I got nuthin today…
I’ve been busily working on Shaxia, though. So there’s that!
Here’s a snippet:
Daharn would have climbed the wall if he could find any kind of hand hold.
“Nyxa!” Hasabi huffed as she came barreling out the door after. “Get back here and put on your panties!”
The toddler cackled from around the bend. Hasabi was soon out of sight as well.
yeah… that’s Natan’s offspring for sure. :)
I haven’t had anything to say on Fridays last few weeks because I ran out of my queued posts and NANOWRIMO started :)
I’m halfway through the month, a little over halfway through the goal, and I think I’m halfway mark on the story.
Have an excerpt:
He tried to wait patiently.
Daharn put a hand on his knee to make him stop twitching and shaking the tree branch they were hiding in. As Scheerahis had described, the spider-walkers were moving in a circle around the base building. There were about ten Carken playing in the mud. One of them was riding a spider-walker, waving his tentacles and yodeling. If there had been any Hyphokos out listening for signs of Shaxin or Gilon, they wouldn’t have heard a thing.
You will, inevitably, be required to sell something you don’t care about, or don’t know anything about. However, doing a half-ass job isn’t an option.
Situations for example: working retail or commission work, and job interviews.
I worked at a big department store for a while and saw some of the ugly pricing junk that happens in those places. Such as $50 cooking set that I’d seen returned 3 times because people got it home, looked at it, and realized it wasn’t even worth $10. But I sold it. I sold those RC cars that got discounted from $40 to $5 after xmas. I sold those stupid store credit cards, even though I knew they were skeevy and a trap to get customers in debt to the store. It felt gross, wrong, amoral, but I did it because that was my job. There’s only so far Principles will carry you when you have a house to pay for and cats to feed.
How to do it though?
Step 1: Be unceasingly positive. Find good things about your situation and remind yourself of them often. Keeping your own morale up is important. Find good things about the customers you talk to. Complement your customers, make them feel good about themselves.
Step 2: Find out what your customer wants. This requires asking questions and listening to the answer.
Step 3: Find good things to say about the product. If a product doesn’t do exactly what your customer is wanting, find something close and explain how that product will work. Add in any surprise alternate uses for the product.
Step 4: Be confident. Look like you know what you’re talking about by looking the customer in the eyes occasionally, smiling, and keeping your body language Open. Body language is very important and one of the hardest things to control. But to stay Open, make sure you don’t fold your arms, hunch your shoulders, bow your head, or anything that makes your chest concave and puts a barrier between you and the one you’re talking to. You’ll never eliminate quirks like nervous scratching or fidgeting, but if you keep your shoulders back and arms from blocking your chest, this will cover most conversations you need to have with a customer.
How this works for interviews:
Complementing the person interviewing you makes them see you as a warm, approachable person. Keeping open body language further enhances that idea. It makes you into a person and not just another Resume to throw in the trash. Coming up with alternate uses for the skills you have, even if they don’t seem like they apply directly to the job you are applying for makes your skill-set versatile. Besides, you wouldn’t be in the interview if they didn’t already think you might be able to fill the position. Focus on the good things you, as a product, can do to fill the customer’s needs. They have a problem, you are the solution; you just have to tell them how.
It’s said often that when writing, you should show instead of tell, but no one really goes into detail on how to do this.
Well, here’s my attempt to explain.
Telling in writing is sort of a way of distancing your reader from the action. Such as, telling the reader “She felt affronted.” Or “He got ready and headed out the door.” These sentences aren’t passive voice exactly, but they’re not really juicy. They don’t give much depth into the character’s thoughts or motivations.
“She felt affronted” could be changed to: “She shifted her shoulders and looked away, refusing to dignify his statement with attention.” This way, you’re given more of an idea of what her “affronted” looks like. That way, next time he says something insensitive, she can grind her teeth, or haul off and punch him in the mouth since she’s had it up to here with his stupid face. Try describing her the way you would expect a cat to react if you laughed at them falling off something ungracefully.
