Tag Archives: author

Published: Behind the Scenes (March 2017 edition)

Published- Behind The Scenes.pngIn October of last year I signed a contract with Glass House Press for my alternate-history fantasy series to debut in 2018. For fun and for the benefit of anyone interested, I started up this blog series chronicling monthly updates of the behind-the-scenes in being published. Read the introductory post here! A list of all the other posts I’ve written so far can also be found at the end.

In my previous post, I got in-depth about developmental editing and progress with that. This post, I’m going to have a little less to talk about, because as mentioned before, I’m writing a prequel to my series. So what’s primarily happening behind the scenes? Lots of writing. Which, hey, we’re all doing, that isn’t anything new. This entry is going to end up a little diary-like.

The basic reason for the need of this prequel is that my world is very complex, and a lot to jam into a first chapter. Additionally, my first book arguably starts out too far into my character’s arc. My editor thinks there too much for the reader to catch up on and takes away from getting the reader into the story. It can easily be too confusing, with all the cultural terms along with hints about character and world history I’m throwing about.

I personally think it’s fun to have a bit of mystery about the character and world to drive the story… but I can’t be sure I’ve created enough of a reason for the reader to care about Fairian and hang around for getting answers.

(So we’ll see how that all works out when we get to the editing of the actual writing and how the story works out bit, but meanwhile — )

I’ve been assigned to writing the prequel. Which is unfortunately slow going, as I haven’t really written anything (fiction) on ‘contract’ before, so I’m discovering the jarring difference between writing for oneself and writing for someone else. There are many author-ly laments on all platforms of social media about this problem, so I don’t feel like I need to go into it here. Needless to say the experience will be good practice.

Despite the reasons for actually making the prequel happen, I am discovering my love for the story. The events in the prequel I’ve always treated as past history, as influencing ‘current’ events and seen through the lens of the present. Writing the prequel as present, in the eyes of my main character that’s 5 years younger… well, that’s pretty interesting. And hard. A lot of the characteristics that make up Fairian (my main character) have developed in part because of The Events in the prequel, so they’re not in place in her personality yet. But I can’t have her a completely different person. So I have to plant the seeds of her later personality, then have The Events, and then show the start of her personality change.

This is surprisingly hard. Mostly in the sense that Fairian is kind of a spoiled, naive brat at this point in time, and I’m kind of wondering how to make her even likable. I read an article the other day that mentioned something like this, but emphasized that (in the beginning of a story at least) you need to make your characters interesting before likable, worry about likability later. That, I’m pretty sure I can do.

One of my editors suggestions for clarifying my giant world for readers while still keeping mystery for my characters was to write from another point of view. I struggled with this for a little while because this is really Fairian’s story, and I have a weird complex with keeping things mysterious and throwing questions around like confetti. But, I found a happy medium. Inter-spliced between chapters from Fairian’s perspective are reports from … basically this world’s version of the magical CIA.

So in essence, I get to write Incident Reports and Correspondence of global magical clandestine operations in an alternate reality.

Just reading that I get excited.

(Now just to make sure they end up being exciting as they sound, ha!)

Camp NaNoWriMo hit just in time to help complete this thing. It’s going to be a novella (I think anyway…) so less words to write, but unfortunately I’m being so nitpicky about the craft and details it’s getting in the way of getting words down. I’m re-remembering to just get the words down and worry about editing later. Thus, Camp NaNoWriMo is helpful as the kick in the pants I need. I want to have this thing done by the end of April. I’ve written 50k in NaNoWriMo several times before; getting out 30k more should be just fine as long as I stay focused.

Speaking of focused. I need to turn my attention to writing all those words! This whole weekend ended up being “manual labor weekend” with barn cleaning and house building, and before that I was flat on my back as a migraine reminded me I’ve been messing with my sleep schedule a little too much (excuses, excuses). I need to get back at it. I still don’t feel fully recovered, but maybe the fuzzy-headedness will help just get the words out and not have a complex over all the details…

Thanks for reading, friends! Stay tuned for April’s update in a few weeks; this post ended up being a little late for a variety of reasons, next time’s should be on time. Let me know what you think, share experiences, feel free to commiserate …

Happy writing!


A Bit of Magic Found

The other day at work, a guy came in to work with legit multi-colored eyes. One was a pale, pale blue, and the other not-quite halved between whisky-gold and dark brown. It was kind of hard to keep up polite conversation because his eyes were so striking.

On the other hand, I could only imagine how many times a day people stared at him, so I figured, hey, having a normal conversation might be a relief, so I ignored it and kept to being bright and perky (life in customer service, you know).

What surprised me most about the encounter was how very similar it was to the cheesy descriptions of encountering amazing eyes found in books. You really notice, the world kinda halting for a second.

Of course, that might have just been my writer brain trying to figure out the exact words to describe it later.

