Tag Archive | inspiration

Quotes to Write By Revisited

While scrolling through my Quora Digest feed, I noticed this question:

As fiction writers, how do you get past the common feeling of “This is awful” when you start to write?

Marshall Karp provides a great answer with a hilarious story that frames the difference between having a pessimistic outlook on life or an optimistic one. 🙂

Well, I’m in the process of starting one of those first drafts. To help decrease the amount of manure, I created a simple outline using this structure for chapters and/or scenes:

Opposing character:

Disastrous ending of the scene (that answers the scene question):

POV character:

Character’s immediate goal:

Scene Question (can be answered with a yes or no?):

When my husband asked me how many words I was shooting for, I wasn’t sure. I’m still not sure. I’d like to finish it within 30,000 words, but that’s just an estimate. For the most part, I think that the word count doesn’t matter (at this time) as long as I tell the story and tell it well.

Using the outline above, I was able to complete the first chapter within an hour. Needless to say, this doesn’t mean I won’t return to it for revisions. Nothing is written in stone. I’m just happy that I jumped that hurdle.

Karp provides a great quote toward the end of his answer, which I had to use here:

Anne Lamott_Quotes to write by

Happy drafting!

Advertisements

Dear WordPress Followers, Thank YOU!

When I first started this blog I didn’t really know what I was getting into. My intention was to encourage myself to write more, connect with other writers and readers, and build a platform for my “brand”.

Gaining followers that not only shared interactions with me, but also inspired me with their own writing, which is just icing on the cake!

Thank you one and all!

 

The War of the Genres and Why Fantasy Writing isn’t for Everyone! (I Feel Your Pain, George R.R. Martin)!

I love reading all kinds of genres. Whether it be poems, song lyrics, autobiographies, recipes, etc. I’m not a picky reader. In this post, I’ll discuss something few talk about.

The War of the Genres!

Publish America and the Hasty Generalization That Pissed Off the Science Fiction and Fantasy Community

Almost twenty years ago, a company called PublishAmerica asserted SF/F authors, “have no clue about what it is to write real-life stories, and how to find them a home,” are “not ashamed to be seen as literary parasites and plagiarists,” and believe that their preferred genres liberate them from such concepts as “believable storylines” or “believable every-day characters.”

not-sure-if-i-should-be-laughing-or-thems-fightin-words

Needless to say, this feud started by PublishAmerica’s needless criticisms of the science fiction and fantasy world didn’t end well for the company. Don’t they know this rule: when reputation is on the line NEVER, EVER go against a group of people that plays god for a living by weaving words into worlds.

Inconceivable_Princess Bride

A group of renowned authors got together and created a sting operation to show the world that PublishAmerica was indeed (at worst) a scam and (at best) a vanity press swindling naive writers out of their money while pretending to be a traditional publisher. They created an unpublishable and unreadable book called, “Atlanta Nights”. PublishAmerica being who PublishAmerica was or is (hey, is this company even around anymore?) published the book. You can read more about all of those juicy bits here.

On a personal note, I had almost fallen for the PublishAmerica scam. At that time, I may have been a teenager, but I sensed a disturbance in the force and stayed away. 🙂

I find it interesting that the way the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre has flowed in so many amazing directions that the hate would go away. Unfortunately, someone had posted this question on Quora: “What are the fatal flaws in writing fantasy?”

The responder, (whose name I won’t post) has his own opinions that for the most part I don’t agree with, but this gem . . . oh boy, this gem I found to be so untrue:

Fantasy for many writers is just a decoration. They don’t really need anything “fantastic” in their story, but they like it. It’s easier to write fantasy because it doesn’t really take that much research and you can explain a lot of things by how “this world is made”.

First of all, in order for fantasy writing to work, there needs to be the spirit of realism that not only breathes life into the author’s fantastically amazing world (setting), but also connects the reader so that the reader can then make connections. Second, fantasy does indeed take a heck of a lot of research. For instance, let’s say that your main character is a farm girl, and you, the darling author, know nothing about this profession. Well, you better start researching on agriculture. How are crops irrigated? What crops does your main character grow? You know, simple stuff like that to infuse realism into the story. Now, let’s say that your main character farm girl needs to travel for miles to reach the next plot point — how long will it take? How many hours are even in a day of this fantastical and fictitious world? Is she using a horse? Traveling by boat? How many miles? What, we don’t use miles in this world? Well, what are they even EQUIVALENT to?Oh Lord — bring forth the calculator!

