Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Free Time!

One of the things I look forward to the most about MileHiCon is having some time to myself. Aside from some evening commitments and the panels I’m on (and the book signing time), I’ve got the whole weekend to myself, and I can do whatever I want with it.

And MileHiCon has traditionally been very productive for me. Admittedly, when I was chained to the Turtleduck Press table in Author’s Row, I could get a ton done, and that’s not as true now that I’m free (freeee ahahahaha), but last year at least still proved quite useful.

(Like many conventions, MileHiCon has ~50 minute panels that start on the hour. So there’s about ten minutes between panels where the majority of the con population is meandering about when you deal with people, and then for the other 50 minutes you twiddle your thumbs, or a few people wander through. That’s a lot of thumb twiddling.)

I tend to get overwhelmed at panels, so I don’t go to that many, no matter the convention (even when I go to writers’ conferences where there’s a ton of stuff to do, every now and then I skip a session to recharge). I’ll hit the artist’s alley (I love the artist’s alley and seeing all the cool stuff people have come with) and the vendors’ hall a few times, maybe watch some anime if something looks fun, watch the costume contest.

That still leaves a lot of time.

When I was table-chained, I often got some editing done, drew pictures for the blog, wrote short stories, etc. (The Internet does not really work in the hotel, so I have to plan ahead to make sure I can do what I want to do. But, on the other hand, I am not distracted by silliness.) Even last year, I wrote a short story and managed to get feedback on it throughout the weekend.

So, knowing that I will have several hours to do whatever this weekend…what do I do?

(Well, if this anthology story doesn’t finish itself a little faster, I’ll have to finish it there.)

It’s one of those times when there’s too much possibility. I could do so many things. How do I pick? How do I focus? Do you do that, squiders, where there are so many opportunities you end up getting nothing done because you flit from one thing to the next?

Because I do. And it’s problematic.

If we go off of priorities…well, anthology story. Hopefully done before the end of the week, and so no longer an option. Siri has the Sekrit Project and so there’s nothing I can do there. I’m into the climax and conclusion on space dinosaurs, so maybe that? I’m probably not going to want to write a short since I’m coming off the anthology story. (Although at a projected 10-11K, it’s not really a “short” story. We shall consider the matter still open.)

(I may need to have a short done by Nov 1 anyway, actually. Yes, we shall keep that on the table.)

I could also work on some things I’ve been wanting to do that keep getting eaten by other things, like work on potential new series (including a picture book and a chapter book one) or poke at the nonfiction books and see what I need to do to get them ready to be published. (I think there’s one more book to be written, but that’s kind of why I need to evaluate where I am.)

So, options:

  1. Space Dinosaurs
  2. Short story
  3. Children’s books
  4. Other series?
  5. Nonfiction books

Hm. Five options, and only three days. Decisions, decisions. A short would need to be plotted before hand (see, no Internet, so I won’t be able to access my idea file at the hotel). Nonfiction probably also needs Internet, so that might be out. What would you do, if you were me?

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Recording vs. Typing

I type, Squiders. When I write, I sit down at a computer, open a word processing document (or the blog window, I guess), and go to it. (Or get distracted by the Internet. Dang you, Internet, you double-edged sword.)

But, sometimes, it’s hard to find time to sit down and write. And my laptop is getting older, so sometimes it takes a few minutes to get up and running. And sometimes it hurts my neck because invariably I’ve picked some place stupid to write and have been typing away with terrible posture.

So every now and then I consider other options.

I do handwrite sometimes, but I’m not terribly fast at it and I find it hard to really get going. (I do find that outlining or brainstorming on paper can be more efficient, however.)

I had a dictation program that I used for a bit right after the largest of the mobile ones was born. It still involves sitting at a computer, and there’s a learning curve while the program learns how you talk. Also it hated all my nonstandard fantasy names. So there was still a lot of fiddling to fix up what the program heard wrong. Which kind of eliminated the usefulness of using the dictation program. Also, I’m pretty sure said mobile one broke the headset that came with it, so that’s a bit of a problem.

There’s another option which I have not previously tried, and that’s recording and typing it up (or having someone else type it up) later. Kevin J. Anderson, who is a very nice person and a very proficient author, works this way. He goes for hikes out in the wilderness, talking into a recording device as he goes, and comes home with two or three hours worth of story, which he sends to his transcriptionist to type up.

