last one of these for now.

I love fantasy that is high fantasy, but as you get further into the book or series, hints start to be dropped. Ruins that sound familiar, or hints that there was a previous civilization that has since collapsed.

I think this may be because my very first high fantasy series–the Shannara books, by Terry Brooks–does this. But it’s very subtle. You can read most of the Shannara books without this being obvious. It’s only when you take the series as a whole that it becomes more apparent.

But also, yes, lots of other series do this. Some more obviously than others, some more successfully for others. The Pern series, for example. Dragons! Adventure! But all happening on what’s essentially a failed human colony, Pern standing for “Parallel Earth, Resources Negligble.”

I have actually done this a bit myself already, though not quite how I would like. In City of Hope and Ruin there’s talk of an older civilization, a more powerful civilization, that collapsed because of war (more specifically the bioengineering and biological warfare tactics of that war, though that’s beyond the characters’ understanding, at least for that book). But that’s a completely secondary world.

I feel like to do this trope properly, it’s got to be Earth in the future. An Earth where humanity causes (or, I guess, experiences at the very least) some great calamity, something that has society collapse and humanity change. It’s dystopian, but not exactly. Like, the fact that this is our world and something happened to it isn’t normally important to the plot of the story. It’s background. It’s setting. Maybe some artifacts or something might feature in the plot every now and then, but for the most part it is a fantasy world, doing fantasy things.

And I like that! I like that it’s not necessarily important, it just is. It’s like…an extra dimension to the world.

That being said, I do think you can overdo this. And it may be a bit overplayed as a trope, especially recently where everything has to be dark. You know what I mean. I recently finished the first season of the Shannara TV series, and the post-apocalyptic parts were pushed much more than I remember. Maybe they were always there, and I just skimmed over them in the text, or maybe it as just more apparent because, you know, visual medium and all that jazz.

How do you feel about this trope, squider? Overdone? Fun worldbuilding? Favorite example?

Stories I’d Like to Write: Nakama

I first found the term “nakama” in one of my favorite anime/manga: Bleach. Back when I was really into the series, I followed this website, where the community would translate the chapters into English as they were released in Japan, instead of waiting until they made it over State-side. Since the translators were volunteers, there was some variation between terms, and sometimes they would leave Japanese words and add a bullet to explain what it meant in English.

Nakama is a Japanese word that means comrade, friend, or compatriot, technically someone working toward a shared goal with you. But in many anime/mangas, it means something more than that, something along the lines of Found Family, but even more than that.

Found Family is the idea that you can make your own family, by finding people around you who share the same values, and who support and understand each other. Basically, you can’t choose your biological family, but you can build a new one.

Nakama is not quite the same idea. In Bleach, for example, people who consider each other nakama do not necessarily get along. They don’t even like each other. But that doesn’t mean that, in another character’s hour of need, the first character won’t be next to them, willing to sacrifice their own life to protect and help them.

There is grudging respect. An acknowledgment of shared goals and perhaps values. A willingness to protect and help no matter the differences between characters’ attitudes, beliefs, and whatever previous conflicts the characters have had before. In Bleach, at least, characters that were, at one time, mortal enemies, people who had tried to kill one another, eventually become nakama.

There is something very satisfying to me about this concept. I’m not sure if it’s the idea that enemies can become, well, not friends (though sometimes!), but at least people willing to fight beside you, or if it’s something more primal, something that draws on the idea of belonging to and fighting for your clan, for lack of a better word.

Don’t get me wrong. I love found family too–the idea that a group can come together and be what they need, what they didn’t get from their biological families–but I like nakama better, perhaps because there’s built-in tension, or perhaps I just like the idea of someone who dislikes someone else still being willing to do the right thing by them.

But, how to build this into a story?

When I see nakama in anime/manga, it’s often something that happens over time. Episodes, or even seasons, dozens of chapters. Theoretically doable in a series, if it’s long enough, though I don’t tend to write series. But I often want to skip over the build-up and just drop the characters in, already nakama, and I’ve found that that doesn’t work. If you can’t see the change in the relationship over time, it’s not really the same thing.

