Friday, January 31, 2014

Revision Depression

I love to write. It's something I've always wanted to do, ever since I was a little girl.

I just don't like to do revisions. Editing has never been my favorite thing.

Revisions depress me.

I have a bunch of lovely people who beta read stories for me and go through and edit them for me, but the story revisions are always on me. I'm my own editor, which means it takes twice as long for the novel to go from first draft to ready for print. That means I have to go through it two or three times to check for problems with grammar, continuity, and just tightening sentences and making the plot better.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only writer who gets depressed when it comes to revisions. I mean, sometimes I get sick of the same story over and over. Even though I love these characters and they're part of me, I get tired of having to go back and read the same story over and over and over. Maybe it's because I know the details of their lives that go on between the scenes that are shown to the reader. Or maybe it's because I've lived with this story for years. But it gets boring after two or three revision read throughs when I have to pay such close attention to everything.

To deal with it, I have to plan things out so that I have at least a month between revisions so that I can "forget" things about the story and go back to them with new eyes. That's the only way I can avoid the frustration that leads to the horrible depression that makes me feel like I can't work on the story anymore. That's what happened with my first novel. I got so bored with the story that I haven't worked on it in four years.

Perhaps I should go back to it to help break up the monotony of the series that I'm working on right now. It might just help.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dealing with the writing slump

Sometimes I feel like I get into a writing slump. Like I have a hard time writing after I've worked so hard to get a project finished. It's almost like what recording artists have--you know that sophomore slump? The second record is never as good as the debut. Sometimes I feel like that.

I get the feeling that I poured so much of myself into that first story that made it to the bookshelf that I don't have anything left for the next one. It makes me sad to think that I'll never write anything that good again. I know I probably will, but it still doesn't take away the depression that maybe my best writing is behind me.

Right now, I'm spending a lot of my time trying to deal with that writing slump. Technically, I'm working on my fifth novel. Sometimes I really do get the feeling that I've gotten a lot of my best writing already on paper. It makes it difficult to get new things out. Sometimes I feel like I'm trying hard to come up with new plot points and twists. New character facets. It's depressing sometimes. But that's tomorrow's blog post.

So how have I been dealing with the writing slump? Honestly? I've been forcing the writing. I've been forcing out 2,000 words every day that I'm able to write now that I'm back to work. I'm not worrying about whether it's good or bad right now. I'll deal with that when it comes to revisions (ugh). Right now it's all about just getting the words on paper and moving the story along. I've got a March blog tour and a June release of a new book (and possibly a blog tour for that one too), so I've got a lot on my plate right now.

Dealing with the writing slump is just going to have to take a back seat. I've just got to push through it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

End of the Month Stress Buster

Things always get stressful near the end of the month, don't they? Bills start coming due, deadlines, and just built up stress from the weeks before. Sometimes we just need to find a way to destress at the end of the month to give ourselves a break.

So I'm going to start something I'm calling the End of the Month Stress Buster. At the end of every month, I'm going to give you one way that you can use to help get rid of some of the stress that's built up over the past month. Or maybe just over the past day from work, kids, or school.

This month's stress buster is all about getting your mind off what's stressing you out. That doesn't mean that the stress is going to go away, but it does mean that you're allowed to give yourself a break from it for a little while. Sometimes letting yourself forget about the stress for just an hour or two can do wonders for your ability to deal with the stress when you go back to it.

Here are some methods for taking your mind off your stress for an hour or two.

  1. Watch a movie and get lost in it.
  2. Jump wholly into a book and enjoy it, every word of it.
  3. Take a walk and enjoy the sights around you.
  4. Write a letter to someone you haven't seen a long time. Share a good memory.
  5. Spend some time cooking your favorite meal and enjoying it. Savor how it tastes.
  6. Volunteer at an animal shelter or spend time with your own pets. Unconditional love is a good stress reliever.
The first step is all about giving yourself permission to not have to worry about your stress constantly. You are allowed to not have to deal with this stress constantly, and it isn't good for you.

Your end of the month stress buster is about getting your mind off the stress for an hour or two. Give it a try.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why so serious?

I never really intended it to be, but this blog has become a serious blog about writing. Sure it's supposed to be about my books and my "career" as a writer. But I never expected it to be this serious. So I'm going to lighten things up just a little bit with this post. I'm going to give you some of my Top Tens.

My TOP TEN favorite television shows.

  1. Sleepy Hollow
  2. Real Housewives of Atlanta
  3. Doctor Who
  4. Couples Therapy
  5. Mob Wives: New Blood
  6. Storage Wars
  7. Nancy Grace
  8. Supernatural
  9. Law and Order: SVU
  10. Law and Order: Criminal Intent
My TOP TEN favorite movies of all time.

  1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
  2. The Harry Potter Saga
  3. Dodgeball
  4. The Longest Yard
  5. Grown Ups
  6. Fast Five
  7. Gone with the Wind
  8. The Avengers
  9. The Hangover
  10. The Silver Linings Playbook
My TOP TEN favorite bands/singers.

