• Who We Are

  • Schedule

    Mondays ~
    Tuesdays ~ Snarky
    Wednesdays ~ Dreamer
    Thursdays ~ Naughty
    Fridays ~ Dreary
    Saturdays ~
    Sundays ~

    Whenever ~ Smokey, Mighty, Eerie and Wicked

  • Wicked’s Tweets

  • Snarky’s Tweets

  • Dreamer’s Tweets

  • Eerie’s Tweets

  • Mighty’s Tweets

When Setting Comes Alive

Everyone can probably recall a book where the setting came alive for them, when the setting moves beyond words on a page and becomes its own three dimensional character. Old Man and the Sea is the first to jump into my mind.

Recently, I attended a workshop by Erin Quinn where she taught how to bring setting alive through characters. It was one of my favorite classes, possibly because it is an area I have been focusing on lately.

One exercise she demonstrated for us, involved describing a beach. She showed a picture of a beach scene from a balcony. Below the picture was a description of a beautiful beach on the morning of a wedding. Bliss and hope rang through each sentence. The next picture of the same beach had a completely different description below. It haunted us with scavengers and lost chances. It was the exact beach. And while some of the word choices were the same, many of the verbs differed and evoked strong emotion.

As we look through our characters’ eyes, the picture changes. We need to step away from the omniscient point of view and come in closer, bringing life and emotion to our surroundings, to describe the scene as only our character could capture it.

In considering an example, I’m chose the Hunger Games trilogy (because it is currently well known). We learn in book one, from Katniss’s POV how opulent the victors’ homes are. It is something Katniss and her family could never dream of moving into on their own. But when Effie arrives in book two, how would she describe them? If you watch the movie, Catching Fire, the disgust on her face is obvious.

My current work in progress is a rotating third person POV. So I constantly have to ask myself: is this my description (as the omniscient author) or is it how my character would describe it?

Below is a picture of a house. One exercise Erin Quinn had us try was to describe this house from different characters POV. You can use your own characters in your current work in progress or try some of these out: a Russian sleeper spy, a rich reality star, and a homeless man. Watch  your setting evolve, as you evoke emotion through the a character’s point of view.

house

On writing Fast

Near the end of last week’s blog post, I alluded to the fact that you should be writing 1000 words an hour, and I stand behind that number. In fact, I double it, fold my arms, and stare you down into your side of the room because of my moral superiority.

2000 words an hour? That’s right, and you could technically do more if you put your mind to it. Or don’t put your mind to it, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m a busy man. I work for a living, IT, which frequently involves off-hour work, on-call schedules, patching, and myriad of other things. 60 hour work weeks are pretty normal. I have a wife. I have children, with lots of homework each night. I enjoy playing video games. I have a couple of my favorite shows I can’t miss, you know—normal person stuff. I don’t have a lot of time for writing each day, so I have to make the most of what time I do have.

My daughter, 16, is also doing NaNoWriMo with me this year. On weekends when we finally have some time to write together, she comments that I type quickly.

I asked her how fast she typed. Being of a generation that doesn’t take typing classes in school, she had never figured it out, so I challenged her. We found an online typing test and we took the test at the same time. She was around 60 words a minute, I came in a little higher at 70, but for the sake of this argument, let’s stick with 60 wpm.

I told her 60 wpm means if you typed for a solid hour with no breaks, you could reach 3600 words.

I usually write in 45 minute sprints then take 15 minutes to get a drink, take a short walk, refocus my eyes and what not. (You should be taking breaks from the computer).

60 wpm times 45 minutes is 2700 words per hour. See? 2000 words an hour, easily.

“But Tom!” You say.

And I fold my arms even harder and glare at you.

I know, I know. It’s hard to write at one word per second for a solid hour. I get it. It’s not impossible though.

There are three major things I do to help:

1. Plan ahead. Do some outlining, even if it’s a single paragraph telling you what will happen to the character that chapter. Something so you know where you are going with your story when sit down. I personally outline more than that, usually 3 paragraphs per chapter, and I also read the outline each day before I sit down to write so I know where I’m going today.