The examples I can think of in anime/manga (and other books where the idea comes up) almost always involves fighting. There’s a war going on, or they’ve got to fight their way to their goal, whatever it is. The main character defeats another character, who eventually comes around to their way of thinking, either by learning more about a situation (i.e., someone who was following orders blindly before who learns that there’s something shady about what their side is doing) or by having some other reason to join up with the hero(ine). Or the second character realizes they have a common enemy, or something. I wonder if it could be done without the fighting aspect, or if the “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is an essential part of the whole idea.

This isn’t really a plot idea, nor a structure. It would be something to add into another story, a way for the characters to relate to each others. I’d like to do it someday, bring a group of characters together, willing to fight for each other even if they don’t like each other. I’d just need to figure out a story to put the idea into.

What do you think about nakama, squiders? Got good examples that aren’t anime/manga (other than Bleach, I’ve seen this concept in One Piece, Naruto, and Fairy Tail)? Thoughts on how slow the build has to be?

Stories I’d Like to Write: Interlocking Lives

Somewhat related to Tuesday’s post, but another type of story I’d love to try is what I’m calling interlocking lives. This is where the main character is living two lives, without a clear delineation of which is the “real” life, or where there’s a “dream” life that may actually be real.

I feel like I’m not explaining this terribly well. So, uh, let’s say there’s a girl. And she’s a teenager, going through her normal life at high school. But at night, she lives another life, where she’s a elven princess, and it’s the normal, high school life that seems like a dream.

And then, over time, the lives start to bleed into each other, or actions that take place in one life affects things in the other life.

Like the dual timelines, the structure of this idea kind of boggles me. At some point, it seems like one of the lives has to be the “real” one, and that one has to be more important in the end, with the other one being a subplot of some sort. But I don’t know! I’m kind of hoping, when I sit down and plan this sort of story, what I need to do becomes obvious. Or, maybe, as I do more research into this particular type of story structure, everything will all make sense.

This idea has some wish fulfillment tied to it, I think. I think it’s easy to wish that you were more important, or that life was more exciting, or that you’d find true love, or any number of things, and this sort of structure allows you to mix the mundane with the fantastical, or anything really. I tend to fantasy and scifi, of course, but I could see this being used in conjunction with, say, historical romance, where the dream life is somewhere and somewhen else.

And, I mean, why have to choose between urban and high fantasy when you can do them both?

This idea is one that has appealed to me for a long time, but unfortunately, liking an idea doesn’t necessarily come supplied with a story to actually go along with it. Maybe I’ll poke this for a bit and see if I can’t put something together for Nano, and this can be my new thing to try for November this year.

What do you think, squiders? Got any recommendations for books where a character is living in two different times/places/worlds?

Stories I’d Like to Write: Dual Timeline

It’s summer, so time for a blog series, amirite? I am right. Because it’s my blog. So there.

For this year’s series, I thought I’d focus on stories I’d like to write someday. Because writing, like anything else, is a skill, and some things are things that are advanced, that take time and practice before you can pull them off. And I keep a list of things I’d like to try some day. And maybe the day will be soon! Or maybe it will be in five, ten years. But, you know, someday.

One thing that has always really interested me is stories with interlocking timelines. You’ve probably read some of these. I find them a lot in family dramas. There’s a modern timeline, and normally a historical timeline, but they’re interconnected, what’s happening in the past relating to the present, and vice versa.

This seems very complicated to me. I think it’s because pacing has historically been one of the harder parts of writing for me, so the idea of having two stories lining up, echoing each other, feels impossibly hard.

You’ve got to have two stories that match up somehow, same theme, mirrored challenges, something along those lines. And they have to do it with the same cadence, the same beats, so that the two stories make a coherent whole.

I mean, I don’t know what I would do. I don’t have much interest in writing a straight family drama. Maybe one with supernatural influences. Or! Or I could set it in a fantasy world. Oooh. Now that does sound interesting. A “modern” fantasy story interacting with an older one, maybe part of that world’s mythology or something like that. Yes. I like that a lot.

On one hand, it seems like if you can figure out the pacing and mirroring, it does seem like the writing might be a little easier–instead of one 80,000 word story, you’ve got two 40,000 word stories. But I am a little confused about beats in general. Do both storylines have the same level of rise and fall? Does the secondary timeline function on its own or more of a subplot?

Of course, it’s questions like these that make it why this is something to try in the future. Got to figure out the structure of the thing first.

Do you like dual timeline stories, squiders? I suppose you could do more than two, though that does seem like it might get a little unwieldy. Have you seen dual timelines in genres other than family dramas?

