February 17, 2018

Top 5: Advice That Does More Harm Than Good

Really wanted to post sooner, but the cube life demanded most of my attention this week. I've also just wrapped the last revision on my current WIP, and I'm estimating one final, polishing revision before entering the submission stage.
No, I'm not nervous at all. Nope, nope, nope. Not at all.

For today's post, let's chitchat about advice writers receive, namely the advice if followed might be tantamount to shooting yourself in the font. In no particular order...drum roll, please.
5. Nudge in 3 months if No Response

For those unfamiliar with the term, nudging is the practice of poking an agent or editor who has received your ms and hasn't responded yet. Better people than I have tackled this subject like Agent Shark on her blog. The reason this cracks my top five is because it can literally crack a writer in half.

The amount of worry you can entangle yourself up in, agonizing about if the agent/editor has read it and when is an appropriate time to nudge, if nudging means it'll be a rejection because surely if they were that into your ms they would've responded prior to nudging, and the now that you have to nudge what do you say oh my god you're not ready for this you're going to read like you're desperate for attention which you are but you don't want agent/editor to know is swan-diving right into crazy town.

Nudging for a full ms at 3 months is not bad advice, but it will cause the writer copious amounts of anxiety and leave them with no nails.
4. Start Chapter En Medias Res

Pretty sure this is still taught in creative writing classes. Setting the scene in the middle of action or in the middle of conversation can lead to some very obvious and tired choices, like waking up from a nightmare. Technically that fits en medias res, but go ahead and ask agents and editors what they are most tired of seeing in opening chapters. Go on. I'll sit right here and wait for you to google.


Yeah, it's freaking waking up. No one wants to read this unless the writing is irresistible. Starting scenes in the middle can lead a writer down a path of trying pallor tricks that feel inauthentic to the story. You know what it feels like when someone is trying to get your attention. Don't let your writing or opening chapters feel like gimmicks.

Writing tip: Interpret en medias res to start your story where it needs to start, at that moment where the character or plot get interesting and you will hook the reader.

3. Write to Page Goals

Not all writers are created equal. We all have our own methodology and pace and obligations that limit our time to write. If you're a pantser or a plotter, setting a page goal could quickly turn into a cycle of self-hatred and despair for being unable to meet expectations. We can put undo pressure on ourselves to "push" through walls or blocks and write, meet the goal, feel satisfied, but then come back the next day to do it again and...crickets.
No one likes that feeling because it can easily build and eat up another day of writing.

Goals are useful tools to set yourself up to complete a first draft or the multiple revisions that follow, but rethink the goal. Is it to get so many words on the page, so many pages done? Or is it a scene or line of dialogue that's been bugging you, or planning a plot point or character arc that should be what you're focusing on?

And above all else, if you don't make that word count or page goal, it's not the end of the world, it's only the end of the writing day and tomorrow is another opportunity to try again.

4. Get on Social Media to Build Your Platform

Always helpful to have a platform or mailing list ready for when you do have that all important news to share...a release date for your book.
But social media can easily become a time suck. That's not news. It's fact in this day and age, but publishers do like seeing their writers putting themselves "out there." One of the most cost-effective ways to promote yourself as a part of the writing community is to be on social media, actively. But activity, like exercise, requires consistency and commitment.

Remember that other thing you're supposed to do too? Writing also requires consistency and commitment. Social media can sometimes feel like the hours are being sucked from your soul when you could've been plotting that next book in the series. Then the guilt hits, and oh boy, does it hit.
Being on social media is smart and can be fun, but does not have to take time away from the page. First, understand the different platforms "out there" and figure out what works for you. How much time can you spare? Then stick to it.

If you're not enjoying yourself or if it's taking too much out of you, re-evaluate how much time you're putting into it.

1. Replacing "said."

This is rubbish advice. If you're on pinterest, you've probably seen lots of helpful suggestions on what to replace "said" with.

Do. Not. Listen. To. That. Advice.

Said is a simple, glossed over tool that gets to the point of who said what. If you use other words like declared, questioned, estimated, huffed, cooed, etc for every single replacement of said, your dialogue is quickly going to turn into a caricature. Replacing said is like putting your dialogue on a bullhorn for a reader. How often do you like a bullhorn in your ear?

However, if you save the replacements for intense moments, that punch will land harder. Less is more.

What other advice have you heard that you wish you didn't?

Keep reading and writing!

