Live Through Us at The Burrow



Posts related to writing and my writing.

My writing process

Everyone has their own process. Some sit and throw words onto a paper until it’s finished. Some plot and outline until the book is written before it’s begun. I’m a mix.

Each book is different for me, which is both awesome and frustrating. I have to plot some. My stories are too complex not to. For example, in my first Cupolian book, I knew the ending would be XXX, and certain things would have to happen over time that I had to set up from the beginning. So I do have to plot. Planning of characters and such is a little different. With Cupola, I didn’t have to plan out characters for the most part because they were so passionate and bigger than life. They told me who they were. There were a few, like Avaline and the royal family, who I had to think on. “What are their desires. etc?” but that’s about it.

This new book/series, however is different. I had the original idea and then changed it. Like completely. A lot of that is because I need it to appeal to others. I wrote Cupola for ME. No one else. MEEEEEE!!!! I have a new series I will one day write, maybe, if I ever get the chance, that I will also write for me, but right now I’m writing for others. As in, I want a larger audience to like this book. I want this book to get picked up and do well in the traditional market, etc. I’m also writing it for a different audience. The style and voice, to me, is like it’s written by a different person. Maybe my readers will read it and go, “No. It’s you.” But it’s been very difficult for me because it is so different. But that’s a good thing. Stretching your abilities’ boundaries, practicing that which is difficult, improves your craft.

Now. Where was I? Oh yeah, my process.

So, I plotted until I had a basic plot. I can’t plot further than that. I have to write after that. Writing allows the characters to have faces, personalities, desires, etc. I rarely write the ending and sometimes not the beginning. On this book I had the beginning. It was the first scene that came to mind even before I changed the whole concept. It never changed. And it’s awesome 😉

But, after I get the rough draft finished, I take 7 days off. Sometimes it’s more, but that’s not on purpose. That’s just when life happens. Those 7 days allow me to come at it from a new light. So, my first edits usually add several thousand words to my piece. In other words, my rough draft is like an overly expanded outline that’s still missing a few things and out of order. It’s  a big mess. From my understanding, most writers write a ton of what they don’t need and then cut it. I’m the opposite. I go back in and add the details. I also add the first/last chapters if they’re missing, completely flesh out the characters as far as their roles, needs, desires, etc, and make sure the plot flows and makes sense and such. This is why first edits take so long for me.

Second edits are like most people’s firsts, from what I can tell. Second edits are like, sentence structure, any missed inconsistencies, grammar and such. They’re made after the entire book is written and no longer an indecipherable mess. Second edits also transfer the piece from Scrivener to Word and make sure the chapter breaks are where they need to be. By now, I want a title and should be working on a blurb. I want that blurb by the end of second edits, its rough draft anyway.

Third edits are basically just grammar, typos, etc. I may have to add another round of edits in there if I feel it’s missing something or there’s a spot I just can’t work on anymore in a previous edit and I’m like, “Just skip it for now.” Then I have to go back and fix it. I usually print out third edits and do them on paper. I also catch any overused words or phrases by now, hopefully long before now.

Fourth edits are where I read the whole book aloud. Yes, the whole thing. At this point, my beta readers should have a copy. They can read while I read. I can easily do two chapters a day this way. Any more, and it usually starts to run together and make it to where I don’t do as well. After that, I’m done. If a beta tells me something I need to change, I’ll go over it and see what needs to be done, but then I’m done. I either publish it or query it. I’m going to query this next one.

There is a long list of things to do at that point, polishing the blurb, getting a cover if it’s self, making a list of agents to query, that sort of thing. But that’s another topic for another day.


The difference between professional and the rest of the world

Since I’ve become a writer, an author I guess, I’ve noticed something. How the professional world of writing works.

They’ve read it all. They’ve seen it all.

But the readers haven’t.

This is something the agents, the publishers need to keep in mind. For example, I recently gave a survey on my author profile and my personal facebook profile. This survey asked, “Would you rather have it to where the first parts of a series you haven’t read or forgot the plot about were interspersed within the first few chapters or a small prologue that wrapped it all.” The answers were complete opposites. The writers wanted it dispersed, like it’s traditionally done and considered to require more “skill”. The readers wanted a prologue they could skip if they wanted to.

