Posts Tagged ‘Kit works’

Wattpad and Tea

First of all, Squiders, if you haven’t given me feedback on Tuesday’s post for the nonfiction format, please do so. My brain does not always follow the most logical of paths and input would be great.

Onward.

A few months ago I received a letter in the mail inviting me to subscribe to a magazine. I imagine you guys get these sorts of things as well. I tend to ignore them, because the last thing I need in my life is more magazines, but I decided to go ahead and get this one since it wasn’t too expensive. It’s called Scotland, and my justification was that I have always wanted to do some Celtic fantasy–especially Scottish over the more common Welsh and Irish, since that’s where my heritage lies–and that it might be a good place to get some story ideas.

I have gotten two issues thus far, and mostly it has just made me want to go to Scotland (I spent a day there once when I was 16 as part of a whirlwind tour of the British Isles, and so did not really experience very much). They talk a lot about old manor houses and castles, which could be useful, though nothing’s caught my eye as of yet.

Of course, subscribing to one magazine means they like to see if you’ll subscribe to others (I think I’ve been offered all the parts of the United Kingdom at this point), but today I received my first related catalogue. At first I was very excited–I opened it up, and the first page is full of tea and tea-related snacks, and the latent British in me had to put the catalogue down out of excitement. Unfortunately, once I got further into it, I realized it’s an American company selling kitschy UK-themed stuff and I am kind of over the whole thing. (They sell things in Campbell of Argyll tartan. That tells you something. Never buy anything in Campbell of Argyll, it is not an official tartan and only one person is allowed to wear it, and it is not you.)

I do like a good tea, though. But in retrospect theirs are overpriced and can be bought locally for much cheaper, even the imported stuff.

(We should do afternoon tea. Or coffee and cake, like they do in Germany.)

Moving on to relevant things, do you remember us talking a few months ago about Wattpad? It’s a free platform where people can write and/or read stories. Some people have even found commercial success through it if their stories caught enough attention. I joined in August and have mostly been reading other stories. They’re not perfect, but I’ve found some ones that are pretty decent.

Anyway, I’ve started putting up parts of the scifi serial I’ve been working on once a month for the last seven years up there, kind of as an exploration of the platform but also to get feedback on the story itself. If you’d like to read along and help me out, you can find the story here. (Otherwise, my profile is here.) Thus far I’m getting about 4 or 5 views each time I put up a part, but I have no idea how people are finding it.

So I don’t have any conclusions about the platform yet. Anyone else use Wattpad, either for writing or for reading? Have thoughts about tea? Anything else new or exciting?

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City of Hope and Ruin is out! And Miscellany.

Happy Thursday, Squiders! I think I’ve overloaded my desktop refreshing everything to stalk the book release, so I’ve had to retreat to my laptop. Very classy.

City of Hope and Ruin is out in the world! And so far, so good. We’ve already got a 5-star review on Amazon, and two on Goodreads! The Amazon and one of the Goodreads ones is from another author I look up to greatly, so I’m pretty tickled.

Our FB release party last night was pretty wild. I’ve never been so tired from something virtual before. Hopefully all had a good time, and thanks for coming, if you did. If you didn’t, well, you missed out.

Here’s the round-up of launch stuff for the week thus far:

An interview with me
An interview with both Siri and me (a lot of process stuff)
An interview with Briony, one of our main characters

And here are the buy links. You should think about picking up a copy, since apparently it’s 5-star material. 😉

(Amazon | Paperback | Nook | iBookstore | Kobo)

And you can add it on Goodreads here.

Next week we’ll be back to our normal fare around here. Thanks for your support with the book launch!

Picking a Title: Surprisingly Hard

My co-writer (the lovely Siri Paulson) and I are deep into our revision for our novel coming out in May. I feel like it’s going fairly smoothly, because we identified a lot of issues ourselves and got started on fixes before we got our comments back from our editor. Siri may feel otherwise. We haven’t been in several-times-a-day touch like when we were writing and so now I feel like I have no idea what she’s thinking anymore.

But we’ve run into what’s turned out to be a difficult and complex issue: we can’t pick a title.

Titles are notoriously hard in general. You want something that evokes the theme and tone of the story without being too obvious, something catchy but not misleading. With my novels, I tend to pick a title before I start writing. This isn’t really the best practice, as the titles often times don’t fit by the time I’m done, but I find it hard to undertake a large project without a name. (Luckily with short stories, I can write them and then title them, which works much better.)

Siri deemed this the “Sekrit Project” at the beginning, which stuck, and has worked for getting around whatever name-hangup I have with novels, but now we need a real title because we’ve got to get the book up for pre-order, get the cover art done, reach out to reviewers, etc. And we can’t do anything of that without a title.

And we’re stumped. Because of the structure of the novel, we essentially have two of everything–two main characters, two settings, two plots. There are things and themes and everything that overlap, but finding something that makes sense for both characters and both worlds and the over-arcing themes has proven elusive.