  1. Paramore
  2. Skillet
  3. Muse
  4. Hurts
  5. 30 Seconds to Mars
  6. Breaking Benjamin
  7. Bon Jovi
  8. Halestorm
  9. Katy Perry
  10. Taylor Swift

Monday, January 27, 2014

Writing warm ups--just as important as muscle warm ups

For the longest time, I would just jump straight into writing whatever I wanted to work on that day. And I learned pretty fast that my writing would always be crappy. It was like I had writing soreness--just like the soreness I'd get if I started working out without warming up first.

As a writer, you've got to get yourself in the right mindset to write. You can't just go from your real life into the world that you've built in your head and expect everything to flow. You've got to ease yourself into it. And that means warming yourself up. Sometimes that actually means warming up your muscles. There are times when I have to stand by my desk and stretch myself out because my muscles just aren't ready to sit down in that chair and work.

Once I do, though, I can't just go straight to writing. I've got to do something to get my mind into the frame of telling the story. That's where the writing warm up comes in.

I think I mentioned a couple weeks ago--or maybe it was just last week--that part of my ritual was to do a warm up as soon as I started my work. I do about 500 words on that just to get me started. By the end of that, my brain is up and ready to go. I'm warm and the creative juices are usually flowing, and I'm chomping at the bit to get into the world that I'm working with that day.

Sometimes the warm up is just a random writing prompt. Most of the time, though, it's part of another short story that I'm writing. At the moment, I'll admit, my warm up is part of a fanfiction that I'm writing for fun. I'm not giving anymore detail than that. I'm not telling. At least it helps me get started when it comes time for me to work. I can write with hardly any trouble at all.

I even do warm ups before I start editing and doing revisions. Either way, I have to get my brain in the mind set of working. And dealing with words and worlds. Warm ups do that for me, just like stretches do for an athlete who's preparing for an event.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Character Interviews as Ways to get to Know Your Characters

I read a manual on writing once that said doing character interviews were a great way to get to know your characters. Honestly, I feel strange doing them because I feel like I'm doing an interview with myself.

It sounds strange, but the characters feel like another facet of myself. They feel as if they're a completely different part of my personality. And I know that sounds strange, almost like I'm saying that I have dissociative personality disorder, but that's the best way I can describe it. I feel as if I know everything about them without having to ask them about it.

I know that Rosalind, the main character in my Elemental Royals Trilogy, hates blackberry tarts and that she has a scar on her left foot from falling off her first pony when she was five. I know she learned how to read tarot cards from her tutor, who thinks that every educated woman should know how to tell the portends of the future.

I know that Kable, the main character in my upcoming Off World Saga, is terrified of heights and hates confrontation. She has panic attacks and blackouts.

The truth is, I don't a character interview to tell me these things. I just know them. And I know them because these characters are a part of me and they tell me everything about their lives.

It doesn't matter that character interviews don't work for me. Sometimes they work for other writers. And that's absolutely okay. Every writer has their own process, their own zone, their own way of dealing with their characterizations.

Characters are part of my life. They are like extensions of myself, extensions of my family. I love them, nurture them because they tell me their stories and share their lives with me.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

World hopping

One of my favorite things about being a writer is being able to go from one place to another . I can be in a medieval fantasy world one day and on a distant planet the next. There is literally nowhere I can't go. My limit is only my imagination.

There's a problem with that, though. When I world hop--when I go from one place to another--I might get my worlds and my characters mixed up. It's happened before. I remember once I was writing a novel and, without paying attention, I stuck a computer in the middle of an elven settlement. I didn't catch it until the third read through. It was crazy.

Right now, I'm working on three different projects at the same time. I'm doing revisions on the second Elemental Royals novel and on the first Off World novel at the same time as writing the final Elemental Royals novel. I have to pay attention to make sure that I don't mix the worlds that are so very separate that it isn't funny. One is so medieval that it's practically in the Dark Ages. The other is so futuristic you expect Captain Kirk to pop his head in the door.

But world hopping can be fun and a good way to break writer's block. When I get stuck on something with one story, I can go somewhere else to get the creative juices flowing. I can move from one world to another until I figure out what I want to do with the other one. It makes everything so much easier to deal with, taking a ridiculous amount of stress off of me.

I love writing. I love building these worlds and finding these new people to give them life. But sometimes it's hard to keep going in one without getting just a little bit bored. That's when world hopping comes in handy. It makes coming back to the other world all the sweeter.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Early bird or night owl?

I have some friends who are writers who have the hardest time writing during the day. They cant' get a word out while the sun is up, but at night they work themselves into the ground trying to make up the work that they missed. Their creative juices start to flow almost the second the sun goes down. Sometimes I have those kinds of days, but for the most part, I have to get my work done during the day.

What can I say? I really like to sleep.

I can't say that I'm really an early bird either. Seven AM is early for me, and six is just ridiculous. I hate having to get up early. My brain doesn't really start working until about ten. That's when my creativity really starts going and I'm able to really get some writing done.

Everybody has those days when they get up at some God-awful hour and just can't go back to sleep. And then there are those times when there's no going to sleep, and you just have to find something to keep you occupied or else you'll be bored to death. For me, it's all about the characters in my head and when they decide they want to start telling their story.

Wow, that made me sound more than a little crazy.

It made me sound like I hear voices.

I don't. But I do. Not really. It's kind of hard to explain. Other writers will understand. I'm not crazy, I promise.