Listeners don’t care how hard a song is to sing or produce, they just like the way it sounds. For example, I hate the song “Barracuda”, but as a once professional singer, I totally see the extreme skill and talent required to do this song and was blown away by this rendition.

Now, I love Alice in Chains and have their tunes, not a big fan of country, but after listening to this, I have a total new respect for Gretchen. That girl’s got talent.

Does this change whether I like the song or not? Nope, can’t stand it, not even this cover. I don’t care how hard a book was to write. I like it or I don’t. Readers, listeners, watchers of TV and movies are the same. Producers, artists, and agents need to get this in their list of comprehended items. Hey, do the hard stuff whether it’s considered good by the “common population”. Go for it! But don’t expect them to think about it the same way you do. If you want to be a successful anything, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the audience. Period.

The cost of any business

Is Publishing Dead? (aka, is making a living as a writer still possible?)

Of course, anything is possible, but let’s answer this correctly. No, publishing is not dead, not yet; neither are agents or traditional publishers. But. It is changing, and quite possibly not for the better. I read a recent article on an agency’s website while querying this morning. We’re not a fit, but I thought I would read their stuff anyway, and I’m glad I did. The agency’s name is Doug Grad Literary Agency, Inc, and the article can be found here amongst their FAQ section. (They’re also looking for an intern at the time of writing this post, something I would LOVE to do but can’t-le sigh!) Here is what they had to say (I apologize for the font, but that’s the best Word press allows.):

Publishing is an odd business, as you will come to learn if you get involved in it.  The business model is completely obsolete, dating back to the Great Depression.  In the 1920s and earlier, books were sold on a non-returnable basis, like clothing, or food (non-returnable from seller to manufacturer—customers return things all the time).  There weren’t very many bookstores in the U.S., the population was about one half to one third of what it is today, and relatively few people had college educations, or enough leisure time to read.  That’s why first editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway are so rare and expensive—it’s not just that they were great writers, but that a first printing in those days would be about 2,000 or 3,000 copies.  When the stock market crashed and the Depression set in, bookstores would have gone out of business if they hadn’t convinced publishers to make the books fully returnable.  It kept the publishers afloat as well as the stores, and maybe even a few printers.  When the economy picked up going into WWII and the post war years, publishers and bookstores didn’t go back to the pre-war model.  But our soldiers had gotten so hooked on reading paperbacks while fighting in Europe or the Pacific, that they took their habit back home with them, and publishing flourished.  In the 1960s and 1970s, a bestselling paperback would sell 6-12 million copies.  But in the late 1980s, hardcovers began to take precedence over paperbacks.  There was a perceived prestige factor associated with hardcovers, and publishers loved the much higher cover price.  As they started to price themselves out of the market, the discount booksellers came to the rescue, as well as the on-line booksellers.  But a recent study showed that while the U.S. population has increased, readership has not.  As technology has taken over our lives, the competition for our leisure time has grown fierce, from TV and movies to cable TV (500 channels!), and the internet.  And it seems as though our leisure time has decreased and become fragmented–we’re all working harder to stay at the same level.  We as a nation have also gotten out of the habit of reading books, especially compared to Europe, but publishers continue to pump out more and more books every year.  As costs have risen and profit margins have shrunk, and per title sales have decreased (a mega-bestseller today is 2-4 million copies), publishers have tried to make up their profits by publishing more titles.  Great, you say, more books are being published!  But since overall readership levels have remained static for 20 years, that means that each title is selling fewer copies.  Kind of a long-winded way of saying, “You do the math…”

I went to a book signing in Knoxville last year for a NYT bestseller, and was saddened, terrified even at what I saw. This man, this man who had a successful career in the technological world and quit all that to write full time was standing before me and dozens of children asking them for help. “Please, tell your friends about this book. Write reviews about this book. Share this book on social media.” How sad is it that we have come to a time when that is required of a NYT bestselling author!!

