Friday, December 30, 2011

More Links for your Linky Perusal

Writer Unboxed: The Number 1 Overlooked Skill for Any Author. It's not what you think. Well, unless it IS what you think, in which case it's not not what you think. Make December Your NaNoWriMo Revision Month. Tips on revising your novel, whether you wrote it in November or not.

Publetariat: About Writing (Introduction).

Jody Hedlund: 6 Tips to Make the Learning of Fiction Techniques Less Painful.

Copyblogger: Are Internet Idiots Annihilating Your Productivity?

The Creative Penn: The 12-Step Cure for Writer's Block.

Glimmertrain: Steal This List. Suggestions to help jumpstart a stalled story or improve your storylines overall.

Savvy Authors: The 7 Secrets of the Prolific. By Hillary Rettig.

The Writing Spirit (Julie Isaac): Louisa May Alcott Didn't Need a Computer. Complete with 19th century writing magazine in .pdf.

Justine Musk: Cool Quotes by Badass Women.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Idea Growth: Hunters of the Moon

The growth of Hunters of the Moon was about as different from that of Darkness as it's possible to get. I had been collecting info on a variety of anthology submission calls. One asked for werewolves in an urban fantasy setting. I pulled it out and mulled the idea for a couple of days.

The seed of plot I started with involved Sara, the Hunters, and the tattoos used in the story to control the shift from human to werewolf. I also scribbled the last line of the story in one of my notebooks. That line remains almost intact--I think I changed a word or two. There wasn't much else to it when I sat down to write.

When I wrote this story, I just took a pen and a notebook to Starbucks and scribbled the entire first draft in a couple of hours. The other plot elements fell into place as I was writing, and by the time I was halfway through, I knew exactly how the plot was going to wrap up.

Until I got there. I reached a spot in the story where we discover something important about the werewolf Sara has been pursuing. I started to write the sentence that would reveal the secret--and then I stopped.

I stopped because my brain was screaming a completely different sentence at me, one I'd never considered. I sat there for a minute just staring at the paper. Inside my head, things went something like this:

"Wait, what?"
"Seriously? But I thought it was--"

In the end, my brain got its way. I figured I'd go ahead and write the ending that way and then change it later if it didn't work. But it did work. So I didn't change it.

I submitted the story to the anthology, and it was rejected. Instead, it's found a home at Etopia.

Have you ever had a story that surprised you like that? If so, please share. I'd hate to think I'm the only one who sits at Starbucks while weird conversations go on in my head.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Linkage

Social Media Examiner: 5 Tips for Creating Sharable Blog Content.

Jane Friedman: Platform and Social Media Must Not Be Your Center. Publishing Confidential. Interesting information on confidentiality clauses in publication contracts. (Julie Isaac): 3 Powerful Book Writing Tools: Acknowledge, Allow and Appreciate.

How to Plan, Write and Develop a Book (Mary Carroll Moore): Embracing the Scary Project--Why Bravery on Demand Can Help Your Writing.

The Writer's Technology Companion: How to Set SMART Writing Goals.

The World According to Maggie (Maggie Stiefvater): Dissecting Pages for Mood.

Write it Forward (Bob Mayer): Theme and Intent--Do You Know Yours? The Making of a Romance Novel Cover. A very entertaining short video.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Idea Growth: Darkness

My short story, Darkness, arrived from Etopia Press on December 16th. This story has a long history, and for me an odd one.

I can't remember when the idea for Darkness first came to me. It's been a long time ago. When I found the story on my hard drive a few months ago, it looked like it might have originated with a writing prompt back when I was an active participant in the writing community on CompuServe. (Yes, I used CompuServe. I'm old. Get over it.)

However, there were two different versions of the story. One is the version that's coming out from Etopia. The other has much the same backstory and the characters have the same names, but the story has a much lighter tone and a very different plot.

