Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's Alive!!

My current story Deep Embrace is progressing nicely. It has breeched 33k and looks like it might even go past the 60k mark which would make the rough draft a decent sized little novel. I know that after editing the final word count is going to be much, much lower, because as I get further into this book the more I realise how much it is going to need a damn good edit.

Deep Embrace has really come alive. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. When a story evolves past its outline and goes in a new direction you can either end up with great stuff you never intended to write or hundreds of pages of babble that will need to be ripped out like weeds.

I think most of DE is good. I spend some days worrying about it. I ask myself 'Does it all make sense? Is that scene crap? Have I written myself into a hole here?' The problem is that as I get deeper into the story I am following the outline less and less because I like to let my characters grab the wheel and go in the direction they want to go in.

For example: Perse has been given Tethys's trident to use in battle. She is told it will not work too well for her because it is not her own and yet she manages to use it expertly not long after although she is rough with it in the beginning. I'm starting to wonder if this is a big honking red flag and will piss readers off. I'm considering revealing that the trident is in fact HER OWN and that her mother only lied and said it was hers...but I'm not convinced that is a good idea. I might just keep on plodding on in the direction I'm going and make Perse state that she was able to do things with the trident that she could not imagine and it was all instinct somehow.

The problems with DE are not that bad. I have alot of scenes in the beginning that need trimming, which is not surprising considering I wrote them almost 12 months ago now. It's common for the beginning of a book to be crapper then the end of it. At least for me anyway. I take so long writing a book my style changes and evolves from start to finish. When I look back at the start of DE now all I can see is long, choppy sentences and too many commas that can be taken out. But for the most part it is all okay.

I reckon at the end of the day I will cut maybe 20k out of DE give or take. I am hoping that the final copy will be above 30k which will make it a decent little novella or a small novel depending on who you talk too. I just hope that I will be able to stifle my inner editor between now and the end of the book. It's terribly distracting and frustrating to see a badly written paragraph. I get compelled to go in and fix it. A few weeks back I decided to touch up the beginning of DE and ended up tweeking the first 20 odd pages before I forced myself to back away from the computer and turn the damn thing off.

I think I have written a good fantasy novel. I just need to let it finish growing, ignore my fear and self doubt, and then get out the pruning shears.

Attack of the Internet Trolls

The saga of the Greek Seaman continues. Over the past few hours Jacqueline Howett's online hissy fit about a bad review she has got has become an internet sensation. She is like the new Rebecca Black now. I've been googling her name out of interest and she is all over heaps of blogs, message boards, there's a YouTube cartoon video making fun of her comments, and she has gotten 65 bad reviews on Amazon that are pretty mean. Alot of people are saying that this thing has gone too far and that people should not be posting one star reviews of her book on Amazon just to be mean or to criticise her AGAIN on her lack of manners and professionalism. The link to her amazon page is here:

Someone said they would not use the book as toilet paper. Another person said they knew pre-schoolers with better grammer. Is this too harsh? Is this taking it too far? Maybe. Alot of the "reviews" that have been posted in the past few hours seem to be from people who read sample pages and that was it. I don't think its right to post a bad review of a book that you have not even read from start to finish. I've read heaps of books that started off crap (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) but got really good in the middle. Ms Howlett is suffering the wrath of Internet Trolls.

This is what happens when you act like an ass on the net. You bring out all the haters. You start finding videos about yourself on YouTube. You start getting pizza deliveries in the middle of the night. Weird phone calls. Hate pages turn up on Facebook. You get death threats and bitchy emails. Its amazing how quickly flame wars can spread and develop. This woman acted like an idiot. No one is not disagreeing with that fact. But she does not deserve 65 vile reviews on Amazon. I hope she has learned a lesson. When I first heard about this thing, I thought 'Her career is over' that blog attracted a hell of a lot of attention. Agents and editors and other authors heard about it! I've even heard people using the phrase 'Now don't go all Greek Seaman on me' over the net today.

In the space of a day this woman made an ass of herself in front of the entire global writing community. But that does not mean she cannot rebuild a career for herself. She could use a pen name or disappear from publishing for a few years, polish and relearn her craft, then come back with a killer book. I hope she grows from this experience and comes down off her high horse. I read some of her work and while I thought it was bad, it was not terrible. It had promise. It was just very, very, very rough. I wish her the best. In the mean time I hope the trolls back off.

