It’s easy for me to go back in time. I live in a village steeped in history, and there are vestiges everywhere I look. But my next trip will be a political one – the elections are in the news, and the only reasons we have elections is because we are a Democracy. It was a messy job wresting the country away from the monarchy. There was a war, thousands of people died, there was mass confusion, hatred, fear…but also hope, elation, and in the end, freedom. Or at least, as best a freedom as we know. And Mantes, my little village, played a small, but important part.
Today I was fortunate to corner Karen King, and have her write a post for my blog. I’m thankful for two reasons – I learned something, and I found another book to read this summer – Perfect Summer sounds wonderful!
Karen King – Writing for a Living
People often ask me how they can make a living as a writer. To me, there are only two ways you can succeed: 1) write a bestseller (and that’s a bit like winning the lottery, it could happen but the odds are against you) or 2) be adaptable and write what the market wants. Never having written a bestseller, I’ve always taken the second option. Continue reading
Oh boy, another blog post about rain, you’re thinking. As if we don’t have enough of them.
There’s a hole in the sky where the rain falls through, and it’s right over our heads. But no – it’s not another blog post about rain. And it is muggy, as the title says. But this post is about inspiration. It’s about being a writer – about pulling words out of your head and sticking them on paper, because that’s what writers do. We also read and reread and edit and correct and go back and do it again. But most of all, we’re sitting (or standing – I know someone who writes standing up) alone (ever try to write when someone is talking to you?) and we’re trying to get this story we have in our heads out into the world. We’re like pregnant things, gestating the story, birthing it (sometimes painful and messy), then making it look and sound good (can take years – just like a real kid!)
Once the story is out and about it’s a whole new game, with promoting and bugging family and friends to buy it (and hopefully read it, not just buy it and stick it on a shelf somewhere). But let’s rewind and go back to the part where it’s muggy and rain is falling, and there is nothing, no story, no words on the paper – just the gray sky and water falling. It’s one of those days where the light never changes. The sky looks like a flannel sheet, all soft and gray, and fat raindrops are making shiny puddles on the ground, as if they sky is making mini mirrors (that’s an alliteration). We’re back to the rainy day, and we’re sitting at our desk – alone, and we have a story to tell. Since this is a post about writing, and not about rain, I will tell you how to write a book from scratch. First, you need inspiration.
For that, you can either get it from a dream, or from an article, or from something you saw or heard. For example, I dreamed about a horse that could go through outer space. But it was being chased by Raiders. I woke up and thought about it for a while, and Riders of the Lightning Storm was born. One day, I had the idea of making an alternative history short story about Alexander the Great and it turned into a seven book series. That was the Time for Alexander series. Inspiration took over and that was it. Another time, I was at a book conference and a bunch of us were goofing off telling the most outrageous stories with someone who used to be a stripper, and we were telling zombie stories, and somehow the zombie and the stripper idea got mashed together, and Jack the Stripper was born…undead, but hey, it’s not his fault – he got killed by the Heart Taker and Jim the necromancer brought him back to life. That’s inspiration!
If you can’t get inspired, I can’t help you there – try praying to the Muses, the nine mythological sisters in charge of inspiration for the arts – poetry, painting, writing, history, etc., and maybe sacrifice a cookie and have a cup of coffee. For some reason, coffee and writers go together. The rest is work, and it’s not easy. Here’s how it goes: sit down (or stand up) and WRITE.
Easy, right? Some people write outlines. Some use flash cards. Some do a rough synopsis and use that, some people just wing it and write. Some people use characters to drive their stories, others use plot, most weave both together. The important thing is to write – simply put words out there – go on! You can do it! But beware – if you start, you must finish. You have to get all the way to “The End”. Otherwise, no matter how much you write, you won’t be a writer. You’ll be a writer-in waiting. But once you finish that book and stick “The End” on it, no matter if no one but you ever reads it and you stick it in a drawer somewhere and forget it, you’ll always be a writer. That’s inspiring.
I’m pleased to have Tony on board today to talk about trilogies – as authors, we often consider writing series, but trilogies have a special place in literature.
