- The best ideas always come when you can't write them down
- Housework becomes exponentially more appealing when you have a deadline
- The scene that you loved when you wrote it will be the one that needs to be cut the most
- First drafts are like finger-paintings--something only a child or a mother could love
- Writing is best accompanied by energy drinks, wine, vodka, or tears
- Editors are proof that you can love and hate someone at the same time
- George R.R. Martin must not be human--no human author could do that to their characters
- Anyone who asks you what the theme of your novel is should be slapped
- Anyone who says you should write a book about (insert plot here) should be slapped twice
- And lastly--being an author is a feeling only another author can understand
Top 5 Things Every Author Knows
Authors are an eccentric bunch, but there are a few things we all have in common.
\This is both a question to you and a commentary on my own writing.
We have all heard the advice to "write what you know," and there are a plethora of books out there, both traditionally and self-published, that have a subtle or not-so-subtle focus on feminism, racism, socioeconomic status, politics, and who-knows-what else. My guess is that those themes are a reflection of the writers' belief systems.
But I could be wrong.
In fact, if those writers are like me, I probably am wrong. Because in my novel The Talented, the bureaucracy present is very corrupt (which, yes, that would be a reflection of my views for the most part), but my "solution" to this seems to be military law. Or at least a monarch with enough power to reign in the various commissions controlling everything.
And in real life, I'm not a fan of military law or a country with one political leader having all of the authority. I like the idea of checks and balances in my government. But that part of my beliefs isn't reflected in my writing.
I also seem a little bit warlike in my writing, because anyone in my book who expresses pacifist tendencies is seen as weak and foolish.
So either I am not only pro-military but also think that martial law is awesome and everyone should be aggressive, or my writing does not reflect my views. At least not accurately.
Which leads me back to my original question--Does your writing reflect your views? And a follow up question--Should it?
Don't forget to check out my Kickstarter campaign.
Self-publishing and editors
I've raised 51% of my Kickstarter goals as of today, which is both perfect (since I am halfway through my campaign) and terrifying (since I am halfway through my campaign). But I've become confident enough to search for editors and request sample edits, and after today I think that I have found one (assuming that I get my Kickstarter goal met).
In an earlier blog post, "Why I'm scared of self-publishing," I talk about the fact that one of the worries I have about publishing my author is that it will somehow be less than traditionally published books. Less well-written. Less fluid. Less polished.
And that is one of the major reasons I am going to invest in an editor. I don't want my book to be less than just because there isn't a publishing company backing this endeavor. There are tremendously talented traditionally published authors out there. The kind of authors whom are adored by fans and emulated by other writers. The Tolkiens and Kings and Robertses of the world. The people that we want to be when we grow up.
I'm not ready to rank myself with them (even privately), but I do think that I have the chops to stand with some of the mid-level traditionally published authors. And I know that I will get better with experience (like fine cheese). So if I really, truly am the equal to some of mid-level authors, there is no reason that my final product should not be just as good as theirs.
As long as I have an editor (and a cover artist).
My hope is that, with the help of my editors, my book could be placed alongside of some traditionally published author's with the reader completely unable to tell which of us had a publishing house backing it (aside from the places on the trad. pubbed book that say which house it came from...).
P.s. I have been comparing myself to mid-level authors out of a sense of decency and modesty. Maybe next year I'll compare myself to the A-list authors.
I posted a review relatively recently about The Wandering Engineer series by Chris Hechtl, and it was less than glowing. Now it's time for a positive review.
The Lost Fleet is also a sci-fi series, but the author of this book is Jack Campbell, and it is a book that shines. I firmly believe that indie and self-pubbed authors can produce work just as great as authors that are traditionally published, but one of the shining points (to me) about Campbell's work is that it is professionally edited and has professional cover art. His books were traditionally published, and that doubtless contributes to their presentation.
The Wandering Engineer was interesting because the main character had been in stasis for several hundred years and woke up to a world changed almost beyond recognition. The Lost Fleet (which came before Hechtl's series) also has a main character who was in a survival pod for an extended length of time (though only 100 years this time) and wakes up to find that the Alliance has changed from a century of war.