2. Re-read what you wrote the day before. This is something new I’ve done recently. It gets you focused on where your immediate story has been, so your mind is in the zone for what you need to write right now.

Advanced tip: take notes on a separate piece of paper, note issues you have or anything you already know you want to change. When you start writing you’ll keep the revised notes in your head and you can write like you had already edited the previous day’s content.

3. Write non-stop. This is the tough part, I know, but it is possible. Remember when I said don’t put your mind to it? That’s one of the tricks here. Fix it all in editing phase. Treat your daily writing sprint like it’s NaNoWriMo. Spew the words down on the page, you can always fix it later.

So does this work all the time?

Of course not. But I can get over 1000 words an hour most days. 2000 a couple times a week. I’ve even hit 3800 one time when I was really ‘in the zone’.

I have days where each word is a struggle too, where I’m lucky to hit 200 words. I will blog about tricks to get yourself writing next week.

The point of all this rambling math was to put words per hour into perspective. We all type much faster than we need to because our brains rarely keep up with our fingers. It’s important to realize that, if you turn off your internal editor and just let your fingers do the typing, it’s quite possible to attain 2000 in an hour.

For now though, I should be writing because *ahem* I’m behind on my NaNoWriMo word count for the month.

NaNoWriMo & Infidelity

 

peeking

Since I bashed NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last week, it’s only fair to write a positive post.

First, a confession. Up until my first NaNoWriMo, I suffered from a crippling affliction that many authors share—story infidelity.

I’m ashamed to admit that my writing process would invariably unfold the same way. Initially, I’d be super excited about a book concept. For weeks, I’d do nothing but worldbuild. Then I’d develop my characters and their backstories to the point that they felt like real people. I’d even have conversations with them (it’s one of many traits shared by writers and the mentally ill).

After all this prep, I’d gleefully skip to my computer, sit down, and write. And write. And write. Until I got to the 40% mark in my book. At that point, I’d slam into a brick wall. Writing stopped being fun… It became work.

My characters would start to annoy me. They were no longer exciting and compelling. I knew exactly where they were going and I didn’t care if they got there any more.

Suddenly, I’d find any excuse not to write. There would be an irresistible need to watch videos of cats falling on toddlers for hours…

Then, a new book concept would come to me. It would be so much sexier than the first idea. It boasted that it was a best-seller and spoke in an thick european accent that sent goosebumps across my skin.

I’d try to resist.

I must finish the first book, I’d tell myself. So what if sitting down to write it is as fun as getting a root canal. How can I be an author if I don’t finish this book?

But the characters from the second book would invade my dreams. They’d whisper their backstories to me while I was working on scenes from my first book. They’d flash me an enticing glimpse of their world. Soon, I’d fantasize about them and their exciting story arcs.

Not too long after that, I’d give into temptation. I’d shelve the first book and start worldbuilding the new story.

Rinse and repeat.

By the time I accepted my first NaNoWriMo challenge, my hard drive was filled with dozens of partially written manuscripts.

NaNoWriMo changed all that.

The rules of NaNoWriMo are simple. You must write 50,000 words in a novel or fail.

So that November, I sat my butt down in the chair and wrote. As anticipated, a brand new story idea started whispering seductively in my ear in mid-November. But this time, I couldn’t afford to be distracted. I refused to answer the phone. I ignored it’s texts. And when it invaded my dreams, I jotted down a few notes, and told it I’d get back to it later. Then I re-focused and kept writing.

Something really strange happened after I did that.

The story I was writing became interesting again. The magic and excitement swung back like a boomerang. And I finished.

Even though that NaNoWriMo novel may never see the light of day (see my earlier post), I finally learned how to write through the temptation. I was able to finished the next book. And the next.

NaNoWriMo cured me of my story infidelity and I’ll be forever grateful.

For a laugh check out Chuck Wendig’s blog for some off color NaNoWriMo tips (staying faithful to the story is number #9 on his list).

If you have time, check out my blog post on my recent interaction with an angsty fox.

 

A Life of Editing

Some people love their first-draft. Others hate it. Some people live for their second-draft, where they can sprinkle in all the “good” stuff (now that the foundation is done).

