I Am No Writer

I posted this image last week to Instagram, and someone asked about it:

An important distinction. #amwriting
 

What do I mean by this? Why would I claim to not be a writer, but rather a storyteller?

What I mean is simply this: I am more focused on the final product than I am the process. Writing is the job; writing is the work. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, because the writing is necessary. But sticking with my metaphor from my post about first drafts, I find it helpful to maintain my focus not on the laying of the pipe or the pouring of the foundation or the running of the wires, but on the final product: the house. Or, in my case, the story.

It’s the story that’s why I’m doing all this. It’s the story whose needs I have to service. It’s the story that I have to do well. It’s the story that readers will hopefully care about, and it’s the story that I hope will bring them back for the next one.

One can write a lot of things without being a storyteller. Writing is a skill with a lot of possible end goals, and the process can lead in a lot of different directions. And I do think about process a lot — in fact, I’ve yet to meet a writer who doesn’t! But in terms of defining who I am, I choose to focus on the goal and not the process.

Mine is storytelling.

What’s yours?

 

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Confessions of a Writer

So I saw this little quiz-thing on another writer’s blog (Julia Grantham‘s, to be precise), and though I haven’t been tagged with it, I’m not going to wait. So here’s a bit about me as a writer, for anyone who might be new to my particular…idiom!

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?

I’ve loved writing and telling stories for as long as I can remember. I didn’t decide to start taking writing really seriously, though, until the late 1990s, when I started working heavily on a fantasy novel and writing short fiction. Before that, I played around with fan-fiction, but never really decided to get serious until later.

I didn’t decide “Writer or Bust!” until 2009 or 2010, when the idea for The Song of Forgotten Stars started to really heat up in my head.

What genre do you write?

Science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Mainly the first two. In terms of sci-fi, I really gravitate to space opera.

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress. When did you start working on this project?

I have two projects going on right now. First is initial edits on the third book in the Forgotten Stars series, in which we explore the mysteries of the planet Xonareth even more deeply. Among other things, in this book we learn why Xonareth was quarantined from the rest of the Galaxy. More importantly, in terms of character, I add Lieutenant Penda Rasharri to the roster of viewpoint characters.

Interestingly — to me, anyway — I realized halfway through this novel that for the duration of this series, every single viewpoint character will be female. Also, the scope of the story seems to be getting bigger with each volume. I’m a bit scared by this; my original dream-goal was a nine-book series, but if this keeps up, my scale by Book IX will be absolutely galactic.

My other project is my long on-again, off-again fantasy novel not-titled The Adventures of Lighthouse Boy, which is a Dumas-inspired adventure tale with sword fights and court intrigue and thieves meeting in the forest and sea battles and lost Kings and hidden treasures and nefarious priests and all that good stuff. There is actually no magic at all in this book; it’s fantasy because it takes place in a realm that never existed, not unlike Lloyd Alexander’s Westmark books. I’m writing some of this every day; my quota is 500 words while I’m working on other stuff at the same time, but if the decks are ever clear, the quota will go up to 1000 words or more.

When I’m done editing Forgotten Stars III, then it will be time to start prepping my supernatural thriller for publishing sometime this summer. I think I may have a title for it, but I’m not sure yet. I’m still kicking it around in my head.

What was your first piece that you remember writing? What was it about?

How far do we want to go back? I remember writing a play in fifth grade called How the Elves Saved Christmas (a concept which I still think could make for a fun family flick); around then I wrote a lot of crappy fan-fiction. As in, really crappy fan-fiction. Mashups that had James Bond teaming up with Indiana Jones in outer space. Yeah.

Before that? Well, I wrote stories in second grade about a superhero cat named Little Bootie. I have no idea why he was called that, or why he went around in a costume with a big K on the front. When you’re in second grade, shit don’t have to make sense, yo.

Serious stuff? As in, when I decided to take writing really seriously? I wrote a fantasy novel about King Arthur’s return called The Promised King, and I actually posted half of it online for some years before I decided to re-trunk it, because it wasn’t all that great.

The first story I ever submitted someplace was a vampire tale called “Graveyard Waltz” (name taken from a song by the Hooters). It was rejected, of course, but the rejection got a nice not scrawled in the margin by the editor.

What’s the best part about writing?

When I think my characters are going to do something, and then they go and do something else that’s way cooler than the original thing I’d intended for them to do. I like that.

What’s the worst part about writing?