At one point in its development, though, Darkness was a screenplay. I can't even remember now if the screenplay came before the short stories or vice versa. There are a couple of version of the that approach floating around, as well.

The thought that hit me the hardest when I started sorting through these old files was how much I'd allowed myself to play with these ideas. Now I tend to focus on a story and push it through to the end, rather than putting it into different molds to see how it fits. In away, this could be seen as a sign of growth in my writing. In another way, though, it seems sad that I spend so little time now indulging in that sense of play. Maybe I should try that approach again and see what falls out.

Darkness is available on Kindle
and Nook

Friday, December 16, 2011

More Friday Linkification: Craft and Practice

I don't normally group links by themes, but this time around things just fell together that way. So today's links focus on the craft and practice of writing.

Write Out Loud: Self-Respect and the Writer.

Melissa Galt: 3 Fast Ways to Find Your Calm in the Midst of Chaos.

We Grow Media: Money and Time ARE NOT Your Most Precious Resources. Creative Energy Is.

Jody Hedlund: How to Prolong Your Book's Exposure. Some good ideas, although I think the "shelf life" of e-books has a different pattern.

Copyblogger: How to Master the Craft of Writing.

Savvy Authors: Picking Up the Pace: How to Write Fast and Well. By Cindi Myers.

Nathan Bransford: Do You Suffer from One of These Writing Maladies? Part One
and Part Two.

Penguin Community Blog: A Writing Exercise: Lost and Found by Laura Oliver

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bits and Bobs for Christmas

I've put a few items online for the Christmas season. They're at Yahoo! Voices. The reason I decided to post them there was that it was a quick and easy way to make the stories/poems available for free to you. I'll still make a bit of money if you read them at Yahoo, so please click over and take a gander.

This is an experiment, really, both in distribution and in content. I don't usually write poetry, for example, and I don't write to prompts all that often. But I've been doing both with this little venture, and I've been enjoying it. So I hope you'll take a look, and let me know if you like what you see!


Short story: Santa Gets a Job. I wrote this a long time ago, and I don't remember now why, except that I was thinking about kids' stories at the time. It's a goofy little tale about how Santa can't afford to feed himself or his reindeer. After he's done with his Christmas Eve business, he sets out to find a job. Santa, it appears, is a bit of a failboat.

Poem: Christmas Lights

Poem: Snow: A Winter Haiku It's a haiku. About winter...

Short story: Up on the Housetop. A short romance. Four days before Christmas, a man falls off Ash's roof. Could this be the start of a beautiful friendship?

Short story: Christmas at Farhallen. I published this story here last year for Christmas. It's a tie-in to the Starchild and Earthchild universe, but stands on its own pretty well, I think.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How Ideas Grow

"Hail in the Flower Garden" by pcaputo
Hail has always fascinated me. Instead of falling straight from the clouds like rain, snow, or sleet, hail goes through a  growth process. It's carried back up into the atmosphere multiple times, where it collects extra layers of ice. Each time it ascends, it comes back down with another layer. Eventually, it becomes heavy enough that it falls to the ground. If you slice open a hailstone, you can see all the layers of ice, like rings in a tree trunk, chronicling the stone's journey.

The journey of a story idea, for me, is similar. Ideas come to me in a fairly simplistic form--a character or a basic plot, for example. Then they go away for a while to knock around my subconscious. When they come back, they've collected a few more layers--more characters, or relationships, or subplots. A scene. A few lines of dialogue. At some point, these are enough layers that the idea accumulates the weight it needs to become a full-fledged story.

The amount of time it takes for this process to complete varies from project to project. But there's always a point where I just know the story is ready to go.

For the next couple of weeks, I'm going to discuss the origins and growth of some new releases I either have out or that are coming up. The stories I'd like to discuss had different incubation periods, and grew in very different ways.

What process do your stories usually go through before you commit them to paper? Please share in the comments.

Friday, December 9, 2011

And for Today's Linkage....

