What Wednesday: Writer’s Don’t Always Have to Write

What Wednesday: Writer’s Don’t Always Have to Write

Moncrieff wrote an article about the need to stop shaming writers who can’t write all the time. I am one of those writers. I haven’t been able to write recently because it’s been crunch time with studying for my huge exam coming this Friday. Plus, it’s great this article came around NaNoWriMo, because I’ve never been able to participate in NaNo–mostly because I was usually working on a book for publication.

I’m glad Moncrieff decried the notion that writers must always write. Sometimes on my Facebook feed I’ll see other writers posting that if they can find the time to write, then so can you. Or if they can find the time to market, then so can you. And I’m tired of it. Really tired of it. I have to prioritize other things in my life, and, unfortunately, When Stars Die hasn’t been a top priority for me, even though its release is this Saturday. I’ll admit that sucks considering it was a huge priority for me with its initial release, but work has drained me in the past, and even though I’m barely working this week, I’ve still got to use this time to study, to ensure that I do know all of what I need to know.

In the past it was easy for me to write all the time. I wasn’t working as many hours, and I wasn’t studying to be certified as a personal trainer. Work also wasn’t a source of stress, and stress can be abysmally draining. It’s so easy for writers and authors to say that we should write and market all the time if they’re doing jobs that are related in these fields. But for those of us who aren’t, it’s not as easy. Not at all.

I don’t want to force myself to write when I’m drained because it’s all going to come out super crappy anyway. Then I’m going to feel inclined to delete everything and start all over. I’m not a perfectionist with drafts, but I do want some degree of being able to make sense of what’s going on.

I also have to have at least 9 hours of sleep, and since I generally work the mornings, going to bed late is not an option. I have bipolar disorder, so it’s a detriment to me to not get that much-needed sleep. And since I also want to be a great model for fitness and health, sleep is a very important part of that lifestyle. If I don’t get the sleep that I need, I’m incredibly crabby and short-tempered.

Let’s also not forget the fact that I always take a few hours out of my day to spend with my fiance since we don’t yet live together. I think once we do, I might find that I will be able to use those hours to write since we’ll be around one another a lot anyway.

But right now, writing is unfortunately not a priority.

***

A Treacherous Flame free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, $0.99 for all others

When Stars Die up for pre-order

Guest Post: Writing Diversity in Fiction

Guest Post: Writing Diversity in Fiction

Since it’s been difficult trying to keep up with my blogging lately due to being so burned out from technical writing because of my senior thesis (can I hurry up and graduate already?), S.A. Starcevic, author of Untouchable, was kind enough to do a guest post for me. By the way, if you would like to do a guest post for my blog, simply e-mail me at thedancingwriter@gmail.com. My blog receives a few thousand views each month.

So here is his post on writing diversity!

A lot of writers think there’s some magical formula when it comes to representing minorities in fiction – whether it’s same-sex relationships, gender non-conforming characters or PoCs, or something else. But the answer is a lot simpler.

Just write.

That’s not all there is to it, of course. I’m paraphrasing. You still need to do research and explore the experiences of minorities, especially if their trials and tribulations are a driving plot point. (You should be wary of doing this unless you’re really and truly well-versed; if you’re not careful, you could be exploiting their struggles, even if you don’t intend to. Just look at the hot mess Kathryn Stockett landed in.)

But the point I’m trying to make is representation should come about as organically as possible. That means not inserting token characters for the sake of being token characters, but because it fits the character, like a puzzle piece slotting into place. Bonus points for writing complex characters with clear motives, personalities and purposes.

To an extent, I’m guilty of this. UNTOUCHABLE is short. It’s a novella that tops out at 50 pages. And there’s a lot packed into those 50 pages. It’s fast-paced. It kind of reads like a comic book – lots of explosions and fight scenes and some light humour. Which means I had limited air time to flesh out characters and their backstories, especially the less important side characters.

Nevertheless, one thing reviewers seemed to agree was that while the diversity was there, it wasn’t forced. It was taken in stride as a part of the world I created – a world which is an accurate reflection of our own, albeit with added superhero awesomeness. And that’s saying a lot considering that UNTOUCHABLE features a same-sex relationship between the main protagonist, Ethan Elliot, and his love interest, as well as an agender character, a Latina swordfighter, a black lightning-generating superhero… You get the picture.

Another thing I’m guilty of? Tropes. I incorporated the hell out of tropes – partly as a form of subtle satire, since the superhero genre is chock-full of them, but mostly because it was convenient. Tropes can be an effective story-telling tool. Of course, when it strays into the realm of bad clichés, well, then I’d need to rethink my approach. But most YA these days incorporates the same tropes. Why? Readers identify with them. They function as a kind of anchor, and help make the story more readable.

So in short, don’t be afraid to write diverse characters. But whatever your reasons are, make sure they’re the right reasons, as outlined above.

The Issue With the Writing People As People and Not Characters Advice

The Issue With the Writing People As People and Not Characters Advice

success_kid_diverse_booksLet me preface this by saying that you should write people as people and not characters, but when a writer is asking a question involving diversity and the only answer you give is ‘write people as people and not characters,’ you’re completely missing the point of diversity.