I suppose you could say I'm a little bit of both depending upon what's been going on lately. When it comes to being back at work, I'm more of an "early bird" because I have to be up to catch the bus to head into the city. But oh, how I'd love to sleep in. I remember days when I could sleep until noon or one PM. It was wonderful. For me, at least. Not so much for everyone else in my life.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I'm a horrible gift giver

I'm the first to admit it: I absolutely suck at giving gifts. Mostly because I'm broke and can't do anything really extravagant. But I'm also just a really bad gift giver. I don't know how to pick out gifts. I don't know what people will like.

Trust me. My family has told me this a thousand times.

Every year, my family does this thing at Christmas that we call "Dirty Santa." It's a game where everyone brings a gift that goes in the middle, and then everyone draws a number. You go in order--picking a gift from the pile or taking someone else's gift until it's taken out of rotation. It's a fun game just for the fact that people get frustrated with having their gifts taken away so often. But sometimes--well, pretty often actually--I'd end up with a crappy gift because most of our family are married and have campers. Something I know nothing about. Or, as another explanation, I just brought a crappy gift and ended up with what I brought.

It was a common refrain until this past year. "You guys have to step it up on the gifts," my cousins would say. "These are crappy."

But not this year. This year I got lucky. I brought a good gift.

Thanks to just buying a crap ton of Duck Dynasty stuff.

Most of the time, though, I'd rather just give a gift card and be done with it. That way it isn't my problem to figure out what is a good gift and why they would or wouldn't like it.

Maybe I'm just trying to get out of the responsibility of having to pick gifts, but I like to think I'm trying to save my friends and family the frustration of having me give them a crappy gift that they have to act like they like even though they hate it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My ever increasing To Be Read pile

If you haven't figured it out by now, I love to read. I love to read as much as I love to write. Every single week, I check my local library for new books that have come in that I want to read. God only knows how many books I'm actually on a waiting list for there. And I go through Barnes & Noble's upcoming releases list to know what I should be looking forward to reading.

Now that I'm back at work full time--for the most part--it means that my reading is falling by the wayside just a little. When I didn't have to work, I could read a book in a single day if I really sat down and put my mind to it. But now I've got so many things to do that it seems like I'm doing everything BUT reading.

And I've also decided that I'm going to review nearly every book that I read. Mostly because it helps me get into the habit of picking out both the good and the bad in other books, and it allows to me to be able to do the same in my own books. And it makes me pay attention to what I'm reading. I find that I enjoy a novel more if I actually pay attention and think about it, rather than just mindlessly stare at the pages. I even keep a little notepad beside me so that I can write down the things that are really good and the things that aren't so great about the book.

Right now, not including the book I'm in the process of reading at the moment, I've got six books in my to be read pile. Usually I can read pretty fast. Usually, it takes me a week at most to read a book. It's a rare thing for me to have to renew books from the library. Now I've had to renew some of them twice. It's strange for me, and I have to read much faster. Less sleep, less talking, and much more reading.

I would say less writing, but that's not an option.

I could always cut down on the amount of books I'm reading or request fewer novels from the library at a time. But that seems so strange to me. And the librarians look at me as if I'm kind of odd or sick if I don't come in once or twice a week to check out books.

You can check out my book blog for reviews over at Ley's Library.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Winter sucks

Growing up in Virginia where it sometimes snowed from October to March, I learned pretty early that winter just straight up sucks. I might be built for cold weather, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Actually, I hate extremes of any kind.

Some of my strongest memories are of days and weeks when our power was out because of snow storms. When the show was so deep that it came up to my waist as a kid. Back then I loved it--snow days and building snow men. Looking back, I realize I despise that white stuff that falls from the sky. I'll just say it. I hate snow. It sucks, too.

I don't like the heat of summer either. I'm much more of a spring and autumn person. I like it when it's light jacket weather. You know, when things could get warm, but not so warm that you have to take a second shower because you've sweat through your clothes.

Maybe I'm spoiled. I like being able to snuggle up in a sweater and have a cup of coffee and be warm, or I like being able to hang out in a pool and relax. But I absolutely don't like having to fend off sunburn or having my nose drip like crazy because it's minus 6 outside.

What did I start this with? Oh right... winter sucks. Well, it does. It's always cold. Sometimes it snows. And if it doesn't snow where I live--which is rare for it to anyway--it rains. And the rain is usually worse than the snow.

Let's just face it... when it gets cold, life sucks.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Organize, organize, organize!

I'm the first to admit that I'm a little obsessive-compulsive. I like to have things put in just the right place and done in just the right way. Sometimes I just can't help myself.

Being a writer and tutor, I have to keep myself completely organized. Otherwise I'll forget what I'm doing, who I'm talking to, and what I'm supposed to be teaching. It's happened before. Once I went into a biology tutoring session and started talking to the students in Spanish. They all looked at me like I was completely insane. I honestly don't blame them. After that, I kept a color coded calendar. That way I could just look at it and slip into a different mindset just by seeing a different color. What can I say? It works.

I've found that it's important to stay organized when I write, too. Even if it means just keeping the things on my desk put in the proper place. When things around me are organized, it feels like my mind stays organized, too. And it makes writing so much easier. It helps with planning a blog tour and keeping all those dates and posts and everything straight, too.

