Archive for the ‘#amwriting’ Tag

It Works for Me   9 comments

What is your preferred method of writing? (By hand, on a computer, dictate it?)

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I do what works for me

Well, I can start by saying my least favorite method of writing is dictation. There is something about hearing my voice without a response by another human that just feels bogus. It might have something to do with my characters telling me their stories in their own voices. I “hear” Shane’s voice as deep and lush while his brother Cai is a bit higher. When I go to dictate it, it doesn’t sound like their voices and so I feel like I’m making stuff up.

When I first started writing, computers required an air craft hangar to house them, so of course, I wrote long hand because there really wasn’t another way to do it. My stepfather gave me my first typewriter when I was in high school. Still there are some forms of writing that I still prefer to do long-hand. I keep a journal that is spiral bound steno pads, for example. I write poetry very rarely and very badly and I do it long-hand almost every time. Some of my more poetic narratives have started out long-land. I also carry a notebook with me when I am out-of-doors, so that I can jot thoughts down when the mood strikes me. I enjoy writing long-hand. It feels more hands-on and creative.

I trained to be a professional writer – a journalist — and journalists have, for about a century, been taught copy-writing on typewriters. So early in my career I learned to compose writing raw using my 10 fingers. To me, that feels like I’m working and, as I am a professional author now, I use the method that makes me feel like a professional.

Practical Choice

Pragmatically, it’s a huge waste of time to write narrative long-hand and then transcribe it to the computer. When I was a reporter, I would take some minimal notes and then type the article raw on a typewriter. Personal computers were just coming into the newsroom when I bailed for a job that paid actual money. But the habit of mostly writing by typing had already taken hold of me. It’s efficient. It eliminates a step. It makes editing quicker and easier. It saves paper, which saves money. I can send it to other people without having to make a copy of it. It gets around my legible, but not very pretty handwriting. It is much faster since this former transcriptionist can type way faster than I can think, so typing on a computer doesn’t slow me down at all. For a whole lot of practical reasons, typing into the computer is my preferred method — unless I am writing something where the creative juices don’t want to flow that way, and then I do long-hand — rarely these days.

Posted October 14, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Blog Hopping, I See Stars!   Leave a comment

Posted October 7, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in #openbook

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Refrain from Childish Behavior   15 comments

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

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How Dare You Criticize Me?

No book in literary history has been universally loved, which makes reading reviews scary and sometimes frustrating. I remember getting my first — and so far only — 1-star review. Ouch! It felt like I’d been spit on and the guy had totally gotten me wrong. I wanted to message him and correct his errors.

I’ve also had a good review where it was clear the person reviewing hadn’t read the book. Thanks for being nice, but — why? I wanted to message the reviewer and ask that question.

I didn’t. In either case. I still wanted to address the negative reviewer, but I know responding in social media would backfire on me, as would reaching out directly, and I’m not interested in getting into a battle with someone who is pissed because I gored his sacred cow. In the next book, in the author’s notes, I explained I think the military, absent its chain of command, would “go rogue” in an apocalyptic setting. I’ve got historical evidence on my side. It’s fiction. Maybe using a novel to point out the flaws of top-down command-and-control will prevent those flaws from becoming reality if the apocalypse ever does occur.

So, besides clarifying my position occasionally, how do I cope with reviews I don’t like?

Keep It in Perspective

Stephen King, Brandon Sanderson, Susan Collins, and Kate Elliott have more bad reviews than I do. How do I know that? I read their reviews. They’ve got thousands of them and hundreds of them are negative. That doesn’t seem to have stopped them from being best-selling authors.

People are still buying Stephen King’s books despite his bad reviews. People are still reading and buying my books — and reading the next book in the series — despite that bad review. The ultimate review, in my opinion, is coin in my bank account and that’s happening … despite that bad review, despite the pointless review that didn’t make an ounce of sense. If people are still reading my books regularly, then I’ll accept an occasional bad review as the price of doing business.

Balance is Good Thing

If a book has 1,000 5-star reviews without a single negative one, that makes me suspicious that the publisher has somehow rigged the system and flooded the book site with fakes. I think having diverse reviews and ratings shows an author has diverse readers, and yeah, not everyone is going to like my book, my characters, or my writing style.

Don’t Shame Reviewers Online

I see authors sharing their negative reviews. I see them shaming the readers and the person who left that review. What do they think that behavior will achieve?

It doesn’t encourage me to read their book. It puts me off. It makes them come across as childish and unprofessional.