I’m definitely a first-draft kind of girl. I love the excitement of creating characters and a world, of putting the things in my head down on paper. It’s like falling in love, where the object of my affection can do no wrong.

Editing is when reality sets in. Where my perfect story transforms into a flaw-riddled disappointment.

Unfortunately, right now, I’m working on my billionth draft of my current novel. The ulcer-inducing editing process that involves tearing apart sentences, paragraphs, and chapters that I’d once loved.

I had my “finished” book in my hands a couple months ago and sent it off to some of the members in my writing group. Since then, I’ve been waiting, feeling like I’m sitting on a giant ant pile, working on blurbs and book covers, along with the next book in this series. Just waiting.

Every writer (I think) secretly hopes they’re going to send their book off and get shining, sincere reviews. But the reality is, there is always more work to do. For me, I will be combing through these four edits, and then sending it off to a line editor. Then, and only then, I think I’ll finally be able to say I’m done.

And, of course, the truly scary part starts after that, when I’ll get reviews from people who may or may not like “my baby.”

Indie or Not?

The publishing market today is in a constant state of flux. Things are changing fast, and it can be difficult to keep up.

I recently attended a panel discussion, at the Desert Rose Romance Writers’ Conference, on the different options with publishing. There were six different authors and six different opinions. I thought I would share some of the pros and cons each author mentioned to help others, like myself, navigate this intricate world of publishing.

 

Virginia Nelson

She traditionally published in the past, and with three contracts in her hand decided to self publish.

Advantages: She wanted control over her product.

Disadvantages: She had a lot of research to do on self publishing. She had to initially pay out for her covers, editing and formatting, and self promotion was all on her shoulders.

Vijaya Schartz

She has published several books with small press.

Advantages: They will pay for your editors and bookcovers. Bigger royalties than larger publishing firms.

Disadvantes: No promotion or marketing. No advances.

Advice: Do not put all your eggs in one basket. Small publishers may close their doors. Do not put all your books with one publisher. (Those with a larger publishing firms agreed with this as well.)

Shelly Coriell

Shelly is an award winning author who published her young adult series with Amulet (a bigger New York publisher). She also has an adult suspense series with a different large publishing company.

Advantages: Book advances. Book tours (for her personally, not everyone). They cover all promotion. Great cover art. Three to five different editors to help perfect manuscript.

Disadvantages: No control of tour schedules. Smaller royalties because of advances. Not as much of control of book.

Advice: She was a big proponent of traditional publishing. But she does have a more personal novel that she plans to self publish so that she can have more control.

Erin Quinn

Traditional publishing for over twenty years with some independent publishing as well.

Advantages: Simon and Schuster is her publisher, and she loves their quality editing. Large publishing houses have great marketing as well.

Advice: She does publish novellas independently to supplement her other income.

Jennifer Ashley

She is a New York Times Best Selling author who has been traditionally published since 2002 and began self publishing as well in 2011. Berkley is her current publisher.

Advantages: One of the biggest advantages she discussed was that large publishing houses are able to make the back end deals no one else can. If you want your books in Costco, Walmart, Target, etc. You have to have a large publishing house to sell your books.

Disadvantages: You don’t have as much control of your book with a larger publishing company.

Advice: “Nothing sells your book like your next book” and “Your newsletter is gold.”

 

One piece of advice that several of them gave, was if you choose to go the indie route make your book the best you can. You may want to submit to agents to get feedback even if publishing yourself. Overall, self promotion and lack of professional editors seemed to be the biggest challenge to self publishing. While, lack of control was the biggest disadvantage to tradition publishing.

I hope this helps some of the newer writers out there, or those thinking of making a switch. We have of variety of publishing methods at the swamp and often discuss upcoming trends and issues. Whatever route you choose, do your research and keep asking questions.

I ain’t got no time for cupcakes!

I’ve written two books for NaNoWriMo. Both were ‘wins’ in the NaNo World. I hit 50K words during the month of November, but neither will ever see the light of day.

I love NaNoWriMo because it gave me a win. As a new writer, still wondering if writing was something I could even do, I needed a win. I needed to accomplish…something…but I knew that I wasn’t going to write a best-seller on my first go-round, or second or even third. I needed a goal. Something to shoot for. NaNoWriMo gave me that goal.

