I do hope that 2015 has started off awesomely for you. And before you ask, no. I don’t make “resolutions” in the classic sense. Rather, I have “schedules.” That is, things I will be working on, and those usually involve making adjustments to my daily regimens and organizing writing and editing projects.
At any rate, this year I’m going to be doing some writing in genres that I’m not known for (including paranormal). I think it’s important to stretch as a writer, and try new things in order to get a sense of how your style and voice work across genres and what kinds of adjustments to make to write effectively no matter what you’re working on.
I’ve also got a lot of other writing things I’m up to, including romance and sci fi and I’m working on New Mexico things. So don’t worry. You’ll see things from me this year, too. 🙂
And speaking of working, I’ve been reading some “how to” and “how not to” books because I like to check in on my own techniques and continue working on my craft. I recently read this gem of irreverence, called How Not to Write a Novel, by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark, both writers.
The book is indeed filled with 200 examples of bad writing in an attempt to get other authors thinking about what constitutes bad writing and how to recognize it. The examples are often raunchy, hilarious, and in some cases NOT SAFE FOR WORK. So you probably don’t want to share this with teens or ‘tweens.
From the book’s website (linked above):
Many writing books offer sound advice on how to write well. This is not one of those books. On the contrary, this is a collection of terrible, awkward, and laughably unreadable excerpts that will teach you what to avoid at all costs if you ever want your novel published.
The book walks you through things not to do when you’re setting up your plots, writing characters, dealing with perspective and voice, learning about mechanics, and world-building. The examples can be over-the-top, yes, but the authors will tell you after the bad writing what’s wrong and why it doesn’t work (readers might also find the book interesting because it’ll get you thinking about the parts of a book and why some things work and why they don’t).
From the book’s intro (which will give you a sense of the approach):
We do not presume to tell you how or what to write. We are merely telling you the things that editors are too busy rejecting your novel to tell you themselves, pointing out the mistakes they recognize instantly because they see them again and again in novels they do not buy.
We do not propose any rules; we offer observations. ‘No right on red’ is a rule. ‘Driving at high speed toward a brick wall usually ends badly’ is an observation.
Hundreds of unpublished and unpublishable novels have passed across our desks, so we have been standing here by the side of the road for a very long time. Had you been standing here with us, you would have seen the same preventable tragedies occurring over and over, and you would have made the same observations.
Do not think of us as traffic cops, or even driving instructors. Think of us instead as your onboard navigation system, available day or night a friendly voice to turn to whenever you look up, lost and afraid, and think ‘How the fuck did I end up here?’
Sometimes, dear writers, you need to see what absolutely does not work to get a sense of what to look for in your own writing. Most (if not all) of the examples in this book I have done, the vast majority when I was just starting out as a fiction writer.
Part of developing as a writer is finding your own voice and style within the rubric of solid writing craft. And that involves comparing all kinds of writing as you’re working to figure out who you are as a writer. Which is why I think having really bad examples can be helpful, along with the reasons that the writing is “bad.” You’ll also find tips in this guide that hopefully help you fix the bad so you can apply them in your own manuscripts.
So writers, if you’re looking for a funny and useful guide to hone your writing skills, give this a look (here’s the Amazon link; more purchasing links at the site). If you’re a beginning writer pounding away on your first novel, definitely give this book a spin. And if you’re a reader curious about what bad writing might look like and how writers might address it, you might enjoy this, too.
So let’s get crackin’ this new year and hit the manuscripts!
So, I’m super-excited to participate in Jove Belle‘s blog tour for the release of her latest romance (F/F) through Bold Strokes Books, Love and Devotion. It’s available on ebook now, but will be available in print just in time for the holidays. Sweet!
Here’s what’s up on this stop on the tour. A little Q&A with Jove (see below) and then, an excerpt from Love and Devotion.
Jove Belle has several published F/F romances through Bold Strokes Books. She currently resides in the Portland, Oregon metro area with her partner of seventeen years and six kids. Somehow, she manages to find the time to write, do some urban farming, and tote the kids around in an SUV big enough for the lesbian Brady Bunch. You can find out more about her and her books at her website.
Let’s talk about some Love and Devotion, now.
Synopsis, from the Bold Strokes Books website:
KC Hall loves her family, her small East Texas town, and her best friend, Emma Reynolds. All of that takes a backseat when her lover beckons. Lonnie is blond, beautiful, and willing. She’s also married and a lifelong friend of KC’s mama.
