Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In Your Footsteps will be a novel

I've decided that my next project In Your Footsteps will be a novel. I have not written a novel since I finished my 1,000 page plus tome Atlantis Reborn in 2008.
I took a break from writing novels to experiment with shorter fiction and to see if I could improve my writing and get something small published. I think I am a much better writer now than I was in 2008.

I've learnt alot about plotting and characters and I think I have the skills now to write a well plotted, nicely worded novel between 75,000 and 100,000 words long. That is the goldilock's zone people. The perfect sized novel. Atlantis Reborn was too long to get published and while it did have potential (or so I thought at the time) the plot was in shambles, going in two many directions at once, and the characters shit. I tried to do too much at once basically. I had an epic fantasy on my hands. I poured my heart and soul into it for about five years, rewrote it about seven times, but in the end I just had to move onto something else because my passion for the story had fizzled out and I knew in my heart that it was not my best work. I knew I could do better.

I think I will be able to make In Your Footsteps a nice little novel. I do not want it to be huge, but I do not want it to be too short either, so somewhere between 300 and 400 pages long. Deep Embrace is almost a novel. It's about 120 pages long at the moment and has just passed the halfway mark. I am hoping the final draft will be above 40 thousand words which makes it a fantastic little ebook but too short to be sent to a traditional publisher by just a tad. So frustrating!

As flawed as Atlantis was, I actually got a request from a New York agent for it. I'll never forget the rejection I got a few days later though. It said 'I am really disappointed. I was really excited about the idea for your story but your writing let me down. I will have to pass.' SO FRIGGING CLOSE!!!

As rejections go, it was not that bad, the agent had seen potential in my query, which is a good thing, but said my writing needed improving. This was years ago by the way. I have not queried agents since about 2006/2007 maybe. I know I have improved in my writing since then. When I look back at my old stuff it is so bad I have to fight the urge to slap a hand against my forehead and shout 'Ah, ye Gods, it is terrible!' Thank Goddness I had the intelligence to banish Atlantis Reborn so it would never see the light of day again.

Since it takes me about a year to write a project, I should be able to begin writing In Your Footsteps towards the end of this year or early next year, which means it should be done late 2012 or early 2013.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You can't please everyone

I'm still reading that thread on that message board about how to write dialogue for black people realistically. The poor writer rewrote his passage and posted it again for critique and is still be labelled a racist simply because he stated his character goes to a mostly black high school. How is that racist? Sigh. Writers need to learn to not post thigns for critque to seek approval or praise. I'm really bad at this. Just yesterday I wrote what I thought was an awesome passage and had to fight the urge to post it for critique because I wanted to be showered with praise.

I didn't do it because I thought to myself 'I should be posting my work to get ideas on how to imrpove it not to be told the sun shines out of my ass.' You would think I would have learnt that lesson by now, huh? Everyime I post stuff for critique it always gets ripped to shreds and leaves me questioning if I have any talent at all. Despite being painful, in the end I always find it a good experience, because it forces me to question my writing and my decisions and think about how I can improve as a writer. It's nice to be told "Oh, you're so talented!" but it's also nice to get honest, naked opinions sometimes, even if they can be sometimes a wee bit harsh.

One thing I have learnt as a writer is that you cannot please everyone. There will always be someone who will be insulted by your work, who might find it sexist or racist or god know's what. They will call you names, give you poor reviews, generally make you feel like crap, but it's all part of being a writer. You have to accept that everyone has different opinions. If you try to please everyone you will just end up ripping out all of your hair and screaming like a crazy person.

Always listen to other opinions, no matter how harsh, and try to learn from them. Do not try to please everyone though because it will never happen. There are only three people a writer should aim to please: themself, their agent, and their publisher.

Writing dialects

I'm the middle of reading a long locked thread on a message board about how to write black characters and to make their dialect and language sound believable. Well, not surprisingly, the thread dived into the racism debate, but it provides good reading. How important is it to for writers to write their characters with dialects? I have never done it. I would find it too hard and would worry that people could understand what they were saying.