Write people as people.

That’s great advice, but it completely misses that people are diverse, and certain groups of people do different things than other groups of people. For example, I had an Anon ask me how to write British characters. I could have just said ‘write them as you would write any other person,’ but that would have been completely neglecting that their culture is different from my American culture. So I let my British followers answer this Anon’s question, and let me tell you, had my Anon gone off the advice of write this British person as you would write any other person, British readers would have scoffed about how inauthentic that British character is. My British followers have diverse views that are different from my American ones.

America is a culture rife with diversity, so it’s very easy for us to say that we should write people as people, because we’re among people of all different ethnicities. We interact with these people and KNOW they are no different from us in terms of them being human at their very core. At the same time, there are differences in the ways cultures interact with other cultures. For example, let’s say you want to write a book with a girl who just happens to be Indian (not Native American). You can’t just accept the simplistic ‘write people as people.’ You HAVE to do research, and perhaps people giving this advice think this is common sense, but, again, such a simplistic answer is ignoring diversity. Unlike Americans who greet even strangers with smiles and a ‘hello,’ Indians do not do this in their culture. It is these LITTLE things that will determine the authenticity of the diverse characters you are writing about. Write them as people, but don’t neglect the idea that people are part of cultures that influence how they think, view the world, and interact with other people.

But let me mention what prompted this post. I saw a tweet on Twitter that was linked from Tumblr from an Anon asking about how to write LGBTQ+ characters without explicitly mentioning their sexualities. The author answered ‘write people as people and not characters.’ Okay, but that’s ignoring the diversity in sexual and gender identities that can go largely unseen in our culture because we are so used to assuming everyone is straight and identifies with the gender he/she was born with–because most people are straight and identify as the genders they were born with, so it’s not unfair to assume this when a person’s sexual or gender identity is not explicitly stated or shown if it is easy to be shown. For example, it’s easy to show homosexuality because all you have to do for your female character is mention she has a girlfriend. There you go. Then again, she could be asexual or bisexual or pansexual or transgender. Just because she’s dating a girl doesn’t mean she’s a homosexual! Just because I’m dating a guy doesn’t mean I’m heterosexual!

I don’t want to read a book where I have to analyze whether or not this character is bisexual or asexual or even pansexual or transgender or transsexual or gender fluid or whatever. Some of these things are easy to show, but these sexual and gender identities are still a part of those people’s identities, especially in a culture that hasn’t fully accepted LGBTQ+ people and is especially misinformed or doesn’t even know certain sexual or gender identities exist! We can’t just go around assigning arbitrary sexual and gender identities to characters in books whose identities are unknown. That isn’t fair to LGBTQ+ readers who want books specifically catered toward them (or me!) or expect to have a book with diversity but then end up assuming all characters are heterosexual because that IS what we ALL do when a character’s sexual or gender identity is not explicitly stated. Again, most people are straight and cisgendered. It would be great for me to pretend Hazel in TFiOS is asexual, but she’s not.

So if you’re writing an asexual character, you better state it in some way or eventually say something about it. If you’re writing a pansexual character, you better state it. If you’re writing a bisexual character, you better show it well, and this goes just beyond a bisexual guy dating a guy and thinking ‘What a beautiful girl,’ because even I as an asexual person can think ‘What a beautiful boy.’ These people are more than their sexual and gender identities, so it is good to say write them as people and not characters, but that is still a part of them and it’s completely unfair to ignore it. They live with these identities every single day. You wouldn’t ignore someone’s skin color when you’re writing about a character whose color is different from yours, so why would you do the same with someone who identifies as a different sexuality from yours, one that can’t be easily shown?

It’s hard to show asexuality because most people don’t know what it is or even what it feels like to be asexual. It’s hard to show pansexuality because most people don’t know what it is and what it feels like to be pansexual. People in real life often have to state their nonheteronormative identities to others. They have to be explicit about it because they don’t want you thinking they’re something they’re not. I had one girl tell me I was very good looking, and then she said something else that made sense for me to say ‘I’m engaged.’ She felt embarrassed, but I was flattered, and then she mentioned she was pansexual. Had she not told me that, I probably would have assumed she was homosexual.

So don’t accept the write-people-as-people-and-not-characters answer, because if you do that, you’re completely missing the point of diversity in the first place. We are more than just one facet of ourselves, but that facet is still a part of the greater puzzle that makes us a complete person. Being a ballet dancer and writer is a  HUGE part of me, so if you write a book on me, you better concentrate on ballet and writing and even my dang asexuality. Those are parts of me that affect how I live and interact with people.

 

 

 

Advice on Bad Writing Advice

Advice on Bad Writing Advice

When I’m on Tumblr as an author and editor, I feel like I have a responsibility to teen writers–or new writers–to steer them in the right direction when it comes to writing advice, especially to warn them away from bad writing advice. Let’s face it, bad writing advice exists, and it’s not subjective on whether or not it’s bad. It IS just bad.

