Uncategorized

How I plan

Image

The truth is, I’m not much of a planner.

I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal.

I think I’m too impatient for planning most of the time and sometimes it’s gotten me into trouble, other times it’s led me on the greatest adventures of my life.  I flew to England a while back with the single goal of going to Stonehenge for the summer solstice and the rest I left up to the winds of fate.  I ended up living in Brighton, making friends and hitchhiking around Europe.  Hooray for no plans.

When it comes to writing I have difficulty planning as well.  Having a vague idea for a story constitutes a plan for me.

My most recent completed novel (in beta reading now) started out as an idea and I didn’t really start plotting until later when events unfolded that needed to be explored.  It was an adventure to be sure, but still a little unnerving as it left me wondering, is this going to work?  As it turned out it did (at least Ben and I think so, we’ll see what other people have to say), but after that writing free-for-all I thought it might be a good idea to try the next book with an actual, full out plan.
Ben and I started that process yesterday.  After a bumpy start (sitting there staring at each other), we went for a walk (apparently the only way we can actually think) and worked out some ideas.

So here’s how the planning is going so far:

Step 1: Idea – the idea for the book came from a short story I wrote (which is how it seems to go for me) and I told Ben.  Ben said…‘hmmm…interesting….’ and off we went.

Step 2: How to plan as we’ve never officially done this we had to work out how to plan, which basically consisted of a discussion about the best way to approach the idea.

Step 3: Characters/research – as many of the characters are based on gods of various pantheons we had to do some research, so we spent some time on good old Wikipedia.

Step 4: Define characters – as this more of a character study than an adventure, the characters seemed more important than the plot.  The plan is to create the plot around the characters but first they all need names, backstory etc…

Step 5: Define the world – as the world has limitations we needed to make some decisions about what it is and how it operates.

Some basic ideas about all of the above is as far as we’ve gotten, but it seems to be going well.  The next steps will involve plotting and more fleshing out of the backstories so that they connect with the main plot and create a little drama.

Ben is perfect for me for a million reasons and one of them happens to be that he loves plotting and planning stuff like this.  We’re essentially planning the story like it’s a D&D game, but instead of playing it, I’ll be writing it.  Personally, I love the writing part most, making the words go together and sound beautiful and interesting and meaningful.  I like to live in the now, minute by minute.  He’s a bigger picture kind of guy which works for me perfectly, because without him, I’d probably just write a lot of rambling novels.

So planning.  I’m still trying to work it out, but it seems to be going well and I know the more we plan now, the smoother the process of writing will be and that will make it even more fun in the long run.

How do you plan?  Have any hints or tricks you use to plan effectively?

* * *

This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

Advertisements
Uncategorized

Self-promotion & networking

Image

Writing is a business.

Whether you’re penning the next bestseller or writing copy for websites about car parts, writing is a business and you (as a writer) are a business person.

So this means you have to sell, sell, sell yourself.  Self-promotion is the other half of writing.  Once the document is closed or the pen is down (or in the case of freelancing before you even start) you have to find a way to get your words out there.

Since deciding to be a writer (for reals) I’ve done a bunch of research on the subject of how to break into the world of writing.  There are (obviously) different rules for freelancing than there are for being a novelist, but the idea is the same.  Here’s some knowledge on the subject I have accumulated whilst researching.

Platform

Agents like a platform, so do readers.  A platform is basically a soapbox upon which you stand to blast your message out into the virtual world.  It could involve a blog, twitter feed, facebook page and linkedin profile, ideally with thousands of followers who are super interested in the words you have to say.  A lot of writers write about writing (like this blog for example) and themselves, they write about their books and engage with fans.  If you are an unpublished writer like myself (for the moment) it is a good place to get your voice out there and say stuff.  For self-publishers, a platform is a good way to sell people on your writing and get yourself out to the public, it also allows you a place to sell your books and build your brand.  For freelancers, a platform is sweet because it allows you a place to send potential clients to give them a taste of how you write and also link them to your portfolio.  Having a well rounded platform is a launch pad for greatness in the future and gives you a place online to send all your adoring fans as they pile up after you publish your first book.

Why not?  Start a blog about your life and interests.  Make yourself a twitter feed for short, but sweet messages to the world.  Start a facebook page and invite your friends to ‘like’ you.

Talk your face off

Gone are the days of being a reclusive writer, shunning the world and swooning alone in the darkness to your own sweet prose.  It’s a self-promotional world out there and even if you’re not super net-savvy you should still be getting out there and meeting people.  Conferences and writing festivals are awesome ways to get your face out there, shake hands and take numbers.  Lots of agents and publishers go to conferences and festivals to check out the new blood and it’s always good to make yourself known (agents might be more likely to look at the work of someone they meet in person).  There are also local events you can take part in, reading nights, writing groups etc…where you can get loads of information on what’s happening in the writing world.  Get out there and get involved.  Also, if you are a published author a book tour/signing or at the very least a launch party is always a good thing.  People want to see the writer who wrote the words they love.  For freelancers, get to know your market.  If you’re a medical writer, get out there to conferences and meet some doctors, talk shop and keep on top of updating your language and voice.  Shaking hands is always more memorable than e-mail.

