bdhesse

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Month: March, 2015

In Defense of How-To Writing Books

It seems that a lot of the people I come across have very negative feelings towards how-to writing books. I can understand this to a degree: there is no right way to write, and there is no script to follow that will guarantee success. If you want to write for yourself and have no interest in publishing, then how-to writing books are likely not for you. But, if you do want to get published, then how-to writing books can be wonderful.

Personally, I’m a planner. When I decide to do something, I commit to it 100%. But I’m not willing to commit unless I know what to expect. When I was first thinking about writing to be published, I read a lot about what people had to say based on their experiences. Initially what I read was online. I also listened to writing excuses fairly regularly. I wanted to know what to expect so that I could gauge how I would deal with everything. I don’t like going into things blind. After I made the decision to write, I looked into picking up some how-to writing books. At first I focused on ones that talked about specific genres. This was because, as much as I’ve read a lot of books, I wanted to know what to expect in writing different types of books. I may not have learned how to write from these books, but that was never the point. What I did learn was what to expect people to expect. For example, I did not realise that, while most adult fiction is generally between 80,000-100,000 words in length, fantasy is generally between 100,000-120,000 words. I also didn’t realise that a lot of traditional publishers will reject an manuscript for being too long or too short without ever reading it. As such, word count actually matters to me. I also learned about sub-genres that I had never heard of before. Now that I have been writing for over a year, I don’t worry so much about those genre specific how-to writing books. Now I care more about ones that talk about building a writer’s platform, editing, and the publishing process. I have found a lot of great information from these books that have helped me along the way. Again, I don’t like to take chances. I want to know what to expect. I want to get published without having to do things the hard way. As such, these how-to books have helped a lot. They’ve made me feel more confident and they’ve made things far more clear.

For those of you who are fine with not knowing all the ins and outs, and who are fine with making a few mistakes along the way, it is fine to avoid using these how-to books. They don’t teach anything you can’t learn without them, they just make the learning quicker and easier. But if you are like me, especially if you have an anxiety disorder, I would definitely suggest checking out a few how-to writing books. They can help a lot.

How Do You Outline Your Story?

Or do you just pants it?

I follow a What? Why? And? And? So? And? So? But? And? But? Model.

What does your outlining look like?