If a character is written with a dialect or speaks with slang is that a racist sterotype? I think people throw around the word racist far too easily these days. The world has become too politically correct. I don't think it's racist to write a character, especially a black one, with a dialect or to include slang in their speech. It can be a cliche or a sterotype though and that is something all writer's must avoid.

For example I am Australian. I do not say "G-day, Mate!" or "Crikey!" or call my friends "Mate!" but I know other Australians who do. It does irritate me when I see Australian characters on American television shows who have the cockey accent and say "Mate" and "G-day" every two seconds. It's such a big fat cliche!!

Dialects and slang should be used like other forms of description. Less is more. If you put too much in you risk coming across as racist and being cliched and encouraging sterotypes. If you do it just right though you can make a believable character. In the book I am reading at the moment the main character is from the South in America. The author slips in her accent every so often in bits of dialogue and even has her slip into french a few times. It's really good and believable.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Women in romantic fiction

I'm reading a romance book at the moment and it's making my inner feminist growl a little. I've read alot of books by this author and all of them have the same basic cookie cut out characters. The man will usually be an alpha male, protective, honourable, but deadly to his enemies. The woman is usually delicate, but fiesty, and the two engage in a tango where the man tries to tame the woman and get her to settle down for a life of marriage and motherhood.

It's the same in this novel and it's bugging me a little. The hero is constantly thinking 'This woman will take alot of effort to tame' and that she will 'cause him trouble with her independence streak' and that she 'better get used to the idea of marriage and bearing his children' and that he 'needs to remind himself that she is observant and smart' The woman is being painted as someone that needs to be controlled, to be tamed, to be protected, because God Forbid she goes off on her own without a man around or makes her own decisions or doesn't want to get married. God forbid!!!

I'm getting a bit sick of reading romances like these. It seems like every single one I pick up has a broody, protective male in them, who wants nothing more than to throw his wild, untamed woman over his shoulder and take her back to his cave where she will be out of danger and can be bare foot and pregnant. They treat them like children basically. It's annoying!!

The weird thing is these stories are written by women. Are these the type of men women really like to dream about? Burly, tough, controlling alpha men? I don't think I would last too long in a relationship like that.

Stupid computer!

I came home last night and turned my computer on. It decided to be a little shit and not load for about two hours. I hate my peice of shit computer. Most of the time it works fine even though it is missing a backspace key, has a habit of freezing, throwing up the blue screen of death, and having trouble remembering where I've saved word documents...other THAN ALL THAT...it's fine. No, really. Every once in a while it will have trouble loading and I'll sit on the edge of the couch chewing on my fingernails and thinking to myself "This is it. My computer has died and it has taken my stories with it." If I get really stressed I'll start moaning, pulling on my hair, stalking around the house, screaming in frustration, crying, or rambling "It will be okay. It will be okay. I have a back up from three months ago..." I had to put a dollar in the tantrum jar last night because I got so worked up. Yeah...we have a tantrum jar in our house...don't ask....

I know I should always keep an up to date back up of my stories but I never do. I have a bad memory so I always forget. The one thing that always reminds me to back up my stories is when my computer freaks out like it did last night. Once it starts working again, and it always does, I'll whip out my thumb drive and anxiously copy and paste my little baby onto the stupid thing.

Last night we deicided that I should switch computers and use Jaylani's. I'm now in the process of transferring all of my crap onto his. I feel weird about it though. It's not MY computer. I want my own computer. I miss my old computer. Yeah, it's a piece of crap, but I'm used to it. Jay's feels weird. His keyboard is all different. I'll get used to it...I suppose...but it's not the same. I need my own machine. I'm a writer. I've been putting off getting a new one for months because of the wedding and the honey moon (seriously how could I afford one on top of all that?) I'm going to get one next year (god willing) and at some point hopefully, please, get my stupid teeth fixed finally...