Well…look, I’m not going to lie here. I’m an indie writer, which means that my job is even harder. It means that I’ve seen entire months go by with no one buying either of my books. It means watching my second book languish with a single Amazon review, when I know it’s better than the first one. It means seeing my stories not being read, and that kills me, because stories should be read. A story told to no one isn’t really worth a lot, in my mind. At least, for me it isn’t, at this point in my life.

I’ve really been struggling with this lately. I’ve been told that I should write first for myself, but lately I’m trying to find the difference between writing first for myself and writing only for myself.

Oh, and titles. I take forever to come up with titles, which is why I have all those weird working titles. I’m not being coy. I genuinely don’t often know what the title is.

What’s the name of your favorite character and why? (This can be from a book by another author or from your own work.)

My personal favorite character? Oh wow, I couldn’t really name one. But for purposes of this question, I do like writing the character Zeyke in the Forgotten Stars books. He’s a pilot who is very, very good at what he does, but he’s also a nervous worry-wart who is always convinced that utter disaster is seconds away and that he will bear the brunt of it. I’ve given him a very sarcastic tone, and he has managed to make me laugh with some of the fatalistic sarcasm he brings to bear. He’s fun to write.

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?

There is no “best” time. There is only the time that there is, and I use it as best I can. Weekdays, that means I get up at 5:30, so that after coffee and making lunch and getting dressed and all that, checking to make sure the Internet is still there, and such, I get half an hour in before work. Then, later on, I like to use my lunch break at work to write another half hour, and then I cram in a bit more time later on at night. You have to fit the writing in. It’s not hard to do so, but it does involve some choice-making.

Weekends, I can get more done. I like to go to the grocery store where I shop and work in their cafe for two hours before I shop, and I usually get in some time on Sunday afternoons after Nature Walk with the dog.

Did you go to college for writing?

No. I majored in Philosophy. I’m really unsure if that was a mistake or not.

What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors, or grammar errors?

It depends. Grammar, I can usually deal with, especially if it’s clear to me that the author has made a stylistic choice, and frankly, I’m not always up on all the particulars of grammar, anyway. I’m not likely to notice if you use ‘laid’ when you should have used ‘lain’, for example.

Spelling or punctuation? If it’s clear that it’s just a typo or odd goof, I’m fine. It takes a pattern of such behavior to make me start to notice and distract me from the story. Today I read an author refer to a character’s “jealous”. It’s obvious to me that she meant “jealousy” and for whatever reason, the ‘y’ is MIA. I’m fine with that.

What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?

Read a lot, write a lot, and write the book that you want to read.

What advice would you give to another writer?

Don’t.

OK, I’m kidding. Seriously: read a lot, write a lot, and write the book that you want to read.

And get your ass out of the chair once in a while and go walk. Take pictures, do…something other than writing.

What are your favorite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips, or encouragement?

Mostly the sites of fellow writers.

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?

Reading, listening to music, and walking in the woods. Hiking is peaceful and energizing and restorative to me. I also enjoy cooking, and movies, and comics.

What is the best book you’ve read this year?

Carrie Morgan’s The Road Back from Broken is really good. (My Goodreads review here.)

What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?

Probably The Force Awakens? Not really sure, actually. My reaction to that movie was pretty schizophrenic. There are a lot of things I love in it, and a lot of things that set my teeth on edge. I have yet to write my full review of it.

What is your favorite book or series of all time?

Living author, fiction: The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
Deceased author, fiction: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien (I consider these one large work; I never re-read LOTR without also reading The Hobbit.)
Living author, nonfiction: Little Chapel on the River, Gwendolyn Bounds
Deceased author, nonfiction: Cosmos, Carl Sagan

Who is your favorite author?

Oh, I’ll give a list: Tolkien, Guy Gavriel Kay, Carl Sagan, Neil De Grasse Tyson, Bill Bryson, Christopher Moore, Stephen King, Alexandre Dumas, Mary Stewart, Jacqueline Carey, and more.

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?

Pedal to the metal on the afore-mentioned projects! I hope to have Forgotten Stars III out in November and GhostCop (not actual title) in summer, either July or August. I want to finish Lighthouse Boy, but that one is a splurging doorstop of a book, so who knows. I may well take a year-long sabbatical from the Forgotten Stars books, once number III is out. I also have another idea for a second set of stories set in the same universe (it’s a big galaxy, after all), and I’m hoping that GhostCop is the start of a series, but where it goes from there, I’ve no idea just yet!

I’ve got a lot of stories to tell, and intentions to tell all of them. The hard part is finding readers, but I’ll keep plugging. It’s all I know how to do, really.