Although I'm still trying to figure out Rafflecopter. It's going to be interesting.

The point is that being organized is something that sometimes falls by the wayside as a writer. We get lost in our own heads so much and sometimes we see these events in our heads so out of order that we forget that things in the real world happen in a sequence. And organization is key.

So whether it's in your personal, professional, or writing life--organize, organize, organize!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My librarian knows me better than my best friend

Some people might say it's a bad thing living next door to the town librarian. I think it's the best thing in the world. Especially since I'm in the library so often that they all not only know me by name, but they also know what I like to read and ask me for suggestions on what to buy.

Librarians and town libraries--especially small town libraries--are often taken for granted. School libraries too. Not only do librarians have to deal with keeping track of books and dealing with patrons, they also have to make sure that they have things on the shelves that people actually want to read. And you know as well as I do that it's hard to get teens interested in reading. And sometimes, it's hard to get adults to read.

Librarians have a thankless job sometimes. But I love the librarians in my town. They've been so supportive of my writing. They put my book in the public library. They've suggested it to people who've come in and seem to like to read the same things. They're even giving away a prize pack of my books during the summer reading program for the adults and teens. Librarians are some of the biggest unsung heroes a writer can have. They fight for our books on the front lines with readers, and I think sometimes that's forgotten.

My librarian is awesome. Sometimes she'll pop up at my door and deliver a book that I didn't request or even know about all because she thought I'd like it. And she does this solely because she remembers me, she remembers what I like to read. That's a humbling thing for someone like me, someone who pretty much reads anything and everything I can get my hands on.

Sometimes, I think my librarian knows me better than my best friend. And that can be pretty amazing.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Why bad reviews are better

Every writer puts their heart and soul into their books. They work for months or even years to put together this story that is so much a part of them that they sometimes forget that they aren't a part of that world. And it's only right that a writer wants other people to love that world and those characters as much as they do. Every writer wants good reviews for their books.

But I would argue that bad reviews may be better. How do you grow as a writer--or even as a person--if you never fail? If no one ever tells you that you have flaws? Sometimes you need to be told something is wrong so that you can figure out what to do right.

I'm not saying go out there looking for people to write bad reviews of your books, or send them to people with the sole purpose of getting a bad review (you know, a reviewer who absolutely hates the genre of book you write). But what I am saying is be grateful for those bad reviews. Be willing to accept that you aren't the best at what you do. And you probably never will be.

But you can be the best writer you can be. It's all up to how you take bad reviews and rejection.

And that, my friends, comes back to how you take rejection and criticism. Because you'll deal with a lot of that in this business. Not everyone is going to fall in love with your work. But you can make a good name for yourself by being professional and learning from what people say about your books.

Who knows, you may end up learning something that makes you a better writer all because someone gave you a bad review.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The importance of keeping a notebook

Writing is such a part of my life that I do it every single day. It is everything to me. And sometimes it's hard to remember the ideas that swirl around in my head. Especially when I have a thousand ideas and fifty things going on at once. So I learned long ago that I should keep a notebook with me at all times.

Every writer should keep a notebook on them. It should be just a basic rule of writing. Rule number 1: Notebook.

My notebook wouldn't make sense to any other writer but me. Sometimes I just jot down titles or phrases that give me a bit of inspiration. Or I might see someone who inspires a new character because of how they move or something they said. Most often, it's names. A strange name that I hear or see will go in the notebook. And every now and then, I may even plan out a story--a few plot points that stick in my mind.

Writers always have so many ideas in their heads and they think of so many things. It's a wonderful thing to have something with you so that you can write down the things that you need to know so that you can write a new story later. Forgetting things is never good.

Keeping a notebook allows a writer to never forget the characters that enter their minds. To never lose the threads of the stories that weave themselves into our minds.

Notebooks are secondary to our laptops. Absolutely necessities.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I can't get enough of trash TV

To me, trash TV isn't really... well... trash. Sure, it tends to show the worst of the worst. Cheating spouses and deadbeat dads. But I think there's more to it than that. What I really love about it is the drama. The complete and total overwhelming drama. That's what "trash" TV is really about.

And isn't that what a good story is about? Aren't we, as writers, supposed to open up these new worlds and bring drama and angst and a thousand different emotions to our readers? If you really think about it, before there was television, books and stories were trash TV. It probed the darkest reaches of our humanity and the emotions that we lived with. Today we watch them on television, then we read them on the pages of a book.

And while they're entertaining, I have to say that I love to watch episodes of trash TV because it's a new way of seeing the drama that real life can bring. Because I've only seen parts of life's drama. There are things that I will personally never understand, darkness that I will personally never walk into and see through with the candle of hope. But through the lens of trash TV, I can see what other people see.

I think writers should be open to learning about anything and everything that can help them to reach their readers on the deepest level. And I love learning how to be dramatic, to be uncommon, to be a writer beyond what I know.

That's why I can't get enough of trash TV.