I still remember querying my first picture book, a sad thing it was, to publishers and agents. The publishers actually responded better than the agents, but the difference was staggering. If I were to query that book now, I would be ignored by every one of them. A great book gets ignored by most now.

So, where am I going with this? Good question! #1, read the FAQ section in the link I provided. I wish we were a fit, because I really like the guy’s personality from what I can tell, but alas, so goes it. His history of publishing comment got me to thinking. At the present time, it looks rather bleak. I asked around (non-writers) “Tell me a household author’s name that’s new since Stephanie Meyer.” No one could. But look how publishing has changed over the last century and surely will again. Everything does. So little is the same any more, not even nature, which is terribly terribly sad. But I see people all the time who have grown sick of tech, who have thrown out their TV’s. Tech may be a fad, it may destroy the world, there is no way to know. There never was a way to know. All we can do is do what we love whether it brings us fortune or not.

I work a terrible job to pay the bills. I write to pay my desires. Maybe one day they will coalesce, but I’m not holding my breath, nor am I going to worry about it. I think the mentality that they must be one and the same is the 40’s cliche, “What do you do?” that still haunts society now. What difference does it make? Shouldn’t we ask instead, “What is your passion?” or “Tell me about yourself.”? (Unfortunately that second one is reserved for interviews and therefore it’s answer is already programmed into our brain and more than likely untrue. So it’s probably a good thing it isn’t used socially.)

What do I do? I try my best to be a good servant of my God. I try my best to be a good wife, mother, daughter (aka family member) in whatever way I am needed. I try my best to take care of myself, and I try my best to balance all of this together. What do you do?

Writing Dialogue

If there’s one thing I can write well, it’s dialogue. It’s probably the only thing I write well. Unfortunately, it’s also the only thing I write. Let me explain. Most of my Cupolian books were practically scripts before the details were added. I didn’t even have tags to tell me who said what. I had to either know, tell by the words used, or guess when I went in later to add what was needed. I’ve gotten better, but it’s still my main method at times.

Here’s the problem. You don’t want just dialogue. They say for your books to be mainly dialogue because that’s what readers like. I could go on as to why, but I shan’t for now. Let me simply say they don’t actually mean that. Dialogue should be less than half of your story. The other half needs to consist of tag lines and action (I don’t mean shooting fight scene action-I simply mean things happening, etc). If you have the same problem I do when writing dialogue, and you want your dialogue to read better, here’s my trick.

Dialogue has several purposes, and pacing your dialogue is extremely important. Slow a scene down by adding more words outside of the quotes-quicken the scene by having less. Use action tags when you can instead of regular tags. For example, if I have an argument between two people, I would set the conversation up with two tag lines, one after each has spoken the first time, and then have no more. This makes a 1,2,1,2,1,2 dialogue that reads fast. Obviously, you don’t want that all the time.

If your characters are talking casually, and you find there’s too many quotes and not enough action, give them something to do. Ever notice how Harry, Ron, and Hermione are always doing homework or knitting elf hats or some other thing you really don’t care about? There’s a reason for that. Take this section here:

“Excuse me?” asked Taika.
“Well, I came over here to prepare for our journey into the labyrinth, but Gevin here beat me to it.” Anya could feel her emotions rising again, but this time they were different, more edgy and with a pinch of anger.
Taika sighed deeply and stepped down from the shelf she had been balancing on. She dusted her hands off and faced the two of them. “Actually, I did most of that planning last night, and I came to the conclusion there is only one way in.”
Anya stared at her and said, “And?” after she didn’t continue.
“We’ll have to sneak back into Cupola.”
Anya peeked over at Gevin who was still busying himself by putting parchment markers into books. “I don’t understand. I thought we knew that already.”
“That part, yes, but not the addendum.”