Where else can we find you online?

Right here! And on most of the Social Media Usual Suspect sites — links are in the sidebar, over there. (Right now I’m on a brief social media hiatus, but I doubt very much I’ll abandon anything; I just needed a break.) Oh, and that reminds me: I’ve started using Pinterest again, although I’m still not entirely sure how Pinterest really ‘works’.

OK, that’s all for this…have a great weekend, read my books, and yada yada yada!

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Updates and a Quick Stroll Around the Writing Neighborhood!

Hey all! I hope that 2016 is starting to settle into some good of good groove for you all, now that the bustle of the Holiday season is over. I’m always bummed out, a little, when the Holidays end; for all the hectic activity and commercialism, the Holidays always do seem to me like a time when we all try to make the world feel (and look) a bit better. Plus, this year my family had a truly wonderful Holiday season, starting with a trip to New York City at Thanksgiving and culminating in a Christmas with my entire family (it’s a small family, but my sister lives in Colorado and doesn’t get out here more than a few times a year, so that’s that).

The Holiday season was not particularly helpful to me on the writing front, however, and I suspect that many writers find themselves in the same boat. It’s hard enough to carve out writing time during the standard work-and-life routine of, say, March or September; throw in the Holidays, and yeesh! One has to become some kind of beast akin to a wounded, rabid, female grizzly bear whose young are being threatened in order to protect the writing time.

(And this year, it didn’t help that an 800-pound gorilla going by the name of The Force Awakens showed up.)

So, I’m now back in some kind of writing groove. What’s happening?

Well, I’m working on two projects at once. This may prove to be…unwise, but we’ll see.

First up is that I’m still plugging away on The Adventures of Lighthouse Boy. This book has stalled a few times when I put it aside in order to delve into serious editing work on other books (mainly the Forgotten Stars books), but I don’t want that to happen again, so I’ve dropped my quota down to 500 words a day on it, with the caveat that I have to get those 500 words before I do anything else.

Second up are the revisions to The Song of Forgotten Stars III. This has been tough going thus far, because the first few chapters are an absolute mess that I’ve been working to untangle.

I wrote Stardancer entirely from Princess Tariana’s point of view. In The Wisdomfold Path, I added Princess Margeth’s POV. Now, in this one, we add the third important viewpoint character: Lieutenant Rasharri. Problem was, I did a lot of POV-hopping in the first few chapters, as opposed to just doing what George RR Martin does with his Song of Ice and Fire novels, giving each chapter a single viewpoint. So that’s what I’m doing, but I have to rework those messy first chapters. I suspect that the revisions will go much more smoothly one I’m past the first few chapters.

(And here’s a tidbit: It occurred to me, halfway through drafting Book III, that in this series, every single viewpoint character will be female. I don’t know that this means anything, but I found it an interesting angle.)

So, that’s where we are right now! What are other writers up to? Let’s take a quick stroll around the Writing World!

Nicole Crucial on Following Your Gut in a First Draft. Her post is a response to this post of mine, and she has some interesting thoughts!

Brianna Da Silva has a list: 10 Traits of an Epic Villain. Villains are hard to get right, and Brianna has some great thoughts. For me, it’s important to remind myself that there is an alt-universe version of all of my stories in which the villain is the protagonist. Except for the most mustache-twirling of villains, they think of themselves as heroes of their own story, and I like it best when the villain is — just a little, just a teensy-weensy bit — actually right about things, even if their actions are awful. Good post here!

Joe Hill dismantles the cliche of the “crazy artist”. I’m reminded of Stephen King’s knockdown of the idea that writers and artists need to be substance abusers: “We all look pretty much the same when we’re puking in the gutter.” It’s apt that Hill’s piece would remind me of this, as King is Hill’s father. (I didn’t even know this until recently.)

Katherine Dell had some struggles with getting back into her routine. I can relate to this. Sometimes, after the weeks-long spectacle that is the Holidays, I find myself having trouble even remembering what the “routine” is.

Ilana Teitelbaum on self-promotion. I have improved my skills of self-promotion, going from awful to pretty bad. I’m hoping to reach Meh by the time Forgotten Stars III comes out.

Finally, Brett Michael Orr’s novel The Bureau of Time is now available! I haven’t read it yet, but it’s safely ensconced on my mobile devices and on my TBR List for this year. Orr’s one of the good guys, and I can’t wait to see what he’s come up with. Apparently it’s a YA science fiction/time travel adventure, and we can always use more of those!

See you next time, folks!

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