Okay, and maybe it's because I love watching Steve Wilkos throw liars and monsters from his stage.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The rituals of a writer

I'll admit that I'm just a little bit obsessive compulsive. I have rituals when I do just about anything, mostly because I have a lot of anxiety about a lot of things. Welcome to my world, ladies and gentlemen. But I've found that my writing suffers if I don't do a certain series of rituals that puts me in the writing mood.

Every writer has their own set of rituals, I suppose. Some will sit down to write and can only begin writing new material once they've gone through the material they wrote the day before. Others write with word counts or page counts--they write until they hit that magic number and then they're done for the day. And still others will only write when the mood hits them. And only if they're in the right place for it.

I'm something very different, I suppose. A mixture of those if you will.

My rituals begin with the order in which I do things. When I think about writing, it doesn't just mean working on the new novel or revising an old project for publishing. For me, writing also means dealing with my website, my blog, and my book review blog. And it deals with promoting my books, talking to reviewers, and planning tours. So my writing takes up a lot more time than just sitting down to write a novel.

I always begin with working on new blog posts. I like to have one or two blog posts ready to go ahead of time, that way they automatically post. Because I'm so obsessive compulsive, I like to have my blog posts planned out ahead of time--and by that I mean a month ahead of time. If you looked at my schedule right now, you'd see that my schedule so far runs all the way to the end of January. Soon I'll begin planning for February. So I start my writing day with working on at least one new blog post. Sometimes I'll even do two.

Then I work on contacting reviewers and blogs. Depending on how many I have to contact that day, it may take me anywhere from half an hour to an hour. I send out emails about book reviews or blog tours. I make contacts in the reviewer community so that when I have a new book coming out, I have someone I can get in touch with to help promote it. Because I don't have a big publishing house with a PR department behind me. I'm all on my own here.

After I've got that done, it's all about the writing. I start with a short warm up. Usually it's just 500 words on some short story or prompt that I'm working on. It just gets me in the writing mood. I usually have a playlist for my warm up. I'll admit, right now my warm up is a fanfiction. But it does the job.

Once the warm up is done, then I tackle the new project. And I try to do a minimum of 2,000 words. It goes faster if I'm in a good writing mood and I'm listening to my playlist. Right now, my new project is the final book in the Elemental Royals Trilogy. Sometimes I can get through the word count quickly--an hour to an hour and a half. Other times, it takes me hours, or even all day, to get it done. But I'll work it until it's done.

Then, if I have it, I'll work on revisions. And that's usually if I still have any energy left. Sometimes I just don't have the energy to deal with the story anymore that day. It all depends on all long it took me to get that word count out. Or what kind of mood I'm in.

Every writer has their own rituals. But this is what works for me. A writer's rituals are sacred, a liturgy that put us in that place that connects us to the characters and the worlds we try to put on paper.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why I can't get rid of books

Sometimes, I think that I consider my books like my kids. When it comes time to clean off my bookshelves to make room for new books, I have these agonizing days and weeks when I decide what books to keep and which ones to either donate or take to a secondhand store. Even if it's a book that I haven't read in months, it's almost like I have a panic attack about getting rid of it. Just the thought of it makes me a little woozy.

In short, I have a problem.

*stands up, clearing my throat* Hello, my name is Ley. And I am a book hoarder.

That's really the simplest way to put it. I have such a hard time getting rid of books because I hoard them. I'm afraid that the second I get rid of them, I'm going to want those stories again. That I'm going to need those characters and those worlds just once more. Never mind the fact that I could probably find most of them at the local library. I still have a horrible fear of missing a book. Of missing a story that changed me in some way.

Even when I go to the secondhand store and exchange one book for another, it still feels like giving up when I hand over that book that's been on my shelf for God knows how long. There are some books that will never leave my shelves. Some that will stay with me until the day that I pass them down to my children.

Because if books are like my kids, why wouldn't I give them to my own?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Why I'm no longer a Twihard

I used to be one of those people caught up in the mania that was Twilight. I read the books not long before the first movie came out. And, honestly, when I read it as a novel for pure entertainment, I liked it. I even read it half a dozen times and became one of those people who would role-play characters from the books (I was always Alice, by the way). But when my friends and I decided to do a book club and do a discussion of the book, I realized that it wasn't that great of a book.

I'm not saying that Stephenie Meyer doesn't know how to tell a great story. I absolutely love The Host. It's one of my favorite books, and I continue to read it over and over. But the one thing I had an issue about with Twilight was that Bella was a flat character. It seemed like the characters that were supposed to be "secondary" had more of a backstory and more relatability than Bella, who was supposed to be the narrator and carry the story. And, maybe more than anything else, Bella seemed to lack agency. Everyone else seemed to act on her behalf.

There was always this big mess about whether Bella was a good role model for girls because she was so in love with Edward. I think the love story was a gorgeous facet of the story, but I don't think that it made Bella a bad role model. Just because some girls want to get married and have a family, that doesn't set feminism back. I will forever stand by that defense of Bella Swan. That was never a reason why I didn't like her. My reasons were always because she whined. And she never did anything for herself.

So, while I still have the books and I have all the movies, I'm not really a Twihard anymore. I'm not crazy over it. I don't go nuts over the actors or the story. I'm not even that into it anymore. I've stopped defending the story and just ignore people who say they hate it because everyone has a right to their opinion. And, in truth, there are things about it that I absolutely hate, too.