Why You Should Consider Writing a Trilogy, by Tony Riches
Sleeping with my Dog
Glenda put up with Ron turning into a wolf and mauling her every full moon, until the night he ate her precious poodle. Then she packed up and left. But how can she escape a man with a nose like a bloodhound? Especially since she can’t seem to give up her exclusive perfume…
My Ex Vampire
Sharon broke up with Dexter, but now she fears for her life. She bought a sun lamp and sleeps with it on all night long. Her worse fear? Lighting storms will knock out the electricity – and Dexter will come and get her.
The Ghost who Stalked Me
Sally Mae can’t get rid of the feeling someone is watching her – all the time. In the office, at the club, in her house. Day and night. And then she meets Fred. He’s dead. But he’s decided to stay in with her to watch her every move. Forever and ever.
Bringing Back Baby
Zelda loved George so much that when he died she begged a bokor to bring him to life. He agreed, in exchange for a lock of Zelda’s hair. And now George is back – but he’s different somehow. And Zelda is terrified of her zombie husband. Something is not right. And what is that smell?
Look Who’s Coming to Dinner
Trish just met Henry, and she wants to introduce him to her parents. But he’s a werewolf, and they’re both weresheep. She’s afraid Henry will cease to love her if he knows she’s a weresheep too. Is there a future for a weresheep and a werewolf? And what will their children be? WereWeeps?
A Vampire’s Book of Southern Style Living
Mary, a 600 year old vampire, is bored, so she gets a group of southern vampire women get together on the porch every night and they talk about life and love and trade recipes. Blood pudding, blood sausage, bloody Marys and such. A cute book about friendship in the afterlife and recipes galore for the picky vampire.
I read an interesting article about Patrick Viera that got me thinking. Patrick is a football player (soccer to us Yanks) who has been playing since about 1996 with a top rate club in England, Arsenal. His coach wrote a book about him entitled ‘Viera’. I didn’t read the book, but part of it is excerpted in the Guardian. Anyhow, his captain says this about him:
“The trophies Patrick won with France obviously gave him a lot of confidence. But he’s a guy who always has self-doubts. I like the type of self-doubt he has because it produces some very positive questioning. It’s not the sort that paralyses you during a game, instead it leads to a process of reflection which makes you self-critical. Patrick always analysed his performance with great lucidity.”
That struck a chord with me, because so many writers doubt themselves. They are
terribly insecure about their writing. I think it’s important to take that self doubt and turn it into something a bit more positive. Instead of giving up, persevere, and instead of letting the doubt paralyse you (I do this sometimes, I think ‘this isn’t right, I can’t go on!’) try, instead, to turn it into a constructive questioning session between you and your book.
Me: “Why am I stuck at this point?”
Book: “Either you have a problem with the character, or you’re
just losing sight of the main goal. Try writing three more pages and see how that goes.”
Me: “The character can’t do what I need him to do.”
Book: “Go back and make sure you’ve given him the ability. Maybe you left something out! Or, perhaps he won’t do it, because it’s not helping him resolve the conflict in the story. Check your conflict.”
Me: “The plot is getting too complex, I’ll never be able to keep all the threads straight.”
Book: “Either make an outline now and take care of all the plot lines, or get rid of the ones that don’t advance the story. Is that part helping or hindering?
This especially strikes me as important because I’m in the middle of line-editing books right now (something no one does anymore). It’s frustrating and fastidious – and it makes me want to crawl under my covers and never come out again. It makes me doubt my ability as an author.
So, full of self-doubt, I examine each sentence and think: “Is that sentence making the story go forward? Is it at least helping the characters get to where they have to go?” And when I doubt, I usually leave it out. AND: Just because it’s pretty writing, doesn’t mean you have to leave it in. Poetry can go somewhere else. If I start swooning over my words, chances are they should probably be cut out.
Try to keep track of overused words. Get rid of clichés wherever possible. Go easy on adverbs! Words that keep coming back to haunt me: “a bit”, terribly, pale, (I think pale must be one of my all-time favorite overused word), just, then, only…
Just then he walked through the door. She saw him and turned a bit pale.)
And remember: When in doubt leave it out! (But don’t give up – we need writers!)
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