Of course, some of us don’t have two or three hours to wander around talking to ourselves in the forest, but I admit the idea intrigues me. I could maybe do it while I folded laundry, or cooked dinner. Or maybe in patches when I find myself with a spare 15 minutes.

My biggest worry is voice. I don’t talk like I write, and it seems like it would be awkward to learn how to tell stories out loud in a way that could be supplemented by (or supplementing) writing on the computer.

Of course, I haven’t tried. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard.

I looked at audio recording apps for my phone, which seems most convenient (since I have my phone with me most of the time) but there was a ton of them, and I got overwhelmed and ran off.

Have you tried recording a story and then transcribing it later? How did it work? Or do you know of a writer that works that way that has talked about their process?

October!

It’s that time of year again.

fear them

October! Best month of the year! You guys are probably sick of me saying that every year, but it continues to be true.

The temperature is finally dropping enough to wear, you know, pants. And other fun things like boots and sweaters. The leaves are changing. People don’t look at me as weird for drinking tea all the time. The world turns a little bit goth, just for fun.

Here’s what October looks like on my end:

  • Rehearsal starts tomorrow for the Christmas review show. They gave me a solo. They weren’t supposed to ever actually do that. But aside from never having sung by myself in front of more than about three people at a time (aside from auditions), I’m pretty excited. Some of the songs are the same as last year, so less work for me. <_<
  • I’ve got a major client edit. It’s my fourth book for this client, and his books are just massive. So that will probably carry me through til the end of the year.
  • Also I have a beta that I’m about 60% done with that I need to finish up and get back to the author.
  • Red Mars needs to be read by Nov 1 and I have yet to start it. (Not too worried; I read pretty fast. Got distracted by a book talking about the relations between haunted places, our psyches, storytelling, and ghosts. Seasonally appropriate.)
  • I’m two-thirds of the way through my Python class. Did I tell you I was taking a Python course? I am. Programming seems like a good thing to be generally proficient in. Said class takes between six and twelve hours a week, so it’s more of a time commitment than I was expecting going in.
  • I’m halfway through my fitness challenge.
  • On the writing front, it’s all Fractured World, all the time. All the plans I had for September got eaten and it may be December before I get back to most of them. Priority is working on the sequel to City of Hope and Ruin as well as a related anthology (which I am super excited about–really looking forward to writing my story, as well as seeing the other ones).
  • My birthday is next week! I keep trying to direct people to my Amazon wishlist but no one ever listens. (Also, on a related note, can you make Etsy wishlists?)

I’m not a pumpkin spice person myself, but I always hail the return of pumpkin spice season, because it means peppermint everything season shall be here shortly.

October, squiders! Do you love it? Grand plans for the month? People doing Nano? Should I talk about Nano?

Cool Things Round-up

Hey, squiders! It’s been one of those weeks, so I’ve decided to share some neat things for both readers and writers with you.

Reading

I’ve talked about BookRiot before, but I recently learned that they do tailored book recommendations. (To be honest, I also like how they’ve named it Tailored Book Recommendations and shortened it to TBR, which stands for To Be Read in most reading circles.) It costs money, of course. There’s two levels–recommendations only (and I’m unsure whether you get the actual books or just recommendations and then have to hunt the book down yourself) and hardcover. (…why hardcover? I don’t want a ton of new hardcover books every quarter, but I suppose people must, or they wouldn’t offer it.) If you’re always looking for new books to read, this might be worth it to you.

Two weeks ago I took over the social media accounts for Hometown Reads. (And also Hometown Authors, but that’s for the other section.) If you’re unfamiliar with Hometown Reads, the idea is connect readers with local authors, so they can support them. The website is divided into cities (alphabetical by city name), and then once you click on your hometown, it shows several pages of books by local authors. The books rotate through, so you may get new and different books each time you check. You can also search by genre, though this gives you books from all the locations, and can search books/authors by name in a search box.

Writing

One of my favorite writing teachers, Holly Lisle, is launching a new course tomorrow, called How to Write a Novel. This is a brand spanking new class, so I haven’t taken it myself, and I’m also not sure how it differs from (or if it’s to replace) her How to Think Sideways course. I think it may be more specialized–HTTS also focuses on idea generation and how to find markets and the like. So! I don’t know about this particular class, except I have seen the outline for it and it is very very VERY thorough, and her How to Revise Your Novel course was a game changer for me.