I interceded a post on Tumblr that, yes, was from one of my followers that does writing advice. The post basically presented a list of words to use other than said. You know those lists I’m talking about, the ones with hundreds of words that you can use, some of them some nice gems you can tuck away and others that are outright ridiculous like ‘oogle.’ How do you ‘oogle’ your words? In any case, the introduction began by saying that said essentially says nothing, that it doesn’t state the tone of your character, that you shouldn’t use it too often because there are better words. That was alarming and raised red flags for me. So I felt it was my responsibility to step in, re-blog it, and set my followers straight.

Said isn’t meant to convey tone. It is not a useless word but a tag that is almost nonexistent for readers because they are so used to seeing it more than any other dialogue tag. Conveying tone is what dialogue is for. Said denotes who is speaking, when no other word is necessary to use but ‘said,’ especially if the dialogue can carry itself, or there is an action tag in front that can set up the tone of how the dialogue will sound. But, really, the tone can be set up before a conversation by creating a tense situation so that way when you go into reading the dialogue, you can already imagine the tone of the speakers. Or a relaxed situation. Any kind of situation can set up the tone of the dialogue without tags being used.

The writer of the post never mentioned to use those words sparingly. The writer simply said that ‘said’ is meaningless because it doesn’t put emotion into your character’s dialogue. That’s wrong. There is no subjectiveness to how wrong that statement is. Again, setting up a scene can help dialogue convey tone so the dialogue can carry itself. Or an action tag can set up the tone. When someone says, ‘Hey, use these words instead because said is meaningless,’ that is a thing to be wary about. Many experts in the publishing industry will tell you to treat those words like gems. Using them too much will KILL your dialogue. That is a FACT based on readers’ experiences. Readers WILL become annoyed by an overuse of a list like that. Use sparingly. Spa-ring-ly.

So what was the point of my little story? My follower threw up a recent update that said all writing advice is subjective and is not meant to be taken to heart. That I agree with. What I don’t agree with is this implication that there is no bad writing advice. There is. I’m going to give you a few pointers on what advice to avoid, advice that is popular. Now I do appreciate all of my followers. I appreciate even more the followers that are about creating content to help others. But, again, sometimes I feel it’s my responsibility to intercede, especially since most of my followers are young writers. It alarmed me that the post had over 1,000 notes, so I felt like I HAD to step in. Doing so didn’t cause any conflict, although the follower was upset; however, I didn’t read the follower’s irate words. I glanced at it, and I think there may have been some name calling involved.  

  • Avoid writing advice like the example I presented above. The best published books, the ones that win awards because of their writing, know how to create effective dialogue. If you look at the dialogue, you’ll notice that the dialogue often carries itself, that the dialogue probably lacks tags more than it has them. It isn’t even necessarily award-winning books, either, but popular books, too, where the author knows how to create dialogue without treating such a list as a bible.
  • Write like you talk. This seems self-explanatory. We tend to use a lot of filler words in our speech, fillers that are jarring to readers.
  • Write for yourself. Write for yourself first, THEN revise for your readers.
  • Write what you know. Explanatory. Just about every published book began with a lack of knowledge, which is why the writer does research.
  • Write everyday! Not even I do this–or can do this. I have a life outside of my writing career, and I NEED that life. I don’t want to burn out. It’s great if you can write everyday, but don’t extend this tidbit to all writers.
  • Advice that only insists there is one correct way to write. This actually defeats the purpose of the word ‘advice,’ which denotes that it is merely advice, something to not take as law. Plus, we all know there is no one way to write.
  • If you write several books and it still takes you a while to write a book, you’re doing something wrong. Each book is different from the last. You might be better at drafting, but some books are harder to write than others. It takes me a month or two to draft a book but pretty much an entire year to make that book submission ready. Maybe it’ll take less now, but I’m not pressuring myself to finish a book ASAP. I’m not going to sacrifice quality for quantity.

There is so much more bad writing advice out there. You can even look it up in Google, but I wanted to present you with advice that raises obvious red flags. Good writing advice is subjective. When I do writing advice on Tumblr, I try to present more than one way to do it to give my aspiring writers choices.

 

 

Revisions Are Necessary and Not Something to Fear

Revisions Are Necessary and Not Something to Fear

This post was inspired by an article that will remain anonymous, as I disagree with many of the points presented within. I may have possibly misinterpreted the article, but what I ultimately took away from it is that re-writing (revisions) is an antiquated concept. It’s not. 

As a writer, I LOVE revisions. It means being able to step back from the initial draft I wrote and thinking of a way to make it much better, which, more often than not, includes re-writing and re-structuring much of the book. And that is exactly what revising means–it is the next step for many writers after they have written the first draft. Does this mean scrapping the first draft entirely? No. Re-writing, AKA revisions, doesn’t mean that at all, and that is a mistaken belief among newbie writers–I’ve made this mistake. What it does mean is looking at everything in your first draft–plot, characters, sub-plots, story arcs, ect.–and finding ways to make those things much, much better. Sometimes this means deleting scenes, deleting chapters, axing characters entirely, re-writing chapters, adding in more chapters, and so on and so forth.