We Need to Use . . . MATH

Here are some basic questions most fantasy writers know to ask themselves when planning their worlds:

GEOGRAPHY

  • Do you know the general layout of your world? Do you have some sort of loose map of it in your head? Where do different places lie in relation to others?
  • How does the location of different landmarks and countries influence their trade?
  • How does the climate and terrain differ in different regions of your world?
  • What are the weather patterns like? Are certain locations more vulnerable to certain elements of nature?
  • What plants grow in which areas? Do any of them have any special properties?
  • What wildlife is common in which areas?

NAMES

  • Are your names based upon certain cultures?
  • Do they translate to something?
  • Does the name fit the world and cultures you’ve built into it, or will it your reader find it jarring?

MILITARY

  • How are troops obtained? Through conscription or voluntary enlistment?
  • Who are the country’s allies? Why are they allied with them? Are the allies happy with the arrangement?
  • Is the country at war, or close to it? Why? With who?
  • What are the key military fighting techniques?
  • Are there any noteworthy weapons or transports?
  • What branch of the military excels? Do they have a particularly strong army, navy, etc.?
  • What about previous wars, alliances, and treaties? What prompted them? How did they influence interacting cultures, countries, and warfare?

EDUCATION

  • Is there any sort of public education, or is schooling reserved for the wealthy?
  • How about books? Do “peasants” and the middle-class have access to them, or are they solely in libraries– at schools and in wealthy estates?
  • Is it common to know how to read?
  • What are the basic tasks and facts people learn as children? Does it differ between genders? How about between social classes?
  • Are studies valued, or looked down upon culturally (generally speaking)?

GOVERNMENT

  • Is the government a monarchy? A democracy? A republic?
  • Who are some past noteworthy rulers or government officials? Who do the citizens remember now? And why are they remembered?
  • Is there an essential governing document (like the U.S.’s Constitution)?
  • Is it largely a patriarchal or matriarchal society? Or does it attempt equality?
  • What’s the currency?
  • How is incarceration determined? Is there any sort of court system?
  • What about capital punishment? Are people regularly executed– and what are the capital crimes? How about the method of execution?
  • What are the most important laws of the land? What laws are particularly unique to your world?

RELIGION

  • Related to the above topic of government, does religion have a place in the government or is there a separation between the two entities?
  • Are religious practices mandated by the state? Do those who don’t comply– or those who have a different belief system– face persecution?
  • What do people believe in this religion? What myths surround it?
  • Is the religion monotheistic? Polytheistic?
  • Are there holy texts? Scriptures?
  • What practices or services do worshippers attend? What’s entailed in them?
  • Who are the religious officials?
  • Are there particular holy days to note?

CULTURE

  • What denotes status in this world?
  • How does courting work?
  • What traditions are there surrounding life milestones (birthdays, weddings, births, deaths…)?
  • Are there particular superstitions?
  • What are the fashions like? The trends? What influences (modesty, climate, status) does it have?
  • What’s the architecture like?
  • What’s the food and drink like?
  • Are there any special festivals that people attend?
  • What are the typical gathering places for inhabitants of the world when they have spare time?

And that’s just scratching the surface! Click on this link (information provided by SFWA — Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) to see how deeper one can go when they’re seriously planning their fantasy world. The above questions were provided by Jennifer Elision.

Here’s a diagram of what we readers experience as we (automatically — this skill sometimes has to be taught to young readers) interact with the text:

Connections Readers Make to Text

Text to Self=connection between yourself and the book you’re reading. Text to Text= connecting characters, setting, or events from one book to another. Text to World= connecting the story to world history and events.

Most importantly, these three connections keep readers engaged from the beginning to the ending of a good book.

The Tortoise and the Hare

tortoise-hare-1

When you were little, you may have heard this fable and learned that the moral to the story is “slow and steady wins the race”, but I’m going to have to go with what Jacob Davenport deduced instead:

Success depends on using your talents, not just having them.

And when it comes to being slow, I mean reeeeeaaaaallllllyyyyy slow, three incredibly talented and fantastic authors come to mind and they’re making their fans lose their minds:

jim butcher

patrick rothfuss

george rr martin

My husband introduced me to Jim Butcher and Patrick Rothfuss. My oldest brother introduced me to George R.R. Martin. These three amigos are talented authors and I hope to meet them someday at conventions. Not to bask in their glory, but to soak up their great literary wizardry through osmosis.