Why not?  Look up some conferences and festivals nearby and make a plan to head out to one.  Find a local writing group and join.  Find local readings and see if you can sign up.

Look good doing it

This is a personal preference of course, but I find it’s easier to be memorable if you look good at whatever you are doing.  If you’re rocking a medical conference, dress the part, don’t walk around in your old raggedy jeans and expect people to want to do business with you.  Same goes for being an author.  If you are a romance writer, put a little oomph into your outfit.  Sci-fi writers, would a dash of silver really hurt?  Overall your presentation should match how you want people to see you and the best impressions are always made when you give it some effort.  Just because you spend 99% of your time behind a computer doesn’t mean your style can’t be snappy folks.

Why not?  Put together a couple of stellar outfits to wear to conferences and book signings.  Choose a style that reflects the type of writing you do.  Create your own personal look that is distinct and creative.

Discuss

There are loads of writing forums and blogs out there that you can get involved in.  They offer basic writing discussion as well as feedback opportunities for your work.  Forums can be a great way to meet other writers and get your name out there.  Be careful though because they can also be a time sink for your creativity.  Always remember your own writing should come first before all your pals on the boards!

Why not?  Check out some writing forums and join in the conversation.

Don’t just promote

A lot of people think social media is about promoting yourself non-stop.  You see them all the time on twitter, tweeting the same links over and over and generally driving you crazy with in-your-face promotion.  Social media is called ‘social’ for a reason.  It’s a place to discuss and engage, not shove your product into someone’s face.  You want to learn to be part of the conversation, otherwise people will just tune you out.  Saying something relevant and helpful is good, commenting on other posts or tweets is good and not overdoing the links to your books is also good.  Just think of it like a normal conversation in real life, if you just sit there repeating the same sentence over and over at people they will eventually get bored and walk away.

Why not?  Find some way to engage your community with helpful hints or personal anecdotes.  Stop tweeting the same message over and over.  Join in the conversation.

If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all

I was at a writing talk at Ryerson the other day and there was an agent there.  After all the talk of social networking and self-promotion she made sure to add in that sometimes saying something poorly is worse than not saying anything at all.  Ain’t it the truth?  Maybe you just have a knack for writing fiction and really suck at self-promotion, if that’s the case that’s okay.  There’s still the more traditional route of publishing for those who don’t want to get out there online and yammer away.  So take heart if none of the above sound like you, you can still write your heart out, get it published and be a bestseller.  At some point you may be invited to talk at conferences with or without self-promotion and at that point, the talk your face off and look good doing it points will still apply to you.

Why not? Stick to what you’re good at and just keep writing.

Anything to add?  Did I miss anything?  Let me know!

* * *

This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

Uncategorized

Beating Writer’s Block

Image

 

In my experience, writer’s block means one of two things.  Either fear of moving forward, or being lost in the woods of your imagination.  I suppose it could just be a bad day too, but those pass more often than not without much ado, so let’s stick to the big two.

Tell fear to fuck off

Ben said a great thing to me once: ‘being angry is better than being sad’.  At the time I was trying to overcome a phobia (agoraphobia triggered by the subway) and it was the best advice I’d ever gotten.  So I started swearing at my fear, under my breath of course.  I tried my best to think of all the things in the world that made me angry and I got pissed.  I told my fear to fuck off and it worked.  Getting sad or low about writer’s block will probably only serve to send you into a funk that ends with you sitting on your bed, watching the ceiling fan and thinking about nothing.  But that’s just boring.  So before you get sad, get angry.  Try giving your writer’s block a few mental kicks and a little bit of rage then settle yourself down and…

Just write

Write anything.  It doesn’t have to have anything to do with the offending novel or story that got you into this mess in the first place.  Write a list of your favorite foods, make up a character and write about him or her, write about a day at the beach gone horribly wrong.  Don’t think too much, just write, no pressure for greatness, footloose and fancy free.  Once you get back in the saddle of free and imaginative writing, you’ll remember why you love it, I promise.

Don’t try to be amazing

While in the midst of this ‘just write’ trance, don’t try to be awesome, don’t try to write the next great novel or story that you want to have published by the New Yorker.  Just write because you love it and it feels good and real and wonderful.  Trying to be amazing is a fool’s errand anyway because everyone has different opinions on what greatness is, so it’s up to you to find out what YOU love, not what everyone else loves.  So after you’ve done the anger, then the free form joyful remembering why you love writing, it’s time to find your way again.