I gave them something to do. They’re indexing books for Taika. Without this activity, it would read like this:

“Excuse me?” asked Taika.
“Well, I came over here to prepare for our journey into the labyrinth, but Gevin here beat me to it,” said Anya.
“Actually, I did most of that planning last night, and I came to the conclusion there is only one way in.”
Anya stared at her and said, “And?” after she didn’t continue.
“We’ll have to sneak back into Cupola.”
“I don’t understand. I thought we knew that already.”
“That part, yes, but not the addendum.”

See the difference? Now, the second part is great if you want a fast paced conversation, but you should only use faster paces if there’s a reason, like an argument or a quick discussion because the characters are running out of time and have to discover something fast. The opposite is also true. Do not draw out a conversation that needs to be fast. If two siblings are having a fight, don’t describe them at a quilting bee in the process, unless of course they are at a quilting bee and have to fight through the corners of their mouths so as not to draw attention which would be rather amusing. But-you get the idea.

Summary—if you need to draw out the dialogue, give the characters something to do. It doesn’t have to be relevant, although that helps, but find something, even if it’s knitting or poker. Anything.

Here’s my tip jar

I’m going to start charging for my time. Not literally, of course. But I’m wondering if it will ever get to the point where I can, because I surely work enough to be paid at this point.

So, I make nothing on my writing, right? I take yesterday and today “off” to read several books, something every writer should do, a career expectancy, right? Don’t get me wrong. In the evening I have logged onto social media and kept up with it minimally, but I didn’t check e-mails or progress my marketing or continue my editing, etc.

Somehow, this author who is making nothing, is all of a sudden needed by everyone. “Why haven’t you answered my last e-mail?”, “You need to authorize this update on your book.”, not to mention 47 facebook notifications, mostly from people to whom I asked a question DAYS ago, not hours, days. I’m not saying these people or any others don’t have the right to be busy and put me off several days. It’s just ironic that I’m thinking, “No one will miss me,” and yet-BOOM!!

So this makes me wonder, should I have a virtual tip jar where people can tip me if I respond to them in a timely manner? Hmm?

On the upside, I’m nearly done reading library book 2 and will probably finish reading library book 3 by the end of the day. All except apparently there’s some horrific storm that’s approaching that’s so bad they’re calling school out early.





Whoa, Dude!

And all the while I’m thinking, wouldn’t it be safer to have the kids there!!!???

Just one of them days, I guess. (I tried to find the Looney Tunes clip of this, but was unable. My apologies. Again proof that’s it’s just one of them days!)

Marketing Your Sculpture

Your writing is a work of art. No one would tell an artist, “I think your art would sell better if his nose was bigger.” OK, maybe they would. I’m not an artist, so that’s just a guess, but I am a writer. And I know that some literature sells better than others. So do sculptures.

I recently beta-ed a friend’s work. The first chapter was from the X genre, but the rest was from the Y genre. Two opposite genres, btw. So, people into X will get mad come chapter 2 or 3, and people into Y won’t have the patience to get to their desired writing.

Now, my friend’s sculpture was beautiful. It was perfect. It was a glorious piece of art! But it won’t sell. So, he has to make his nose bigger. Is it fair? No, of course it isn’t fair! How dare his piece of art be treated as nothing more than a common piece of merchandise. Sadly though, that’s the way the market ball bounces.

So, how to do that? Listen to what others say. When an agent tells you to change it, consider that. When a beta says to change it, consider it. When your editor (providing you’re lucky enough to have one) tells you change something, consider it. Notice I said consider, not do. Every human being is different, period. So their opinions are going to be different. And you want to appease the masses. The bigger the mass, the more the sells, the bigger the income.

“But I don’t care about sells!”

Then this post is not for you. Don’t get me wrong. That’s great! The fact that you don’t care about sells means that you can produce high quality art without the pain of pleasing anyone but yourself. Wonderful! But for the rest of you, sculpt your beautiful art book, and then place it on a shelf in your house. Take a copy of this beautiful piece of art and change it. This copied sculpture is not yours; it belongs to the masses, and your job is to make them happy, not make great art. See the difference? I hope so. It’s probably the most painful lesson of authorship, but it’s necessary to rise in the market.