But I digress. Apologies.

The simplest conclusion one could come to is that authors like Butcher, Rothfuss, and Martin aren’t doing their jobs because books are taking too long to “come out”. But again, like I said, it’s the simplest conclusion that doesn’t take much thought or consideration for the fact that these authors are also people with lives other than their books. Lives that include families, hobbies, and other personal attributes that may get in the way of their writing. In one interview, Rothfuss mentioned that he hadn’t finished the third book in the KingKiller Chronicles because he had to deconstruct it first. He also expressed that he wanted it to be just right. You know, he cares about impressing his fans.

Jim Butcher has endured a lot lately: divorce, death of his beloved dog, and I’m sure a lot more that the public doesn’t need to know about.

Nevertheless, some George R.R. Martin fans be like: “Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie, return to your Cave of Ordeals and complete the final book and kill off another beloved character so that we may cry!”

George be like:

george rr martin gives impatient fans the finger

Binders Full of Research

I’m reading 5000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox. The first day, I was able to crank out 1,964 words. I noticed that if I had all of my plans more detailed I could have written more. But every once in a while, I had to flip back to my notes, maps, character goals, fears, and so forth . . . or sometimes, I was quite naughty and chose to just keep writing even though I knew I’d have to go back and fix those wobbly bits during revision time.

Fantasy writers have so much to keep track of! In an interview, George R.R. Martin explained that he’s unable to write while he’s traveling to conventions and attending other meetings. He feels most comfortable at his home where he can easily access his notes.

I get it! Oh, do I get it and I empathize with both the readers that want the next book in the series, but I also understand how writers feel about the book being “just so”. After all, we are creating worlds from scratch. Now, I don’t personally know about other fantasy writers (besides those who have based their works off of medieval Europe), but I often base my worlds off of historical and current events that I find interesting. I even look to the geography and customs of real-life cultures and languages for inspiration. Not only am I learning more about the world I live in, but I’m able to create great plot twists and character sketches based off of historical places and people. Now, just because I may think that fantasy writers have it harder than a strictly mainstream fiction writer doesn’t mean that I have to demonize said mainstream fiction writers in order to lift up or edify the trials and tribulations of the fantasy genre. Unfortunately, writers of different genres sometimes treat one another poorly (even writers that belong in the same genre group — read about the sad puppies and rabid puppies to get an idea of what has happened and is still happening in the Science Fiction and Fantasy community).

“My Genre Brings All the Readers to the Checkout”

In Kelise’s Hip Hop R&B song, Milkshake she sings in a taunting and sensuous voice, “my milk shake brings all the boys to the yard and they’re like, ‘it’s better than yours’. Damn right, it’s better than yours. I can teach you, but I have to charge.” If the word milkshake is metaphorical for sex appeal, then when it comes to writers and their “literary appeal” it’s all about how well we craft words (and often worlds) in order to keep our readers spellbound page by page. There are so many different flavors of books! When I teach genre writing, I often compare the different genres to actual tastes. It’s like Baskin Robbins with all of those glorious 31 flavors. In other words, horror doesn’t have the same flavor to me as a space opera. Don’t ask me why, but horror stories have a medium-rare cheeseburger-ish quality to me while space operas make me think of popcorn and grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh, and a side of pickles. Can’t forget the pickles.

darth_pickle_by_star_wars_fan_club

See, I’m not the only one.

kwei quartey_author

Kwei Quartey

baskin robbins flavors

Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors. Gimme! Gimme them all!

 

 

 

 

Even when you’ve read a mystery novel, one book differs from another. Obviously because they’re written by two different people.

charlain harris_author

Charlaine Harris

For example, The Julius House, by Charlaine Harris in comparison to Kwei Quartey’s Wife of the Gods are worlds apart — not necessarily because one is a Caucasian-American woman and the other is an African man (he was born in Ghana) will be exceptionally different. Most importantly due to the settings. Quartey’s crime novel takes place in Ghana while Harris’ cozy mystery takes place in Georgia. Sometimes the settings of any good book (regardless of genre) becomes a character all on its own.