You get what I am saying, right? I know nowadays the authors interact more with readers and fans, but does that mean we should shame them because they happen to have an opinion we don’t like? Even if it is about our book? Even if they are unknown to us? Even if they left us a 1-star review that made us curl in a corner and cry, should an author push back against that?

I have never seen anything good come from an author sharing negative reviews on social media, so I don’t recommend it and I don’t do it.

Learn From The Negatives

I still read my reviews because I use them as a learning tool. If the negative ones have a them — they’re all saying the same thing — then there’s something there I might need to address in my writing, editing, whatever. I’m not going to change my opinion about what the unsupervised military would do in an apocalyptic event, but if someone brings up spelling, grammar, characterizations that are unrealistic, factual errors — every criticism is a learning opportunity, so I’d be a fool not to read them.

What About the Good Ones?

The majorities of my reviews are positive and sometimes I want to reach out and say “Thank you”, but I’m not convinced authors should reply to positive reviews either. Think about that. Stalking your readers – a little creepy, right? I think it might have a chilling effect on reviews. I don’t like the feeling of anyone looking over my shoulder when I’m doing anything. It’s probably something wrong with my sense of self-worth or whatever, but seriously, it bugs me. So why would I do that to someone else?

Honest reviews are hard enough to come by without setting up any barriers to readers leaving a review.

But hey, an occasional THANK YOU is classy, just keep it non-specific to all reviewers rather than addressing them directly.

Indie Authors Among Them

Posted October 7, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Wall of Despair   6 comments

September 30, 2019

How do you move past writer’s block?

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Being Honest

I don’t really believe in writer’s block. Every time I hear someone describe it, this little voice in my head goes – “Oh, they’re freaking themselves out. Don’t do that. Stop doing that. Move on, folks.”

I think every writer experiences inevitable moments when their prose are mushy and they can’t find a creative bone anywhere in their body. I’ve experienced that. I just don’t consider it a time to panic. It’s not writer’s block so much as it is often writer’s boredom.

Sometimes it’s not the right time to write about the story I want to write about. Maybe my ideas need to marinate a little longer before I can write them down.

Sometimes, if I’m really honest with myself, I am afraid to put my ideas and myself out where everyone can critique them and me. After all, who really wants to walk into the middle of a wolf pack with nothing between them and those teeth but a shield of toilet paper and a lace dress? Right?

Today, perfect is not an option – what a relief! But it’s still a struggle to want everything to be just right before you even put pen to paper or touch a keyboard. We all want that smashing-GREAT first line. I never write it in the first draft and that’s okay because that’s what second drafts and even third drafts are for. What a relief!

We all have self-defeating habits and fears that can tangle us up in personally-created red tape. Are there solutions to that dark night of the writer’s soul? Sometimes. I know what works for me, which is why I can say I don’t really believe in writer’s block.

I feel it. The huge brier wood of writerly complications that I must hack through to get the story I want to write. I hear the whisper of the voice of defeat every now and again. But instead of letting it block me from my goal, I start hacking away at it. The trick is to find something that works for you — this time.

“I’ve often said that there’s no such thing as writer’s block; the problem is idea block. When I find myself frozen–whether I’m working on a brief passage in a novel or brainstorming about an entire book–it’s usually because I’m trying to shoehorn an idea into the passage or story where it has no place.” Jeffrey Deaver

Anti-Solutions

What I don’t do — what I know will backfire every time — is to refuse to write until I feel “inspired.” Inspiration is the stuff of movies. Writing is work. It’s work I love, but it is still work. I don’t want for “inspiration.” I don’t feel sorry for myself. I don’t procrastinate and make excuses. Yeah, yeah, yeah – I don’t feel creative. So what? Create anyway.

Solutions

So I’m all bound up and I can’t create? Naw, maybe I just need a break. I go for a walk (up to a three-day hike). I make some coffee (or tea). I read someone else’s book for a while (I’m using “The Cold Dish” by Craig Johnson as my current distraction-cum-relief valve). I call an old friend. I spend time with someone who makes me laugh (Brad needs to come back from Texas). I go to the coffee shop and set up my computer there.

It doesn’t really matter what you do, so long as it works for you and it creates momentum. I have been known to write nonsense. After all, it’s just pixels. No harm, no foul, I can erase it later. Once you start heading in a direction — any direction — it’s easier to pick up speed and to guide yourself to the path you should be on. I never have just one writing project going. I have a primary, secondary, and tertiary project currently and I also have WIPs that aren’t anywhere near seeing the light of day — and it’s all fine because if I get bored with my primary project, I can switch to one of the others and still be writing — still making progress. And, in a few hours or a day or a week, I’ll come back to my primary project and, viola, I’m ready to write it again.