We’ve bounced from more literal titles to more metaphorical titles and back again with no luck. We’ve looked at recent releases in the same genre to get an idea of title trends with no luck. We’ve asked our editor and our betas for suggestions. Again, no luck.

I kind of want to laugh. We worldbuilt together, we plotted and wrote and are now revising together, and we can’t manage a little thing like picking a couple of words to slap on the front of it.

Siri jokingly suggested we just call it the Secret Project, but alas, it will not work.

Any suggestions, Squiders? We’re at our wits’ end. Any thoughts about titling or things that have worked for you (or things that you look for when picking a book to read)?

Using Worldbuilding to Bring Your Story to Life

I’m into the final revision on this co-written story coming out in May, and there was some commonality among comments from the editor and our beta readers:

  • The setting reads a little generic
  • My main character’s initial plan seems a little confused
  • Why are the two side characters not seeing what the main character sees, re: danger?

Now, this may look like a bevy of issues, but they all have their root in one thing: worldbuilding.

As a quick recap, Wikipedia defines worldbuilding as “the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe.” All fiction requires worldbuilding, but it’s mostly associated with science fiction and fantasy.

The thing is, everything else stems from your worldbuilding. Your characters, their motivations, the plot, the setting–so if you’re winging it or are a little unclear on something, that’s going to be painfully obvious in your narration.

I’ve found, when creating secondary worlds, that it’s hard to get it right the first time. That, despite thinking things through and planning things out, there’s always something that you’ve forgotten, or that gets fleshed out through the actual writing. Or, in this particular case, you notice something your co-writer is doing that would be excellent to incorporate into your own stuff.

The good news is that everything is fixable. By fleshing out your worldbuilding, you can make your settings feel real, your characters relate-able, and your plot cohesive. The better you understand it, the better the underlining structure of your entire story is.

That’s why stories where the worldbuilding was an afterthought or deemed not important feel contrived and derivative. There’s a key element missing from them that all the pretty prose and excitement in the world won’t fix.

The good news for me is that now that the first draft is finished and that I’ve done some additional worldbuilding in spots that I identified as lacking, those beginning problems can be solved with some tweaks to bring everything into proper alignment. And it sounds like everything else is pretty good to go.

Have you found issues stemming from improper or incomplete worldbuilding, Squiders? Have you ever read a book with obvious worldbuilding fails?

5 Things I’ve Learned From Co-Writing a Novel

Well, Squiders, that novel I’ve been working on isn’t exactly done and off to the editor like I hoped, but it’s very close, and I’m kind of basking in the accomplishment of completion even though we’re not quite there yet. So, in celebration, here’s some things I’ve learned from co-writing a novel.

(It should probably said that I’ve co-written novels before, informal things mostly done for fun that might never get anywhere. This is a completely different animal.)

1. Co-writing is hard
At first glance, it seems like it should be easier. You only have to write half the words, right? Score! A full novel for half the work! But you have to make sure your half makes sense with your partner’s half (or however you’ve got it broken down), that you’ve got similar themes for the entire work, and that the whole thing feels cohesive, as opposed to two people writing two disparate stores.

2. Communication is essential
My partner (the wondrous Siri Paulson) and I talk all the time. We send each other lengthy emails discussing plot points, coordination, characterization, etc. We tweet each other quick notes (and to ask if the other is in the manuscript before we mess around too much). We have face-to-face meetings over Google Hangouts to hash out worldbuilding, discuss key scenes, and occasionally write important scenes together. We chat in IRC. We leave notes in document. We are everywhere. But if we weren’t, well, see point 1 about cohesiveness and whatnot. We were in the same time zone over Christmas and it was amazing.

3. You can’t futz worldbuilding
Because of the nature of the story Siri and I have put together, we essentially had to do worldbuilding for two very different places. She took the lead on one, I took the lead on the other, but we needed to understand both and also understand how the two fit together. I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes my worldbuilding can be a little underdeveloped on a first draft. You can’t do that here, though. Part of it also comes from the genre and type of story, however. My previous co-writing jaunts have been contemporary fiction with very few, if any, fantastical elements. This is high fantasy bordering on science fantasy. Before, questions like “Wait, how do the monsters maintain the pocket dimension?” have never come up.

4.Everyone writes differently
Before we started this, I would have guessed that Siri and I had near identical writing processes. We’ve been writer friends for almost a decade now, so we’ve had plenty of conversations about writing and we’ve watched each other go through numerous projects, long and short. We tend to have a similar style and write about similar topics. We even, a bit creepily, look quite a bit alike.

I have now learned, however, that our processes differ quite a bit. Siri writes detailed outlines and then goes back and fleshes the scenes out, leaving herself (and me) lots of notes as well as alternatives to the current scene. I write fully fleshed out scenes, taking care to try and get as close to a finished product as I can at first go by outlining before I start. She outlines chronologically but doesn’t flesh out in order necessarily. I prefer to go chronologically at all times.

I think this was a bit of a surprise on both of our counts. But we figured it out. I even wrote a few scenes out of order in the end.