The Boy in the Woods: Part 26

Michael and Bristol entered a small town while the others waited in a field outside. After the incident in the last town, they wanted to check this town out first.
“Do you think we can get food while we’re here?” Michael asked. “I’m hungry.”
“No,” Bristol replied. “First we need to see if this place is safe.” They walked slowly through the town, but they saw no one. “Is this place deserted?” Bristol asked as they walked by a row of what appeared to be abandoned houses. They got to the other end of town and looked at each other.
Michael shrugged. “Oh well,” he said. “I guess we could hunt tonight.” They began to walk back towards the other end of town.
As they neared the edge of town, they heard a high-pitched scream. They got through the last row of houses to see Oda, Bethany, Palesa, and Geoffrey running towards them. Following a short distance behind them was what appeared to be a dinosaur.
“What the hell?” Bristol cried.
“Over here!” Michael cried to their group.
The group headed towards Michael and Bristol as the monster continued to follow them.
“Are you insane?” Bristol cried. “Don’t attract that monster to us!”
“Get inside one of the houses,” Michael ordered. “Get into the basement.”
“What?” Bristol asked.
“Just do it!” Michael cried.
Bristol hurried off into the nearest house. Michael followed her towards the house, but stayed where his friends could see him.
After what seemed like ages, they finally reached Michael. “Get into that blue house, there,” he pointed as they approached him.
Bethany and Palesa ran ahead of Michael and into the house. Oda grabbed Michael and carried him into the house with him. Geoffrey was the last one to enter the house.
The group hurried into the basement in time to hear the monster slam into the side of the house.
They stopped when they saw an old couple huddled into the basement. Bristol looked as though she had been arguing with the man.
“No, no,” the man said as the monster slammed into the house. “Why did you bring him here? Don’t you know we’re all dead?”
“Why would we be dead?” Michael asked.
“That thing is going to kill us!” the old man hollered at Michael.
Oda glared at the man. “If you knew that monster was out there, why didn’t you deal with it rather than allowing it to torment innocent travellers?” he demanded.
“What was I going to do?” the old man asked. “I’m just an old man.”
“But you had a whole town behind you,” Oda replied. “Surely a hundred people can defeat one dinosaur.”
The man blinked up at Oda. “There was nothing we could do,” he replied. “The beast kept picking us off one at a time.”
“It’s called a plan, idiot!” Oda cried.
“That’s enough!” Bristol yelled at Oda. “Leave him alone.”
Oda glared at Bristol. “Why should I?” he demanded. “Now I have to clean up this idiot’s mess.”
“How?” Palesa asked. “How are we going to beat a dinosaur?”
Oda grinned. “I have my ways,” he said. He looked at Bristol. “At least, I do if you let me.”
Bristol sucked in some breath. “Fine,” she said. “I don’t seem to have any other choice.”
“I’ll help,” Michael relpied.
“Me too,” Geoffrey added.
“We’ll all help,” Bristol replied. “What’s our plan?”
“Michael and I are the brawn,” Oda said with a shrug. “We’ll fight the thing. But we need to get it away from the town first.”
“How?” Bethany demanded.
“I have an idea,” Bristol replied. “Palesa and Geoffrey can help me build something to get rid of the beast.” She turned to the old couple. “Do you happen to have any tools I can use for building? And any scraps that I can use?”
The old man nodded and pointed to a corner. “My tools are over there,” he said. “You’re welcome to use whatever you want if it will get rid of that monster.”
Bristol smiled at him. “Thank you,” she replied. “Come on,” she said to Geoffrey and Palesa. “Lets get to work.”
“What will I do?” Bethany asked.
Bristol looked over at her. “You’ll have to go with Oda and Michael,” she said. “You don’t have to fight, but get some medical supplies from this lady just in case they need it.”
Bethany looked over at the old lady.
“Upstairs,” the lady said. “First door on the right.”
Bethany hurried up the stairs to get the supplies. Bristol, Palesa, and Geoffrey followed close behind her.
“Now what?” Michael asked.
“Now we wait until it’s time to fight,” Oda said, laying down on the floor.

Questions for Writers

I found this list of questions here: http://writeitsideways.com/37-questions-new-writers-should-ask-themselves/. I thought I’d answer them.