Now, back to the main debate. Critics of genre fiction, more specifically Science Fiction and Fantasy, believe that literary fiction is better because readers get a sense of “accomplishment” and “fulfillment” when they finish reading a book by authors like Haruki Murakami or Zadie Smith. While on the other hand, Science Fiction and Fantasy books are solely meant for escapism and entertainment.

grumpy cat disagrees

Yes, Science Fiction and Fantasy stories can also be a commentary on society and a way of seeing the world and understanding it. Not escaping.

lloyd-alexander-quote-fantasy

A fantastic example of an author writing stories that transcended this Tolkien idea of fantasy as a “glorious escape” is two-time Hugo Award Winner, N.K. Jemisin Her novel, The Fifth Season left me crying — not only because I wanted to read more — but because the book was so emotionally gripping! Before the first book in the Broken Earth trilogy even begins, Jemisin dedicates the book like this:

“For all those that have to fight for the respect that everyone else is given without question.”

Chills. 

As I’ve said before it’s unnecessary to denigrate one group in order to protect and uplift another. We don’t need to demonize one to uplift the other. Whether you like Genre fiction or Literary fiction there’s plenty of room for both. 🙂 Or even better . . . a hybrid of the two.

nk jemisin

N.K. Jemisin

the_fifth_season_by_n_k_jemisin

Goal: At Least 50 REJECTIONS a YEAR? No Problem, Let’s Go Crazy!

Typically, rejection doesn’t hold a positive connotation. And why would it?

Rejection is painful.

When I was much younger writer, I often didn’t bother submitting my work because I didn’t think it would be accepted. Plenty of times while writing a query letter or a cover letter, the part that always froze me up was when I had to list previous publishing credentials. I was a teenager and feared that the writing contest I won as a seven-year-old would be laughed at or the poems and short stories I had published in the school newspaper were worthless. I didn’t know that not including any accolades was . . . okay.

This defeatist way of thinking ultimately trapped me in a fixed mindset.

I didn’t allow myself to be comforted with the fact that “sometimes, you’ve got to start from nowhere to get to somewhere” and “hey, you may not be there. Yet. You will get there if you don’t give up.”

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset — Your mindset can vary from interest to interest and from day to day. Simply being aware of your mindset is half the battle.

That three-letter-word “yet” holds as much power as the two-letter-word “if”.

Also, I was unaware of problematic issues within the publishing world. For example, I didn’t know how systematically racist the publishing industry can be — especially when it comes to the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre. I feared rejection and ironically was surrendering to this practice by rejecting myself.

Self-rejection not only affected me, but it didn’t give others the opportunity to even take a chance on my work.

Thankfully, I know better and I choose to do better. For instance, I learned that magazines like Fireside aren’t only noticing that Black writers are vastly underrepresented in Science Fiction and Fantasy, but have actively taken a role in shedding light on this issue. The birth of FIYAH Literary Magazine was an answer to this problem and its staff didn’t need statistics to prove and add more weight to what most people of color already know: the stakes are often against us and these writers and editors bravely proclaim” . . . the future of genre is now. And the future ain’t going to write itself.” They too launched a survey and a report on Black Science Fiction and Fantasy writers. I look forward to learning more about these findings.

This year, I’m going to continue this new outlook focused on a Growth Mindset and my goal is to obtain at least 50 rejections (collectively) from agents, editors, and/or magazines by the end of the year.

Why? Well, the more I submit, the more likely I’ll be successful. 🙂 Likewise, one good sale is better than none!

And who knows, maybe I can play Rejection Bingo (originally found here — thank you,  Chris!) while listening to one of my favorite songs, Prince’s (may he rest in peace) “Let’s Go Crazy!”

prince_let's go crazy

image

 

 

 

10 Simple Rules for Writing That You MUST Follow!

A couple of days ago, I shared that exercise is one of the most important things one can do to stay healthy and if you’re a writer this is especially true! This “rule” or “tip” is one of ten that I learned from a fellow writer.

10 Rules for Writing

  1. Exercise daily!

  2. Mix with people of all ages and ethnicities. It’s good to be social AND making these new connections strengthens your ability to create and develop characters!

  3. TRAVEL! It’s fun to see people from all walks of life and while you visit new places you gain more ideas for fantastic stories.

  4. Enter writing contests! Why? Because you have the opportunity to expose your work to large groups of new readers and perhaps even obtain valuable feedback on your work.

