101 – writing tips

NaNoWriMo 2016

nanowrimoDid you know Six Days was actually started, and the first 50k completed, during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those unfamiliar with the acronym)? It was. And it’s that time of year again…

6days16-cover300I would like to wish all the participants the greatest of luck. Write everyday. Don’t panic. Don’t edit. Just write. Editing can come later, in December. For now, just write. A little before work, a little on lunch, a little after dinner, a lot on a day off, whatever you can squeeze in… because every little step it a step closer to your goal. And new reading material for me, so get to it!!

And while I am not officially participating in a tracking, overt manner, I’d still like to celebrate 2016’s NaNoWriMo… so for the month of November, I give you the ebook for SIX DAYS at a 75% discount when purchased through payhip (<— use that link). Simply enter the coupon code: NANOWRIMO16 when checking out.

Those of you doing NaNoWriMo, you can read it in December… right now you’ve got writing to do. Get to it, and again, good luck!

(and yes, that’s a new cover… there’s more new things coming as well — audiobook coming soon!)

Passages

butterfly-wordsWriters write. It’s what we do. Whether it’s a coherent tumbling of sentences that happen to fall into a pile of paragraphs and make sense, or it’s just a random thought bouncing along a breeze like a flitting butterfly—we write. We jot ideas onto postie-notes and the backs of envelopes. We scramble for our voice recorders and voice-to-text apps. We will stop talking in the middle of a sentence, eyes glazing over, as we wander off to some thread of the muse’s whim. We may or may not always come back from that last one, and we do apologize for the interruption. But it’s what we are and what we do.

And we have to react. We have to jot it down and get it out. Whether we’re exorcising it or just sharing (there is a difference, “Blood Type” blog coming), the snippets must go or we’ll go crazy. You can only have so many voices in your head before you snap—just ask Sybil.

The following is one of those moments. It has been sitting, untouched though often thought of, in the “Random Passages” folder for years. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it will ever be anything. But it’s there, like a lost child in an overcrowded department store. So for #throwbackthursday #tbt, I’ll toss out some ancient words originally scribbled on the back of a napkin…


CHILDREN OF THE GODS

The most dangerous things in the history of the world have been children playing with things they don’t understand. A child’s imagination was responsible for the original flood, as he pulled his hand through the mud and drowned the little pile of ants he had collected. A little girl’s whim toppled a mountain and destroyed a town when she wished fire would rain from the skies. And possibly most unknown, but with the most impact, was the little boy who made an entire civilization disappear with a handful of straw braids and his mother’s ink pots. By twisting magic together into one braid, and declaring what each was capable of, Carson destroyed Atlantis. And changed the future of the Earth, forever.


Thursday has become about sharing. Today I share with those who read my drivel, and nod to others who have the disease. But hey, you can all play along. Think outside the box for #tbt. Put the pictures away and share something else from the past. Here’s mine. What are your mental hallways harboring? Do you have ancient unheard words in your hard drive haunting you?

Everywhere…

typewriterheadEvery writer is asked: Where do you get your ideas?
Quick answer: Everywhere…

The longer answer is: anything we may read, hear, see, a combination of them, or a completely warped version of them based on either playing the “what if” game or letting our muse naturally twist their reality into something we call fiction to keep the white coats away. *whew* (ideas and the muse are always run-on, editing fixes that in the prose!) Or just, you know, our random thoughts.

A prime example of the simple ideas: sitting in an airport for more than an hour people watching, or simply reading the news.

More complicated twists of reality come from a place deep inside us. A place the medical profession would like to dub with some terminology—if not a diagnosis—treat with drugs we can’t pronounce, and call us sick and unusual. But really? When each writer on the planet is capable of doing it, is it really all that unusual? Who’s to say we’re not the normal ones and there’s something wrong with all of you?

Nevermind. I know we’re the crazy ones. I just wanted to see if I could either a. say that with a straight face, b. get any of you to believe it.

Why do I know we’re (or at least me) the crazy ones? Because this happened:

I talk to myself. All the time. Always have. I don’t know if it’s part of my writer mind or just my own personal psychosis, but I do. A lot. This morning, as I rambled on about nothing while getting ready for the dayjob, an innocent (sort of) comment from my own mouth twisted on the way out and hung in the air around me. But let me back up and let you watch it happen…

First, I talked myself through several outfit changes (convincing myself I looked great in something, only to change out of it). I babbled to no one but the girl in the mirror (who in all seriousness really makes me angry some days, but that’s a different blog) while I attempted to tame the locks I consider unruly but many girls actually pay to perm just this way. And then I kept myself verbal company while doing my makeup. Now I don’t wear a lot of makeup, so as you can imagine, that was a pretty short conversation. But that’s where the magical spark happened.