KC knows the affair is a bad idea, but she just can’t help herself. When presented with the lush landscape of Lonnie’s body, KC subscribes to the philosophy of “orgasm first, think later.” Unfortunately, a secret that big is impossible to keep in a close-knit community where everybody knows everybody else’s business. The scandal would hurt her entire family.
Emma is KC’s exception, the one woman she loves enough to not have sex with. When Emma confesses that she’s loved KC since high school, KC is terrified. One wrong move and she could lose Emma completely.
Is she willing to let her family pay the price for her good time? Or will she turn to Emma to discover the true meaning of love and devotion?
Whew. Sorry about the delay; I’ve been crazy busy. I finished up the edits for the third in my sci fi series, The Edge of Rebellion. Cover coming soon as well as an excerpt. I’ll post them here and on my main site don’tcha know, so stay tuned.
I’m also sending the fourth in my New Mexico series, Day of the Dead, in for edits. We’re hoping to have that out by the end of the year. WOOOO! Stay tuned for a cover and excerpt from that, too.
Thanks again, everybody, for stopping by during the (blog) Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Much appreciated. I discovered some new authors, so I’m pretty stoked. Plus it was just really great to build a bit of community.
Anyway, I wanted to bring your attention to sci fi writer Kameron Hurley. By all means, read her work, but also, for the love of goddesses, read her blogs, too, because she is on point when it comes to dealing with how women are represented in fiction and science fiction. I just recently found out about what appears to be some major sexism at the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) not only through Hurley, but also through E. Catherine Tobler.
My gracious, peeps. I’m sort of out of hand up in here. I went on down to the Cocktail Hour for a Bar Conversation with Andy. We talked about books, writing, writing process, the upcoming GCLS conference, and a whole slew of other stuff. Hope you go and check it out. We had a hell of a good time. But then, I ALWAYS have a good time at Cocktail Hour!
I believe I’m slated to do a readings thingie on the Liz McMullen show in the next week or so. Not sure yet what I’ll be reading of mine, but it’ll probably include some unknown and unseen works-in-progress. I’ll let you know when that’s ready for your listening pleasure.
Oh, and cuz I kind of collect a few comics, here are some cool comics blogs to check out: Comics Worth Reading (lots of great, meaty discussions here) Comics Alliance (good info about stuff that’s out there, events, and stuff that’s on the way) Bleeding Cool (comics news and other groovy stuff like that)
When I find interesting-ness on the intertubes, I like to pass it along to you, to do with as you please.
First, author and awesome savant Chuck Wendig often re-posts things from his blog “Terrible Minds.” This one is one of my faves, “Ode to the Editor.” Read it HERE.
Remember the other day I blogged on the importance of editors and those urban fantasy books I was reading? And how I said I would definitely not read further in one series, but would in the other? Well, I’m reading the second in the series I enjoyed, but once again, the editor made a boo-boo. In the first of that series, the word “allusion” rather than “illusion” appeared. In this one, the word “allude” rather than “elude” appeared. Grammar monster will explain the difference here. Even though I’m 200 pages past it, it still bugs me. And sadly, I know what page it’s on. Sigh. The editor-ness in me sometimes is SUCH a burden. 😀
Anyway. Here’s another cool thing I found today. Jennifer Niven writes on women spies at HuffPo in the 20th century. Super-cool, and if you’re looking for some inspiration or ideas for an espionage novel/thriller, this piece might offer you some.
Oh, and James Blaylock, one of the dudes integral in the establishment of steampunk as a genre, tells us how that came about in his piece at HuffPo, “On Steampunk.”
I’m currently reading Phoenix Rising (by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris), the first in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. Fun stuff, great characters. If you haven’t read much steampunk, I also recommend Cherie Priest‘s work.
One of the ironies of writing is that we tend to read other writers’ guides on how to write. And we should, because there are some really good writing guides out there. It’s important to have guides on hand to grammar and punctuation, guides that help us figure out infrastructure, and tips that we can implement in our own writing to take our games to the next level. And then there are inspirational writing guides that can make you feel warm and fuzzy after you’ve had writing issues.
So here are a few of my suggestions.
For mystery writers, check out Chris Roerden‘s Don’t Murder Your Mystery (that link will also show you another of her great guides, Don’t Sabotage Your Submission). The tips in that book you can use for other genres, as well.
Looking to write more descriptively? Try Rebecca McClanahan‘s Word Painting. It includes instruction and exercises, as well as examples from the masters, classic and contemporary.
Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s already on its 10th anniversary. Part memoir, part guide, this handy toolkit will address just about everything you need in your bag o’ writing tricks. The fundamentals, my friends. Plus, it’s a warm, intimate look at King’s early life and how he himself approaches writing. But don’t just listen to me. Go check out the link.
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones (originally published in 1986, but it was updated in 2005). This is sort of a “Zen and the art of liberating your inner writer” kinda book. Might not be everyone’s style, but it’s a different approach and delves into creativity and its potential spiritual elements.
Strunk and White, The Elements of Style. It does not matter that this book first started life as an in-house writing guide for college students in 1918 by Cornell’s William Strunk. Nor does it matter that this pup got new life in 1959 when E.B. White revised Strunk’s 1935 edition. It’s freakin’ timeless, this book, and addresses things like the most misspelled words, common word usage errors, and proper punctuation. The book does have its critics, but it’s a nice brick to have in your writing framework.
Also get on over to Keith Cronin‘s recent blog over at Writer Unboxed to see his list of suggestions for writing guides. We overlap in a couple of places, but that’s okay. I like his list and I’m going to take his suggestions on a couple of things.
And here’s a list by Jon Winokur over at HuffPo (from 2010, but that’s quite okay).
Hopefully, that’ll get you started. Happy reading, happy writing!
OMG this week has been crazy bizzy. But don’t worry! The Summer Blast Tour has morphed into the Fall Fiesta Tour over at Women and Words, so check in on Fridays for fun n’ games and GIVEAWAYS! YES!
This Friday, author Mary Vermillion stopped by to chat about her series starring radio host/sleuth Mara Gilgannon. Mary sets her mysteries in Iowa (which I think is super groovy). She also has a secret (okay, not so secret) identity as a professor of English and she teaches way cool classes like Law and Literature.
So come on by! She’ll be giving away a copy of her latest, Seminal Murder.
Here, Mara tries to solve the murder of her friend, Dr. Grace Everest, who was killed right in her own fertility clinic. She and Mara were working on a radio series together about artificial insemination, but someone is out to stop her. Is that someone the person who also killed Grace? Is it the reverend who’s been campaigning against the clinic and the radio station? Is it the person Mara’s buddy Vince invites over to their shared home? Or is it somebody else? And why do lesbians have a particularly low pregnancy rate at Grace’s clinic?
So, I was thinking about the history of sleuthing/detecting in fiction/literature and I decided to do some digging. I’d heard of Anna Katherine Green, and I’d heard about her character, Violet Strange, who’s credited as the first female sleuth in fiction.
But Green is also known as the mother of American mystery, and she’s credited as writing and publishing what’s known as the first American detective novel, The Leavenworth Case, in 1878 (image below). It’s available at Amazon, if you’re interested (reprinted, obviously). This book, featuring detective Ebenezer Gryce, was published nine years before the debut of Sherlock Holmes.
If you’re a US writer (heck, a writer anywhere!) and not a subscriber to Writer’s Digest, try it. At least for a year to see how you like it. And if you’re a reader but not necessarily a writer, there are some FAB interviews with authors in WD.
For example! The October 2012 issue of Writer’s Digest has this super-cool interview with international supah-star crime writer Patricia Cornwell, by Jessica Strawser. As those of you who are familiar with Cornwell are aware, her premier character is medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta.
If you’re not a subscriber, find someone who is so you can read it or buy the issue. It’s available in print, but it’s not available to non-subscribers online. If you purchase the digital issue online, I believe it gives you access to online content relevant to that issue not available in the print. Like the extended version of the interview, in which Cornwell briefly discusses gay characters and mainstream fiction in the online outtakes.
I’ve been reading Cornwell off and on since Postmortem (1990) was released, and I’ve followed her career peripherally. One of the things that I really appreciate about her books is the extensive research she does for each one. It shows. And for crime writing, that is, I think, ultra-important.
In the interview, she discusses her writing process, the boundaries she keeps, and how she approaches writing and forensics. One of the things I appreciated about the intro to the interview is the matter-of-fact way her marriage to psychiatrist Staci Ann Gruber is treated. It’s mentioned, and. . .that’s it. No OMG THE GAY CRIME WRITER freakout. A mention of her marriage to her, and on to a couple other pertinent details about her successful defamation suit against a writer who accused her of plagiarism then waged an online war against her character.
So let’s have some more tidbits from the interview!