The lesson in this blog post, my little writers? Get a damn decent computer. Get one that you can trust will work each day so you do not have to constantly back up everything. I should be able to trust that my stupid machine is going to switch on when I press power. But just to be safe do back up your stuff. Loosing a novel to the black hole of computer death would be a bit like loosing a baby. It's not a fun thing to think about.

Monday, May 23, 2011

No original stories

I'll never forget when I came up with the title for Whispers in the Dark. I was walking through Perse and it came to me in a flash of inspiration. I got so excited. I thought it was brilliant! perfect! nothing could be better! It wasn't until after Whispers in the Dark got published that I saw this title has been used hundreds of times in books, films, you name it. Suddenly my oh-so-original title was not so original!

This happens all the time in fiction. Chances are someone has already come up with your title, your plot, your characters....yep, all been done before! Hell, I googled my current book's title and managed to find an unpublished peice of work called Deep Embrace that was also about a mermaid falling in love with a man. Crap!

I'm not worried though. There are no original stories in fiction. The trick is to take old concepts and take them in new, exciting directions.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fantasy and reality

How rooted in reality does fantasy have to be? In Deep Embrace all of the action takes place under the ocean. I had one scene which took place in an underwater cave that had stalactites in it. I had them fall on characters during a fight scene. I ended up taking them out after someone pointed out that they would not be in an underwater cave because they need to be in open air to form. Oops! Bad writer!

It never really occured to me to do much research on ocean caves. I have looked at photos and try to use them as a basic example. That's about it for research. I don't like to do too much research. I spent about 3 years researching a series of books. I never got round to writing anything but I wrote pages and pages of background story, character bios, and gathered loads of random pictures that I put in files that I ended up never looking at again.

I can only world build for so long before I get bored and take a swan dive into the act of writing itself. I like to let my stories evolve naturally. I will write an outline and character biographies and that's about it.

Ever since that critique made me realise that I was writing unrealistic sea caves I worry about people not being able to read my stories if the settings are not believable. In the scene I am writing right now the main character Perse has entered the underwater lair of Nyx and Erebus which is a giant crescent moon shaped crevice in the sea floor that is riddled with tunnels which lead deep into the sea crust. The tunnels lead to underground caverns full of air. I KNOW these would never exist in real life so I actually made a point to have Perse mention that. She thinks to herself how these had to have been created because such a thing could never have developed naturally. Now this, boys and girls, is called covering your ass. Hopefully when people read that scene they will not be gripped with the urge to scream 'THAT WOULD NEVER EXIST!' and throw my book across the room.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Go the fuck to sleep

I stumbled across this article yesterday about a picture book for adults called GO THE FUCK TO SLEEP which is about a father's desperate attempts to get his three year old daughter to go to bed.

It's funny, sad, and genius. The author wrote it in a moment of desperation and exhaustion one night when he could not get his daughter to go to bed. He jokingly posted on facebook that his next book would be called go the fuck to sleep and got a heap of positive responses so he went ahead and published the thing as a children's e-book. A CHILDREN'S EBOOK.

It has not been published in print yet but it is already at the top of the amazon's best seller list and the movie rights have been optioned by Fox. I don't know what I find more shocking about this story: how one random idea can become bottled lightning and attract so much attention, how a book could achieve so much fame and hype before being published by a relative unknown writer, or that the thing was first released as a frigging e-picture book.

The e-picture book is a rare item. Some online publishers do them but for the most part it is still struggling to emerge because children want to hold books in their hands so they can rip them, draw on them, take them to school, sleep with them, etc. It is harder to make them sit on your lap in front of the computer and stare at a picture-ebook on the screen and keep their attention.

I think picture e-books will one day become popular, the technology just has to catch up a little, so kids will be able to read them on ipads and things in beautiful colour with sounds and video.

