Knowing when you’ve made it as an author

It isn’t when you start making an actual profit on your books, or even your own satisfaction with your writing and your plot.

You know when you’ve made it as an author when a reader feels genuine emotion for your story.

It has to be for your story and characters, too – emotion felt for their plight, because they’re unhappy with a character’s behaviour or thrilled when something finally goes their way. When I feel intense hatred reading Twilight, that isn’t a compliment to Meyer’s work at all – it’s the exact opposite, because I have no respect or enjoyment from the way she writes or her listless characters.

You have made it as an author when a reader weeps over the death of a favourite minor character. When a reader forgets to eat or sleep because they have to know what the hero will do next.

I have experienced this kind of thrill and joy as an author several times, but several rather notable times in the past.

I got my friend Bethany to read Of the Arbour and its sequel, Of the Arena, when I was first writing them. As she was in the midst of the sequel, I accidentally let it slip that one of the minor characters dies. This minor character happened to be her favourite. She was so upset with me she had to put the story down and hasn’t touched it since which actually works out okay since I’m rewriting it anyways.

More recently, my friend Lexi started reading Changeling. When she finished, I printed off a short story collection, The Time Between, that takes place between Changeling and its sequel, Abomination. She was so upset with the behaviour of one of the main characters, one usually charming and endearing who turned into a bit of a brute, that she almost phoned me to chew me out. Rather than do that, she stifled her rage until we met up at work the next day.

This very day, too, she read a defining chapter in Abomination that upset her. I hadn’t planned this chapter – I don’t really plan anything except major plot points though I guess this counts as one, technically, and the characters just sort of started acting this sequence out. It is a rather heartbreaking chapter, I’ll admit – and I even hesitated to put it in the book in the first place. But I decided that keeping it would allow for a sweeter, happier ending, so it remained.

Lexi read the chapter on her break today. I was putting out magazines when she finished. She found me, crouched down, picked up an ad slip that fell out of a magazine, crumpled it up, and threw it at me.

Don’t get me wrong – there is more to my stories than sadness. The happy stuff gets them too, but the things that upset readers seem to really stick out to me. I’m terribly attached to my characters, and I love it when others are, as well.

Despite the fact that both Bethany and Lexi were upset with me, I feel like I’ve accomplished something great, here. They were both so attached to the characters that when they did something decidedly out of character – or died – it genuinely touched them.

To me, that feeling is more important than any amount of money I might make.

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Of the Arbour rewrite update, and the similarities in style

As you may have seen with a previous post, I’ve begun writing a rewrite for Of the Arbour. It started out strong and feverish, but now that the initial excitement has worn down a little, it’s become as plodding as the other stories I’m working on not that I’m slow, per se, but I’ve been weathering a slump as of late. I’m very pleased with the direction it’s going so far, despite being only around 15 000 words in. I’m still really excited to get to some of the major plot points coming up. Sage’s final year at the Arbour is only just starting where I’m at, and with it come strange dreams, a permanently crippling injury or two, and a life-shattering revelation. I’m also very excited to get past his time at the Arbour, and touch over his time spent as a mercenary before leaping into his meeting of Maia and Stride, rediscovery of old friends, and the beginning of the main plot’s manhunt. I plan on this being a lot darker and more violent than the original, which was fairly violent to begin with. Lots more descriptions of how bleak and grim of a place Hailstone is.

Not a lot of note has changed since the original, save a few minor things touched on in a previous post.

  • Carol’s name has changed to Thalia
  • Sage has more friends
  • but is more reviled by his classmates
  • He doesn’t deal with this well, and gets into more fights than the original (in which he got into a lot of fights; 15 000 words in and he’s already been hospitalized 4 times) as his way of dealing with it
  • He knows virtually nothing about his parentage (he used to know a little about his father)
  • He’s self-conscious about his appearance—despite being a strapping young lad in my head—and especially his height (he towers a head over most men)
  • Kell, a friend two years younger than he, has become a major character quite without my meaning her to. She’s a fiery redheaded giantess (she’s taller than Sage by an inch or two) with a foul mouth and a hairtrigger temper. Which actually ties in with the second part of this post:

I noticed something the other day as I was writing a scene between Sage and Kell in which she harasses him about his sex life. While he fumbled about in true, head-to-toe blushing, awkward Sage fashion, she sat there with a wolfish grin and watched him squirm. She talks in slang and is considered foul and uncouth by other characters.

In other words, she’s a redheaded Sophia Henson.

For those who might be unaware, Sophia is a minor character in Changeling, who grows up to become a major character in Abomination. She’s 10 in Changeling, a precocious raven-haired girl who has a penchant for swearing, getting her way, getting in scraps with boys—who also happens to be the daughter and only child of Vincent Henson, the pirate king of Canton. In Abomination, she’s hitting 30, has become powerful in her own right, keeps daggers on her person at all times, is known for her brutal war over Canton (during the first year of which she never bathed, so the people would see that she still wore the blood of her enemies), and uses such phrases as:

  • old whore’s cooter
  • meat shield
  • calm your balls
  • son of a cock sucking whore
  • for fuck’s sake
  • what in the holy shit
  • witching slut Continue reading

Time to buckle down

Changeling necklace

A friend of mine started reading Changeling under some pressure, I’ll admit and was thrilled when she finished and found out there was more to the story. After reading the short stories that come before the sequel, Abomination, and after telling me about how furious reading one short story made her because of how an otherwise endearing character was behaving, she was bugging me to print off what I have of Abomination for her to read. I did, and the look of joy on her face when I gave it to her was just too much. It warmed my cold author heart to see.