And no, my romance novelist friends, it wasn’t like that. It was more along the lines of … here was a bit of magic. Maybe reality was more interesting than thought. What was his story?

Also, before y’all start turning this into a YA meet-cute, let me remind you the guy was probably 45 and I’m 23 (which is a reminder, maybe, that the guys with cool eyes do grow up).

Anyway, I felt like sharing because it felt like I’d found a tiny bit of the magic we’re usually writing into our books.

So thanks, random guy, for coming into my work while I was there and making my afternoon pretty cool.


What Does YOUR story mean?

 

What does YOUR story mean-.jpg

I’ve always struggled — in most of my professional writing career, after the blissful stage where I only wrote for myself — with making my writing and stories mean something. Maybe it was the crap influences in my childhood who told me that ‘just writing fantasy’ was fine and all that, but eventually I needed to write things that actually meant something. It can’t just be that though, because I’ve always felt a drive to write more than just a story.

Maybe all of this is just all my insecurity and doubt coming home to roost.

It’s the plight of most writers to feel this way. I read somewhere that, at the very least, writer’s write to entertain. But most of us write to try to inform, educate, inspire, engage. So I’m hope to God pretty sure that I’m really not alone in all of my what-do-I-mean angst.

I can’t help but think of this in the light of current world events. Well, USA events, but it’s affecting the whole world, so yeah.

Meaning: I want my books to make people think when they’re out there. I want to inspire and engage and teach. Yes, I’ll always write stories, because I’m one of those ‘if I don’t write it out it just plagues me forever’ writers. But I want to go above and beyond that. I want it all to mean something.

I get a little hung up on how exactly to go about doing that. The first example that jumps to mind is the Orson Scott Card route, of exploring deeply philosophical questions about humanity and morality through science fiction. He does a lot of telling-not-showing, and it seems like he had these deeply moral issues in the back of his head as he wrote the story. Whereas I get characters yelling at me and write them so they’ll be quiet.

So I guess what I’m really struggling with is a way to take my innate character-yelling and transform it. The story comes out, sure, but it’s still just a story. What is the step between characters and plot coming together and then… making it more?

It’s probably the opposite of that. That the meaning to be explored should be taken first — and then add the characters and plot. But how do I do that? Seriously – I want someone to give me a flow chart on how to do this, because I feel like I missed something along the way.

I want to write about environmental issues and the reality of how this relates to economics — so I’ve built solarpunk into my world. But is it really teaching someone anything, or exploring how a world like this works? … I’m afraid it’s not enough.

I have strong belonging, friendship, and what it means to be human themes especially in my current series, but I’m not sure it’s so obvious. I get lost in the plot and the interactions of the characters, and sometimes I think that takes away from the fact that I wrote these two people with the idea that they’re lonely and different… and in each other they find not only a place to belong, but start affecting the world around them for the better.

I don’t feel that it’s enough.

(Maybe I’m just not smart enough — or smart in ‘that’ way? I want to interview Card and figure out his method… and when he feels like he’s really got it.)

I think all of this can be put in the category of learning to take a first draft and make it a second draft — something that, with growing horror, I’m realizing that maybe I haven’t ever done before. I’m going through developmental edits with a professional editor for the first time and getting a crash course in things I didn’t even know were a thing (upcoming blog post on that later! It’s a little nerve-wracking and kinda feels like the floor has been taken out from under my feet).

Of course, who really knows — because an artist’s plight is never feeling like something is ever ‘done.’ It can always be better. There can always be more. Despite knowing this, I still feel that I’m missing some sort of intrinsic lesson on how to get from my A to my B. For all I know I’ll get an epiphany tomorrow and suddenly realize how it works, or I’ll read an article that connects it all — or the most likely outcome, my editor will prod me into understanding what to do.

But for now, I’m definitely feeling a little worthless and like I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’d love to move this discussion out to you, dear readers.

Do you worry that your story doesn’t ‘mean’ enough, especially in light of current events? How do you give meaning to your story? Do you start with the world, the characters, the lesson you’re imparting? If you’re a character writer like me, how do you keep yourself from getting carried away in their interactions? How to you keep yourself from being off subject/too preachy?

 


Upcoming Blog Series: Behind The Scenes in Being Published

Published- Behind The Scenes.png

As many of you know, I sold my now-titled Initium series to Glass House Press in later 2016. I knew from the beginning I wanted to share as much as I could about this whole process, what it entails, my reactions and feelings — just so you all would have an idea of what it looks like when you get your awesome books deals (if you’re going the traditional route, of course!).

In my effort to be organized and pretend like I know what I’m doing, I’ve decided to create a blog series. It will be called “Published: Behind the Scenes,” and at least one blog post a month on AwakeDragon will be solely dedicated to detailing all the details I can describe (

I don’t have an agent, so this is me and my publisher, one on one. Hopefully, in all these posts, you’ll get a glimpse into what to expect — and maybe know how to improve right now in what you’re doing, based on my experience.