Monday, March 28, 2011

How do some writers get so arrogant?

I stumbled across this link on a message board to a blog that posted a two star review of a self published book released through Kindle. The reviewer said that the book was mostly okay, but had some serious grammer and sentence structure issues. The author went nuts!! Her responses were insanely arrogant. She claimed that her writing was fine, that the reviewer read the wrong version of her manuscript, she posted examples of five star reviews she had gotten on Amazon, demanded that the review be taken down, called the reviewer and his followers names and even dropped the f-bomb not once, but twice!! I was in disbelief as I read the comments. I know harsh reviews and critques can hurt. I've gotten more then my fair share. I've even sunk in to temptation and responded to a few and defended my work. It's a mistake, don't do it. It's unprofessional and ungrateful. When people take the time to read your work you need to thank them even if you privately thought their opinions were rubbish. Writers NEED to develop a thick skin. Writers NEED to be able to take the good comments with the bad. It can be hard but sometimes you need to hear that your plot sucks, your main character comes across as a bimbo, or that your grammer is terrible. It is that sort of brutal honesty that is needed to make writers take a step back and look at their work without rose-tinted glasses. Bad reviews are apart of a writer's life. We need them to be able to see what we did wrong in this story and how we can improve our next one. I had someone call my main character 'Too stupid to live' in a recent critique. It hurt my feelings, but I thanked them for their comment, and said that I would make changes to the story to make sure that she comes across with a little more brains in her head. It is important to always be professional on the internet. Once you write something on the net it is out there forever. This poor woman might have ruined her career. Her comments have gone viral and are all over facebook, twitter, and various message boards. God only knows how many New York agents, editors and publishing houses read her immature responses to all of those people on that board. I mean, seriously, how dumb could you get? Does this woman know the defination of the word professional? You cannot spit in the faces of your readers and the entire publishing world and then still expect to be taken seriously and with respect. The funny thing is it is not just unknown writers suffering from truly epic arrogance. Check out this snarky letter from Anne Rice complaining about bad reviews on Amazon: Wow. I can't believe how rude she was in that. And not just to her readers but to her editors as well! How do some writers get this arrogant? How do they become so obbessed with their own work that they cannot fathom the idea that their writing might not be perfect and that heaven forbid someone might not like it? The problem with some writers is that they treat their books like their babies. They spend months and months working on them and over that time they fall in love with them so deeply they respond like a mother cat if someone dares to critcise them. The claws come out and they hiss and spit. Writers need to learn that their books are NOT their babies and that their writing is not perfect and can always be improved.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Things that inspire us

When I was a kid I loved Sailor Moon. I loved the colours, the magic, and most of all the transformations. I used to get a kick out of watching Usagi/Serena spin around in front of a sparkly background and grow wings out of her shoulders. So, so, very cool. I found out the other day that the Sailor Moon and Sailor V (a series about Venus before she met the others) was coming out in English special editions. I was thrilled. I've been trying to buy all the old English versions for a long time now. I've been reduced to second hand copies through Amazon. I have to wait sometimes up to three months for them to arrive and the copies can sometimes be real shitty looking and once I got sent the wrong copy!! Luckily, it was one I had not read, so I kept it. Sailor Moon really inspired me to write fantasy. It helped shape me as a writer. It is a wonderful, great fantasy. Sailor Moon has had a big influence on me and my writing. As I got older I realised the true depth its of backstory and its ties to Greek myths. One of the things I like to do in my spare time is to collect Sailor Moon books and toys. I have all of the Japanese manga special editions, two original Japanese manga from the 90s, I have a Japanese Sailor V manga coming in the mail, one of the very precious and beautiful Sailor Moon artbooks, a whole bunch of DVDs, some English mangas and some figurines.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Creamy Filler Goodness

Why is it so many writers hate description? I was reading a dicsussion on a web board about descriptions of eye movements (for example: her eyes flashed with anger) and one person said that sort of writing was just filler and was not needed. The sentence should simply read: She glared or she stared.

