Category: Writing

So It Begins

It is NaNoWriMo time again. https://nanowrimo.org/ What am I doing? Nohting. Nadda. I’ve been writing free for a couple months now. Maybe one day the words will come back. Right now I’ll just be playing my guitar. So good luck to all who take up the challenge. Just remember writing a novel is only the first part.

Failure is Sometimes an Option

I’ve been thinking about success and failure as a writer. Obviously penning a best seller is for many the ultimate mark of success. What is the opposite? What is complete failure? If you finish your book you have passed the point of complete failure. But what happens if you book just sits there, unread and unwanted. Well the Creative Pen has a great article on just that subject. https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2017/08/24/7-reasons-to-smile-not-a-bestseller/ To that I would add an even worse scenario, your book rockets to the top of the list for a few weeks and then nothing. Even worse your next book is a dud. Can you say one hit wonder? I don’t know if thinking of a writing career in terms of success or failure is healthy. There are so many little successes and smaller failures that they all kind of blur together. We can celebrate and wail for a bit with each of them as we move on to the next.

Writing Contests in August

The blog, Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity, released a list of writing contests open to submissions in the month of August. I’m terrible at entering these and even worse at winning, but they are still a great way to get your writing out there. A contest win could also be the spark that gets your writing career burning. Give the link a click here:  http://publishedtodeath.blogspot.com/2017/07/28-free-writing-contests-in-august-2017.html

It’s the Details That Will Wreck You

via GIPHY

I hate it when I’m enjoying a really good book only to have the whole thing marred by a really foolish mistake. Without going into the title of the book in question, the part I’m talking about is a rescue of the main characters who’ve been tied up in a building about to be demolished. The rescuer uses a piece of glass from one of the windows to cut the ropes. There is only one problem. When a building is going to be demolished all of the window glass is removed to prevent a wave of shattered glass tearing across the city. Now, I cannot fault the writer and editor, who may or may not know that fact, but I can wonder why he or she didn’t do some research on building demolition to make sure some curmudgeon like me doesn’t come up and say, “well you know…” So let this be a cautionary tail, even if your book isn’t about building demolition make sure you get the real life stuff accurate.

Steps For Avoiding Overwriting

This was a great post from The Creative Pen on how to avoid overwriting. I know myself, I am guilty of this from time to time, and from time to time I like reading works whose writing is thick with description. Then again I am really turned off by works where I am just wading through piles and piles of prose, cough Cryptonomicon cough. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot. The good news is you aren’t going to get there overnight, but persistence with a good bit of editing will see you through. http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2017/02/18/avoid-overwriting/ 

Villainous Thoughts

The good guy may get the girls but it’s that bad guy that keeps the pages turning. I find writing a compelling villain is tougher than a book’s lead character. Male or female it is that villain that will be the measure of how good your protagonist truly is. Even when that antagonist isn’t a person, you must write about their actions that the reader can make no mistake about their villainy. Myself, I like cunning villains more so than overly powerful ones. I also like villains who have a morality too. Huh?

Think about it this way, in Marvel’s X-Men, Magneto is the villain to Charles Xavier. Yet all Magneto is interested in is the well being of his fellow mutants and protecting them. His methods vary drastically from Professor Xavier’s, but the moral compass for both points in the same direction. The challenge in writing about a character such as this is making sure that his or her actions remain true to that morality.

Another fun type of villain is the off the rails amoral variety. The sheer chaos of writing for one of these characters is demanding. Still the end result can be very rewarding as your hero rises and meets every nefarious deed. Yet all is not lost even for these types of villains. I’m thinking about Godzilla here. Obviously he or she was the villain of the first movie in 1954 but latter movies would see the unstoppable force of nature become the hero protecting humanity. That he or she had to destroy half of Tokyo to do it is another matter.

In both these examples you can have a wide range of villains that combine components of each, though like I said before I like my villains morally guided if not socially minded.

If 6 Was 9, Ambiguity Will Get You Every Time

With all apologies to the Hendrix estate, there is a funny meme on the internets with two figures standing on opposite ends of a large painted number. One argues that it is a six while the other argues that it is a nine. The moral is both are right according to their perspective. A followup meme points out that one is definitely wrong because whoever painted the number set out to paint either a six or a nine. Both made me chuckle and both told me there is a lesson in them for writers.

Ambiguity is the bane of communication. It can often crop up in our writing because we know what we mean in our heads but sometimes the words leave it open to interpretation. Nothing you write should ever be open to interpretation, this isn’t painting. Then there are the little things that you don’t even recognize someone might have a question over. For example, does your scene take place at night or day? It might not mean a whole lot at the point in the story but a scene or two later could be ruined if your reader thought it was daylight and your reader is in the nighttime hours. Ambiguity in the details you reveal makes it harder for the reader to connect with and buy into the story. Most of these will come out in beta readings or from your editor. Still, always being aware of instances where what you say can be taken a couple of different ways will make your writing that much stronger.