Needless to say, this is going to be a LONG series. It will, at the very least, last throughout 2017, and probably through most of 2018. Just based off of the first few months I’ve had this contract, I’m going to guess this series I will cover a broad variety of topics:

  • developmental editing
  • copyediting
  • structural editing
  • stylistic editing
  • (repeat: editing, Editing, EDITING)
  • marketing
  • branding
  • author platforms
  • book launching
  • debuting terrors
  • handling criticism
  • improving as a writer

I also have a feeling that some months there may not be that much to say. As many of you already know (or guess), publishing is a looooonnnnnnng process. I’m just now starting to realize why. Everything takes so much longer than you expect!

Some of it will be diary-like. Some of it may be more technical. And I’m sure that my experience is going to differ from other’s experiences. My publisher is a small publisher focusing on intense, high-quality literature — I love their vision and what I think they can do for me. Small publishers have more time to spend with authors, helping and cultivating them. Smaller publishers depend on authors more for marketing and such. This is going to vary if you’re picked up by a bigger publisher, or have an agent. (Even within the same publisher I’m sure experiences will be different) I want to share my experience for fun and for reference; but I’m not saying everyone’s journey will be like mine.

Okay, and finally: to keep all these posts organized, I’ve done a few things. All posts will be linked at the bottom of this post, so they’re all in one place. All posts will link back to this post, so everything else can be found. Also, I’ve set up a new category dedicated to these posts, which can be found on the righthand side of this blog that will take you to said posts. Lastly, I may even create a new page that can be accessed from the menu at the top of AwakeDragon, so it’s just that much easier to click and find.

What do you think? Is everyone excited? I’m excited!

Posts:

January 2017

February 2017

March 2017

April 2017


Artichokes and Salsa: A New Year

Hello, 2017.png

2016 ended with me eating artichokes and salsa while watching Gargoyles, a silly animation show for kids that aired in the 90s. It wasn’t really planned — in fact, I’d been thinking I’d be asleep by 10 — but there I was, awake to usher in the new year.

As most of us writers here on social media agree, 2016 was overall a dumpster fire. Which is unfortunate, because with my weird thing about numbers, I really like the number 2016.

But anyway, here is the obligatory New-Years-Resolutions post.

As stated in my post from early 2016, my writing goals for last year were:

Finish Dragon Immortals Book 3 (working title Occultum)
Develop a kick-ass, intelligent marketing plan for Initium (the first book!)
Consistently query

So, all right, I didn’t complete the first one. Which sucks, because it ruined my pattern of finishing a book a year. Occultum is about a third finished right now — which can be directly connected to my lack of consistently working on it. I’ve actually been working on it more in the past month than I have all year, after the inspiration and good habits that arise from NaNoWriMo.

Though, even as Occultum isn’t finished, I do have another book that’s almost completed in another series (the first of the Fertility Daughters series I wrote for NaNoWriMo).

Also, I did write quite a few short stories.

(… Huh, it seems like I didn’t write a ton, doesn’t it? It’s weird, I feel like I wrote a lot more…)

Well, for my second goal, while I’m figuring out I may never feel like I’m ‘prepared’ for marketing, I know a ton more than I did before. I’ve got quite a few ideas in my head, an author platform I’m keeping up decently, and some semblance of a plan. So that, I believe, is a success.

Ha, and as for consistently querying — that was true until June, when I got my amazing mentorship and Glass House Press snagged up my current series.

I also had some personal goals I wanted to strive for:

Go to three new places
Get an “adult” job
Read 6 books from list

Definitely check on the first one, all thanks to my family. We decided that instead of Christmas presents this year, we’d travel. We ended up going to Mont-Tremblant, Canada, Poughkeepsie, NY, and NYC. It was an amazing two week trip — and so much fun!

Ehhhh not so much on the adult job. I mean, I suppose if you count retail. But I really mean something fulfilling with a salary that does something to make the world a better place… which, perhaps was a little ambitious of me. But until I’m a world famous author, I’ve got to make money somehow, right?

Read 6 books from list. Ha. Well, I definitely read 6 books (a lot more than six), but I have a specific list of classics and good literature that would help improve me as a person and a writer. Really, the list is about expanding my reading horizon and choices.

For example, War and Peace is on there, as is 1943A brief History of Time, and Guns, Germs, and Steel. 

I managed three from that list. Two from Orson Scott Card (I know, similar-ish genre to what I write, but he writes so differently than me and is such an iconic author), and one book about Ooparts (out of place artifacts) and how ancient society may have been much more technologically advanced than we believe. (That, actually, resulted in a new series idea that I briefly describe here.)

Basically this means I need to be a lot better about picking up books outside of my comfort zone. The goal continues for 2017!