February 5, 2018

Diversity: The Serpent's Secret - Desi MG

You guys, this is what I needed when I was growing up. Some representation. THE SERPENT'S SECRET by Sayantani DasGupta comes out Feb. 27th by Scholastic for MG readers.

If you want to get in on an excerpt, like me, here's the link.

As far as first lines go, this one gets straight to the point. Am I excited to read this?
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade any of the science fiction and fantasy stories that enamored me growing up, but I was reading and watching stories that didn't have any bi-racial characters or South East Asian characters. This. This is what I needed. Already added to my TBR.

So let's talk diversity. If you're active on Twitter or Booktube or Book Blogging, you know this movement to include more main characters and authors from diverse backgrounds is kind of a thing in publishing. #WeNeedDiverseBooks #ownvoices

There is still some question/hesitancy about the need for diversity. Shocking, I know. You can check out this post from Foz Meadows where she responds to a tweet with an open letter. The tweet was from a person who argued that pushing for diversity isn't realistic if books are based in locations with an all-white population.
I highly recommend reading it here.

It reminds me how invisible non-white people are and that we must keep pushing for representation. Looking back at the science fiction and fantasy, live-action movies that were released when I was growing up, this was the closest it got to representation:
He's Jewish with an "Apu" accent from the Simpsons
That's quite the tan.
Who is also voiced by this guy...
Again, I loved growing up with the television and movies I watched, but it felt very much like watching from the outside.

What were some of the characters you identified with, representing your ethnicity?

January 31, 2018

The Blood Moon and My Bloody Attitude

Monday to today has been tough and ended with a Blood Moon.
It's not that anything too terrible happened. I actually have a lot to be thankful for personally and professional (Welcome home Nate Doggie!). Cube life has been challenging, but not run away screaming to Hawaii challenging. I'm currently in the second to last revision of the WIP and hit some rough spots that took a few days to iron out. Again, these aren't stop the clock and drop on the floor for quiet time awful.

It's my attitude. I was reacting to each of these instances with sourness.

"You can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you react." Said by someone, somewhere thinking they're so smart. Well, they are smart. I knew I was reacting badly to things that wouldn't normally wear me down, but I just went with it.
Feeling cranky can be cathartic. I tucked right in and expressed my displeasure. In moderation. That's the caveat. I allowed myself the opportunity to be salty, but was conscious of a line. Do not hurt anyone with my junky mindset. It follows along my mega rule of not being a d*ck to people. And you know what? I'm glad I did.

Until I settled down to write.

I seriously considered not for the day. My inner thoughts were very encouraging. Go ahead, take a break. You've been at it consistently. What's one measly day off going to do?

We're talking about 1-2 hours of writing. It's a work day so that's all that I can muster. Weekends I slam in 4-6 hours.

I heard myself giving permission to not write, but then I thought about the notes I had jotted down earlier to make changes on some pages. I was stuck in the middle of deciding.

The inner voice had one final tactic, "If you work tonight, it'll suck. You'll have to undo it all and rewrite tomorrow."
I worked on the manuscript.

And as a treat, I read a couple chapters in bed.

Bacon woke me up for the lunar eclipse, wrapped me in a blanket, and sat me down to stare up at the rotten orange the moon had become. I remember feeling satisfied, mostly sleepy, but pleased with the previous days as if I survived something of my own doing. It could've been worse. I could've given in to that inner thought. I was giving in to my foul mood so why not sink all the way. There's another line to not cross. Don't be a d*ck to people. Don't let the inner voice convince you your efforts in writing are a waste.

Did anyone else catch the lunar eclipse?

January 24, 2018

In Memory of Ursula K Le Guin

My sadness at the passing of one of the greatest fantasy authors of our time is a selfish sadness. I want these tremendous artists to live forever. They'd probably not wish the same, but as I said, this is a selfish sadness. I have no reason to be sad. Le Guin's books have maintained and will continue to maintain a shelf in my library, but right now that's not enough. Right now the world is dimmer. I feel as if something precious has slipped out of my hands.