The Current “Trends” of Writing

I recently decided to get my books edited. It was mainly a factor of affordability. When I got my samples back, I noticed something. There were several “don’t use passive voice” (aka “was”), “don’t use helping verbs”, and “don’t use adverbs”. But only from the freelance editors that cost less. The editors that have been around for a good while and charged way more than I could afford. The ones with a looong resume or outstanding work, they didn’t mention these things at all. Not once.

They did mention important factors such as repetitious wording, arcs, etc. Active voice and adverbs are not rules are trends, they are a style. And no, they do not apply to all modern best-sellers. Using them is a style I personally like. Let’s look at some modern examples.

One of my favorite new series is the Ivy Pocket series. It is filled with adverbs and not empty of linking verbs. The Curiosity House contains both in great quantities. I could go on, but I shan’t bore you. If you’re ambitious enough to click on those links and read their samples, then you’re ambitious enough to find more on your own 😉 .

There are examples of middle-grade books without adverbs (but not without the passive voice that I could find). The Serafina series is one, but I don’t like it. I tried to like it. I have the first two books, both signed by the author who wished me well on my writing! And I really like the man! But I can’t finish his book. Heck, I can’t even get through the second chapter. Why? Voice. Style. It’s not my preferred style. Period.

And please, do not say, “Oh, well children’s books can get away with lower quality writing” because not only is it not so, it’s insulting, and not just to children. I’ve read plenty of recently published adult romance novels with adverbs (aka fun speech) galore, and they were best sellers! So please, if you like that style, use it, but don’t try to enforce it on others. Some of us find it lacking personality (aka boring). I’ve seen it done well, but that’s very rare from my experience. Hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m actually of a lower intelligence who simply cannot process sentences without embellishment. Maybe I have so little of an attention span that I can’t force my eyes to maintain a constant pace without it being broken by “bad writing”. But personally I think this whole trend started by one article that other indie authors were too afraid to speak up against. Yeah, not me.

Justifying My Witchcraft

After a recent article on a celebrity practicing real witchcraft, I felt it necessary to post this. I am a person of Faith. I do not believe I should “practice magic” or “speak to the dead” as my God commanded me not to. However, I write fantasy in such a manner as practically praising witchery. How is this so? Let me explain.

My fantasy falls in line with stereotypical fantasy witches, Harry Potter if you like, things that are not real. Real witches do not ride brooms. Real witches do not have magic wands and cannot call out a spell and turn someone into a mushroom. Real witches do sacrifice living beings of various types. They do carve and/or write or draw symbols and spells into the floor or other objects. They chant. They pray. Many are nature “worshipers” if you will. My fantasy witches, at least the good ones, don’t do any of this. (OK, there was that one scene where Anya used the blood of Avaline, but she didn’t kill Avaline.)

I make every last thing up in my stories. In fact, I go out of my way to make stuff up. Gramwhats? I googled the name and several variations to make sure it didn’t match anything. I tried very hard to invent spell names and even character names (to a degree) that were not already in use. Not only did I do this for originality, but for the simple fact that my books are fantasy, not reality.

I love the Harry Potter world, but not all magic is equal. For example, I will not watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Why? Because Asteroth is mentioned several times in Scripture as a pagan deity, obviously to avoid. Yet the characters of this Disney movie are in search of the “star of Asteroth” to do their bidding.

I go so far as to leave religion out of my stories (at least the fantasy ones) altogether. This is also for fantasy’s sake. If I put God in there, I can’t have a lot of what happens. God is real, fantasy is not, so I can’t mix the two into a believable story in my mind. The same goes for science-fiction. Brief mentions of morality and God are OK (to me), but any more than that, and it brings me back out into reality where I start thinking too logically, ruining the whole story. I do not leave God out of my story simply to include a larger reading audience (although that does make it easier) I do it for other reasons as well. It’s a sign of respect to my God, not a sign of neglect.

I have total respect and understanding of anyone who disagrees with what I have written and therefore will not read it due to religious obligations. But. I wanted to make it absolutely clear how far out of my way I go to make sure it is not real witchcraft and just fun and games.

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