It doesn’t mean having to re-write your entire novel, but what it does mean is that you NEED to look at your book and find ways to make it much better than its current condition. This usually involves stepping away from the draft for a little bit–a few weeks maybe–and then coming back.

People seem to dread revisions because they believe they’re scrapping their first draft entirely, so they see no point in revising. Why do all of that hard work of writing a first draft if I’m just going to have to re-write it anyway? That was my thinking when I was twelve. Large portions of a draft might need to be re-written. Query Quagmire has a fantastic explanation on the process of revision.

quagnmirecpature

It is a RARE writer who does not need to essentially re-write his or her draft. Even Stephen King, as experienced as he is, still revises. He doesn’t write a first draft, then jump immediately to edits while foregoing the process of revisions entirely. Maybe his rough drafts aren’t as rough as a newbie writer’s rough drafts, but he also realizes that a first draft is just that, a first draft.

When you write that first draft, you’re excited by it, so you go into it with your heart on your sleeve and write every idea that comes to mind, put in every character that you want in your story, every plot thread and scene, and so on and so forth. Then you get done with the draft. But wait? Don’t touch it immediately. Either send it off to a beta reader if you can’t afford to wait, or just distance yourself from the manuscript for a few weeks and maybe start on something else before getting back to it. Either way, revisions are unavoidable, so don’t get this mistaken impression that revisions are something you can avoid. Re-writing isn’t some myth that your English teachers or college professors throw in your face because they want you to do more work.

Not at all.

Your English teachers had to go through the process of revisions for their essays in their English classes. Your professors are still having to go through revisions on their essays that are published by elite academic journals. They do not skip the process of revisions, because revisions always make a book better–or essays, in the case of teachers and professors. It is a RARE writer who can may not have to revise, but don’t get this mistaken impression that revisions are something frivolous, that once you’re as big as John Green or whatever, that you’re too experienced to not have to go through that process. That isn’t so, not when those experienced authors don’t skip revisions, either. Did you know John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars actually started out as a story involving cancer patients who would meet in a cave outside of their hospital? And now look at TFiOS today. His critical acclaims ride on the fact that he took the time to write the best dang book possible, and even if he avoided revisions, his agent won’t let him. His editor won’t either. Perhaps each manuscript will come back with less and less edits, but that doesn’t mean HE avoided revisions. He just knows how to do them on his own (or will eventually), but he still does them. 

Some authors do revise as they go. I BELIEVE Ernest Hemingway was one of those writers (correct me if I’m wrong, please). However, that is still revising and still re-writing. It may be on a first draft that he is doing this, but he is still revising and still re-writing. He knows that he can’t avoid this. I, on the other hand, word vomit with my first drafts. I don’t care about how nice my first draft looks. Some first drafts are crummier than others, but a first draft for me exists to get all of my ideas down. Then I distance myself from those ideas in order to think about making those ideas much, much stronger.

Take my contemporary fantasy, for example. I’ve been away from it for a few months because I have been doing edits on The Stars Are Infinite, sequel to When Stars Die. I AM going to have to do revisions and re-writes for this novel.  I want to introduce the antagonist later. There is a character I want to ax. There is a concept I need to re-do. There is a romance I want to strengthen–and much, much more. Am I getting rid of the story itself? No, but I have much better ideas to make the story stronger, and I know this because I do consider myself an experienced writer, even though I only have one work published. I am also an editor, and whenever I edit a book from a client who has never published before, I generally have to tell them to re-structure their book, even if this is something they already have done. I AM AN OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVE. 

Today’s publishing industry isn’t the publishing industry of just even ten years ago. Writers want to make more money, so they try to write their books as fast as possible. Either they forego sleeping to get revisions done, or they forego the process of revisions entirely and skip this step. Oftentimes it shows for prolific writers, where readers are able to compare their newest books to their oldest books (my personal assistant used Dean Koontz as an example. He tried to do this, but his newest works were weaker than his oldest works). Sometimes it doesn’t show, but more often that not, this is a case where readers have nothing to compare your work to. However, if you’re a new writer who skipped revisions and your readers love your book, I have no right to downplay what the rating of your book may be. However, as a new writer, your readers don’t think they can get any better from you. Readers aren’t editors. Readers are sharp, don’t get me wrong, but they point out only flaws in the book. They don’t suggest ways to fix those flaws like editors can do.

I do have one question though: If you essentially took the time to revise your novel, don’t you think you would be delivering a much stronger book to your readers so that way you’re not shortchanging them, inadvertently making them believe this is the best product you’ve got to offer? 

I consider myself a very ethical author when it comes to my readers. I want to make sure they receive the best product possible, so I will revise every book I ever write. The first draft is writing for yourself. Revisions and edits thereafter are for them–not you. You’re not the consumer of your book. They are, so make the strongest book possible, and in order to do that, yeah, you’re probably going to have to re-write some things.

If you don’t feel like it needs to be re-written, then don’t do it, but don’t assume this AFTER you’ve written your first draft. EVERYONE needs a second pair of eyes, even if it’s just one person. Libba Bray certainly did, and she’s published about six books, I believe. She is also not a one-book-per-year author.