I went into them knowing fully well they were practice books. Little foothills on the climb up the slope. Try/fail cycles if you will. I needed to tell myself that yes, I can sit down, start a story, and finish it. I can see a character or two through a journey. Yes it will suck and no, my wife can’t read them because I’m too embarrassed, but they accomplished the intended purpose that I had laid out for them.

So what about this NaNoWriMo? Being my fifth book I’m still dubious that it will be publishable, but I can see a vast improvement in my own writing over the last four to five years. This might be the one, or the next one might be the one. I don’t know, and I don’t much care right now. I do know that I don’t need the ‘win’ like I did in years past, but I still like this time because it’s my ‘winning’ time. It’s become somewhat of a tradition. It also helps that this year I planned on writing a 50K word book…coincidence? I also outlined a ton, more than I’ve ever done before…but more on that next week.

Some things I keep in mind while doing NaNoWriMo:

First off, realize that this month of furious writing is really just a fun way for a bunch of people to get together and get their Great American Novel written. That’s it. Don’t read into it too much. It’s fun.

It’s a tool, one of many, to help schedule your time and focus your energy. Talk to your loved ones, explain your goals and that, even though you might be missing a lot during this time, you’ll be back in December and life will get back to…more normal.

Write. This, obviously, is important. You carved out that time, you’re missing your loved ones, do them proud by actually completing the project. No wasting time on the internet, playing games, etc. Write. Turn off the damned WiFi if you have to.

Don’t edit. Bar yourself from fixing misspelled words if you have to. Yes, to that extreme. I see you hitting backspace to fix that word! Don’t do it!

Your goal is to finish the book. Not fix words or ‘tweak’ anything. This is a chance to actually complete a book. So complete it.

You will have to edit, probably edit a bunch, but you will edit in December and January. Embrace that and be okay with the fact that you might actually say “I don’t know what to put here.” Into your text. Seriously, type that over and over so you don’t break your rhythm. I have done that. It’s amazing what your mind comes up with after writing that line four or five times.

But most of all, have fun. Enjoy it. Relish in the lack of sleep for a month as you pound out 1000 words an hour…You are writing a thousand words an hour aren’t you? Alright mister, time to take the backspace key off your keyboard…

NaNoWriMo And Cupcakes

Cupcakes

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is like baking cupcakes. If you don’t have a recipe (outline), or the right ingredients (craft), you can bake yourself fifty thousand of those suckers and they’re all going to taste like crap.

I know this from painful experience. During my first NaNoWriMo, I was swept away. I couldn’t stop the intense writing. The holidays couldn’t derail my passion. I spent every free moment glued to my computer. I kept writing and writing until the beginning of April when I finally wrote those magical words—the end.

I celebrated for a week. The chocolate and wine flowed freely. Then, I took a deep breath and started the editing process. I imagined this would be a bit like decorating cupcakes. Just add a sprinkling of commas and a few descriptive words and I’d be ready to send my gorgeous book baby off to meet the world. Quivering with excitement, I started back on the first prologue (of course my book had several prologues). By the time I got to the end of chapter five, I wanted to puke.

I couldn’t even make it through to the epilogues (of course I had several of those too). Tears prickling in my eyes, I had to face the painful truth that I’d just spend six months of my life writing 300,000 words of pure unadulterated sewage. All those hours of sleep I’d scarified. All that family time I’d missed. All those books I could have been reading. All those TV shows I could have been watching.

And for what? A train wreck of a book that belonged in the bottom of a file drawer for all eternity.

Ouch.

Many writing classes, conferences, workshops, books, and critique groups later I’ve come to the realization that without direction and skill drumming out words on a keyboard is about as productive as having deep conversations with a goldfish.

I don’t want to give NaNoWriMo a bad rap. It can help you learn self-discipline. That’s a critical skill to master for any successful writer. However, it will not teach you how to write well. And quality will always win over quantity (for both books and cupcakes).

So I will bow out of NaNoWriMo this year and focus on improving the quality of my writing. What about you? What has been your experience with NaNoWriMo?

