I found this very neat little tool.  I write like Arthur Clarke. :)

Word Count: 0

This past week, my daughter went on vacation and stayed with her grandparents for the week.  She came back ecstatic about spending time with her grandmother, and then announced to me, “I hate Grandpa!”

The next twenty minutes was very frustrating, as I tried to figure out what she meant, all the while trying to figure out what to say when I found out what she meant.

Her grandfather is one of those insufferable people that no one likes, with the exception of his immediate family — the one that he grew up with, not the one that he created himself — and that’s probably because they are just used to him.  He’s got a reserve of pent-up anger that he wields like a weapon in the form of sarcasm.  What’s worse, he’s one of the most narcissistic people that you will ever meet, and he spreads misery with glee.  After being in the same room with him for twenty minutes, you have an incredible urge to go get some ice cream and pick daisies, just to cancel out some of his misery.

Of course, I can’t tell that to my daughter.  Despite her words, she actually loves him.  (On a personal note, however, I do find it hilarious that she is figuring out for herself what a miserable bastard he is.  My husband and I laughed for a straight ten minutes about it when I told him what she said.)

The point of all of this is that he makes a wonderful villainous character, although I’m going to have to dredge up some redeeming qualities from my imagination, otherwise he would become too cliche.

As it just so happens, I am reading a great book about Earnest Hemingway called Write Like Hemingway: Writing Lessons You Can Learn from the Master, which deals about characterization:

Hemingway took his inspiration for his characters from listening to the people around him.  To begin seeing which habits of people might make them an interesting character, it’s useful to start looking for your fictional characters among family and friends (p. 87).

I think I will stick him in the series of short stories that I am currently writing, as the “nemesis” character.  Hemingway was famous for doing that, of course, especially toward people he did not like.  (Methinks the saying “the pen is mightier than the sword” would be appropriate here.)

As for my daughter, I gave up the effort to figure out what to say.  Instead, I just listened.  She is now writing and drawing a children’s book of her own, called Spongebob Square Pants Eats Crabby Patties.

David Gaughran over at his blog wrote a book called Let’s Get Digital: How to Self Publish and Why You Should.  It looks like a worthwhile read.  He’s selling this book (read the blog post announcing it) but he’s also generously giving away a copy for free on PDF.  If you are interested in self publishing, then you ought to pick it up.

I originally landed on his blog with the post “Making Money from Writing Part 1” (on short story writing), which proved to be a great read.  Anyone else interested in writing short stories for a living (or a side living) should check it out.  Dean Wesley Smith also has a great post about it, although it is more number crunching than pragmatic.

Sadly, I have canned my novel.

This does not mean, however, that I have given up.  The problem that I had was one that I later found out is quite common in the speculative fiction genre, according to Orson Scott Card in How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, the bible of writing in said genre.  The problem is, I didn’t sufficiently create the world in which my characters live.

You see, speculative fiction writers (horror, paranormal, urban fantasy, high fantasy, and science fiction) write by a different drumbeat.  This is because the rules of the world are entirely speculative, hence the name.  The world as we know it isn’t the world as they know it  And herein lies the problem.  If I, as the Creator of said world, do not know how the world exists or works, then how can I write about it?

Having an advanced magical system isn’t necessary.  I do not need to have complex rules like Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.  On the other hand, authors can and do create a world where none of the magic is explained other than “it is” — a highly grave mistake for anyone other than J.R.R. Tolkien.  But really, we don’t really give much credit to those who are so simplistic, no matter how successful his or her books may be.

However, I do need to have, at least, a rough idea of how the world works.

All speculative fiction stories have to create a strange world and introduce the reader to it — but good fantasy must also establish a whole new set of natural laws, explain them right up front, and then faithfully abide by them throughout.

Orson Scott Card, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy

And that is exactly the problem I now face.  I have written approximately 3/4 of my book, only to find out that I can’t end it properly because I have no idea how they got there, in the magical sense, at least.  I came up with this fantastic idea, or the rough edges of an idea, and I went back to revise everything I have done so far, only to discover that I should really can the entire book and start over, this time doing an entire world in depth before I begin.  Because with speculative fiction, it isn’t enough just to have a plot and some characters.  I have to have all the scene and rules, too.

That’s ok, though, because these last three weeks I’ve embarked on a quest of self discovery.  In other words, I’ve read some books on how to write fantasy, namely the one mentioned above, and also On Writing by Stephen King.  (Stephen King is also a speculative fiction writer — horror is in the same category as sci fi and fantasy.)  Like it or not, my path to being a fantasy writer is already paved for me.  Who knew there were rules for such things.

“Overnight success” like the kind of J.K. Rowling does exist, even more so today than it did when Card and King were getting started, but that doesn’t deny that for every Rowling, a hundred more average writers get their start the old-fashioned, tried and true method.  I’m talking about publishing short fiction.