Make a map

Don’t be one of those people who doesn’t want to ask for directions out of pride or the feeling that you ought to just ‘know’ which way is west.  Make yourself a map.  If you’re writing a novel this will look an awful lot like a story outline and if you’re like me and writing a fantasy novel (yes my short story suddenly turned into a novel) then it will be an actual map.  Structure and form can often be helpful for writers, even if we’re used to flailing about and simply ‘being creative’.  Order is good, but remember you only make lines so you can colour outside of them.

So now that we have the big two covered, let’s take a quick peek at the other options for beating that jerky writer’s block.

Exercise

I know you’ve already done your 30 minutes of exercise today, because it’s healthy and you can’t just sit around writing all day long letting your muscles atrophy, but when writer’s block strikes, it’s time to get up and move.  Exercise is awesome for a million reasons.  It loosens you up, gives you time to think, makes you feel good and apparently, makes your brain bigger!  Holy cow, how awesome is that?  Go now!  Run or walk (preferably in nature as that has stress reducing benefits as well) and get your brain working for you!

Talk to someone

Ben is my muse.  We get endless hours of enjoyment from planning out my stories and novels together.  If I’m facing writer’s block there’s nothing like a half hour walk with my honey to get me back on track.  Find yourself someone you can trust and bounce your ideas off them.  Writing doesn’t have to be a stoic, lonely thing and there’s no shame in talking it through.

Have an adventure

Go out there and live, then come back and write about it.  The world is a big place, filled with inspiration and excitement.  If you spend all your time at your computer writing about life, you might just end up not having anything to write about.  Go live it up and don’t be afraid to take a moment away from your writing, it will still be there when you get back…I promise.

Okay that’s all.  If you’ve done all these things and still have writer’s block, perhaps it’s time to switch gears and start a new project.  Leave your old one behind and give it some breathing room, then come back to it in a couple of months and see if it still has legs.

What do you do to beat writer’s block?

* *

This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

Uncategorized

Rocking my goals

Image

This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

* * *

It’s funny how time slips by isn’t it?

We work and play and things keep moving forward and it’s easy to lose track of everything that’s going on.  If we don’t stop for a moment and take stock (at least once in awhile) it’s easy to just let things happen, as opposed to making them happen.

I often find I have unwritten goals.  Intentions to get things done that I conspicuously leave vague.  Maybe it’s that I think, if I commit, I’ll only let myself down.  Maybe I think it’s too much pressure, or that I’m aiming too high.

But the truth of the matter is that I work better with goals.  Timelines are my friend.  I love them, and the tighter the timeline the better.  If I’m left to my own devices I will have trouble opening that document, or sitting down to the work I ought to be doing, but if I set goals and limits for myself, I thrive.

It might seem a bit of a contradiction to set rigid goals for oneself, as the main enforcer is also the procrastinator, but I find if I’ve said it out loud or committed on paper than I am far more likely to get it done.

So here they are, my goals for this month:

1) To finish my novel to the point of sending it to beta readers.
2) To get at least one more client for my burgeoning freelance corporate copywriting career.
3) To finish my query letter for my novel and find at least five agents to query when the novel is ready to go.
4) To decide on my next novel (at least a basic story).
5) To maintain the highest possible level of awesomeness.

There, I said it and, of course, the fact that I have said it publicly means I will have to get it all done even more than if I’d just said it in my head…right?

What are your goals for the month?

Uncategorized

How I got into writing

Image

This is the first post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

* * *
When I was younger I used to write a lot.  Journals mostly, whining about boys (and later girls too), unrequited love, rituals (during my witchy phase) and other teenage stuff that I was sure was insanely important.  I’ve looked back over old journals before, but I find the process of ploughing through years of bad poetry kind of painful.

Next I got into writing plays.  I still have one sitting around about a girl who discovered she was gay and made out with her best friend.  Ah the ponderings of a seventh grade bi-girl.  Then there were stories.  I even wrote a story about a girl on a journey to enlightenment for philosophy class in high school and scored myself an A+ (I went to an alternative school of course).

Then it was world travels.  Long nights were spent scribbling in notebooks on buses, traveling through the desert in Egypt or up and down crazy mountains in Peru, in dirty old hotel rooms or tucked away in sleeping bags on the beach watching the stunning Italian sunset and hoping I wouldn’t wake up after high tide.

I wrote a lot.  But still, through all of that, I didn’t call myself a writer.

I wrote little articles about my adventures with my friends, replacing us with anthropomorphized animals and calling it: The Starry Web Press.  I wrote stories and poems as gifts.  I sent out poems as solstice greetings to friends and family.  Still, I refused to call myself a writer.

No no, I was a traveler, a server, a bartender, a go-go dancer, a shaman, a tarot card reader, an event planner, a video producer, but never…NEVER a writer.