  5. Subscribe to a newsletter that gives tips and advice on writer’s craft.

  6. NEVER throw away abandoned manuscripts that aren’t working. Why? You can always return to it and work them into a different kind of story. Romance? A series of short stories? Literary fiction? Why not? The possibilities are as endless as your imagination!

  7. Write Every Day! Oh yes. Every day!

  8. Subscribe to specialty newsletters and/or articles on genres that you’re not used to writing. For example, I do write speculative fiction, and I’ve considered writing romance (although I perceive the genre to be one of my weaknesses) so the more I learn, the better I can improve and use what the new knowledge I obtain to strengthen romantic scenes in the genre I already know). Wow — that was one heck of a run-on sentence, but it still makes logical sense, so . . . moving on! 😉

  9. Join a writer’s group or some kind of critique group that suits your needs!

  10. BELIEVE in yourself! Ignore the nay-saying negative haters!

 

Don’t Know About You, but I Need a Little Motivation.

Writer’s Digest just completed their judging for the Popular Fiction Awards and even though I considered I wouldn’t win first place, I thought I’d at least get an honorable mention. 😦

Nope. Nada. Nothing.

I’m bummed right now.

I don’t know what to do with this story. I’ve sent it to so many places and no one seems to want it. I hope it’s not because of the narrator. The Publishing Industry says they want diverse books, but maybe our definitions of diverse aren’t the same?

I don’t know.

I’ve read this story at my critique group. It’s been revised, edited, and oh how I mercilessly murdered all of those little darlings to make the story sparkle! Everyone who has read the story (no, not just my mum and husband) think it’s great. And no, I didn’t bribe them with tea and cookies. And no, I didn’t offer pie or chocolates. Honest.

So, what’s wrong with the story? I wish they had offered some feedback, but with over 850 entries that was impossible. Despite this setback, I hope I find this gem a home.

What’s really sad is that this is only the second day of the New Year and I just want to give up. What if my dreams never come true? What if I’m just a statistic? What if I’m just wasting my time? What if —

breathe

So, I searched for some inspirational quotes and found one that’s totally relatable:

Charles Spurgeon Quote about Pain

Well, I don’t want to be stuck in this Cave of Despair and Obscurity. 🙂 So, I’ll keep on going and take Naruto’s advice:

Naruto Believe It

2017 Year-End Reflection AND 10 Reasons Why I Plan on 2018 Being Even Better!

Soon, the year 2018 will roll on in. Looking back to all that I’ve accomplished, in spite of the struggle and medical hardships (yup, maybe I’ll share that someday), I can finally admit that I’m amazed and proud of myself.

Before I sat down to type this post, I had to think back on every single thing I did in order to own this feeling and not dismiss it. My mother and father raised me to always strive to be better. So, I blame them. Thank you, Mommy and Daddy. Thank you ever so much. Lol.

For most of you that know me on a more personal level, you know it’s hard for me to express such affirmations and truly, TRULY own them.

So, without further adieu, here are 10 Accomplishments in 2017 I’m MOST PROUD OF:

1. Attended various local author events at bookstores, libraries, and conventions.

2. Republished Forbidden as an e-book (now if only I can finish it up as a paperback)!

3. Independently published my first middle grade book (Waking Dream Series). Due to the fact that I struggle with marketing books like other Indie authors, I’ve decided that WHEN (not if) I become traditionally published, I’ll still put 100% into social media and marketing, but I hope that I’ll have more time to dedicate to writing. Being an Indie author is HARD! And yes, the stigma of independently publishing books is slowly disappearing it isn’t completely extinct!

indies what we are

Read more about Being an Indie Author here.

4. Celebrated my sons’ birthdays (17, 5, and 2).

5. Wedding Anniversary – 🙂

6. Submitted several manuscripts to agents and publishers! Sure, I received rejections! But if you don’t try, you won’t succeed!

7. Applied for artists grants.

8. Sold my FIRST PAID short story, “Bondye Bon” to FIYAH Literary Magazine. Learn more so you can purchase your copy in January here!

9. Created YouTube Channel that’s in need of some serious, serious attention! 😉

10. Connected with more bloggers, readers, writers, and friends all over the world!

With you and your stimulating social interactions, I’ve become a better writer!

Thank-you-word-cloud