I’ve never really been a short fiction writer.  I’ve done essays and memoirs and all sorts of literary fictional pieces that were no more than 1,000 words, but never something in the range of 7,500 to 15,000 words, or worse, a novella (30,000 words).  So, now, like learning how to become a novelist (to which my first attempt has utterly failed, but to which I do not feel badly for that), I have to learn how to be a short fiction writer.

The advantage of playing by the rules is that I am expected to write short fiction, so magazines and anthologies are expected to read a no-named person such as myself, and accept it, because only new writers really send their stuff to these magazines, anyway.  I mean, come on, does Stephen King write short fiction anymore?  Why would he get $400 for something when he can make millions churning it out as a novel?

So I have set a new criteria, putting my novel on the back burner (for the time being anyway).

  1. Write a bunch of short stories, no more than 7,500 words each.  Enter lots of contests and submit to lots of magazines.
  2. Outline my novella, which will not be speculative fiction, for the 3DN (approximately 25,000 words), then write it.
  3. Write more short fiction, enter more contests and submit more to magazines.
  4. Outline my second novella, which will probably be speculative fiction, for the NaNoWriMo (approximately 50,000 words), then write it.
  5. Write more short fiction, enter more contests and submit more to magazines.
  6. One day, enter the Suvudu contest; maybe more are out there, too.

Time to put myself into organizational mode!  More on this next week.

September 2011′s Writer’s Digest is the annual Big 10, and this year, they have a a sidebar called “10 Things for Every Writer’s Bucket List.”  Checking off these items means that you can officially call yourself a writer, at least maybe in the eyes of Writer’s Digest.

(Personally, I would call you a writer if you accomplished any of these items, and maybe even if you haven’t.)

  1. Publish a Short Story
  2. Go to a Writing Conference
  3. Freelance for Money
  4. Visit City Lights
  5. Write & Publish an Essay
  6. Take a Writing Retreat
  7. Write a Novel
  8. Go to BEA & Score a Tote
  9. Read Shakespeare
  10. ________________________ What You Desire

I’ve decided to do a series of blog posts when I complete these items, with #10 being “Get a MFA.”  This doesn’t mean it has to be your #10, but it is mine.

My official list:

  1. Publish a Short Story
  2. Go to a Writing Conference
  3. Freelance for Money
  4. Visit City Lights in SF, CA
  5. Write & Publish an Essay
  6. Take a Writing Retreat
  7. Write a Novel
  8. Go to BEA & Score a Tote
  9. Read Shakespeare
  10. Get a MFA

My #5 was published here:

(http://www.555c.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=40&Itemid=4)

Flash 555 Autobiography

Like most writers, I am infinitely proud of being published, although I didn’t get paid and it doesn’t give me any accolades.  But it is still mine. :)

What is your #10 and how many on the list have you accomplished?

Today there isn’t much of a blog post, but I thought I would pass this on.  Writer’s Digest has a free download Do I Have What It Takes to Be a Writer? and thought everyone would enjoy. I had to fill out a survey for the VIP membership (which expired).

For those of you who are wondering about the VIP Membership at WritersMarket.com, look somewhere else.  It may be nice if you are a freelance, nonfiction writer, but the fiction part of it is practically useless.  I’ve found more value in the free online directories of contests, or just doing a search.

Word Count: 73,268

Previous this week, I got some inspiration.  I was reading “Top 25 Best Fantasy Books” (which, by the way, I do not agree with).  What struck, me, though, was the depth and variety of fantasy novels out there.  I tend to like my book, biased as that may be, but I still have to be truthful to myself.  Is it the run-of-the mill fantasy?  Farmer-turned-hero-prophetic-king vs. Omniscient-evil-dude-that-is-going-to-kill-the-world-soon?

So, yes, I realized that my story had a little bit of that cliche in it.  Ok, a lot.

Enter my inspiration.  Changing it up a little, okay a lot, I decide to make no bad guys.  No all-powerful bad guys, who had droves of these nasty looking creatures made up just to be nasty looking.  No goodie-too-shoes character, who gathers the entire world to defeat the bad guy.

This meant, though, that I had to revise the entire novel, from start to finish, in order to make anything fit.  I’m wondering if I’ll ever be able to get back to writing, with all this revising that I’ve been doing lately!

Word Count: 69,528

Last week, I was all proud of myself because I spent three hours reformatting my manuscript so that I could print my “3/4 complete first draft.”  I had made big plans this week to edit and revise my novel, so that I could make a big push for the last quarter of it.

Well, that is before I met Scrivener.

For those of you who have not met Scrivener yet, well, this is the best thing since white sneakers.  I won’t go into too much detail about it, because, really, you need just to install it and check it out.  It’s freeware, so don’t worry about that.