Just remember, you don't have to love everything about a book to like it.

For further discussion about female characters, take a look at my post about strong female characters from yesterday.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The real story about "strong female characters"

Okay, I hear this all the time. Young adult writers--and writers in general--should be writing "strong female characters." What does that mean? Seriously. What do people mean when they talk about strong female characters exactly. I get so confused, mostly because I think about a continuum of traits. And they can all be part of a female character that is considered "strong."

To me, there's something dehumanizing about a "strong" female character. It carries the idea of a female who is immune to the idea of love and weakness and failure. It means that she has to be all-sufficient and badass all the time. She must be independent and fierce and everything that you would expect from a male character, but she must be female. To me, a writing a "strong female character" means writing a character that has all these traditionally male characteristics but has to be a woman. I think, personally, that's taking feminism just a little too far.

I saw this thing on Tumblr recently--in fact I see it on my dash pretty often and I reblog it a lot--about writing real women. Real women are weak and hardy. They are strong and fragile. They are self-sufficient and broken. Real women are everything along the continuum. Real women can be desperate for a husband and still be kickass characters.

For a character to be "strong," I think she's got to be real. If that girl could be your best friend, with all her strengths and flaws and things you hate and things you love, then she's a strong female character. But she could be as badass and fiercely independent as Lara Croft, but if she doesn't jump off that page and invite you to the mall, honey that's a weak female character.

Just my two cents...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

To tell good stories, you have to read good stories

All my life, I've heard the adage that good writers are good readers. I suppose that's true. But I want to add something to that. I think it's more than just reading a lot. I think it's also about reading a lot of good stories.

There's a difference between a story and a good story. A good story is all about sucking you in with characters that make you feel what they fell, breathe in the world that they breathe in, and want the things they want. A good story is all about a plot that carries you along in a way that makes you want to stay up late reading because you can't bear to close the covers without knowing what happens next. A good story is one that changes the way you think, the way you look at the world. A good story is once in a lifetime.

I say once in a lifetime, but I don't mean that there aren't hundreds or thousands of good stories running around out there, just waiting to be plucked off bookshelves. Because there are. You just have to fall into your niche and find them. I myself love young adult and the classics. That's where my good stories come from. Every now and then I'll find a good one in adult fiction, but most of those come from historical fiction like Phillipa Gregory's works. You can find a good story just about anywhere. You can even find them in fanfiction.

So, here are some places to look if you're wondering what a good story looks like.

  1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
  3. Timeline by Michael Crichton
  4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  5. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  6. Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs
  7. A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
  8. Carrie by Stephen King
  9. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Jump in. Find some good stories. Read a lot of them. Reading good stories will teach you how to tell good stories. And isn't that what every author wants to do?

Friday, January 10, 2014

The suffering relationships of a writer

Writers can be reclusive sometimes. We tend to get caught up in our own worlds and our stories. Sometimes we forget that there are other people around us and that there is even a real world. And that means that our relationships suffer.

We don't mean for it to happen. We honestly don't mean to lock ourselves up for days on end and ignore the important people in our lives. It isn't done consciously. But when that writing mood overtakes us (or deadlines), we sometimes don't have a choice. For a writer, putting words to paper is almost like eating. It's a part of life that we can't live without. And it's incredibly important for us. And sometimes the people we love suffer because of it.

But sometimes we get lucky. We find those people who are wonderful and patient. Those people who are strong enough to handle the silence and the overwhelming craziness that is life with a writer. And when we find those people, trust me, we appreciate them. We might not say it out loud enough, but we appreciate them more than anyone could ever imagine. Because those people are there when we are caught up in the emotions of our characters and we can't get away from them. Those people are there when we need to get out of our own minds and take a break. Those people are there when we need help to just relax.

Our relationships might suffer, but that doesn't mean we don't love the people around us.

Check out my blog post here about why the family of a writer is made of saints.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The importance of being professional

First impressions are important. There's that saying that people judge you within the first few seconds of meeting you. I suppose you could say that goes for online presence as well. And especially with readers and your books.

Being a self-published author is about being a professional as much as being a writer. You have to do a lot of the leg work yourself. And when you do, you have to do it professionally. You have to be courteous. You have to keep track of everything that you've got to do and keep on top of dates, jobs, and emails. And you have to be humble and accepting of "no" when it comes.

You are your selling point. Your face and your reputation will be known to the readers and to people in the business. If it gets around that you're unprofessional, people aren't going to want to work with you. And that can be the kiss of death for a writer's career, especially if you're a self-publishing or an indie author trying to get their foot in the door of a big publishing house.

So here are some tips on how to be professional in your online presence:

  1. Use people's names. If you know last names, use proper titles. 
  2. Don't send mass emails. Tailor emails to individuals.
  3. Double check your emails. You don't want to have to explain why you sent an email to someone with the wrong name on it.
  4. Answer promptly and courteously, even if the answer is "no."
  5. Be on time with things. If you get a "yes," make sure you get things to people by the deadline they give you or, preferably, earlier.
  6. Follow up with people. 
  7. Say thank you. This is the best thing you can do to show you're a professional.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why you should ALWAYS double check your emails

When you're a self-publishing author doing everything on your own, sometimes you get a little overwhelmed. Sometimes things slip through the cracks. But there's one thing that should never, ever slip through: emails.