Study Hacks: The Steve Martin Method: A Master Comedian's Advice for Becoming Famous. Not directly from Steve Martin, but still an interesting look into his career.

Seth Godin: Drip, Drip, Drip Goes the Twit. Marketing advice. Sort of a slow and steady wins the race kind of thing.

Copyblogger: How to Blog Like Bond. James Bond.
and a companion piece, Dr. Evil's 7 Tips for Achieving Worldwide Marketing Domination.

Wired: Need to Create? Get a Constraint.

Wired: 9 Equations True Geeks Should (at least pretend to) Know. Something makes me want to use these as writing prompts.

Nova Ren Suma: On Inspiration. Guest post by Alexander Chee.

Write it Forward (Bob Mayer): Kernel Idea Examples. Followup to last week's link on kernel ideas.

Editorrent: Paragraph Power...At the End. Interesting, quick post about rearranging a paragraph of dialogue for best impact.

Jody Hedlund: How to Keep Writing When the Honeymoon is Over.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What I’m Reading—The Help

icon icon
photo from Affiliate link.

Like 40 bajillion other people in the world, I recently read Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. It wasn’t until I was about halfway through that I took a look at some of the reviews and realize what a polarizing work the book actually is. With the arrival of the motion picture adaptation which, like most motion picture adaptations, emphasizes certain elements of the story over others, the backlash has become even more noticeable.

I liked the book. However, I didn’t read it. I listened to it. The audio book version of The Help is one of the best examples of the art of audio booking I’ve ever come across. And I think the awesomeness of the performances might have made it harder for me to see what was really being said through the course of the narrative. Hearing the voices of these characters made them seem like more than just words on a page. If the book had come into my brain it through my eyeballs instead of my ears, I think my experience of it would have been very different.

I liked the book. I recognize some of the more manipulative elements in the story, and yes, Skeeter Phelan’s role as catalyst made me uncomfortable. But hearing those voices performed as they were made me feel like the book was more about women helping women that about a white woman filtering the experiences of black women.

I don’t feel guilty about enjoying my experience of the book. Thanks to the narrators, I felt as if I were in the company of three wonderful, strong women for the days I was listening to the story. I also think that the engaging nature of the story, while in many ways undercutting the reality of the time, has made these issues and questions accessible to people who might otherwise never have thought about it. Now people are talking—about what life was really like them, about what life is like for domestics now. About what the book misses, avoids, or misrepresents in its efforts to tell that story.

So, yes, the book is flawed. Perhaps deeply so. But the conversation coming out of it is one that needs to happen and which might, in the long run, help lead to necessary awareness and changes in the world around us.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Links

Novel Publicity & Co: Cease & Desist--10 Bad Twitter Practices to be Stopped Immediately! I agree with all except the bad language thing... *whistles innocently*

C. Hope Clark: A Writer is Multi-talented, Multi-directional. Don't limit yourself, peoples!

The Passive Voice: Constructing the Narrative Arc.

Mediactive: Author's To-Don't List. I would add--don't make a big honkin' using the wrong word error in a Author's To-Don't List, but that's because I haven't had my coffee or my Zoloft yet this morning. Still, good advice. (Extra points if you spot the error and post it in the comments.)

Carina Press Blog: Angela James: Don't Turn Your Passion Into an Obsession. Advice on avoiding burnout.

Livia Blackburne: Showcase the Sexy, but Don't False Advertise (and other lessons I learned writing my book pitch). Self-explanatory.

The 99 Percent: Op-Ed: In the Particular Lies the Universal. About finding the power of your own gifts and voice.

OpenForum: 11 Radical Slogans that will Change Your Business.

Copyblogger: The 5 Keys to Content Marketing Mastery. Applies to any sort of writing. Or other ventures, for that matter.

Write it Forward (Bob Mayer): The Kernel Idea: The Alpha and Omega of Your Book. Aimed at NaNoWriMo-ers, but solid advice for any writing venture.