“Hmmm… pale lips. Always with the pale pathetic stupid colorless lips. Need color. What shade? Something light. Not actual ‘look at me’ whore red or anything, just a little bump of color. Enough for the coroner to notice.”

Really? Where’d that last part come from? What the hell happened to me that made that a completely natural thing to say? Mom? Is there something I’m not remembering?!

I accepted the comment as normal for me and went on about my morning with a strange smile—almost pleased with my crazy. I put on the silver pieces, grabbed lunch & the laptop, and hit the road. But before I reached my exit, thirteen minutes later, I realized I hadn’t heard a single thing on the radio during the drive. I was too busy letting the muse twist that comment into an entire storyline. Poor Maggie. She’s not necessarily blue* and she’s definitely not out of lipstick*… but she’s got a path coming into view through the trees that will not be any fun at all…

THAT is where story ideas come from =)

 

* and that is how you sneak in a few pimps for other writers =) Go ahead, mouse over the links, click, check ’em out!

101 — with Nicholas Kaufmann

As part of my ongoing 101 section for newer writers, I’ve asked a handful of colleagues—and mentors of my own—to participate in the name of preventing mistakes and paying knowledge forward. I asked them all the same question… This edition is brought to you by Nicholas Kaufmann, author of General Slocum’s Gold, Chasing the Dragon, and more. And now, Nick…

*****

If there’s one thing I wish someone had told me when I was just starting out, one thing I wish I hadn’t had to learn the hard way, it is simply this.

You can say no.

You can say no to publishers. Sure, it can be enormously flattering to have a publication offer, especially when it’s your very first. But as any woman who has ever been hit on in a club or bar can tell you, not every offer is a good one. There are a lot of shitty publishers out there—many of them in the horror micropress—who prey on writers for content and give them nothing in return, not even that elusive promised “exposure,” because nobody actually reads the books these publishers put out. And you became a writer to be read, didn’t you? So aim high instead. There are plenty of publishers out there whose authors are read, they’re just not as easy to publish with as the crappy ones. But who said anything worth doing is easy? Keep striving. Keep challenging yourself. You’ll become a better writer for it, I promise. And you’ll feel a lot better about yourself knowing you’ve made business decisions (and yes, this is a business, folks) that value the time and effort you put into your work.

You can say no to idiots online. Message boards and social media sites are full of them. Mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, reactionary boneheads who don’t know what they’re talking about, but who insist there is only one way to become a writer. You have to start with short stories. You have to start with the small press. You have to read Ed Lee or Richard Laymon or some other splatterpunk darling. No, you don’t. Thousands of successful authors have started with novels. Thousands more have had their first novels published by major New York houses. (And don’t give me that old sawhorse that the major houses don’t publish horror. They publish horror every day, it’s just by authors you may not be familiar with because the online idiots don’t start threads about them.) Read widely, following your interests, not the interests of others. Put simply, there is no single path to success, no matter what any of these morons say. I wish I hadn’t listened to them when I was starting out and they told me to stop reading literary novels with gothic or horror bents and start reading the horror small press instead. I honestly believe my own career is ten years behind where it should be because I followed their advice.

You can say no to services that are clearly intended to do nothing more than separate authors from their money. For example, there are review sites that charge a fee to review your book. They’ll tell you that without reviews your book won’t sell well, and they’re not entirely wrong about that, but that doesn’t mean you (or your publisher) have to go paying for it. That’s not how it works. Real reviews, the reviews that actually have weight, the reviews that matter to readers, appear in magazines, newspapers, or websites that pay their reviewers themselves. (Blogs are a whole different subject, but in short, blog reviews can move copies, too. It’s just another form of word-of-mouth.) Publishers and authors never pay for reviews, because reviews that are paid for are meaningless. Once money changes hands, they’ve lost any possibility of objectivity. There are other examples of this pervasive fleecing of writers, too, such as companies that offer to turn your novel or story into a film treatment written by “professional screenwriters,” often for several thousand dollars. They’ll tell you that you can’t sell your work to Hollywood without it. Don’t believe them. It’s bullshit. Books are optioned all the time without treatments attached, and authors are rarely asked to write treatments themselves. Be smart, and beware. Use your noggin. There are a ton of scams out there that prey on desperate and eager authors. Don’t fall for them. Remember, money always flows to the writer, not from the writer.

When you want something really badly, saying no can be the hardest thing in the world. But when it’s for the right reasons, it pays off. Be smart. Keep your wits about you. Treat this business like a business, and treat yourself with respect. Keep in mind through all the ups and downs, all the waiting and disappointment, that nothing worth doing is ever easy. And remember, as a writer you are creating the content that publishers want. You’re supplying the commodity. That gives you the power, and the right, to say no

*****

Thanks to Nick for playing along. Please visit him at http://www.nicholaskaufmann.com to see what he’s up to and grab the books you haven’t read yet…

 

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