The fail-proof solution

You might already have guessed what my fail-proof strategy for overcoming writer’s block is. I write. I start somewhere, anywhere. I write a few lines. I say anything. I see what happens. I don’t think about it too much. Sometimes I write nonsense. I don’t try for the next great American novel. I just write. It probably isn’t eloquent or presentable. It’s just words on a computer screen — or sometimes a notebook. I write for the joy of writing, because writing is what I do. It’s how I talk to myself.

The fact is – if you’re not illiterate, you can write. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Just type a few words and get past the hump. You can fix it later. It’s something I learned in journalism. The difference between professional writers and amateurs is both encounter obstacles to writing, but one pushes through to the other side while the other gets paralyzed and stops writing altogether.

Avoiding Lawsuits   10 comments

September 23, 2019

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

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Legal Issues

Whether we mean to or not, we authors all write characters based on people we know or admire. It’s inevitable. My husband recently pointed out that Chief Joe Kelly reminds him of someone we knew 30 years ago. We haven’t seen this guy in all that time and I wasn’t consciously basing the character on this old friend, but yeah, there are some elements that appear in Joe Kelly’s character that are reminiscent of that long ago friend. I didn’t wholesale base Joe on that young man, but I borrowed a few turns of phrase and I did it without meaning to.

By and large, basing characters on real people is problematic. You can find articles on writer sites saying “Don’t do it!” There’s the hurt feelings, the defamation suits, the cease-and-desist orders. It can be a problem. I don’t recommend it … but I’ve done it – carefully.

Homages

When a long-time friend died during the rewrite of “Objects in View” I decided to pay homage to him and introduced the character of Dick Vance. That led to another character homage in Calla Thomas. They are minor characters and both died soon after their introduction because homages limit my literary license, because when you write a character based on a real person, you owe something to the person you’re basing the character on.

Everything the character Dick Vance does in Transformation Project is something my friend would have done in the circumstances Dick finds himself in. I took great care in considering his dialogue to assure that everything the character said would be something my friend would have said. That additional work at rendering the character faithfully is why I don’t usually base whole characters on real people, though I do borrow elements from real people. It’s a lot of work to be that faithful, especially when the character doesn’t talk to you. My fictional characters tell me their stories. That’s not how it worked with my homage to my friend. Instead, I had to do all the work and that was exhausting.

Now, clearly, my friend is not going to show up and call me to task for getting something wrong, but I can imagine how I would feel if he did and so, I owe him faithfulness to who he really was. That’s how I pay homage to him, by showing how I think a real person would have reacted in an apocalyptic situation. To continue to write him as a character would have been to create a caricature and that would have been extremely dishonoring to my friend. I’m glad I included him in the book, but after I wrote about him, I just sort didn’t feel inspired to write about him any further. So I gave him a hero’s send-off exactly how I think my friend would have liked to go out and I walked away knowing I had treated my use of my friend’s personality with respect and care — like I would have treated him in real life.

Respect

So, I guess the overall answer is we writers, when we use real people as characters in our books, owe those people respect for their personhood … which is why I have never based a character on someone I don’t like. If I’m having trouble respecting them when we’re face-to-face, I think I’d have trouble treating them with respect as I write them — and that, my friends, is what causes hurt feelings, defamation suits and cease-and-desist orders. Best to avoid those if at all possible.

Posted September 23, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Fantasy & Philosophy   8 comments

What are the best two or three books you’ve read this year?

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Books to Enjoy & Enlighten

My fiction choice is fat fantasies, which take a long time to read. So it might not be too surprising that the best book I’ve read this year is –

Oathbringer: Book Three of the Stormlight Archive by [Sanderson, Brandon]

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

It’s Book 3 in the Stormlight Archives, focused on a land of humans faced by invasion from a group of non-humans. The series has a sweeping scope and a vast land that is very different from what we know on Earth and an ensemble cast of characters. Although the first two books were fascinating, the third book really starts to delve into an amazing series of philosophical questions. And for a political philosophy junkie like me, the fact that a couple of main characters are trying to create a new government is intriguing.

The second best book I’m reading is –

Conceived in Liberty by Murray Rothbard

It is the history of the America colonies from before the first colonists left Europe to the American Revolution. It’s a massive book – actually a series and I’ve been working my way through it for more than two years now. It’s amazing because it focuses not so much on events as on the philosophy (liberty) that motivated the events. Time and time again, Rothbard showed how one faction was striving for individual liberty and another was seeking to tyrannize individual choices.