I could not disagree more. I am tired of writers waving their arms around and shouting foul when another writer describes a character's hair and eyes or a sweeping description of a sunset. There is nothing wrong with including those things. The trick is to do it without relying on cliches or to have it featured too much in a manuscript. I used to begin ALOT OF SCENES with a description of the weather. I slowly realised that I was doing it too much and it was too much description so I ripped it all out and I now try very hard not to do it. It still okay in some circumstances. A description of a forest or a storm rolling in can help set the scene. The thing to remember is NOT TO DO IT FOR EVERY SCENE OPENING or every second or third opening.

As for descriptions of eye, or nose, or head movements, I see nothing wrong with it. These sorts of descriptions help bring a character to life. A tilt of the head, a raise of the eyebrow, a twitch of the lips, are all things that can make a character seem more real and emotional. Telling someone not to include those things at all is just bad advice. So many inexperienced writers think these are golden rules and that if they dare to disobey them the ground will fall out from under their feet. The thing I have learned with writing is to listen to all opinions, even ones that you do not agree with, and learn how to bend the rules to suit you.

For example, it is a pretty big rule in writing not to repeat word, but it CAN be done well if the writer does it with care. Ditto with using words like AND, THEY, SUDDENLY, etc...etc... All fine if used well. Learn which rules to follow and which ones to bend to your liking. If you like description...put in description. Just do it with care and avoid cliches like having your character stand in front of a mirror and think about how super pretty her raven black hair looks when she brushes it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Is too much description really that bad?

I like to write stories about characters with unusual coloured hair and eyes. In Echoes in the Wind the main character Echo is black with waist length green hair and matching green eyes. She is a goddess of the mountains in the story and I wanted to reflect that in her appearance. I wanted to look earthy, exotic. I'd wanted to write a story about a black woman with green hair and eyes for years. The image has been stuck in my head since high school. I just found the idea of a woman who looked like that so mystical, so magical, perfect for a fantasy novel. Narcissus was white with waist length blue/white hair and eyes that changed from blue/green/white with his emotions. In Deep Embrace the main character Perse is white with waist length blue hair and gold eyes. Her soul mate Helios is white with red/gold eyes and shoulder length red/gold hair.

Why do I make them look like this? Two reasons. Firstly, I like it. I think it makes them unique because let's face it, brown hair and green eyes is boring, it's been done to death. When I describe my characters I want them to be mystical, memorable. Secondly, I want them to stand out on a front cover. I don't want to be another faceless blonde woman or dark haired man. I want people to look at them and think 'That person is so freakishly beautiful and weird looking they HAVE to be a god or goddess!'

In my stories one of the ways people can tell if someone is a god/goddess or a descent of one is their hair or eye colour. A person who is immortal will have something weird, like blue hair and white eyes, if they have a child with a mortal and if that child has a child, their descent will be mortal but with maybe brown hair and white eyes. So hair and eye colour is important in my story. So many writers challenge me on this though. They ask "Why is it important? Can't you write a story without describing the characters in detail?"

Yes, I could. I know that too much description is bad. I try to steer clear of my main character standing in front of a window and looking at themselves. I know that is a cliche. But I will not take out character description completely. In the past I have done way, way too much. I've learnt that lesson. Less is more. I still want to mention my character's hair and eye colour. The trick is I have to learn to put in just enough description so the reader can get a basic idea of them. I can't over do it. I have to let the reader come up with the idea how a character looks. I am so paranoid about describing characters these days. I worry that it is bad writing.

But it's my style. I like to do it. I like to state clearly SHE HAD GREEN HAIR. Frankly, if I read a book that did not describe the characters at all, it would be a real weird read. I want to know if characters are white, or black, or fat or half fairy. It makes me connect more to the character and the world seem more real.

Description is like salt. A pinch is good but too much will make the pot taste shit!

I am going to continue describing my character's phsyical appearance. I will try to not go over board though! Less is more.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Does writer's block exist?