And unlike Fleet Admiral John Henry Irons in The Wandering Engineer, the internal struggles of Campbell's John Geary seem genuine and balanced by what is going on around him as well as what happened years ago.
Another thing that I love about Campbell's series is the science in this science fiction. There is a war going on, and there are space battles, but the battles are seconds of fighting interspersed with the hours that it takes to travel in space. Ships don't turn on a dime in Campbell's books, and the speed of a particular kind of space craft can't be changed through elbow grease and the well-wishes of her crew.
The Lost Fleet has all of the excitement expected of a good science fiction novel, but the attention to detail (and the lack of deus ex machina found in Hechtl's novels) make it a joy to read rather than a book that you have to work to suspend your disbelief on while turning pages.
If you like sci-fi, space battles, and main characters facing genuine and realistic internal conflicts, pick up The Lost Fleet: Dauntless and dive into this great series.
I'm not a huge gamer. My reflexes just aren't that good, and since all of the new, cool games are those first-person shooter games where you need good reflexes, I pretty much had to give up on that hobby.
And I'm probably not the only one.
That's where Superhot comes in. Superhot is a first-person shooter game, but time isn't constantly moving. If you sit back for a breather or to recharge your shaky hand-finger coordination, the game stops with you.
If Skyrim had been more like that, I wouldn't have been eaten by wolves quite so much and might have stuck with it for more than a week.
To be completely honest, I don't know enough about video games to make a judgement on this idea. I played the demo, which seemed fun, but since the last game I played on a game console was Final Fantasy X, I'm not sure that you should take my word on this.
So go over to the Superhot campaign site, play the demo, and see if it is something you can get behind.
And while you're there, feel free to check out the campaign site for my book The Talented. Because, you know, it's awesome and deserves a buck or two. Or ten.
Or some props on my awesome Wordle designs.
The importance of momentum
mo·men·tum [moh-men-tuhm] noun
1. force or speed of movement; impetus, as
of a physical object or course of events:
When we think of writing, we think of characters, plot, climax, and cliff-hangers. We think of world building. We think of editing and beta readers. We might even think of age group, genre, and publishing.
Momentum is a word most often used in physics.
Newton's first law of motion is that "An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force." Most people stop after the second "stays in motion" part, and for this post I am going to do the same.
An object in motion stays in motion.
It's a natural law. It's natural for something in motion to stay in motion--and since "natural" is a current buzzword, this must mean it's good!
I typically avoid all things physics. Physics has an unfortunate friendship with math, and I don't like hanging out with bad crowds. But this is one thing that I can get behind.
Because building up momentum is a good thing.
Think back to the last time you were writing and you reached that perfect place where inspiration and creativity meet work and you can hardly get the words out fast enough. And it stays like that for a long time.
You built momentum.
It's like when you are on a run and you hit that sweet spot where it feels like you can run for hours. You're not fighting the exercise, and that helps you build momentum.
My Kickstarter campaign is now 37% funded after only a week. It has momentum.
The more you write, the more you write; the more you run, the more you run. (And apparently, the more people donate, the more other people donate.)
Building a fantasy world
There are thousands of blog posts that discuss how to build a fantasy world. Some people spend months doing extensive research and planning, weeks drawing up maps, and hours upon hours writing out the history of the world.
And those are good things.
I'm not saying that every fantasy writer needs to spend as much time world building as they do story telling, but I am saying that it is essential to, at some point, put a real mind to world building--especially when it comes to the natural part of your world.
I live in Minnesota. We have deciduous trees (oaks, maples, birches) that drop their leaves in the winter, and we have a few coniferous trees like pines that stay green. It rains anytime it wants to March-October, and snows anytime it wants to September-May (and yes, I did just overlap those by several months--Minnesotans know). And if I was writing a typical fantasy novel, which are usually set in similar climates (England, the East Coast of the U.S.) I could go with this knowledge. Hot days with a chance of rain, freezing cold with a chance of snow. Heatstroke in the summer, hypothermia in the winter. Water, water, everywhere--lakes, streams, ponds, and precipitation.
I wouldn't need to do any research to build that world. I live it.
But my fantasy novel is more reminiscent of Africa than Minnesota, and that took research.
