Archive for the ‘#openbook’ 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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Blog Hopping. On the Cutting Room Floor.   Leave a comment

Posted September 16, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Sculpting Novels   7 comments

What did you edit out of your most recent book? (or another book…let’s see those outtakes!)

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First Draft

Here in Alaska, we have an annual competition of ice sculptors from around the world. I’ve helped with some of these projects and noticed that they share something in common with novel writing. An ice sculptor takes a block — or several — of ice and pares it down to something beautiful.

I’ve published seven books, in addition to submitting shorts to anthologies, and my editing process is a great deal like the process I see ice sculptors using. I am an inveterate self-editor who does not like to share her books before they’re almost ready for prime time. I did allow an editor a somewhat early crack at “What If … Wasn’t” which is why it is under extensive rewrite still two years later. It’s a good process that will make a better book, but that’s not my normal way of doing things.

When I write a first draft and to a certain extent the rewrite, it’s almost all creative process. I create the block, the large strokes of the story. I do some spot editing while I write. I fix my obvious typos and correct my spelling errors and grammar when they jump out at me, but for the most part, my first draft is pure creativity. I want to get the story down. I’m concentrating on narrative voice and character interaction and sometimes action scenes will be just one or two sentences because that’s not where I live as a writer. I know I’m going to come back later, so I’m not worried about making mistakes. This is my time to get messy and to throw stuff in that might not work. If it sticks to the wall, great. If it doesn’t, I can always revise.

Rewrite

My second draft is actually a rewrite that will invariably have a lot cut from it, but it will also be longer than the first draft because when I read the manuscript in its entirely, A bit like an ice sculptor using what is called ice welding, I”ll recognize where there are holes or events that don’t make sense without context and I will provide those. I’m a character-drive writer, so often times I don’t bother with descriptions during the first draft. I add those on the second draft because I recognize that pages and pages of dialog makes tough reading and sometimes I’ll cut a lot of dialog because I don’t need it once I add the description.

Pruning

I end up at negative editing in what can arguably be called my third draft. I don’t really experience it as another draft, but I’ve had editors and writing partners term it a third draft, so I’ll go with what they say.

This is where I get ambitious. Everything is up for grabs. A 12-word sentence can become a 9-word sentence with a tweak and a stronger verb. Whole conversations that were merely filler might be cut down to a few words. The plot has already been changed and rerouted during the rewrite, but it might get tweaked again. Sometimes I’ll decide a scene needs a change of POV because, for example, Jazz would see things Shane would not or vice versa. I’ve moved whole scenes from one location to another, swapped paragraph order or even substituted characters that weren’t in the original scene.

I pay particular attention to the voice of the characters at this point. And not just the characters who are speaking dialog, but the POV character’s narrative voice. There’s no reason to have more than one POV if they all sound as if they think alike.

Sometimes I cut whole scenes or pare a scene down to a few sentences in another scene. Nothing is sacred, although it is sometimes painful to kill my darlings.

Gates

A common mistake I find in my writing is I don’t have enough turning points. Many of my chapters miss that moment of no return as I get caught up in description and dialogue and just forget that the plot needs to move forward. I catch that on rewrite, putting in a realization or an action that can’t be undone. These sorts of “gates” inevitably lead to more conflict, which makes everything interesting.

Currently, I am editing “Gathering In”, the 5th book in the Transformation Project series. Of course sentences will be edited out and dialog trimmed, but there’s one fairly large part that is currently highlighted. It won’t be cut entirely because I think there’s some important character development in there that touches on future scenes, but it’s a little heavy-handed so it’s getting a major rewrite even in the third draft.

It’s a scene between the two brothers – Cai and Shane. Although I don’t write to a Christian audience, I do always want to present elements of my faith. Cai is a born-again Christian who makes mistakes. He recently had to kill a man because that man was a slaver (it’s an apocalyptic, right?) He’s torn up by this and seeks advice from his brother Shane who is not a Christian and is a mercenary with a lot of blood on his hands. Inevitably, the conversation will turn to faith because it’s a conflict between these two men. It’s a friendly conflict. Shane isn’t hostile toward his family’s beliefs, he just doesn’t accept them. Cai can get a little obnoxious (from Shane’s POV) but he means well. He believes Shane’s life would be better if he were a believer.

But the conversation is too long and too heavy-handed and so it’ll get pared – not deleted, just cut down to a few words and phrases so that Cai makes his points and Shane can reject them (or not) and move on. I can’t cut the scene entirely because it’s a healing scene for Cai and I can’t cut the conversation completely because there’s something Cai says in this section of the scene that is pivotal for events in the next book and rather than trying to explain what happened off-scene, I prefer to show it.

Yes, all that editing is a lot of work, but it is oh-so necessary. I spend at least as much time editing as I do writing the first draft. It’s a painful, but rewarding process as I hammer out scenes that I feel I can be proud of. I never send a draft to betas or editors that looks much like my first draft. I’m never sharing that draft with anyone (which is why I have no outtakes for this blog post). I would never knowingly dump a lousy draft on an editor. I want my book, whatever it is, to be as good as I can make it on my own before I let anyone else read it, especially before I pay anyone else to read it.


Posted September 16, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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