I’m reading a couple of other non-fiction books, but mostly I’ve been reading libertarian essays by the great luminaries of the philosophy because in my book series Transformation Project, my people are about to create a new society for themselves and I’m trying to figure out how they’ll do that.

I know, some weighty topics there, but you have to research to write a good novel with a political-philosophical basis.

I reread Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and Bratt Farrar by Josephine Tey also.

I’m also rereading The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams because I felt I should brush up on the old Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (Osten Ard) series before I read the new series starting with Kingdom of Grass.

There are so many books I’d like to read, but I only have so much time and I’m writing a novel series. Maybe next year I’ll be able to read more for pleasure and less for intellectual stimulation. We’ll see.

Posted September 9, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Big Heads & Clay Feet   6 comments

September 2, 2019

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

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Defining Terms

This isn’t an easy question to answer. It requires a fair amount of self-analysis and that’s always scary. None of us like to look at our own faults because — well, we prefer to think of ourselves as perfect which means we don’t have any faults. It’s a self-reinforcing denial and I have spent decades learning to be more honest with myself than I would like to be.

Before we can really discuss this topic, however, I think we need to define some terms.

Ego is a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. Self-esteem is confidence in one’s value as a human being. Psychologists say it is a highly positive factor in life correlated with achievement, good relationships, and satisfaction. Possessing little self-regard can lead people to become depressed, to fall short of their potential, or to tolerate abusive situations and relationships.

Conversely, too much self-love results in an off-putting sense of entitlement and an inability to learn from failures. It can also be a sign of clinical narcissism in which individuals may behave in a self-centered, arrogant, and manipulative manner. Perhaps no other self-help topic has spawned so much advice and so many (often conflicting) theories.

Ah, but there is wisdom in knowing the difference between having an out-sized narcissistic ego and a healthy self-protective ego. Legitimate self-worth is knowing the value of what you have accomplished and feeling good about both your product and your contribution to that product. Narcisstic self-esteem expects to be praised even when you have accomplished nothing of value. We all know those obnoxious people who think the world should praise them for existing. I know you know them. You know I know them. They’re ubiquitous.

Revisiting Writer Kryptonite

When we turn to the subject of ego in a writer’s life, we are touching on writer kryptonite. A big ego can hurt a writer who avoids constructive criticism that might make them a better writer, but might hurt their feelings. Conversely, a healthy ego can help a writer by shielding us from ill-intended negative criticism. It’s troll repellent. If you haven’t encountered any trolls in your writing life yet, you need to interact more with the world. Having the strength of character to repel vitriol is a useful attribute, especially in the era in which we live when people feel so free to be abusive toward anyone they disagree with.

Does Ego Help or Hurt Writers?

To a certain extent, writing and a big ego go hand in hand. Writers have big egos. You need a fair degree of self-worth to believe your words are worthy of other people reading them. There’s nothing wrong with wanting people to read your writing because you know it’s good and makes an impact. It feels wonderful to share that and positive feedback is the ultimate validation of what you already know – your words have worth. What could be more ego-boosting than that?

And, yet there are writers who clearly believe they are God’s gift to the reading world. Maybe they were praised a bit too much on their first book. Maybe they OD’d on sticker charts as a preschooler. Who knows? Probably doesn’t matter. We see them fuss over every bit of negative criticism and blustering on talk shows. They’re very proud of their accomplishment and (often, but not always) in need of a good dressing down. And they wonder why their second book doesn’t sell and they fade off into obscurity and (possibly) substance abuse, moaning and groaning that the audience was too stupid to grasp the wonderful truths found in their writing.

Be honest. You know a writer like that. And it can be a fine line between a healthy ego that accepts criticism to become a better writer and an outsized ego that is certain it needs nw guidance or feedback.

So Which Is It? Good or Bad?

Both. You have to know your own worth to publish a book. Someone with low self-esteem would never do that. Conversely, self-esteem needs to be healthy, not brittle and defensive. There’s a ying and yang to ego, a happy medium where we know our worth, but we are aware that we can make mistakes and we need positive feedback.

And, of course, I think I’m one of those balanced people, but if I’m honest — any wisdom I possess comes as a result of seeing the tension between self-worth and narcissism in my own life. I think my words have worth and that people will gain something from reading them. I can take criticism. I can even read venom and take a pause and decide whether there is anything worthwhile in it (and sometimes there is). And there’s a part of me that wishes I were perfect, but knows that the key to a good book is recognizing that I don’t want to sacrifice the good for the perfect.

By the way, I’ve written some books filled with words that are worth reading. Check them out and then go see what my fellow writers think about this question.

Posted September 2, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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