“He got ready and headed out the door” is a little more difficult as this sentence could work if you’ve already done enough explaining within the scene already. However by itself, its kind of a boring sentence. “He brushed his bangs back from his forehead and settled the bag on his shoulders. Grasping the door handle, he hesitated. Was he really ready? Someone pulled the door open from the other side. He squinted at the early morning sunlight. Well, ready or not, this was happening.”
This is by no means a hard rule to follow, but getting rid of the word “Was” from a sentence goes a long way towards making the action more action-y. “She was battered and bruised all over.” This could better be described as: “A bruise graced the left side of her face; blue and purple mixing with the fresh blood from her split lip. She walked with a limp, gripping her side. Still, her eyes shone with determination.”
If you have the opportunity to let the characters tell the story rather than you, the author, being too involved, then take it. The characters and their actions/reactions to the setting are why you’re writing anyway, right? If they’re not, go write a non-fiction book.
Writers have an ego problem. This one is kind of a pots and kettles situation. I know I used to be like this, (still am in some ways) and I apologize to those I inflicted my Writer’s Ego upon.
How to take criticism is easy. And hard.
- Don’t take personal offence to your editor doing their job.
- If multiple readers tell you the same thing, fix the problem, don’t be part of the problem.
The human mind is wired to discard positive experiences and dwell on the negative. You need to actively fight against that. Even if all your editor has to say is negative stuff, that doesn’t mean there isn’t positive things in your writing.
We (Writers) spend a lot of time, effort, and tears in creating our stories and we want people to love them as much as we do. We have a tendency to be very self-centered, too, and believe that because we’ve spent all this time on something, obviously it’s got to be perfect. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect.
Just to make sure you got that:
NOTHING. IS. PERFECT.
There’s only “good enough for now.”
The sooner you accept that, the easier it will be to take criticism. It’s sort of a “wu wei” situation in which you do what you can to make sure your story is as good as it can be, but then you have to place it into the hands of someone else.
When you hire an editor, you’ve got to divorce yourself from the idea that this is your precious baby cinnamon roll, perfect and pure. It helps if you have some distance between the time of writing and when you submit it to an editor.
When you hire an editor, you are choosing someone to read your work who has spent time honing their skills to pick out what’s wrong with a story and make suggestions on how to fix it. You have to trust them to let you know if what you thought you conveyed is what you actually put on paper. Situations you thought were harmless are actually a big deal to someone else. Otherwise, why did you hire them? To give you a pat on the back? Your mother can do that for a lot less money and energy.
(Thanks to all the “Mothers” – biological or not – who support their artistic babies with unconditional love and support.)
If you’ve handed your story out to multiple readers, and they’re all saying the same thing, such as: “This sequence of events doesn’t make sense” and you take personal affront to that, you need to step back and breathe. The statement is exactly what they said. “This sequence of events doesn’t make sense.” So your problem is either you didn’t describe the events clearly, or the events leading up to the moment that doesn’t make sense aren’t right. So fix that instead of getting your panties in a twist thinking that your friends hate you personally and think your writing is shite.
If they weren’t interested in you, your thoughts, or writing, they wouldn’t have bothered to read the story and give you feedback in the first place. I’ve had plenty of times where I’ve asked someone to read something of mine and they just never got around to it. This is just something that happens. It isn’t that they don’t love me, or aren’t my friend, they have their reasons for not reading what I sent them and it isn’t meant to be a slight towards me. Same goes for you, Hypothetical Reader/Writer person I’m pretending to talk to.
It is one thing if someone who hasn’t read your stuff says something. It is entirely different when you have ASKED someone to read your work and they give you feedback. Trust them. You’re not a terrible writer just because the story isn’t perfect. Nothing is perfect and while you don’t have to take all their suggestions, you do need to listen to the people you have deliberately solicited an opinion from.
Bottom line is that their criticism of your story is not a reflection upon YOU. So CHILL.
The one thing all writers should strive for is an original Voice; something that sets them apart from all other books.