  1. Why do I want to be published?
    I want to be published because I want to make writing my career. I don’t want to need to get a full time job that could take away from my writing. And I want a job that I can be passionate about.
  2. What type of writing will I to focus on?
    I don’t want to focus on a single genre, but I would write mostly fantasy and science fiction. However, I also want to write horror and thrillers, YA, and middle grade fiction.
  3. What expectations do I have for myself as a writer?
    I don’t have a whole lot of expectations. I suppose I expect to make enough to not need another job. I also expect to put in a lot of work.
  4. Are my expectations realistic?
    I hope so.
  5. What is my ultimate goal for my writing?
    I want to be known as a good writer (as opposed to simply a good story teller), so I want to write well. I also want my story telling to be strong. Basically, my ultimate goal for my writing is to be a great writer.
  6. What knowledge do I have about the publishing process?
    I’m still learning about the publishing process. I’ve read a lot about it, but I won’t feel fully comfortable in my knowledge until I’ve gotten a few books published.
  7. What areas of the publishing process do I need to research more?
    How to actually get an agent, and how to know I can trust them. I find that bit kind of scary.
  8. What time of day am I the most productive? Atabout6pm-2am.
  9. What kind of writing schedule will I keep?
    Being as my writing has to fit around my school work, I don’t actually have a schedule. When I’m done school, I’ll try to write from 9-11 pm every night.
  10. Which authors do I most admire, and why?
    Tamora Pierce and Mercedes Lackey because nobody writes female characters like they do.
  11. How would I describe my writer’s voice?
    This is a complicated question. I’m still playing with various writing styles, so I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
  12. What do I really know? How can I apply my real world knowledge and experience to my writing?
    I know who I am and what I’d do in a given situation, so I know what a realistic response is and is not. I know history, so I can write historical landscapes and events quite well. I know philosophy, so I’m good at coming up with interesting thought experiments for my stories. And, this is very important, I know how to use Google to learn what I don’t already know.
  13. What skills do I have that will help me move toward publication?
    My university training has made me an effective writer. I have always been good at creating stories. And I know where to look to learn how to get published.
  14. What skills do I lack that I must improve if I want to be published?
    Nobody really tells me what they don’t like about my writing, so this is a good question. I think I need to be better at describing things. I also need to get better at editing (I hate editing), and I need to get better at social media.
  15. What kind of professional development will I pursue?
    I’ve been trying to get short stories published in magazines, but I haven’t had any luck so far. I would like to take some writing classes and join a writing group, but not until I’m done school. I also want to start going to writing conventions, but I’ll need to be out of school for that too. Right now I’m just trying to get my social media skills improved.
  16. What roadblocks am I likely to face in my road to publication?
    Lack of connections, lack of experience, lack of knowledge leading to mistakes, difficulty finding an agent that will take me on.
  17. What is my contingency plan if I can’t get published?
    I’ll probably go the self-publishing route.
  18. How will I build a platform–for either fiction or non-fiction?
    Twitter, this blog, Facebook, attending conferences, writing guest posts at some point.
  19. What goals will I set for today? This week? This month? This year?
    For today? None (it’s already 11pm). This week I want to get back to editing my novel. This month is almost over, but next month I’d like to finish my second novel (yeah Camp NaNoWriMo). This year (beginning next month) I’d like to write four books, and I’d like to get at least one published.
  20. What am I doing to increase my exposure, even before I am published?
    Social media. Soon I will add attending conferences to that.
  21. How do I plan to maintain my motivation during the rough times?
    Taking breaks, setting a specific time aside, reading what other writers have to say about getting motivated.
  22. How will I deal with friends and family members who are not supportive of my writing?
    I don’t have any of those to worry about.
  23. How will I financially support myself (and my family, if applicable) while I pursue publication–and even afterward?
    I will get a part time job for a little while. Luckily my fiance is willing to pick up the slack until I find success.
  24. Where will I go for writing support–critique groups, forums, etc.?
    Writing books and blogs for now. And Writing Excuses. Eventually I will have a writing group for support. And of course my friends and family.
  25. What might I need to give up to make this all happen?
    Nothing important. A few creature comforts.
  26. Where will I/do I write, and is it the most effective place?
    Wherever I can. I find it easy to write wherever my computer is able to be set up.
  27. How do I plan to take care of myself physically and mentally during my writer’s journey?
    The same way I do now (writing and working part time will be easier than my life is now).
  28. Am I a plotter or a pantser, and is my current system working for me?
    I started as a pantser, but I’m becoming a plotter.
  29. Will I focus on gaining minor publishing credits first (short stories, poetry), or jump right into full-length books?
    I’ve been trying to publish short stories, but I may just focus on books from now on.
  30. Under what circumstances, if any, will I decide to give up?
    Writing or trying to get published? I can’t imagine any situation that would stop me from either, but I’d stop trying to get published long before I’d stop writing.
  31. Will I consider self-publishing?
    Only if I can’t get traditionally published.
  32. What feeling do I want readers to get from what I write?
    That depends on what I’m writing. I guess a sense of wonder and adventure.
  33. What are the most effective ways for me to get inspired?
    Reading.
  34. Will I write by hand or on a computer? Will I use a word processor or specialized writing software?
    Computer. And I’ll be using Libre Office for my writing.
  35. What are the biggest struggles I face in this journey, and how do I plan to overcome them?
    My anxiety disorder. With great difficulty.
  36. How can I make my writing more authentic, more genuine?
    Practice.
  37. Will I enter writing contests, or not bother?
    I have in the past, but I’m not sure I’ll do so in the future.

How would you answer these questions?