Top 5 Wednesday: Books I DNF

One of my goals in 2018 is to stop being such a lurker and participate more in the community. In an effort to pursue this, I've recently joined Top 5 Wednesday on Goodreads. Many of the booktubers I subscribe to are listed in the lefthand panel and when they post a Top 5 Wednesday video, I've always found them entertaining and hit that like button with my bowl out at an Oliver Twist orphanage.
Generally don't like to repeat gifs, but this one's got mileage.
Today's Top 5 topic is one that sprouts my evil mastermind mustache.
It's also dug out from the March 2016 archive for topics. Check out the Goodreads group and see if it's something you'd also like to participate in. Today's topic is for books I did not finish (DNF).
I know, the horror. If you asked me a few years ago if I was OK with DNFing books, I would've gasped, "No!" An author created something and believed in what they were doing. The least I could do is finish reading their efforts.
In present day... I can't invest time in books I'm not enjoying. It's a hard, cold truth. With the cube life, writing, blogging, taking care of my family, and maintaining friendships, there aren't enough hours in the day.

The upside to this experience has highlighted for me where I lose interest in a story, and how I can best learn from this in my own writing.

Here are my Top 5 Books I DNF in no particular order:

5. THE GLITCH by Ramona Finn

This one hurt not to finish. I was 60% into this book and was interested in this biodome city for the wealthy and privileged versus the outcast, Mad Max clans kicked out to die in the desert. The MC was a girl with a innate hacking abilities and was kicked out of the biodome under suspicious circumstances. Is she a legit reject or a spy? Oh boy oh boy, a female MC that's talented and doesn't have to be taught how to survive and can kick ass and make decisions that influence the story. See? Agency!

Sigh. Alas, no. The Mad Max clan was led by your default big, brawn, and mantastic stand-in who continually saves the MC and has to teach her with a group of kids how to survive in the clan. The moment when I had to shut this book down was when he asked MC a hypothetical on how to find food and she answered, thinking this is easy. I have the answer and I don't have to feel like a dumba$$. Of course it's the wrong answer and one of the kids corrected her, "Everyone knows that!"

Done. Done, done-ity, done, done.

4. FEED by M.T. Anderson
We immediately start with a group of friends traveling to a lunar space station. Think F-boy squad with money. The way Anderson setup the technology and how immersed the characters were receiving ads organically, internally was awesome.

One chapter in I realized I could not give a hoot about any of these characters. I didn't want to spend any time with them. I wouldn't mind checking out any other books Anderson wrote since the writing was enticing.

3. AFTER YOU by Jojo Moyes

The Me Before You series has a lot of booktube reviews worth checking out if you're interested in hearing/discussing the able-ism issues. The reason I DNF'd this book is for character, like the previous DNF. I could not find Louisa, the MC, in these pages. I looked and looked for her, willing for her to pop up in the scenes, but it didn't happen. She was not the Lou I read in the first book. Not essentially a deal breaker. No, what made me close this book was Lilly. I have a very low tolerance for teenagers messing with other people's lives, property, and welfare because they are going through issues.

It's a character that I very rarely get behind. You might disagree. You are welcome to. Take Lilly under the safety of your umbrella and god speed. I can't spend time with her.

2. DEEP BLUE by Jennifer Donnelly

I love mermaids, but this is not the mermaid trilogy for me. I have all three books and will try the other two in the series, but I could not finish the first installment. It wasn't the world building or the writing. Once again, it was the main character. She wasn't annoying, but as I got halfway through the novel, I noticed a significant drop in support of her. The stakes and tension was escalating, but the MC was not making decisions or influencing the turn of events in anyway. She had a severe lack of agency. It felt like all of the other characters were babysitting her, taking turns to control what she did which I'm not here for.

1. LOST STARS by Claudia Gray

I love me some Star Wars, but this book actually poses an interesting challenge. How do you make readers cheer for a character aligning herself with the obvious villains and not seem like blooming eejit for her loyalty? These are BAD GUYS. This is the problem, for me, with LOST STARS. It's about a boy and a girl growing up together, training to be pilots in the Imperial Academy. However, the boy sees the Empire's evilness and peaces out, but the girl does not, even goes so far as making the mental leaps to justify the Empire's actions.
The fatal flaw, IMO, for this book is everyone knows the Empire is up to no good. There isn't room to show morally gray sides to the story or possibly revisit past events with a new spin that may paint the Empire in a new light. Nope, they're plan evil. Evil can be your thing, but when you have characters who believe the Empire is good, experience events that definitely are horrific, but refuse to question their loyalty to the Empire, how quickly are you going to lose interest in that character?

Yup. I couldn't close that book hard enough.

What I've noticed from all of these books is I'm more willing to forgive plotting and writing, than bad characters. If the books couldn't hook me with the characters, chances are I wouldn't finish reading. If you've found yourself feeling the same for the same or other books, comment down below with titles you DNF'd.

Keep reading and writing!