Think about how when you listen to the radio, a lot of the songs sound very similar, but if a song comes on that you’ve never heard before, you know by the voice of the singer and the way the music was put together that this song is by Dave Matthews or Nickleback. You can just _tell_ the difference.
That’s what voice is in writing as well.
How to get there, though…
My journey towards that wasn’t a plotted, thought-out adventure, but more of an accident that I stumbled into. I think a good first step is to write.
Write. Write! WRITE!
Participate in Nanowrimo, not just for the sake of having something written, but because it lets you cut down the walls of your inner editor and just be _yourself_ on the page. Tell the story how you want to, rather than how you think someone else wants to read it.
Also keep in mind that unless you want your narrator to be a character in the story as well, you need to be nearly invisible. That’s not entirely possible. Your perceptions and opinions will be present in the book regardless of how much you think you stripped out. There is no way to be entirely unbiased, but that’s also part of your voice. The trick is to be a voice that adds to the story, rather than distracts from it.
Your voice cannot overwhelm the character’s voices. The story, in the end, is theirs, even if you’re technically the one telling it.
Also, do your research. Look at what’s been done before. If you want to write a non-fiction book, you’re not just going to make up stuff, right? You’re going to go out and read all the histories and studies previously done on the subject and come to conclusions of your own, based on the information you’ve gathered. How this applies to writing is that you need to read books in the genre you want to write. You need to look at how many other Fairytale Retellings there are and consider how you will make yours stand out. Why would anyone read your version of Beauty and the Beast over someone else’s when essentially they are the same as the original version. Unless you’re going back further than Disney’s version and starting from the source then recasting it in a modern setting.
This applies even if you’re writing about a completely original world. For example, Epic Fantasy. You need to generally know the tradition the genre comes from (Tolkien), what sets it apart from any other fantasy (a lot of walking), and where it has gone since then (from dragons being evil to dragons being talking friendly mounts like in PERN, and Dwarves having no women to Terry Pratchett’s version in which they just don’t go broadcasting their gender on a normal basis so everyone just assumes all Dwarves are men because they’re all hairy).
Then you need to research how to write. You need to know the rules to know how to properly break them. I’m going to be honest and admit that I never really studied how to sentences. My scores in grade school English classes were abysmal, partially because I didn’t care about school and I was bored, but also because the structure of sentences doesn’t interest me. Sentence structure is important, but should be co-pilot when it comes to getting your ideas across.
I can get away with having a word missing from that sentence in the paragraph above because it’s humorous and also adds to my point. Doing things like that all the time, however, is just going to annoy your readers because they have to work too hard to understand you.
Research how others have written certain types of scenes. Like action sequences, or epic descriptions of scenery that aren’t eye-wateringly boring. Find authors you think did it well and study how they did it. Salvatore does amazing fight-scenes. His secret is short sentences with a tight POV focus on one character. Mercedes Lackey does heart-breaking scenes exceptionally well. She does this by drawing readers into the character by making them relatable first, then following with the angst.
So do your research.
Your voice can also add to the story as the narrator, such as Douglass Adams and Terry Pratchett do, but there’s more to it than just being amusing by yourself. You can be funny in the narration by arguing with in-world gods, but again, don’t overpower your characters. Terry Pratchett for example is humorous, but his characters are _angry_. Legit. Low-key fury simmers beneath every word written on every page of his books, because Terry Pratchett is angry. He’s angry at rampant injustice and angry at stupid people who rule the world with their BS and lies. That’s his Voice. That’s the message he wants you, his audience, to hear.
Douglass Adams is angry about bureaucracy and BS that goes on in government. His characters have a rollicking good time roaming the universe, but you still hear him screaming about the system.
Anne McCaffery was determined to smash empathy and understanding of our fellow human beings into our heads with her words.
Mercedes Lackey believes in equality and that it is achievable without magic.
These attitudes are their Voice. Their way of weaving that into the story itself, behind the scenes, is what gives their work a depth and originality you notice as a reader even if it’s not consciously.