Did you know that there are two rainy seasons in the Serengeti? A short one and a long one?
It also doesn't rain all day there, and the Serengeti doesn't get as hot as I thought it did, even if the dry season. But that's why research is important. Watching Wild Discovery every Wednesday when growing up just didn't prepare me to create a realistic world for Adrienne and her compatriots.
"But wait!" you say. "This is my world. It can rain if I want [it] to!"
And you're absolutely right...to a point.
A little levity
Sometimes, life gets too serious. I'm running a Kickstarter campaign right now, and it's going even better than hoped, but it's still stressful wondering whether or not I will meet my goal by June 4th.
So I decided to interject a little bit of levity and just direct you guys to the blog SlushPileHell for your amusement.
If you've visited that blog, you know that it is amazing. If you haven't, you should. SlushPileHell is a blog by a literary agent who posts funny snippets from query letter fails.
And I'm not talking about query letters that didn't make it--I am well aware of the fact that most queries are met with rejection--these are real fails. Fails of epic proportion. Fails where the agent is told that the book was inspired by God, or will sell 50 billion copies, or fits every single genre.
Or where the writer demonstrated a remarkable inability to use spell check, correct grammar, or any ability to write coherently.
So even if you have suffered rejection from agents yourself, you can read this and comfort yourself with the fact that there is someone out there failing even bigger than you.
I genuinely like Kickstarter. I didn't just put my project (which has now reached 10%) on there to raise money, I did it because I believe that crowd funding is a great thing.
Think about how much progress in arts and inventions could happen if everyone donated $5 a month. It would be revolutionary.
But when I saw Do I Sound Gay? A Documentary About Finding Your True Voice on Kickstarter today, I realized that it could be an amazing tool for social change as well.
I want my book published. I really do. And obviously I would like everyone who reads my Kickstarter blogs to donate to my campaign, but if you're not going to donate to mine, think about donating to this one. Or, you know, donate to both, because that would be awesome.
As a teacher, I know how hard it is for students, especially LGBT students, to accept who they are and become comfortable with themselves. And I think that a documentary focused on finding your "true voice" is amazing and could make the difference in so many peoples' lives.
And the reasons David Thorpe gives for making this documentary are great. He has a whole list that you should check out on his campaign page, but I'm going to put the two reasons that I find most compelling here:
Reason No. 4: A lot of people think it’s okay to be gay as long as you don’t act - or sound - that way. The daily pressure to cover, hide or “pass” affects many minorities. Let’s relieve the pressure.
When I saw this documentary listed on Kickstarter, I was intrigued. And when I clicked on it and read more, I was pulled in. So I'm going to encourage everyone to go to the campaign page for David Thorpe's documentary Do I Sound Gay? A Documentary About Finding Your True Voice and see if it is a project that you, too, would like to be a part of.
And now a quick reminder that my campaign to get my fantasy novel The Talented professional edited and have cover art designed before publishing will be running for another 27 days (until June 4th) so check it out.
It's day 2 of my Kickstarter campaign, and I'm happy to say that I have raised nearly 10% of my goal so far. Keep contributing, friends and readers!
But in the giving spirit of Kickstarter, I wanted to showcase a project that I found on there today: Snakable The Lightning & Micro USB Cable with Armor.
If you're like me, you're not immediately sure what a "lightning & micro USB cable" is, but the "armor" part sure caught your eye.
As someone who spends a lot of time on the computer (perils of being a writer) and also has close bonds with her kindle and iPhone, I know the pain of the moment when you go to plug in your device and the charger doesn't work.
And apparently the reason for this is broken wires inside of the cable. Except when my cats chew through the cord. Then the reason is teeth.
I don't know what to do about cats chewing through my cords, but the developers of Snakable have come up with a way to protect the wires that are better than existing ways. With this technology, wrapping the cords around themselves to save space or bending the cord to reach that awkward outlet won't stress the wires to the breaking point.
For all of the specifics and to see the full plan for Snakable, check out that campaign page and, if you're an Apple user, this product is apparently going to be Apple certified, which will make the majority of my devices happy :)
My name is J.R. McGinnity, I am a former English teacher with a passion for writing fantasy novels with strong female leads.