Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The End

Over a year ago, everything I read said that in order to be a successful self-published author, I needed to blog. I figured people knew what they were talking about, so I created this blog and fumbled around trying to turn it into something useful. I suspect I've succeeded a little bit, as my formatting posts were reasonably popular. I learned a lot and I met some great people.

But the time has come to end it.

To the fourteen of you who have subscribed: thank you. To the extra twenty-six of you or so who visit regularly: thank you, too.

I don't enjoy blogging. I've resisted that truth for over a year now, but the fact is there. Blogging was something I thought I had to do. I'm not sure of that anymore. The only thing I'm now convinced I have to do in order to be a successful self-published author is write good stories. Blogging cuts significantly into my writing time. It's not just the writing of the blog posts, it's the planning and the researching and the linking and the formatting and everything else that goes into reasonably well-put-together, intelligent blogging. It's exhausting. And for something that I don't really enjoy, it's far too much work.

Over the month of August, I hope to move everything important over to my website. When I'm finished, I'll either delete this blog, or leave it for posterity--I haven't decided yet.

Thanks for reading! And thanks for being part of my learning process!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Blog Roundup: July 23 - 29, 2012

Chuck Wendig shared 25 Things You Should Know About Antagonists this week.

Joe Konrath interviewed Melinda DuChamp this week, but mainly the reason I'm sharing this post is for the book cover. That's an excellent example of what a good cover can do for your book. I downloaded Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland despite the fact that I didn't like Fifty Shades of Grey and I don't particularly like Alice in Wonderland because that cover is just so good. Penis mushrooms!

Getting Naughty Between the Stacks reiterated the warning from Roni Loren: Bloggers Beware.

James Killick posted about creating and maintaining narrative interest. This is a concise, straightforward post on plotting. I especially like the "tent poles" diagram.

...apparently, it was a slow week?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

SitRep Saturday: Work, Work, Work

Yet another super productive week. I have four of the five stories for the new anthology drafted and ready for editing, I have the book cover, I have some meta for the anthology (I started the summary, I know who the target audience is, I started the marketing plan, that sort of thing) and I'm looking at a timeline for release that is reasonable and manageable.

In fact, I have a timeline for the next five books. Three of those five books are outlined and/or action drafted and all of them are plotted. So that's pretty cool.

I've been working like mad. So much writing. So. Much. Writing. I haven't written fewer than about 3,000 words a day all week. I've also been researching. Not too much, mind, but enough to get the outlines and action-drafts done. Real research comes during the drafting process and then even more comes during editing.

And reading! I've been finishing about two books a week lately. Right now I'm in the middle of War Brides and I just downloaded Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland. I let the "being a reader" part of being a writer slip for far too long.

I am also beta-reading for a friend. She has this massive fantasy epic she's been working on for years and she just sent me the first installment. I'm a thorough, brutal beta, so it's slow going, but it feels good to be beta-reading for someone talented and skilled.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nine Writing Things: Sexytimes

Sex in fiction is a touchy subject. There are as many different opinions on writing and and ways to write it as there are to have it. And that's totally okay. But I think there are some basics no matter how you do it. Write it, that is. I'm not stupid enough to presume to tell people how to have sex.

1. Learn the anatomy.
Nothing yanks me from a story faster than misuse of the word "vagina." A vagina is not the external sex characteristic. When a character incorrectly identifies his partner's anatomy in this most basic way, it calls everything into question. If he doesn't know where her vagina is, how am I supposed to believe he's going to please her?

2. Learn the slang for the anatomy.
Unless it's in-character, chances are your character isn't going to think "vagina." S/he might think "penis" but "vagina" is the sort of word that, for some reason, makes people squeamish. There's a wealth of resources for learning appropriate slang out there. (I like this one.) Find those resources and use them.

Note: Vajayjay is not ever, not even a little bit, not even jokingly acceptable. Don't make me bitchslap you.

3. Mind your hands.
This happens frequently in fanfiction, but professional fiction certainly isn't immune: someone has three hands. Or the positioning just isn't physically possible, or someone left their shoes on but five minutes later--without any mention of having removed said shoes--toes are getting sucked. Just pay attention to your details. During editing, position yourself where you've got your characters. If you can't do it, they can't do it.