A common question asked on writer's board is "Does writer's block exists?" writer's block is when an writer is just too mentally exhausted to be able to write another word. I believe it does exists. It happens to me all the time. It takes alot of energy and concentration to be able to write. Just writing a single sentence that makes sense and reads well can take alot of work sometimes. I've had days when all I can write is 200 words before my spark fizzles out. I could try and push myself to do more but I've found that is never a good way to do things. If I try to push myself I will end up writing crap or nothing at all. I only push myself to get through my writer's block when I have not even done a single sentence. I have a goal to write at least one paragraph a day. I usually average a page to half a page on a good day which is between 300 and 800 words. I think writer's block is just exhaustion. Sometimes the best thing to do is to accept that you have run out of ideas for the day and to back away from the computer. Do something else. Watch telly. Rent a movie. Play video games. Give your brain a rest. I think most people will find after they stop putting pressure on themselves they will be able to go back to their story and write again with much more success and enjoyment.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Whispers in the Dark Update!

I have not done one of these for a while! I checked out how Whispers was doing on the net yesterday and discovered it has popped up for sale on a couple of more websites which is good. I have added them to the list featured on the side. They are Amazon.Uk, Paper Back Swap, Read Without Paper, and! I am very happy to annouce that the website Read Without Paper is the FIRST Australian online bookstore to pick up my book! It's nice to know that my little novella is now on sale in my home country. Hopefully, more Aussie websites will pick it up. Fingers crossed!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Building a tough skin

I put a sample of Deep Embrace up for critique on a web board the other day. I got some very interesting comments. One of the people said my main character Perse seemed 'too stupid to live' and compared her to Stephanie Plum. I mostly laughed off that comment but part of me was a little hurt. Deep Embrace is still in rough draft mode and needs alot more work before it is finished. Perse is supposed to be an arrogant, reckless, immature teenager. I can understand how someone might think she would be 'too stupid to live' even though that was not how I wanted her to come across. It's always tough when people give out harsh comments. They serve a purpose though. Sometimes people need to be brutally honest. It helps me see the flaws in my story and characters. I went back and rewrote the beginning of Deep Embrace based on those comments. I hope it reads better now and that Perse across with a little more brains in her head. I actually think the beginning of Deep Embrace is one of the best I have written in years. It is not perfect but when I think back to the beginnings of Goddess Awakening and Tears of a Goddess I can see an improvement in my writing.

The rise of e-books

I visit a message board for writers quite often. I've been reading alot of posts on there from writers telling other writers not to self publish on kindle or to get published through an ebook publisher. They think it is a career killer. They say that if you publish an ebook you will not be considered a real published author because you would not have an agent and your book will not be sold in a real bookstore in printed form.

They also claim that you will ruin your chances of getting published through the larger, traditional publishing houses because they will look at your sales records and be relucant to take you on if your ebook did not do very well. All very valid points. There is a risk to ebook publishing. There is also a risk to paper publishing. I could get an agent tomorrow, sign a fantastic deal with a huge publishing house, and then two years down the track when it goes on sale in a "real" book store I could end up selling hardly anything. Or I could sign with an epublisher and sell my book online for half the price of a printed book and possibly make some money. The chances of success and failure are the same.

It is wrong to label an ebook author as not a real author. It is arrogant, rude, and just plain old fashioned. An author published through an ebook publisher is still an author. An author who self publishes through kindle is still an author. No one has the right to take the title away from them if they do not like the route they took.

What is the difference between a book being sold in an online book store to it being sold in a "real" store? There is no difference. Both places have the book for sale. Both places are visited by people looking for books.

The ebook industry continues to grow each day. Personally, I think it is only a matter of time before everyone is reading ebooks. Look at the rise of devices like ipads and smart phones. People do not want to spend $66 on a hard back book and have to carry it around in their hand bag when they could get the e-version for over half the price and store it on their phone, ipod, etc...

I will be buying a kindle/ereader sometime soon. I have a huge bookcase at home that is over flowing with precious, much loved books. I have plans to buy another bookcase but I can't get another one after that I just do not have the room to store it somewhere. This is another reason why ebooks will slowly take over. Instead of having a bookcase cramed with books people can have all the books they want stored on one tiny, slim device. It saves space and is more practical. I will have a library in my purse which will be great. I hate it when I finish a book and forget to put a new one in my handbag to read the next day at work. There is nothing worse then being bookless as my mother and I call it!