5. Writing with someone else has a lot of perks
This is the first book of what will hopefully be a multi-author shared world. Siri and I inherited the first book because Erin and KD had other projects they were already working on. We took the shared world brainstorming and got to turn that into a story. And it’s been a lot of fun. Two heads are better than one, as they say. We got to bounce ideas off each other, and had a partner to give their opinion when a plot point on one side’s arc wasn’t working. We got to build off each other’s characters and worldbuilding. And I think we’ve been able to come up with something super awesome because of it.

Oh, and as a bonus:

GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME
Siri and I got the novel assignment at the very end of April and were supposed to have the story done by the end of the year. This has proven to be not nearly enough time due to the level of coordination necessary between the two of us. (Also, life events happened.) This is the first time we’ve tried something like this, and eight months seemed like a long time back then. Now we know better. And moving forward, I shall try to keep in mind that new types of projects should always be given more leeway on timing because it takes a while to figure out how things work. I think it took Siri and I a good 2-3 months to really get going–it took us a while to hash out characters, and then we each wrote a beginning, both of which were thrown out completely, though they really helped us establish what we were looking for and how we would work going forward. Another month or two would have been excellent. If you’re thinking about trying something similar, I’d recommend thinking about how long it would take you to do something on your own, and then add half that time again.

Woo! So close! And I’m excited to see what the editor thinks when she gets it.

How’s your 2016 going thus far, Squiders? Mine’s pretty awesome except I got pink eye from somewhere.

The Increasingly Muddy Line Between Fantasy and Science Fiction

Have I shown you my speculative fiction pyramid, squiders? Hold on, let me do a quick paint drawing for you.

Speculative Fiction TriangleTada! Behold, the speculative fiction pyramid. Because, back when I was doing the Subgenre Study, I found it increasingly difficult to tell where one genre ends and another begins. Something like Pern looks like fantasy on the outside, but actually takes place on a planet that humans colonized.

The Pern books are admittedly kind of old-school at this point, but it’s certainly not the only example I can provide. The Shannara books (getting new life through the upcoming TV show) have always hinted that it takes place in our world after some disaster at some point in the distant past. And one of my favorite books that I read this year, The Queen of the Tearling, has every high fantasy trope you could want, but makes mention of England and Scotland and some passage made to get to where the story takes place. (And, actually, apparently Amazon has its sequel, The Invasion of the Tearling, which I have sadly not read yet, filed under Science Fiction>Dystopian.)

So while it’s true that most speculative fiction falls somewhere on the speculative fiction triangle (dark fantasy would go between fantasy and horror, say, and science fantasy would go between science fiction and fantasy), it almost feels like a lot of fantasy has pushed off toward the science fiction end.

My own personal theory is that we, as a technical society, like to know how things work, and so magic systems have become more technical and, over time, morphed toward the old “Any sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic” end of things. So maybe a world has magic, but instead of being true magic, it’s just considered magic because the Ancients who came up with the technology are dead and long gone, and the knowledge has been lost through whatever.

…one sec, I have to write down a story idea.

This co-written novel I’m working on right now has some elements of this too. What do you think, Squiders? Elements of our time? Is is really as pervasive as it seems, or do I just keep falling into that particular type of book?

A Landsquid Thanksgiving

Landsquid called his friend Turtleduck on the phone. “Come over,” he said. “I’ve learned about this great holiday that some people celebrate, where you get together with those you love, eat a shared meal, and go over what you’re thankful for. Food’s at 5. See you then? I’ve got to call the Alpaca still.”

It was a merry group that convened later that day. The Alpaca had knitted sweaters for the lot of them, which, though hideous, everyone still wore with good cheer. The self-folding plesiosaur had brought drinks, and the alligator in the tree entertained them all with stories from his perch on top of the bookcase.

Finally, it was time to eat. Everyone settled down as Landsquid brought in dish after dish: mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, and to top it all off…

“…is that a giant duck?” Turtleduck asked.

“Well, no,” Landsquid said. “Actually, it’s…”

“But it’s some kind of bird! You’re trying to serve me bird!” And she burst into tears.

Poor Turtleduck

The others stared at Landsquid, judgment written on their faces. “No!” he said. He placed the plate down on the table and crossed over to Turtleduck, patting the top of her shell awkwardly. “I would never do that–surely you know that, Turtleduck.”

She peered out from between her feathers, caught sight of the plate again, and wailed anew.

“Let me explain, please!” Landsquid waited until Turtleduck quieted. “You see, it’s all part of the tradition. Birds are fantastic, everyone knows it, so to celebrate them as part of the general thanksgiving, a giant effigy is made of them. It’s called a tofukey. It’s made of tofu.”

“Oh.” Turtleduck dried her tears on one wing. “Why doesn’t it have a head, then?”

They all regarded the tofukey solemnly. “I must have used a bad template,” Landsquid said finally. “I’ll find a different one for next year. Now, shall we eat?”

And so they did.