You should double check every email before you send it. Every. Single. One. ALWAYS.

File this one under lessons learned, my friends. When you send two to three dozen emails every day to book blogs requesting reviews and looking for stops for a blog tour, sometimes you overlook things. Which isn't always the best thing. Especially when you send an email to one blogger addressed to another. This leads to the first of the lessons that I learned: don't copy/paste entire emails. The body is great. But not the entire thing. You definitely want to write the salutation individually for every single email. And secondly, you want to make sure that the email is addressed to the right person. Right name, right spelling, everything.

Spell check those things. Make sure you have all the information the blogger asks for. Because if you don't give them what they asked for, it looks like you didn't read their policy. And that's a quick way of getting into their trash file. Or a straight forward no. And while dealing with "no" is a good learning experience, it should be because the blogger or the agent isn't the best fit for your story, not because you don't know how to read their policies and submit correctly.

Read those emails. Double check them. Triple check them. Don't send them until you're sure they're going to the right person.

Because you look like an unprofessional idiot if you send it to someone with the wrong name on it.

Trust me.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Prepping for a blog tour... and why it sucks

One thing about being a self-publishing author doing everything on your own is that sometimes things start to get overwhelming. Especially when you're planning promotion and things like that. You have to worry about budgets, time-management, and a dozen other things that usually a publicist would deal with. Right now, for example, I'm prepping for my blog tour in March. And that means doing a lot of things that take a lot of time.

And that sucks.

I usually spend an hour or so a day writing emails to book bloggers requesting reviews or putting out feelers for blogs who would like to host a stop on the blog tour. Maybe I'm being a bit to ambitious for my first tour since I'd like to do 30 stops in 30 days, but I'd like to really get my name out there. It might be time to think more realistically and shave down those stops to 10 or 15.

On top of figuring out how many stops I want to make and finding the right blogs to host those stops, I have to make sure I have the materials to take to those blogs. You know, eBooks in the right format, bookmarks and other swag materials to give away. And I have to plan guest posts to send in and answers to author interview questions. It's hard enough planning posts for my own blog a month in advance, now I have to figure out post topics for a different blog?

And then there's the big swag giveaway at the end of the tour. The last stop is my blog (smooth, huh, to drive traffic to my website) and it's a huge prize pack. And that means I have to have physical copies of the book as well as other swag products to fill up a tote to give away. That also means shipping costs and stuff like that. Setting a budget for this thing is crazy, because I don't have any idea what it's going to cost. I don't know what a realistic budget for something like this would be!

So that's why prepping for a blog tour sucks. Because not only am I writing on a brand new project and getting ready to go back to do revisions on the second Elemental Royals novel (ugh, which reminds me there's a blog tour for that one in June), now I have to worry about all the blog tour stuff too.

Welcome to the world of the self-publishing author.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Why some books should never be published

I know, coming from another writer, that sounds very, very bad, doesn't it? Let me explain myself.

First off, every author has a voice and a story to tell. And I strongly believe that everyone's voice is worth hearing. That goes without question.

But sometimes... you just put down a book and go, "How did they ever get a book deal?"

I won't mention specific books or specific writers, but I've read more than a few novels that I couldn't figure out how they got published. The characters were flat and one-dimensional. The story line was crap or horribly researched. Or it was so blatantly ripped off from somewhere else that I couldn't believe it made it off an editor's desk.

I'm not saying that the book or the author should never ever be published. What I am saying is that as it hit my hands, it just wasn't ready. Or that book just really shouldn't have seen the light of day. Sometimes authors see their novels or their work in a way that other people don't. And I say this from experience, because I looked at my first novel and thought it was brilliant. And the first couple people who read it told me it was the most boring thing they'd ever read. As an author, you can't get blinders on about your work.

So sometimes, you have to realize, maybe your book shouldn't see the light of day. At least not yet. And maybe--sadly--not ever.

So, yes, sometimes, some books should never be published. *cough cough* Twilight fanfiction porn. *cough cough*

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Four Types of Writers

In my experience, which I'll admit is limited, I've come across four different types of writers. This is mostly gleaned from interviews and speaking to my writer friends, but it seems to be pretty accurate. There seem to be four different types of writers out there when it comes to how they get the inspiration for their stories and how they write them.

The "One Scene Inspiration" Writer

The writer who falls under the category of "one scene inspiration" is the writer who sees just the flash of one little bit of the story in their head. This writer sees just a moment in the timeline of their characters' lives and goes from there. The "one scene inspiration" writer can build an entire world around just that one little vision. 

The "See It Like a Movie" Writer

This writer literally sees their story like a movie in their head. They have the complete story--pretty much--start to finish. It's almost like they have the screenplay and they're just taking the dialogue and the stage directions and making it much prettier. It's like a novelization of a movie, just better. These are the writers I envy.

The "Snapshot" Writer

These writers are the ones who get "snapshots" or little glances of the lives of their characters. They may get one moment from the beginning and one from the end and have to figure out what happened in between. Or they may have a photo album full of snapshots that they just have to string together into a narrative. The more snapshots they have, the more detailed their story becomes.