So please don’t go around thinking re-writing is some myth teachers pound in your brains because they want to give you more work. Many know what they are talking about because they’ve been through that process themselves.

Author Updates and Helpful Links and Advice for Writers and Readers

Author Updates and Helpful Links and Advice for Writers and Readers

GoodreadsAs you can see from the picture above, a Goodreads giveaway ended for me about a week ago. I also received more entries for this one, and over 1200 adds on Goodreads. Both these figures are an anomaly. The average entries are about 800 (including other countries added), and the average adds are about 8%. Mine was more like 50%. I do believe the cover alone lured in readers, and probably the description, too, but I’d mostly like to think Viola Estrella for creating such an amazing cover in the first place. The giveaway wasn’t helpful at all in terms of sales (I receive monthly reports), but hopefully all of those people who added the book will eventually get to it. I will be writing a post on conducting a successful Goodreads giveaway campaign on Sunday.

My post on Creating Effective Action Scenes is also still receiving attention on Tumblr. It has 704 notes and might have more by the time you read it. So if you want to learn how to create an effective action scene, this is the post to go to! I am also trying to draw more attention to two recent posts on there. But I believe my action scenes post is very popular because it’s more bite-sized than my two recent ones, although 88 notes and 50 notes isn’t too terrible. Tomorrow’s Tumblr post will be about the correct usage of commas, so that one will be bite-sized. My blog has also gained about 200 more followers because of these posts for a total of 940 followers. I would have much more than that if I had kept diligently posting.

If you are interested in using Tumblr as a platform, read this article, which, from my stats alone, is a very popular article on my blog.

When Stars Die also has 69 ratings on Goodreads, although Goodreads claims I received a review on March 3rd, which would make it 70. However, it hasn’t registered in the filter for some reason. It’s a nice little milestone for me.

I am also on the reading-out-loud phase of The Stars Are Infinite, meaning I am getting close to re-sending it back to my publisher. For now, enjoy When Stars Die. It has 30 reviews with a 4.5 star rating on Amazon.

Helpful Articles for Writers

An Anon on Tumblr was having plot problems because this person couldn’t figure out how to interweave varying plot ideas. I simply told Anon to outline and found this article about the various types of outlines you can do. So if you wish to start outlining your novels, here is “Choosing the Best Outline Method for You,” an article at Writer’s Digest.

Here is interesting article I found on Twitter: Emergency Phone Apps to Save Your Heroine’s Life.

If you have a Tumblr, follow thewritingcafe. If you don’t have a Tumblr, I recommend that you get one. I feel like it is a must-have social marketing platform, and it isn’t too difficult to use once you get the hang of it. thewritingcafe exists to re-blog helpful articles found around the internet for writers and authors.

You can follow my author page to receive scores of updates from me. My author page is linked to both my Twitter and Tumblr.

Links for Readers

Readers, if you don’t have a Goodreads account, get one. This is such a great place to discover books your bookstore may otherwise not carry. Not all traditionally published books end up in bookstores, even if they are from the Big 6. There is limited shelf space in bookstores, and all books deserve a chance.

For voracious readers, I encourage you to buy an e-reader device. Not all books are released with print versions, so you could be missing out on some great stories by not having one. You can also get a Nook or a Kobo or some other type of device to suit your comfort levels.

Get on social media to discover new books. Twitter and Tumblr are two places I recommend. You can interact with authors you adore on these websites, and what reader doesn’t want author interaction?

Follow my personal assistant’s blog for poetry.

Friday’s post will involve something in the world of publishing. I wanted to end this with a picture quote from When Stars Die, but WordPress is not allowing me to insert any more pictures for some odd reason. So I will just end it with a regular quote from my novel instead.

“However we die…I will make certain we all die free.”

The Advantages of the Indie Press, Infomercial Style

The Advantages of the Indie Press, Infomercial Style

.1Is your book getting rejected because it’s not mainstream enough? Are agents and editors telling you there is no market for it? Is your spouse giving you flack because your scribblings have yet to make money? Well, I have the solution for you.

No longer will you have to use your rejected manuscript to wipe away your tears after using those thousands of rejection slips to wallpaper your room, because it’s in desperate need of re-decorating, and you can neither afford paint nor wallpaper. No longer will you have to flush your money down the toilet because you have no idea what to do with the dang thing, and can’t even get yourself to buy your own book on Amazon. And, of course, you will no longer have to wake up in the morning with a stranger in your bed, wondering what the heck just happened, when, really, you had too much to drink last night and decided to go to a bar….for some reason. I mean, you have almost as much liquor in your house as you do rejection slips.

But it is called the indie press, and it is here to save you–and your starving pets because you have had to eat their food since you can’t afford human food. I mean, you work a freaking 9-5 job! But you’re too busy printing out your rejection slips, wasting all your money on paper and ink, to afford much else. Also, you’ll occasionally browse the internet for vices to ease your heartache, only for your computer to catch a million viruses; then you have to hire someone to operate on your computer, which sinks you into thousands of dollars in medical expenses that you have tried to take out loans for, but your credit sucks. So then you’re eating your starving pets’ food, working a 9-5 job, living underneath your desk in an alley, while looking for the perfect opportunity to write and print your rejection slips so some hobo doesn’t come along and steal your computer for the illegal practice of computer trafficking, all the while papering the walls of your alley with your rejection slips that then send you into a bar, where you wind up sharing your battered computer chair with a stranger. Oh, I didn’t tell you? You don’t actually have your own room. Or live in a house. Or have your own bed.      