Camp NaNoWriMo

I’m going to try Camp NaNoWriMo this April (though I don’t know how successful I’ll be as classes end mid-April and then I have exams).

Who else is trying Camp NaNoWriMo? What are your goals? Have you done it before? Were you successful?

The Boy in the Woods: Part 25

A loud noise woke the group up. Michael looked around to see rocks crumbling to the ground from the cracking roof.
“The roof is going to collapse!” he cried.
Bethany screamed loudly.
“Come on,” Bristol and Oda said at the same time. “We need to get out of here,” Bristol finished.
They all ran out of the cave quickly. Once they were outside, they were able to see what had caused the damage.
Rain was standing on the ground looking up at them. She was holding a rocket launcher. “Give me the wishing stone or I will kill you,” she called to them.
“What’s in it for us?” Oda cried back.
“Seriously?” Bristol whispered to him.
“Never mind,” he replied. “Just keep her busy long enough for us to get out of here.”
Rain raised her eyebrow at Oda. “Your life isn’t enough for you?” she said.
Oda laughed. “You can’t do anything to me once I’m dead,” he replied. “And I’m not dumb enough to keep that stone anywhere you can find it without my help.”
Rain scowled and pointed the rocket launcher at him. “Tell me where the stone is,” she demanded.
As Oda and Rain bickered, the group slowly inched towards the woods. Rain ignored them.
“Why should I?” Oda said mockingly. “If I do, you’ll only kill me because I’m not needed anymore.”
Rain shrugged. “Have it your way,” she replied. She put down the rocket launcher and pulled out a pistol. She pointed it at Oda and began walking forward.
“Now!” Oda cried when she was half way between him and the rocket launcher.
The group ran into the woods quickly. Oda followed slightly behind them. They could hear Rain firing her weapon and swearing, but they got well into the woods before she could shoot anyone.
They continued running until they couldn’t hear Rain anymore.
“Now what?” Bristol asked.
“I want to go home!” Bethany cried. “Take me home!”
“And risk letting that psycho near your family?” Oda replied. “I don’t think so.”
Bethany blinked up at him through tear-filled eyes.
“Oda’s right,” Bristol replied. “We need to get rid of that woman and her crazy king before we can take you home.”
“What about me?” Geoffrey asked. “When can I go home?”
Bristol looked down at him sadly. “You can’t go home,” she said. “You’re too young to live on your own.”
“What about me?” Michael replied. “I’ve been living on my own for a while.”
“Neither of you will be living alone from now on,” Bristol replied.
“Then where will we live?” Geoffrey asked.
“I don’t know yet,” Bristol replied. “But we’ll figure something out.”
As they stood there talking, they could hear a motor coming close to them fast.
“Hide!” Oda cried.
They all began to run and dive behind trees and into bushes. But Rain had seen them and had started shooting at them before they could get fully hidden.
Michael grabbed a rock and jumped out from behind the bush he was hiding in. He threw the rock as hard as he could and hit the side of the plane. The rock went right through the metal, causing a hole to form. He picked up another rock and threw it too. It smashed into the wing, creating another hole. A third rock hit the plane’s engine. Rain had begun to fly away when the third rock hit. When it fell out of the sky, the plane was far away from the group. However, they could see a pillar of smoke making it’s way up to the sky.
“Why didn’t you do that sooner?” Oda cried.
Michael shrugged. “I didn’t know I could,” he replied.
Oda huffed.
“Come on,” Bristol cried. “We need to find a place we can get supplies. Then we need to get back to that town and stop that psycho king.”

I Fail at Twitter

I don’t really understand Twitter. I find it very clunky and inconvenient. Unfortunately, social media is oh so important if I want to get published.

For those of you who are good with the whole Twitter thing, do you have any tips on how to use Twitter effectively?

And, if anybody is wondering, this is where you can find me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hessian19

Would You Rather Self-Publish of Publish Traditionally?

I’m not going to write a whole lot here because my eyes are dilated and reading hurts, but I want to put this out there.