On that note… let’s talk about 2017, folks.

  • MORE BOOKS FROM THE LIST. Let’s aim for 6. Double what I did this year. Yes? Yes.
  • Finish Occultum.
  • In fact, since my NaNo project is only a few chapters off from completion, let’s make that a priority too. Finish two books in one year!
  • I’d really like to write a short story that gets published in a magazine like Asimov’s.
  • Build a majority of the marketing content I’ll need surrounding the release of Initium. Short stories, excerpts, meet-the-characters, behind-the-scenes stuff, fun contests…

I also have some personal goals, but those aren’t as fun. They mostly involve things like getting more involved in volunteering, changing the world, etc… you know, easy stuff like that.

2016 may have been a dumpster fire, but the only way 2017 is going to change is if all of us strive to make it that way. Maybe it’s the millennial passive problem, but I’ve never felt the phrase ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ so keenly before. Or maybe it’s that I’m simply growing up, and now see I can’t wait around for someone else to make it better. I’m taking control of my writing destiny and making it happen through hard work; why can’t I do the same in the world I live in?

As much as writing is an escape, seeing the world as it could be, and we all joke that writers don’t tolerate reality… I still feel driven to do something. I may not tolerate reality well, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a duty to try to make it better.

We live in a democracy. It gives us the right to not care… but we’ll only remain a democracy if we act like democratic citizens, and engage.

So. I have my writing goals for 2017, and personal goals for 2017.

Let’s do this.

Tell me about your goals. What are you looking to achieve in the coming year?


The Benefit of Two Projects At Once

20151006165136-introvert-reading-books-.jpeg
Somewhere in the haze of NaNoWriMo and my own butt-kicking, I’ve managed to add 6 chapters to a WIP I haven’t worked on all year. Maybe it’s me procrastinating finishing my 2016 NaNoWriMo project, maybe it’s because it’s finally clicking — but whatever it is, I am totally okay with it.

I did write a post a while ago about how having several projects to work on at once was really beneficial — particularly if they’re in different stages of completion. I think I may be experiencing that. Because while my NaNo project is a few chapters from completion, the third INITIUM book (loosely titled Occultum) is only about a third done.

A few days ago I got a little stuck on OCCULTUM, and simply switched back to my NaNo project. I didn’t write a whole lot on it — only about half a page, and some minor editing — but after that, I felt ready to return to OCCULTUM. And I did.

It’s rather awesome.

I think I need to keep doing this.

(So basically I’m telling myself that as OCCULTUM passes the halfway mark and heads towards ‘done’ I need to start up another project. Why am I not surprised my brain thinks this is a good idea? Actually, I know exactly what project it would be, too…)

Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon? 


I cannot get into my MC’s head and it’s driving me insane

So basically, NaNoWriMo ended and I was feeling all refreshed and ready to go back to battle it out with my WIP. Then I sat down to start writing.

*crickets*

So either I waited too long or didn’t wait long enough. I’m really struggling to put words onto the page. The loudest complaint from my inner critic is how whiny my MC feels… and my constant, nail-biting worry that she’s too passive. It’s paralyzing.

Then, on the mechanics side, I’m having weird trouble getting back into first person. After spending all that time grumbling about how hard third person is.

*facepalm*

So I’m procrastinating actually writing anything by writing this blog post. Because how is anything I write going to be fun and interesting if I feel bored and distanced from what I’m writing?

(Plus, I’m way behind in writing blog posts. Yikes.)

It doesn’t help that at this moment my car is sitting on the side of the road, unable to move due to the nice ice slick that built up on the hill leading to my house. It’s about a half mile walk to my house, so I’m fine. But my car is special to me. And I can just see it getting smashed by a driver that loses control of the car.

And it’s totally not my fault I got stuck, because I was doing just fine until the car in front of me stopped, and then I had to stop. Once I’d stopped there was no getting going again.

Sigh.

I’m way off topic.

Anyway.

Another weird block to being able to write is the anxious waiting for edits of the first book from my editor. (That’s still so weird to say). I can tell there’s going to be some changes, and I feel like if I don’t know what those changes are yet, I shouldn’t be writing on the later books. If I don’t have a firm set first book, the vision for the others are nebulous. Or there’s the fact I might have to end up re-writing it all if something ends up being changed.

Or, perhaps, is this just another excuse not to write. At the bottom of it all I need to be writing, no matter what my stinkin’ brain says. Good habits and being a real writer and all that jazz.

So. It’s a snow day today in the weird-weathered NW today, and it’s nearly impossible to get anywhere. It’s the perfect day to write — no commitments, nice crackling fire, snow gleaming through the windows — and I am going to make it happen.

I may just need to start writing crap until the good stuff starts flowing; that’s certainly a pattern NaNoWriMo has proven to be fairly useful.

Anybody else struggling to jive with their characters on this wintery day?