So what can an indie press do for you? (An indie press allows niche books to become published into reality, or books whose genres are waning, like dystopian.)

It will make your grandma smile, although you probably don’t want her reading your book because she’s the antagonist, and you kiuntitled (13)ll her off for not buying that pack of Pokémon cards you wanted for your sixth birthday. Also, I don’t think you want anyone in your family buying it, because you kill them off George-RR-Martin style for allowing you to live in an alley in the first place instead of letting you live safely in a cozy house, even though you work a 9-5 job as a secretary who sets appointments for an aging man who constantly forgets who you are, then fires you, then hires you again when you fill out a job application–AGAIN–while going through the same interview–AGAIN.

An indie press will allow people outside of the circle of your friends and family to buy your book. Finally that hobo trying to steal your computer will have your blood, sweat, and tears in his hands. And he will be enjoying it–with a plum! Uh…aplomb! Why does a hobo have your book? Because instead of filling his life with booze like you do, he likes to go to the local library and enjoy a good read. Plus, he lives in a golden cardboard box.

Your contract will give you a certain amount of print books you don’t have to buy (well, you don’t have to do this at a big house, either, but with self-publishing you do)! Now you can sling these books at all your high school enemies in the hopes of severing their heads for ever doubting your writing prowess. And when you need more books to sever more heads, you’ll get a discount! A great discount! You have an infinite arsenal of books at your hands.

Do you know what else you can do with those print books? GOODREADS! Now all of those strangers who have ended up in your computer chair can enter to win your book–as well as all those other people who like to read.

AND EXPOSURE! EXPOSURE! EXPOSURE! THAT’S WHAT THESE FREE PRINT BOOKS ARE FOR! So it might be a good idea to hold off on severing the heads of your enemies for the time being.

GREAT ROYALTIES! There may be no advance, but who cares, not when you’re getting 50% or more. Now you and your hobo can go out on a date to Red Lobster, while the hobo gushes about how much he loves your book, while you sit back eating your filet mignon, wondering why you ever resorted to dog food to begin with. Oh, and you can afford to make your pets not starve. And now you’re in a home, writing your next book without sobbing over the thousands of rejection slips that once filled your alley wall, and wasting so much ink and paper and paying for subscriptions on sites your mother would flay you for. You’re no Stephen King. You’re not even a mid-list author. But your book is in the hands of strangers, people who could potentially be serial killers and wall street bankers.

And marketing! It’s not the budget of a big house, but now you can use your royalties to buy chainsaws, and in your spare time, you can lob off the heads of your enemies and save your paperbacks for the good of mankind. Also, you can re-establish your relationship with your brother, whom you stabbed in the eye with a pen when you were seven because he said your writing sucked. You can also concentrate on writing, while pulling the muscles in your fingers because you now have too much time to write, which then lands you in the hospital with some strange finger disease, wracking up doctor’s bill that you can finally afford–well, at least to pay for the splints the doctor had to put on your fingers.

INTERVIEWS! Now you can let everyone know that you didn’t start potty training until you were ten years old. You can also let the world know that your dad would disappear for days, each time coming back with a new woman you had to call mom. That can be your platform! “See, I have survived the neglect of parents, and you can, too!”

ARCs, ones you didn’t have to format yourself, or pay someone to format, or have to send out yourself, meticulously crawling through sites that leave viruses on your computer, hoping to find that one person who will give your book a five-star rating. You can now just sit your pretty butt back (you used your royalties to buy some nice undies at Victoria’s Secret), and watch the ratings roll in. Oh, sure, you might have a momentary blip in sales, but those reviews will pay off in the end, and you can buy more expensive panties!

QUALITY CONTROL! With the right house, you know your book is receiving the best breast milk possible so it can grow up into an amazing person who gets a degree at Harvard that will earn it–and you–millions! You will never have to wonder if the editor you paid for actually sucks, and is simply giving you suggestions because she wants to use your money to buy those Twilight blu-rays she’s been wanting for months. You’ll know your book is in the hands of experts who know what the crap they’re doing, because these people actually give a monkey’s hiney about your book! They love it, and they want it, and you, to be freaking awesome!

FRIGGIN’ COVER ART! You actually get to team up with your publisher and cover artist to create a cover all parties are satisfied with. So now your dream cover of an old man singing in a tree outside of your bedroom when you were a kid can become a reality. With a big press, they could slap author Ryan Attard on the cover with tentacles coming out of his mouth, and you would have no say! Your book doesn’t even have anything to do with Ryan or octopi, but apparently there’s a market for it!