There is a major debate out there about the best way to publish. On the one hand, self-publishing gives the author a lot of freedom and allows the to publish faster. On the other hand, traditional publishing helps the author sell more books and makes it more likely that the author will become a household name. So which method would you use? And what’s your reasoning for preferring that method?

Personally, I want to go with traditional publishing. I have two reasons for wanting to go this route. First, I have an anxiety disorder. I’m not comfortable with the whole marketing my own book thing, and I’m not comfortable having to deal with all the people I’d have to deal with on my own. And second, I’m not very knowledgeable where business and marketing come in. I don’t have any training in it and I don’t have the time to learn the ropes. As such, if I went the self-publishing route it would take me just as long to publish because I’d need to learn those skills. Traditional publishing allows me to work with someone who has the skills that I don’t have, and it means that my primary job is writing. Yes, I’d still have to promote my book, but not to the anxiety-inducing degree that I would have to otherwise. Frankly, I don’t mind sharing my earnings if it makes my job easier (and keeps me sane).

What are the Sins of the Fantasy Genre?

By which I mean what is it that makes a fantasy novel badly written? Why is this the case? And who among the known authors has committed these sins?

The Boy in the Woods: Part 24

They set up camp once they thought they were a safe distance away from the house and Rain. They were able to find a fairly deep cave to stay hidden in.
“What now?” Michael asked as they sat together in the dark.
“I guess now is as good a time as any for us to get to know each other,” Bristol replied. “After all, it looks like we may be stuck together for a while.”
Oda snorted. “As if I care who any of you are,” he said. “I wouldn’t even be here if you hadn’t kidnapped me.”
“Serves you right,” Bristol replied. “It’s your punishment for stealing those girls.”
“You have to let me go sometime, you know,” Oda said.
“I’ll let you go when I can trust you not to hurt anybody,” Bristol cried.
“I’ll do what I want,” Oda replied.
“Not with that collar around your neck, you won’t,” Bristol said.
The girl gulped. “You’re not going to put a collar on me, are you?” she asked.
Bristol sighed. “No,” she said. “Oda’s a bad man. He used to kidnap girls from this village. He made them be his wives. We took him with us so he couldn’t hurt anyone else, and we put the collar on him so he couldn’t use his powers to get away.”
“Oh,” the girl said. A scraping sound on the dirt floor made it clear that the girl was shuffling away from Oda.
“I’m not that bad!” Oda cried. “It’s not like those girls weren’t just going to get married and have babies anyway. That’s what women are for!”
“You’re such a chauvinistic pig!” Bristol cried. “Besides, what other people do with their bodies is none of your concern. Nor is it something you have any right to control.”
“Oh shut up, woman,” Oda huffed.
Bristol snorted. “Anyway, I’m Bristol,” she said. “The asshat is Oda. The two boys are Michael and Geoffrey, and the girl is Palesa. What’s your name?”
“Bethany,” the girl replied. “I was on my way home from a camping trip with my friends. My parents are probably wondering where I am.” She spoke quietly, sadly.
“It’ll be alright,” Bristol told her. “We’ll get you back to your parents.”
Oda snorted. “Who cares about her parents?” he cried. “We don’t have time to worry about her.”
“Are you kidding me?” Bristol cried. “Her parents are probably worried sick. Besides, do you really want to drag her around with us? We already have three orphans to concern ourselves with.”
“Hey!” Michael and Palesa cried.
“What’s a orphan?” Geoffrey asked.
“Point taken,” Oda replied. “Fine, we’ll get her home tomorrow. Then we’ll worry about that king.”
“Are we ever going to get to the city?” Michael asked.
“That’s a good question, kid,” Bristol replied.
“What’s a city?” Geoffrey asked.
“Stop asking stupid questions,” Oda snapped. “Michael, Palesa, Geoffrey, go to sleep. It’s time to give the adults some alone time.”
“Bristol and Bethany aren’t adults,” Michael replied. “They’re teenagers.”
“Close enough,” Oda snapped. “Go to sleep.”
Michael and Palesa grumbled as the three kids walked deeper into the cave together.
“I still don’t know what those words mean,” Geoffrey complained as they lay together.

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