The "Voices in their Heads" Writer

This is the writer whose characters actually tell the story to them. They have their characters in their heads, fighting to tell their side of the story, describing their emotions and their actions in detail. I find that I like to read books by these kinds of writers because the characters seem to be more engaging. And I feel like I'm there.

So, you may ask, which of these am I? I suppose you'll have to read my book and find out. ;-)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Why a writer's family are saints

There are some professions where the family has to have the patience of a saint. I contest that the family of writers need that kind of patience. And I'll tell you why.

At least in my case, when I write, it's almost as if I'm in another world. I might be sitting on my sofa in the middle of my living room, but if I'm writing, it's like I forget everyone else is there. I don't mean to ignore my family, but I just do. All my attention is focused on whatever story I'm working on, whatever part of the process I'm engrossed in and the rest of the world just disappears for me.

The family of a writer also has to deal with our mood swings and the fact that we sometimes do nothing but talk about our story. We get to the point where all of our interest is in our story, the characters who are in our head, and the little whispers they put into our ears. Our stories take over our lives. Sometimes we feel what our characters feel. And then there are deadlines, and those moments when we're overcome with the urge to write. We get frustrated, and it feels like there's nothing we can do about it.

Our families have to deal with all of this. Our partners, parents, and children. Extended family and friends. They have to deal with us talking about a story that they have no idea about, listen to us gripe about writer's block and complain about deadlines. They have to deal with us being locked away in a study for hours on end and being emotionally distant for God only knows how long.

So if you ask me, the family of a writer has to have the patience of a saint. After all, they have to deal with us.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Pet peeves of a writer

Everyone has those things that they just cannot stand for other people to do. Pet peeves, ladies and gentlemen. It's my opinion that writers have their own special set of pet peeves.

Writers are creative people. When we get into the mindset of writing, it's this zone that is creative and consuming. Sometimes it's so hard to get into and once we get pulled out of it, there's no going back. Once we lose that train of thought that we had, that train is gone. Sometimes that train might not have another stop until the next day or days later.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to give you a few tips on dealing with the writer in your life. Here's a few things that you should never do when a writer is in her zone:

Never interrupt a writer who is writing, especially if those fingers are working overtime on the keyboard, unless the house is burning down or one of the kids is sick.
Never ask a writer about their project until they're ready to tell you about it. We're protective over this stuff.
Never give a writer grief about the amount of time they spend writing. For most writers like me, we write not just because we want to, but because we have to. We have to get the stories out of hour heads.
Never tell a writer to get serious. To us, the work we're doing is serious.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but these are the important ones. Be nice to the writer in your life, and they will be grateful to everything that they do for you.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Well, that was an epic fail...

It may one of the most common phrases in our society today: epic fail. In all honesty, I'm afraid of the term "failure." It's absolutely not my favorite word. I hate it. Failure is just something that I despise. Whether it comes in my personal life, my job, or my writing, I don't like to fail. I can deal with "no," but out and out failure hurts.

But, when it comes to new year's resolutions, sometimes you just have to get used to those little epic fails. Those things that you set yourself up to fail at because they just aren't realistic. Like no more chocolate! That, my friends, was a complete and total epic fail. As I write this, I'm drinking my morning cup of coffee. And guess what's in it? Don't gag, this is how I drink my coffee--chocolate milk. So that whole, no chocolate resolution... epic fail.

Getting up early? Epic fail.

Exercising first thing in the morning? Epic fail.

But you know, sometimes epic fails aren't so much epic fails. They're chances to learn and be a new person. You can see a failure like I see the word "no." As a stepping stone to that "yes," to that new you, to that actual success.

So maybe failure isn't that bad after all.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again. A clean slate, a chance to do things differently, a chance to be a different person and make things better. It's the time for New Year's Resolutions.

I always make these things. And I always, always, always,always screw them up. So check back tomorrow for all those things that I've already screwed up on. There will be plenty of epic fails starting first thing on 2 January.

So I'm sitting here thinking, "What kind of things do I want to do this year? What do I want my resolutions to be?" Usually it would be something like losing weight, exercising more, or something like that. And while I may stay with that and keep those things on my list, I think it's time that I start thinking about other things when it comes to my New Year's Resolutions. Maybe it's time to focus my resolutions on my career rather than on my waistline.

Looking at it that way, especially in regards to my writing, I've come up with a few resolutions to start with. And then we'll talk about those things that are always on the list (and will probably be on my epic fail list tomorrow).

1. I will have finished the Elemental Royals Trilogy 
2. I will have an agent.
3. I will have sold a novel to a major publishing house.
4. I will have done at least 3 blog tours.
5. I will write at least 2,000 words every day.
6. I will finish two novels this year. 
Those are my New Year's Resolutions as far as my writing goes this year. These are the ones I will do my best to keep no matter what I have to do.

As for everything else, I want to lose some weight, get some exercise, and stop eating out so much. And definitely stop eating so much chocolate. I want to get up early, even when I don't have to. I want to control my temper and be nicer to my sister. I want to be a better daughter.

So let's see how many of those are going to be on the epic fails list tomorrow.

Edited by - Stephanie King