(Also, I took her free How to Write Flash Fiction course and sold three of the four stories I finished, so…)

Edit: Oh, hey, reading comprehension–apparently if you get in the early bird launch, you get a full content edit of your manuscript for free, so that’s a pretty nice perk.

On the other side of Hometown Reads is Hometown Authors, which connects you to other authors in your local area, and also offers a marketing blog and other occasional resources. You can also maintain an account that shows up over at Hometown Reads, that links your books to you and where to buy them.

Another resource I came across fairly recently is Authors Publish. This is a free resource that emails once a week or so with a selection of markets you can submit to. These tend to be themed (one week may be publishers for romance novels, another week may be themed short story submissions, another might be new publishers), and they also occasionally release ebooks on various marketing and submission topics.

Well, that’s it for me for today. Found anything cool lately, squiders?

Working with an Ensemble Cast

I’m to the climax of the space dinosaur book, which is exciting! And also scary, because I’m trying out fencepost outlining for this particular project (basically, you identify the major plot points for your arcs–first plot point, midpoint, second plot point, etc.–and that’s about it) so I’m not 100% sure how this is going down, but sometimes that’s part of the fun!

This book is meant to be the first book of a series, and as it takes place on a spaceship with a crew of about 150 people, there’s a lot of people to deal with. It can be overwhelming. So what are you to do when you’ve got a ton of people to keep track of?

Well, me, I’m taking a page from one of my very favorite science fiction series, Star Trek: the Next Generation. (And arguably other Trek franchises, like Deep Space Nine and Voyager.)

Next Gen had a core cast of characters–Picard, Riker, Data, Geordi, Deanna, Beverly, Worf–as well as several reoccurring characters, such as Barclay, Chief O’Brien, Q, Guinan, that nurse whose name is slipping my mind, Wesley in later seasons, etc. In general, you got a good idea of the scope of the ship without getting overwhelmed by everyone on it.

So when I started setting up my cast, I focused on my core crew, which looks like this:

(Remember what I said about character images from last week.)

(Also, if you can’t read names–I have never claimed to be decent at digital art–it goes Ari, Brian, Chris, Dave, Lin, Robin, Roya, Tom.)

That gave me a good spread across the ship–these people are essentially in charge of different departments. (And, well, space dinosaur.)

However, depending on the type of story you’re writing, eight viewpoints is a lot of viewpoints. A thriller where character is less important and you can have a multiple of viewpoints is one thing. But I wanted to have characters people could identify with, that they’d follow along with for the entire series. That they’d care about. So I decided I’d do three viewpoints per book, with the focus being on who is most involved in the plot for that book. The main plot for this book involves an unknown saboteur who somehow manages to get around all the security measures, so the engineering characters have a lot to do. Other people–medical or science staff, for example–are around, and do contribute, but it doesn’t make sense to give them viewpoints here.

And in writing this book, some of those secondary characters, the ones that make a ship feel like a real, working vessel and not just a backdrop for the officers, have already started to show up. I’m taking note of them so I can use them throughout the series. I don’t know if they’ll ever become viewpoint characters later down the road, but, hey, anything’s possible.

I mean, Chief O’Brien didn’t even get a name for two seasons and went on to be the chief engineer of DS9.

What are your favorite ensemble casts, squiders? Any thoughts on how they’ve been handled, good or bad?

How to Picture Characters

Good news, squiders! I did not have to go to jury duty today! (Obviously.)

(Also, I wanted to note that I put The Wanderer as MG historical in my box of books post, and it is straight MG. Not sure why I thought it was historical.)

I am not the most visual of authors, but I know a lot of people like to use images to “see” their characters. Or other people’s characters (hooray for fanart!). So, if this is you, I thought I’d give you a few resources to use to hunt down characters or build your own if you already know what they look like.

(I find having pictures of my characters useful for showing other people. I typically just need a name to get a fully formed character when actually writing. But everyone’s different, and that’s okay!)

If you know what your characters look like

As I said, I typically just need a name, and then everything else kind of falls into place. Sometimes I will start with a visual (I want them to be this ethnicity, or have this color eyes, or whatever) and then go for a name, but normally they show up and come with their own details.

If you’re artistic, you can try drawing your characters. I do this periodically with mixed results, because I never quite got past a middle school drawing level. (And also I was obsessed with the anime-style drawing at that point and it shows.) Also I don’t know how to color, so I typically get line drawings I’m happy with and then ruin them by digitally coloring them.