TRANSPARECNY! You get to know everything, from your sales, to the amount of money you’re making, to where the sales of your books are coming from, to your publisher’s plans to better the house, to the marketing plan, to how many people your publisher’s brother killed to land him in jail, to how many times his wife has cheated on him, to his kids’ abysmal grades because he’s too busying being awesome, and to everything! EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING! Even that one time he tried to kill his best friend for stealing his cookies, and then planted his almost-murder on his kindergarten sweetheart, landing her in timeout. Luckily for you, she became pregnant in the third grade from your cookie-stealing best friend, and both of them had to drop out of school and live in a cardboard box to support their pathetic child family of three.

COMMUNITY! You can become best friends with all the authors of that house, exchange phone numbers, stay up all night giggling about boys–including Ryan–and have slumber parties where, instead of pillows, you beat each other’s heads with your books. But, really, you guys can support each other because the house isn’t too large that you don’t even know what author wrote that dinosaur erotica, because at this house, you will know. Oh, you will know. So you can increase exposure by supporting one another, whether it be helping you kidnap that hobo who doesn’t want anything to do with you anymore because you no longer live in his alley, or helping Ryan shave hisimages (2) dad’s hairy back, because it’s thicker than the gases surrounding Jupiter! (But, seriously, the community at a small press is great, because they can potentially stop you from entering child beauty pageants you’re too old for.)

Overall, an indie press can pick up a book that it believes in that a big press has no idea what to do with! There is a market for everything, but, really, no one knows anything about marketing, not even marketing experts. I mean, after all, publishers had no clue that dinosaur erotica could make thousands of dollars!

So get one indie house for the price of three months of waiting! And wait! There’s more. You can get another indie house for the price of waiting one month. Oh, and there’s more! You can’t forget the all-important third offer. Get two indie houses, and you can see two books out in one year, quality and all!

The Dancing Writer’s Pointe Shoes, Volume II

The Dancing Writer’s Pointe Shoes, Volume II

My feet in my somewhat dirty pointe shoes. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but since I plan to be in my revising chambers, I decided to leave you guys with a digest of ten of my most popular posts. Also, I would love recommendations for things you guys would like me to write about. I’ll probably be doing one post a day now that I am throwing myself at revisions of Stolentime, and so I would appreciate some inspiration. Also, keep an eye out later tonight for a guest blog post.

Stupid Writing Advice

Writers Must Live to Write, Not Write to Live

Advice to Young Writers

The Importance of Follower Appreciation

What Writers Owe Readers and Vice Versa

Symptoms of Clinical Depression Are Not Romantic for Writers

Publishing a Book: A Single Interview Question

We’re All Professional Writers

The Madness of Revisions

The Madness of the Value of Books

Self-Editing Booklet: Desires Various Writers’ Input

Self-Editing Booklet: Desires Various Writers’ Input

tumblr_mg6wb0g5cX1qce7tgo1_500

I am putting out a call for writer input on a self-editing booklet I am currently outlining. This book will be published on my website and will serve as a guide for helping writers become effective self-content editors–as in, being able to structurally edit the book oneself without requiring major input from a third party.

Content, in my opinion, is the hardest to edit because it can require whole re-writes. Once the content is edited, however, all that is left are line edits and proofreading. But content can require a complete tear down of a book, and it can be disconcerting as a writer to either have a strong beta reader or editor tear your book apart, only for you to realize you have to start at square one. This is what happened to me with When Stars Rise (the sequel to When Stars Die). I had to completely re-work the book because it wasn’t working as it was, and I realized I didn’t want to have that happen for future books, so I learned from my freelance editor how to effectively self-edit content so that my book doesn’t have to be completely put through a shredder. There is no guarantee future books of mine won’t be, but having the tools I learned from her has made me a much stronger writer, and so I’d like to help you all become stronger writers by creating this booklet.

All I want from you guys is advice for how you edit, like how you approach revisions for chapter ones, the first five chapters, the middle that can often get muddled, creating an effective ending, all while maintaining strong writing. My booklet is going to be divided into these planned parts: what to include in outline revisions/ notes, how to approach chapter one, the first five chapters, battling that muggy middle, creating a sharp ending, and tackling plot holes. More may come depending on what you guys send me.

I don’t want this booklet to be just about my experience but about all of your experiences as well because everyone will have to do things differently and so I’d like differing viewpoints.

So e-mail me your experiences with revisions and how you get your book in shape to work how you want it to work. If you’ve had freelance editors in the past, you can include what they’ve taught you. I’m not requiring anything specific: just whatever advice you want to send me for how you tackle revisions.

All of this will be put together in a booklet, and of course when I quote you or even dedicate a page or something to you, you will be credited as an author of the booklet.

Send whatever you can come up with to thedancingwriter@gmail.com. Also, send any questions if you are confused.

Advice to Aspiring Writers

Advice to Aspiring Writers

WebImageSay hello to today’s guest blogger, Quincy Allen! You can find him here.

Don’t take this advice.

That’s the take-away you’ll have by the time you finish this blog. But you’ll have to read the whole thing to understand why you shouldn’t take this advice. It’s a sort of Catch-22, one that already has a smile on my face. Oh, and if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book Catch-22, stop what you’re doing right now and go absorb that data.