As for this book, what amazes me is the number of people who think it is really for kids and do not know that there are picture books printed for adults. We used to have some in my high school library. This book is satire. Yes, it looks like a picture book, and you know what? I WOULD read this to my kids. I have no problem with swearing, I think it is a healthy way to release anger, while it can be rude to swear at someone, I do not have a problem with swearing in satire or swearing when I get stung by a bee or fall on the ground.

So many people are freaking out at the idea of reading this book to kids. Number one, most real young children will not realise there is swearing in it, because kids do not realise what swear words are or that they are "bad" or "rude" until they at least around eight or ten. You know what kids will hear when they read this book? Poems. They will look at the pictures and not really focus on the words much at all. They will listen to the poetic structure of the story, yes, but the actual meanings of the words themselves will be lost on their tiny, innocent minds.

If I was tired, desperate, and on the verge of loosing my temper, I would read this book to my children because it would be a way for me to unleash some of my tension, maybe smile a little, and at the same time beg for them to please GO THE FUCK TO SLEEP.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lightbulb moment!

I was walking into town last night after work when I suddenly realised why I hadn't been able to do any writing that day. It wasn't laziness. It wasn't being angry about my lack of weight loss. It was the scene itself. I'd tried to add something else into it and had delightfully fucked it up. It wasn't working. That is the core of my writer's block most of the time. It is never usually me. It is always the scene itself. It is not working. I've fixed the problem and the words have started coming at a trickle out of my fingertips again. Oh, we got a new set of scales, tested them both on tiles this morning, and would you believe it my Wii was 100 grams lighter? Don't ask me how. When Jaylani tested himself he was heavier on the tiles and lighter on carpet. I lost between 700-300 grams yesterday. All I did was walk 30 minutes into town and have an insanely early dinner at 3.30pm that my stomach angrily protested about later that night after I got home from class. I am hoping I will be able to get back on track with my writing today. Oh, one more thing, I had a look at Echoes last night. I pulled a section out that I wanted to try and replicate in Deep Embrace (this was the idea that screwed things up) and I saw that in one version of Echoes it was only 75 pages long. When I finish a manuscript, I make copies of it in different fonts, because each publisher has a different type of font that they like. Some are fond of arial, some like times new roman, etc. Well, anyway, I was looking at the TMR one and it was only 75 pages long!!! I was like "It's so short!" at the time, when I finished it, I was so proud. I thought it was so long, which it was, compared to the other short stories I had written. I thought it was a decent little novella, but it's not, not really. It's more of a novelette, which is halfway between a short story and a novella, but that's okay. It's still a ripper of a good little story.

Deep Embrace, mean while, is almost at 120 pages long and still chugging ahead. I have not even got to the big climax yet. Now this little puppy will be a proper novella. I've noticed that my projects are getting longer and longer. I am hoping that I will be able to write a proper novel within a year soon. I have a feeling that DE will be about 60k word in rough draft form and god willing above 40k in the final draft. That is ALMOST a novel!! Hell, in some circles, it is a novel.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Should books come with warnings?

I had a peek inside a free ebook the other day and it actually came with a warning that it contained violence and sex. I've never seen that in a book before. I thought it was a bit weird. I would never think of including something like that in one of my books. I've never heard of books being labelled like movies. I have read some news articles of people that think they should be though.

I just finished reading LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and one of the characters was a paedophile. The scenes with him were some of the most fascinating, well written, disturbing writing I have ever read. The author did not just get into this guy's head. He cracked open his skull and pranced around in there. He was able to explain how this guy's sexuality worked, as disturbing as that sounds, and even showed him receiving sex from child sex workers and jacking off in a swimming pool change room while watching some young boys get changed.

If there ever was a book that should come with a classification on it to warn people of it's content it's that one. I was real shocked with how graphic it was but at the same time I really enjoyed it. It made it a fantastic, thrilling, disturbing read. I actually really liked it that the author dared to write about such a taboo subject. I've read so many posts on message boards from authors worrying themselves to death about including swear words in their books. I always roll my eyes when I read things like that. I mean, seriously, you're worrying about turning readers away because your Mary Sue says the word fuck? News flash: most adults can handle a bit of swearing.