4. Nothing tastes like peaches and cinnamon.
Several years ago, this was a big problem in fandom, particularly in the Harry Potter fandom. It stemmed, mostly, from people who were not old enough to have even really experienced their own bodies writing terrible smut. Again, professional fiction is not immune. Something might taste almost pleasant or have a hint of flavor of the food the character has been eating, but nothing coming out of the lower regions is going to taste like peaches or cinnamon or cherries. Don't sugar-coat it. (However, you can have your characters actually sugar coat it. Flavored lubricant is pretty nifty.)

5. The big O.
Fact: up to 75% of women do not orgasm during intercourse. If your heroine were in the real world, she probably wouldn't reach that peak. It's okay to have her do it, anyway, because fiction is fantasy. But it's okay if she doesn't, too. Sex isn't always just about the orgasm and if your character is a "journey is half the fun" type, it's completely okay for her to miss that climax. Men don't always achieve orgasm, either. Sometimes, they even fake it. If you're writing sex as part of a larger story (and not, like me and other porn writers, writing it because it is the story), then it adds a touch of unusual realism to have your character skip the big O... and who knows, you might make readers for life for that little detail.

6. You have five senses, use them.
Sex is about more than touch. It's sight, smell, sound, and taste. Just keep that in mind when your characters are getting hot and heavy. Of course they're not going to notice everything--nobody does--but showing us what they do notice, and what they savor, is going to tell us a lot about them.

7. Don't sacrifice character.
Out-of-character sex is just as bad as any other out-of-character behavior. If a hero of few words is suddenly spewing erotic terms of endearment, or a shy, repressed virgin turns into a wanton woman the second the hero drops his pants, I am going to call bullshit, roll my eyes, and close the book. Make me believe it, damn it.

8. There's nothing wrong with porn.
Written porn, at least, hurts no one. Oh, it might upset some people, and it might make others uncomfortable, but written porn for the sake of porn is--in my world--perfectly acceptable. If you want to write sex not because it's part of a larger story or because it shows or tells something, if you want to write sex simply because you want to do it, then do it. It's okay.

9. If you don't think it's hot, your reader won't think it's hot.
This maybe should be my number one tip. It's the one thing I preach whenever asked about it. Write what you think is hot because if you're not enjoying it, that shows in your words, and you ruin things for your character and the reader. You really don't want that.

Bonus Thing: The rules for writing sex, like any writing rules, can be broken. Just not until you learn them.

But I really will come bitchslap you if you use "vajayjay."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Miscellany: What I Want as a Writer

Yesterday, I went back to see The Avengers one final time before it leaves theaters and we settle in for a two-month wait until the DVD release. (Unless those rumors of an extended cut are true, in which case, I will probably go back one more time.) I haven't seen a movie that many times in theaters since Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. (Shut up, okay, that was a great movie!) It really got to me. When I was able to concentrate yesterday, it hit me: it was the writing. There were no gaping plot holes like there usually are in big-budget summer blockbusters. It was such tight, tidy writing. Of course it was, Joss Whedon was responsible for it. But it's still just really inspiring for me. My poor husband doesn't understand why I needed to see it four times and why I'm seriously considering pre-ordering the Avengers Assembled collector's set. He's not a writer or much of a nerd, so I can't explain it to him. Mostly, I just settle on telling him that Cap has a really nice ass that is best viewed on the silver screen. That isn't a lie. (Seriously. Chris Evans has an amazing rear end and in the new Captain America costume especially, his shoulders-to-hips ratio turns my biological clock into a ticking time bomb. It's unfortunate.) I'm lucky enough to be married to a wonderfully secure man who just rolls his eyes and shakes his head whenever I mention a crush.

Anyway, when I got home of course I felt inspired and ready to work on making my own writing just as tidy, so I managed to churn out an action-draft for a writing exercise and then tackled a little more of the short story anthology I'm working on. I've done so much writing in the last week or so it's kind of crazy. I have two novellas outlined/action-drafted and two more with only the barest outlines, all four of those with very clear beginnings and ends and very clear word count goals. I have the first sequel to Please, Sir in the works. I've finished the first draft of three of the short stories for Lost and Found and I'm looking at completing the fourth tonight or tomorrow. I started up again with The Guest and started thinking about something I'm calling VietZombies for right now. I even started work on the novel I hope to take on for NaNoWriMo.