If you’re not artistic, never fear! There’s a lot of character generators out there! Some are specifically designed to do forum avatars, and tend to be from the shoulders up. Search “avatar maker” and you’ll find a ton of them. “Character creator” typically works for full-body ones, and here’s a reddit thread about decent ones.

They do tend to be a bit specialized, so you might need to poke around a bit to find one that will work for you. Here’s a picture of my character Ali that I whipped up just for this blog post on HeroMachine. (It’s specifically for making superheroes or other scifi/fantasy characters which makes it not awesome for character like Ali, who is a contemporary high school student, but I’ve used it forever so I’m used to how it works.)

Ali pic

(Alternately, here’s a pic of Briony from City of Hope and Ruin, also using HeroMachine.)

(There’s a lot of bare midriffs for the ladies in HeroMachine land.)

I don’t know what my characters look like and/or I prefer real people

(Or at least more realistic drawings)

Hey, too bad there’s not an entire Internet out there with pictures of things! Here’s some places to look:

  • Pinterest – there’s even a handy-dandy search bar, right at the top!
  • stock photo websites – Again, handy search bars. Harder to find some weirder things. I remember, when we were working on the cover for Shards, it was near impossible to find a guy looking over his shoulder that also had a shirt on. Additionally, if you find a picture you really like, you can normally purchase it (for a fee) and then you can legally use it in promotional material and stuff like that.
  • Portrait-photos.orgLike HeroMachine, I’ve been using this website for literally forever, ever since someone first brought up trying to match characters to real people for use in avatars, practice covers, Nanowrimo banners, etc. You search by keyword (I usually do this by clicking on a keyword under a picture and then replacing it with what I actually want to search for). I like that this website has a wider selection of people than just “pretty, young people.”
  • Flickr
  • deviantArt

A note about copyright: Please do not just steal pictures off the Internet. If you’re making an icon or a banner or even a cover just for fun, it’s probably okay, but if you’re going to be using them for a real cover or promotional materials of any sort, you need to make sure you have permission to use the image. There are some stock photo websites, like pixabay, that specifically host public domain images, and you can purchase images off other ones. Websites like deviantArt and Flickr usually list the copyright information under each picture. A lot of artists use Creative Commons (CC), and some CC copyrights allow for personal use or modifications. Just be aware.

And if you want to see a lot of old drawings, icons, and banners of various book projects…well, here you go.

(Okay, some of the banners aren’t so old.)

(Also, there’s some landsquid.)

What resources do you use to picture characters, squiders?

Low Confidence

It’s recently come to my attention that I’m not as good of a fiction writer as I wish I was. This comes from the sort of things writers run into all the time–a combo of bad reviews, harsh critiques from my writing group, lukewarm response from betas, rejections on short stories–but this time it kind of feels like a wake-up call.

Of course, there’s a number of ways one can react to finding out that they’re not as good at something as they thought they were:

  1. Give up
  2. Ignore the feedback and continue on doing the same thing
  3. Evaluate weak points and take steps to fix them

I mean, there is always the option that you’re not good at something and that you will never be good at something. Some of us are just not athletic or smart or good at math/languages/common sense…

Though I do hope we’re not at that point.

Anyway, as you can imagine, this hasn’t been great for my self-confidence as of late (also combined with a terminal diagnosis for my cat from my vet and other stresses), but I have managed to take a step back and look at my path moving forward.

  • I have publishing obligations in an anthology and the sequel to City of Hope and Ruin. Those will have to be done. But perhaps I should hold off on submitting short stories and querying agents on other projects until I do some more evaluation.
  • I bought Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways course like, ten years ago. I got a few steps in but never finished the process, and perhaps a hands-on course on writing would help me learn some new skills and tools for novel-writing. (Also of note, I took Holly’s How to Write Flash Fiction course a few years back–it’s free and short–and out of the four stories I got out of it, I have sold three, which is pretty damn good on percentages.)
  • I have several writing books that I’ve never touched, both practical ones (such as writing exercises) and craft ones. Maybe now is the time to crack them open.
  • Experimentation might also be in order. I love fantasy–I love to read it, and I love to write it–but maybe it’s not destined to be. My husband thinks I should combine my drawing and writing to try out a few children’s books, which could be fun to do. And I would also like to try my hand at a mystery. It wouldn’t hurt to do something just for fun, too, without worrying about trying to make it marketable.

Any other tips, squiders, for when you’re feeling down and worthless? Thoughts about fixing things?