I never worry about disturbing my readers with scenes of violence or sex. I don't even really write with an audiance in mind. I just let my characters do what they want and then when I'm done I will try and figure out where my book fits in. I don't think I would like it if someone put a big label on my book to describe its audiance. I think it would distract from sales. For example, in Australia, if something is deemed acceptable for all audiances it is given a G rating. If it is more adult it can be an M for mature, an M15plus for people above 15years, all the way up to an R. I would hate it if my book got labelled an R or an M or M15plus. It would have a huge impact on where and how it could be sold and who could purchase it. This is probably the reason why books still do not have these probably.

So many writers these days worry about including graphic sex and violence in their books. They think it will turn readers away and will lessen their chances of getting published. They actually think they need to warn their readers with warnings like the one I saw in that ebook.

We really do live in a nanny state, don't we? People want to protect not just children, but grown adults, from sex, swearing, violence, and every other naughty thing under the sun. Here's an idea: how about we let adults be adults? LET THE RIGHT ONE IN has been hugely successful, despite its graphic content, which just proves that when an author is unafraid to shock their audiance, instead of shielding them from nasty stuff, they might just win the respect of their readers.

I don't feel like writing today...am I lazy?

I don't know why but I have not written a word today. I just...do not have the energy, the drive, and the passion for it today. Everytime I open the word document and stare at what I got up to yesterday I sigh, put my face into my hands, and turn to stare blankly out the window. Why? I don't know. Is this writer's block? Maybe. Is it laziness? Maybe. Is it creative exhaustion? Probably. Does this make me a bad writer? In the eyes of some, yes. I tried googling how I was feeling and stumbled across an article that said writers block was bullshit and an excuse made up by lazy writers who do not want to write and like to waste their time doing other stuff.

I hate that sort of attitude. Writers block DOES exist. It takes a hell of a lot of concentration, imagination, and focus to write something. It's not just a simple act of stringing together enough words to make a sentence. You have to write it in the right tense, make it fit into the scene, the previous paragraph, check the spelling and grammer, keep the description under control, etc...etc... It's fucking exhausting!

I think the problem with me today is that I have things on my mind. I have to walk into town after work and I have no idea how long that is going to take, buy my dinner, then catch a bus to university for a lecture and a tuturial, when all I really want to do after work is go home and watch the Ellen show and get an ice cream out of the fridge.

I love going to university, but sometimes, going to night classes is not only exhausting, but a real pain in the ass. I cannot wait until I can finally switch to part time work and start taking up more classes during the daytime. Ah, that is going to be sweet. God willing it will happen next year as planned.

I'm also fed up about my struggles with weight. I'm trying desperately to get under 100kg before my wedding in november. I've lost almost 10kg. I'm only about 5-6kg away from reaching my first goal. But for some stupid reason my Wii Fit has been telling me for the past couple of days that I have gained 300 grams, then 700 grams, despite walking 8k on the weekend, doing 1hr and 10mins of exercise on sunday, and walking home plus an additional 30mins of excercise yesterday. I don't know how the hell I gained that weight or if it really exists at all. Is it muscle? Is it water? Is it a stupid fault in the damn machine which has proven itself to not be that trust worthy in the past? SIGH. God only knows.

Jay got me a new set of scales which I'm going to try tomorrow on tiles. I'm hopeful it will say I'm much smaller then the stupid Wii said I was this morning, but at the same time I'm terrified I really did gain that 700 grams, even though I have no idea how or why, and I'm back around the mid 107s again. Usually, when I gain weight, I can pinpoint the reason why, like the other month when we had meatbealls and pasta for dinner, yeah that was a good food choice.

It is probably muscle, but according to the stupid Wii it is fat, which makes me angry and depressed. So I guess I have just pin pointed why I have not written a word today. Hopefully tomorrow I will lose some of my where-the-fuck-did-it-come-from-weight and my mind will be in a happier place for me to be able to write again.