I did the math and have been practicing meeting the word count goals. In the three nights I've attempted to write 1,667 words (the approximate daily word count you need to meet in order to write 50,000 words in thirty days), I've succeeded. The first three nights are easy. It's the last three nights that'll be hard. I'm hoping to be ready to take on NaNo and win this year. I've never written a novel in a month and it's been a long time since I attempted a story longer than about 30,000 words.

Short stories are kind of My Thing. Novels? Not so much. But I'm kind of stubborn. I like to push myself to learn and master new writing things.

And then I like to do what I can to perfect the things I've already learned.

So... I guess that's the point of today's post, then. Drive. Knowing what I want to accomplish with my writing. Having written things to look at and take inspiration from and model my work on. Not that I want to write a superhero movie, but I certainly want to write lean, clean stories. I want to write characters that make my readers root for them--or against them. I want to be good.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blog Roundup: July 16 - 22, 2012

I liked this post from Greta van der Rol on "the process of plotting" and not just because I'm a fangirl and it means we're getting a new book. No, I liked it also because it gives a nice glimpse into the insanity that is a writer. She's just so matter-of-fact about Ravindra talking to her. And aren't we all? Our characters speak, we listen. It's when we don't that things get messy and complicated and difficult.

Well, this is interesting. Back in May, Joe Konrath hosted a guest post from Ann Voss Peterson. She talked about her relationship with big publisher Harlequin and why she couldn't afford to write for them anymore. It's a startling, sobering post. This week, Joe posted an update on her situation--sort of. In Harlequin Fail Part 2, Joe mentions the class-action lawsuit against Harlequin and the shady business practices that led to it. Yikes.

Girl Who Reads wrote about newsletters in her Tips on Thursday post this week. I'm definitely checking out those resources.

Paperback Writer made a wonderful list of suggestions for coping with the culture of immediacy.

Pub Rants hosted a Roni Loren guest post that all bloggers need to read. Especially if you use photos in your posts, read that post! (Don't panic, but don't ignore it, either. It's about lawsuits and the dangers of copyright infringement.)

Delilah Dawson shared some thoughts on editing. I really liked her first thought. That can be such a problem for new writers--and even for some of us who have been at this a while.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

SitRep Saturday: Writing!

Writing! Seriously, that's all I've been doing all week. I made it through two short-story drafts, several novelette/novella outlines, a week's worth of 750 Words, and I started a massive file meant to help me really clean up my business plan. I've been using yarny, reading blog posts, and doing tons of research for my stories and for my writing blog over on tumblr (Fuck Yeah Write Life in case you were curious). I have been writing like crazy. And it feels so, so good.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Writer's Resource: 750 Words

One of the things I did on my vacation was learn about new writing resources. I stumbled across a blog and on this blog, people were discussing the various programs and sites they use to write and stay organized. So I made a list and started checking them out.

The first site on my list was 750 Words. It's a simple, no-frills site designed to help you write your three daily pages. (You know, the three pages you're supposed to write every morning on whatever is on your mind.)

I love it. I love how neat and tidy the site is. I love how easy it is to sit down and write, distraction-free. I love that it's private and online. I love the point system. I love the little badges I earn for writing. I've been writing for 23 days, typically do so in the wee hours of the morning, and tend to finish my words in about eleven minutes without distraction, so I've earned up to a flamingo, plus a night bat, a hamster, and a leopard. I love the word count feature. I love the general encouraging atmosphere of the place.

Actually, it has inspired me to see if I can complete a NaNoWriMo challenge. I'm going to do a test run next month and see if I can write 50,000 words in one month. (I'm hoping to pound out two novellas.) If I can, I might actually take on NaNo this year. I've never felt brave enough to sign up for NaNoWriMo, so just the fact that I'm seriously considering it, I think, speaks volumes about the wonder of the 750 Words site.