If you have time, check out my blog post on happy endings: http://tararane.com/2014/11/13/happy-endings/

It Takes a Village to Raise a Novel, and Add Some Evil Dwarves for Spice.

This weekend I attended the Desert Rose RWA writers’ workshop for the second time. I connected with old friends and created some possible new ones. I drank up all the advice—and collected the free swag— from experienced and successful authors in the business. On my drive back, one notion hit home with me: that as isolated as writing may be, a book is not a lone effort. We have beta readers, critique groups, agents, editors, cover artists, and publishers.

I pulled up The Catching Fire series to prove my point. On her acknowledgement page, Suzanne Collins lists:

Three editors

Five writing friends

Four agents/artists

Eighteen people from Scholastic Publishing

 

Nothing can replace the solitary effort of sitting your butt in front of the keyboard and writing. But it is amazing for me to see the collaborative effort and friendships that grow as we trudge through our novels. So whether you have evil dwarves or a patient friend, make sure you thank your pit crew. I know I’d be lost without mine.

The Hobbit.

Greetings Earthlings!

I’m Tom Hansen. I’m the Dreary Dwarf and rather new here.

As an introduction of you to me and me to the blog, I wanted to share a thought about The Hobbit.

This is my third or fourth time reading the book and yes, I’m doing it mainly to get pumped up for the third movie coming out December 17th. (The trailer was just released yesterday.)

This time, I’m listening to the Hobbit rather than reading, and I’m learning a lot more about the world and the characters than I did the last few times I read it.

I attribute this mostly to my speed-reading habit. Epic Fantasy is my go-to genre for book reading and, because of their length, I’ve fallen into a habit of skimming certain parts when it’s just world building, or a long conversation.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my epic fantasy book, particularly when they’re pushing those of epic proportions (cough Brandon Sanderson/Patrick Rothfuss/George RR Martin) but because of their length I find myself skimming sometimes.

Listening to the books forces me to slow down and I pick up things I didn’t before. I fully plan on picking up the Lord of the Rings trilogy in audio following this. After that we will have to see.

Who here has read/listened to the same book? Which do you prefer?

My First Time…

Greetings. My name is Tara Rane, and I’m an author living in the Southwest. I have a hubby who worships Apple, a spirited toddler with a death wish, a hairless dog, a cat who wears diapers, and a fish with attitude. I write dark urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Since I’m baring my soul, I have a confession to make. This is my first time blogging. Ever.

Up to this point, I’ve managed to avoid social media like the bubonic plague. But when my mother is the one lecturing me about internet presence (cue the theme song from the Twilight Zone), I know it’s time to join the 21st century.

Of course, if I’d lived a hundred years ago, I probably would have grumbled, “We don’t need no stinking automobiles. We have perfectly good horses.” Then I would have sashayed my corset-wearing self into the outhouse to pout in the dark (because indoor plumbing and electricity were the devil’s magic).
horse-carriage-406809_640
Being a technophobe growing up in the 80’s and 90’s meant that I fought the upgrade from my Apple IIc like a honey badger on crack. My desk drawers are still filled with floppy discs that, hopefully, I’ll be able to access again. Someday.

Embarrassingly enough, I still have a tape deck in my car. And the tapes to go along with it. It’s a fabulous anti-theft device, by the way. Thieves will actually stick their business cards in my windshield offering me a good deal on a better stereo system.

It took my hubby (a technophile) holding me down and prying the flip phone out of my white-knuckled grip and replacing it with a smart phone to get me to upgrade. He has gotten wise to my Amish ways, and often sneaks in computer updates and new technology at night while I’m asleep. It figures I’d marry an IT guy. *Sigh*

A funny thing happens once I get accustom to the change. I find there’s no going back. Right now, I’d rip out the jugular of anyone who dared try to separate me from my newfangled devices. And such will be the way with blogging.
Since I’m new to this bright and shiny world of blogging, I’d love hearing from you. What do you like and dislike seeing in blogs?

And if you have a chance, check out my first blog on my website. There I explain why I use ‘Death is the beginning’ as my tagline.

 

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