The real turning point came maybe a year ago, after I finished my first novel.  A honking, slow moving, boring laborious thing (150,000 words).  I finished it, looked at Ben and said:

“I think I’m a writer.”

Since then I’ve been on fire, I’ve written multiple short stories, another novel, made a giant list of agents, magazines and contests to submit my work to, started this blog, gathered almost 250 followers on twitter, joined two writing groups (and quit one), and I’ve even been hired to write professionally from video scripts to event proposals to websites.

So although it took me 29 years to admit it, I’m a writer dammit, and just like everything else I’ve been before, I’ve thrown myself into it, heart and soul.

Now it’s your turn…how did you get into writing?

Uncategorized

Growing as a writer

Image

I started writing fiction again after a long hiatus about a year and a half ago.  The very first thing I wrote was a short story that morphed into a novel comprised of interconnected short stories.  The novel was called The Major Arcana.  It took me a year, but when I finished, it was 140,000 words and I breathed a huge, happy sigh.  I did it, I wrote a book.  It was a great feeling and completely liberating after years of repressing my writing.

Once I was done, I decided to put the book away for awhile and wrote some short stories to develop my skills.  I always intended to go back to The Major Arcana and edit so I could try to publish it.  As I was writing more short stories though, I came across another idea and ended up writing another novel called A Girl Out There.  This one only took a month and had about half the word count.

This brings me to yesterday.

We were in the midst of editing A Girl Out There, when I got a message requiring me to revisit The Major Arcana for a submission from long ago.  So I pulled it out of Chronos (my back up drive) and read one of the stories.

The story I chose was one of my favorites at the time, about a circus full of super heroes…awesome stuff right?  Wrong.  It was crazy.  Ben and I both read it, then sat there staring at each other with wide eyes, mouths agape.  What a piece of shit.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, some of the language and ideas were really nice, but overall it was crammed full of words and practically nothing happened through the whole damn thing.

The most nutty thing about it was the difference between that story and my current novel.  A Girl Out There is lean, quick and to the point.  Major Arcana is a lumbering beast, a dinosaur.  It’s quite shocking to see the difference and really fascinating.  It needed such a massive overhaul (maybe half the words cut and an entire story arc re-work) that I ultimately decided to leave it where it lay for awhile longer (possibly even forever).  The editing needed would take an eternity that I’m not ready to invest.  It was a first try at something I needed to do and a totally important step in my writerly development, but at the end of the day I’m not sure it’s much more than that.

The point is, I love being able to look back and see how much I’ve grown in such a short period of time.

I’ve stopped feeling the need to write so many words – how many do you really need anyway?

I’ve moved (mostly) from passive to active phrases.

I’ve learned (I hope) to get to the point and have a full and satisfying story arc, as opposed to just rambling about pretty things.

Overall, although I was shocked at the state of my previous work, I’m pretty happy to have come so far and I can only imagine how I’ll feel looking back on my current work in a couple of years.

Why not dig out some of your old writing and compare with the new?  It will give you a good idea of how far you’ve come and what you’ve learned along the way.

Tell me about your experiences with looking back!

Uncategorized

Keep It Simple

Image

I’ve been doing a lot of reviewing lately on forums and in writing groups.  I feel like it really helps me focus on my own style to take apart other people’s stuff and look at the bits.

What I’ve noticed most of all (especially in fantasy and sci-fi) is that people complicate things too much.  Obscure words, five words when one would do, thick dialogue, overdone description, info dumps, metaphors that don’t match the world.  All of this stuff starts to stack until you have a book or a story that’s too full.

Take a deep breath writers and cut, cut cut.

If it feels confusing when you’re writing it, it will likely be ten times worse when someone goes to read it.  Keep that in mind before you go spilling the guts of the world all over the page.

Keeping it simple also involves knowing what parts of the story matter and what don’t.  I think writers fall in love with their characters and their worlds so much that they think people want to hear every last tiny detail that comes to mind.  We don’t.  We want to hear the details that matter, that are relevant to the story and keep the protagonist(s) charging forward or contain some sort of meaningful moment.

I learned a lesson about this today as I was writing a story that may or may not become a novel/la.  It’s a about a girl hitching to California from Toronto.  So I had her get a ride from some guy and they shared a moment by the lake.  Then the moment was over, it was over and gone but still I was tempted to stretch it out, make it last.  I was about to continue with them having lunch somewhere and my fingers were poised over the keyboard.  But instead, I looked at the chapter and said, ‘lunch doesn’t matter, it’s irrelevant and useless, the moment is done’ and I was liberated after that.  Set free by simplicity and brevity.

So look at your stories and novels writers and ask yourself if you are writing because it matters or if the moment is gone and now you’re just saying stuff because you want to hear yourself talk.

Although being complicated may be cathartic for you, if you don’t keep it simple, your readers will quickly move on.