Try it. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nine Writing Things: Characterization Exercises

One of the things I find incredibly useful to do is write characterization exercises. (Or detail exercises, or dialogue exercises, or activity exercises.) These generally don't get shared because they're not usually pretty, but mostly because they're just not meant for others' eyes. Writing exercises like these help you find your voice and develop a strategy for dealing with some aspect of your writing in a larger, meant-for-publication piece. I suggest picking a word count--500, 1000, or 2000 words are good numbers--and going for it.

1. A car breakdown.
The way a person behaves when their car breaks down tells you a lot about them and their history. Is this a regular occurrence? Are they used to it? Did they prepare for it? Where it happens can provide a nice exploration of character. Is it on the side of the road between cities? In a bad part of town? Near home?

2. Preparing for a parent's visit/going to visit parents or in-laws.
Unless your character is a single orphan, family will probably visit her at some point. Or she'll visit family. It doesn't have to be an overnight visit. Maybe her dad and his new wife are just popping in on their way to dinner, or maybe her mother-in-law is doing one of those surprise inspections on the new housewife. Whatever the case, there's a lot of emotion and a lot of character rolled up in how we deal with parental figures. 

3. A first date.
I'll confess: I hate dating. I went on maybe four dates during my "high school" years and I didn't date at all in college or for about a year and a half after college. And even then, I got married eleven weeks after meeting a guy (ten weeks after our first date). But I hear some people like it. And I understand that most people don't meet someone and decide to marry them three weeks later. A first date for your character is kind of the same thing as a first date for you. You're going to learn a lot about them based on how they present themselves, what they worry about, what they ask, what they notice.

4. A job interview.
This is sort of the same as a first date, just with an added layer of professionalism. Is your character prepared for the interview? What does she wear? How does she feel? What does she say? What's her attitude about being there? (Is she being herself or is she trying to be what the interviewer wants?) Does she need the job? Does she want the job? A job interview for a character will probably show you how she behaves in the most stressful of non-intimate situations.

5. The first time your character had sex.
This is an old one and maybe kind of cliche, but it's a good one. You remember your first time. It's kind of a defining moment in a person's life. Your character is a person. And, not to get too triggery here, but if your character's first time wasn't consensual, or if your character's first time was maybe plagued with doubt and regret, you're going to learn a lot about him.

6. Doing something that frightens her.
I am utterly, completely terrified of "fun" houses. You know the ones. With the mirrors. Or the dark ones with the people in costumes who don't touch you but make damn sure they chase you. Shaking, crying, full-on panic attacks. Which is weird for me, because I am the least-easily-frightened person I know. This includes my Army husband and retired Navy/cop father. Bugs? Icky, but okay. Snakes? Respect 'em. Bad guys? Try me, buddy. I've been through a lot of very real, very scary stuff in my life. But fun houses reduce me to a small, scared, whimpering child. Throwing a character into a situation that scares her is going to reveal a lot about who she is and some of the most primal inner workings of her mind.

7. Winning the lottery.
It's an ultimate fantasy situation, like getting a chance to spend the night with your favorite celebrity (*coughTimArmstrongcoughyesIknowIammarriedandnoitdoesnotreallymatterIwouldtotallyhitthatcough*). But if you take the fantasy part out of it, there's some real conflict there. How does she react when she finds out? What does she do with the money? Who does she tell? How does she react to people coming out of the woodwork? Does it help or hurt her goals in life?

8. Home alone on a dark and stormy night.
Come on, even the bravest and most jaded among us can get a little spooked all alone in a big, drafty, silent house in the middle of a terrible storm. Or maybe she likes to cuddle up on the couch with fuzzy slippers and hot chocolate and read herself Edgar Allan Poe. The point is, it's a mini-isolation exercise. How does your character fare, think, act when she's completely alone?

9. Confronting someone who has wronged her.
Is she into the guns-blazing kind of confrontation? Is she subtle and manipulative, drawing out the confession before she acts? Is she passive-aggressive? Is she passive? Is she aggressive? Does she have control or does she let her anger/hurt control her? Confrontation is powerful. Facing the person who has done you wrong is a highly-charged moment. Is she a fighter or a flier? Write and find out!