In Changeling, Aisling, the main character, has a necklace whose origins are unknown even to her parents. It is a leather leaf pendant on a leather string, with a blue jay feather attached. This necklace was inspired in part by a necklace of my own. It was one I bought at Creative Chaos, an artisan show in my hometown, from the Earth Nynja booth (they make leather and metal designs). It was, as you see above, a leather leaf pendant. I recently had the urge to truly make it into Aisling’s necklace, so I hunted down blue jay feathers on an Etsy shop online (six for good measure, even though I only needed one). It only took some crazy glue and black thread to make this.

I also recently got into an “extra” kick, thanks largely in part to my friend Elisa Nuckle. We had talked about how neat it is when authors include, for free or for cheap, extra information and facts about their fictional worlds. If anyone has spied the new Legends of the World page under Changeling’s header, you’ll have noticed that it’s one such thing. In preparing that page, I finished up a map of Althaea and got excited to write more about the nonfiction of the Changeling world.

Also, note that my domain name has been officially registered. That is also a huge factor in this decision!

All of this has come together to inspire me to get my procrastinating rear in gear and finally finish the thorough editing of Changeling. She has been edited through once, and gone through two beta readers, so it won’t be long before she’s ready for the public eye.  I’m so excited to release Changeling to the world. I already know that this series will be my magnum opus, and just the idea of someone else, a stranger, reading it and feeling something for the story I’ve created… it makes me so excited I can’t find words.

If everything goes to plan, I would like Changeling released in the wintertime, before Christmas. It seems suiting, as so much of the story seems to take place in the snow.

This is my pride and joy, and I am so excited to share it with the world.

Self-Promotion for Horrible People by @SamSykesSwears

A brilliant post by fantasy author Sam Sykes about the difficulties with self-promotion. What he says rings true: authors are people riddled with self-doubt and pitiful isolation. Ask anyone who writes for serious and not just as a hobby. It doesn’t matter if it’s novels, short stories, poetry, lyrics – they’re going to be plagued with questions of how good their work is, if it’s worth it, if people will like it.

Yes, it is worth it, and yes, people will like it, but Sam can tell you that better than I can.

Also expect a review of his novel Tome of the Undergates at some point in the near future.

via Self-Promotion for Horrible People. < click it!

Sometimes, the most difficult part of being a writer is pushing past procrastination

And procrastination is a son of a bitch, let me tell you.

Maybe the problem is that I’m trying to do too much at once – rewrite Of the Arbour, write Abomination, edit Changeling and The Time Between, edit Purity, write When Gods Descend – or maybe it’s because the STEAM SUMMER SALE just started and I’m a sick human being.

In one day, I managed to buy everything on my wish list: Mass Effect 1 and 2, and the Sims 3 Seasons and University expansions. Mass Effect and the Sims have been dominating my life for the past week; I bought them last Saturday.

That being said, ME is a really good source of inspiration, if only for When Gods Descend (which, by the way, if I forgot to mention, is the working title of the sci-fi story I started).

Writers, though, generally speaking, are an anxious bunch riddled with self-doubt and pitiful isolation. We have a tendency to get caught up in our own worlds and this has a tendency to shut down our brains for a while. Hence, writer’s block. I don’t necessarily have that at the moment – I technically know where I want everything to go – but I’m so distracted by other things I’m having a hard time getting there.

I think my best option would be to cut myself some slack and only focus on one project at a time for a while. Picking one will be hard (probably Abomination, though) and just ignoring all else but that for the time being. Jumping around between so many is getting impossible.

Writer problems, amirite?

Does anybody else have this problem? It’s always so tempting to start something new, and so easy to bail partway through when life gets in the way.

Rewrites, and the complexities within

Not every author or every manuscript will need this, but many people have been subject to the horrors of rewrites, myself included – I’ve rewritten Purity three times including this most recent copy, and I might have to rewrite part of it again.

Rewrites are hard. They are beyond the realm of editing and in a world of their own – to take a finished manuscript and basically scrap it in favour of a more updated version is to cut up part of your soul and your logic, because who really in their right mind wants to do something like that.

Starting a rewrite is an exciting prospect. Later, once you’re elbow deep in your own guts and gore, is when you get exhausted with the whole procedure. But starting is exhilarating.

I just recently started the first and hopefully only rewrite of Of the Arbour. While I adored the characters and the story, I felt that the style could age up. I’ve grown plenty in maturity and style since originally writing it what was it, at least four years ago? How time flies so a rewrite was necessary.

Continue reading

Writing workshop: Day 2

Reiteration:

Several weeks ago, I attended a weekend long writing workshop at the local college, presided over by Gail Anderson-Dargatz (The Cure For Death By Lightning). It was a neat experience, to be sure, listening to the opinions of one of Canada’s most well known literary authors. However, after the two days, it turned out I knew most of the things we discussed, and I’m already doing things right in terms of getting my name out there, but I’m going to quickly cover some of the things we discussed. Here, I’ll copy down the meagre notes I took and add on to the ones that I found particularly relevant. Hopefully one of you will find it as helpful as I did!

On day two of the writing workshop, we talked about YA and kid lit (though I didn’t attend that part) and promotion for publication of your novel (which I did attend because I have a brain). So now I’ll share my notes and thoughts about the promotion.  Continue reading