But I digress.

There isn’t a writer—aspiring or otherwise—who hasn’t been informed over and over again by sage experts about the dos and don’ts of writing. We’ve all heard them: “Avoid adverbs” (so sayeth the King); “Keep it under 100,000 words,” (so sayeth the publishers); “Never use a prologue,” (so sayeth the agents); “Third person omniscient is dead,” (so sayeth the critics).

In fact, in this business you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting another “expert” who will be happy to tell you how to write, how to market, how to network, etcetera, etcetera. It’s a veritable litany of iron-clad rules doled out from the successful and not-so-successful lunatics who have chosen the publishing industry as their stomping grounds—including myself. You know who I’m talking about. It’s those writers and editors and agents and publishers who bandy about the phrase “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not” something, and do so with the certainty of Moses laying down the Ten Commandments.

Here’s a little secret: we’re all lying to you.

Most of us don’t know we’re lying, of course, but in the final analysis, we are. I’ve been watching this industry pretty closely for almost four years now, and if there is one absolute rule you can rely upon from the ocean of them that exists, it’s that there are no absolutes. They simply don’t exist.

So when you hear someone say, “Here’s how the writing world works,” or “You need to do it this way,” or “You should never ever…” as if such sage wisdom is being handed down from on high by the Prince of Darkness himself, you need to raise an eyebrow, offer a subtle but quirky grin, and go find the exception. It’s out there, I guarantee it.

Then you need to understand the rule and why the exception worked. No mean feat, that.

Having said all that, you also need to factor in a few things, particularly if you’re an aspiring writer rather than an established one. Those very same people offering such sage wisdom are mostly likely gate keepers for new writers. It doesn’t make them necessarily “right,” although it doesn’t make them necessarily wrong, either. It just means they’re in the way. You either need to give a gate keeper exactly what he or she wants, or you need to find a way around.

Welcome to the real world.

Established writers, on the other hand, get to break the rules—and many of them do. Regularly. Prologues, adverbs, 140k-word-counts, third person omniscience, etc…. There truly is no deodorant like success, and readers spoon it up like smothered burritos after a Friday night bender. (You’d have to have gone to college with me to get that reference). Basically, if you’re an established author, you’ve become an “expert,” and one providing revenue for agents, editors and publishers. It’s all a matter of which way the money flows, and at this point you have crossed a threshold, becoming a gate keeper in your own right.

The third group is the newest and, by far, my favorite. New and established writers alike are breaking rules and, by virtue of the eBook phenomenon, becoming successful at it. If ever there was an end run around the gate keepers, it is the almighty internet. But when you go at it alone on the Internet, you better know what you’re doing.

It’s all about awareness.

You can absolutely break the rules handed down from the establishment and be successful. That establishment no longer has iron-clad control of the marketplace, and so the rules they handed down for a century don’t apply nearly as much as they once did. Make no mistake, they’re truly pissed off about that. Did you see “Return of the King” when the One Ring goes into the lava? That image of Sauron’s great eye spinning and smoking and screaming as it tumbles to the earth and explodes. That’s pretty much the old-school publishing industry right now. But you better know what the rules are.

This is a golden age for writers, and the Internet has offered us an end-run around the gate-keepers. It’s a hard path, but it’s also a viable one… if you know what you’re doing.

So, why is it that with all these rules being shouted at us, we can clearly see that they aren’t rules at all? The reason is a simple one: there are nearly seven billion definitions of what a good book is on the surface of this rock we call home, one for every sentient being that has access to the Internet. Granted, there’s a fair amount of overlap and concentrations of similar definitions. What you have to decide is how big a segment of that populace you want to cater to… and then write the books that are inside you. It’s both a business and a creative decision, and only you can make it.

Ultimately, all of this depends on where you want to come in on the food chain of the publishing industry. How far do you want to step outside the guidelines? How far up the ladder do you want to go? How much are you willing to gamble on your own success rather than the success of some publishing “institution?” You need to understand all of this if you’re going to break the rules.

The bottom line is that there is a different path for each and every successful writer, and the notion of “rules” simply doesn’t apply… save one: Write a good book. And keep in mind that the definition for a “good book” has grown exponentially in the past few years because of the eBook revolution. More writers are satisfying more reading appetites because the “Big Six” (now the Big Five because one went extinct—there’s a message there, by the way) don’t control everything anymore.

So, people will tell you “Thou shalt…” and they’ll tell you “Thou shalt not…” just like I have in these past paragraphs. Take note of all of this “sage wisdom” with considerably more than a single grain of salt. But also don’t forget it.

If everyone’s path is different, then everyone has a different set of rules. You need to go out there and learn as many of everyone else’s rules as you can, and then experience or invent those rules that work specifically for you.

Look around. Research.  Know what your options are both in your writing and in the business of your writing. Be informed. And when you have a clear path, take it.

I guarantee you’ll make mistakes. And for every mistake you make, you’ll be a little wiser, a little better at your craft, and a little closer to being able to hand down sage wisdom that aspiring writers should take with more than a grain of salt.

Just like the rest of us.