Making Paperback Copies?

After I posted about Half-Formed Places on Friday, a friend asked if there would be a paperback version of it, which was honestly not something I had considered.

It’s not a terribly long book, but I do know that some people do prefer to have a paper copy of anything, and maybe it would be worth it to make it available to those who want it.

But then I got to thinking–there’s quite a few books I only have out as ebooks. Both short story collections, and all the Writers’ Motivation Books (the workbooks, on the other hand, are only available in paperback). Should I make them all both digital and physical?

Certainly something to think about.

I can tell you why I haven’t. I make most of my own covers, and it is a million times easier to make an ebook cover than a paperback cover. A paperback cover you need to know the exact number of pages, because it’s all one big wraparound file, and there’s bleeding and margins to worry about, and it needs to be a high enough resolution to print clearly–just a lot more things to have to think about and plan for.

(But, Kit, you say, then why didn’t you make ebook versions of the workbooks? That’s a separate but different issue. The workbooks are in a pdf format, since there’s a lot of lines and margins and other things to worry about internally. You can upload a pdf for a paperback book, but you canNOT upload a pdf for an ebook, and I haven’t figured out how to convert the files without everything falling apart.)

Anyway, that’s a lot of moaning, and the long story short is that I’m willing to fight with the covers if paperback versions are something that appeal to people.

So, here’s a poll:

Thanks for your feedback, squiders! I always appreciate your thoughts on these types of things. Otherwise I feel like I’m just shouting into the void, and the void often agrees with whatever I want to do.

Got a new blog series starting next week, so I will see you then!

Uglies Readalong: Specials (Book Three)

Oof. Sorry for missing last week, squiders. It was a mess, all the way around–too many things that I had to get ready for and/or get done. But that’s all behind us now.

Let’s move on to our discussion about Specials, the third book in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy.

At this point we’re basically all spoilers, so I guess, uh, don’t read if you intend to read the trilogy.

So, once again, we find Tally in a new state of being, having been turned into a Special at the very end of the last book. She’s back with Shay and several former Crims, the Cutters, working as a specialized Specials team.

This books feels a little different than the others. In Uglies, Tally is desperate to become Pretty, and in Pretties, she’s desperate to escape back to the New Smoke and be cured. But in this book, Tally likes being a Special, and at no point does not becoming one appeal to her, even as other characters bring up a cure or use it themselves.

The only thing weighing down Tally’s newfound happiness as a Special is Zane, her boyfriend from Pretties. He’d been brought back to the city at the end of the last book, and Tally hasn’t seen him or heard from him since then. When Tally and Shay go to visit him, Tally finds he’s still suffering the repercussions of taking the Pretty cure from the last book–muscle shakes, memory lapses, etc. So Tally decides the best thing would be to have Zane become a Special, so that they’ll remake his body and brain and fix him.

But you have to have certain qualities to be a Special. Shay and Tally put together a plan to help Zane escape the city, which will make him seem like he has those qualities, but their plan goes too far, is too scary, and ends up having consequences outside their own city.

What I found interesting about this book especially, was that there was no clear “this is the right way to think and this is the wrong way to think” theme that you find in a lot of YA dystopia. While there is an antagonist, her ideologies aren’t necessarily portrayed as being bad. And Tally never completely aligns with the “rebel” side either, definitely not in this book but not all the way in the others either.

It’s a bit refreshing, honestly.

The book ends with the “wrong” system slowly disintegrating, but Tally putting herself in a position where, if the “rebel” system replacing it gets out of hand, she can act as a check and balance.

Overall, I thought the trilogy was worth the read. I don’t think we’ll go on to the fourth book, which takes place some time after the change in systems with a new viewpoint character, but you’re welcome to if you would like!

Thanks for reading along with me, squiders! I’ll see you again later in the week.

Help Me Pick a Cover!

Hello again, squiders! Every so often, over at Turtleduck Press, we pull off the older free short stories, and then I gather mine up and release them in a short story collection. The first one, The Short of It, came out in 2017 and included stories from the start of TDP until 2014 (as well as a new story), and the one I’m working on right now will include stories from 2015 and 2016 (and a new story).

Anyway, it’s cover picking time. I’ve made a couple and I’d love to get your feedback on which one you like best!

Thank you for taking a look!