I think the best part of it, though, is that it keeps word counts for you:

In the first picture, you can see the word count that I have right now.  (This isn’t the word count from my book, I only added a few chapters for testing purposes.)  But the one thing that I absolutely love is the page counts … the page counts for PUBLISHED books!  In my example, you can see that I’ve written 27 pages in a paperback version, and 45 pages in a hardbound version.  I don’t know how many pages and pages and pages of books I’ve copied, just to figure out how many pages I wrote in my novel.  No more!  Hooray!

And in the second picture, you can see the word count of the chapter that I am working on.

Another option, which I didn’t take a picture of, shows a session and a project target.  I put int 125,000 words for my project target, and then I see how many words that I write at the end of the session.  I’m going for 2,000 words per session!

Back to my writing.  This week, I didn’t accomplish many words, but I did spend the time productively organizing and working on the Scrivener application.  I also did get the beginning parts edited.  In this application, I’m able to mark chapters (or parts, if you choose to do your novel in multiple parts per chapter) as “Revised” or “Final Draft,” which corresponds nicely to my editing style.  (“First Draft” is obviously what I write the first time around.  “Revised” is going to be after I do a revision.  “Final Draft” is going to be after my friend and my husband edit the book.)

You’ll notice that my word count went down.  This is because Microsoft Word counts everything (including my notes) but Scrivener only counts the actual words.  Another reason I love it!

Has anyone else used Scrivener?  If so, let me know what you think!

Word Count: 70,022

Last week, I didn’t add any update the blog.  This is mainly because I was in deep writing for my primary project, my novel.  As we can see, I managed to knock out over 10,000 words these last two weeks which may not seem like a huge accomplishment, but with a project goal of 125,000 words, and a deadline of a year, that means that I have a goal of writing an average of 2,404 words per week.  If you want to get all mathematical, this means that I have exceeded my goal these past two weeks by about 104%.  In other words, I wrote more than twice as much as I intended.

I like to reread my work a lot, sometimes because I just plain forget what I wrote, but more importantly, because I think it makes my writing stronger.  Each time I go over a passage or a chapter, I think I improve it.

I discovered that this is because, quite simply, I become a better writer each time that I write.  I can see it.  I can feel it.  My characters have become more real, the emotions that they display are better projected, the action is more clear cut, and the description are more descriptive.  I took a purple pen (yes, purple, not red … we live near a Planet Fitness and they give away free purple pens, which make great corrective pens) to what I have so far, and I can say, without a doubt, that the end of it is much better written than the beginning of it.

I wouldn’t say that the beginning is bad writing, it’s just not as good writing, but it isn’t anything that a purple pen can’t fix, with a little help from a cup of coffee and a lounge chair.

This book may never get beyond my own computer screen to see the light of the publishing day, but I have proven several things to myself:

  1. I am a good writer.  I may not be the best writer right this moment, but I will be.
  2. I love to write.  This is what I was put on Earth to do.
  3. I enjoy long hours of solitude.  If I got paid to do this, why, I would be the damn luckiest person on the aforementioned Earth!
  4. Writing a book is easy, because of all the previous three items.
  5. Since writing a book is easy, and I become a better writer with each passing day I write, then I’m going to publish a book.  It might not be the one I’m writing right now, it might not be the fifth book I write, but it will eventually happen.

As a side note, I know that I’ve been a little slacking on responding to my comments the last couple of weeks, along with reading my RSS reader.  My deepest apologies to everyone who has taken the time to comment on my posts, or have felt that I haven’t made an effort to comment on yours.  Have no fear, it has been put on my “to-do” list for early next week!

I finally got around to updating my blogroll. My apologies to those of you who have taken the time to read my blog and comment, but I haven’t included you. If you don’t see your blog there, please let me know!

Your blogroll is a very important list. Taking the time to acknowledge and thank those who come to your site has its own rewards. I mean, think about it. If someone put you on her blogroll, wouldn’t you tend to visit her site more often? I would. Anyone who puts me in his or her blogroll gets a special place in my RSS feed reader, and I try to read everything written. I also try to comment, too. That’s what blogging is about.

Cultivating relationships on your blog takes time. I haven’t blogged here for very long, but I’ve made friends, and I value their friendship, not only because they read and comment on what I am sharing, but also because I feel as though I’ve found kindred spirits, others who share the same goals and the same passion as I do.  Although I’ve never met these people in real life, I am happy to have found them, and I am happy they have found me.

Today’s post, however, really isn’t about thanking my readers (although I did want to take the time to do so).  I’ve dubbed Tuesday to be “blog marketing day for writers.”  This will be the day that I share some tips that I’ve gathered for generating some more traffic to your blog.

Building traffic to your blog, if you are a writer, is something entirely different than, say, a blog whose purpose is just to make money.  By money, I mean the advertising kind such as Google Adsense or paid blogging posts, both of which are no-nos here at WordPress.com.  Perhaps it is because, as a writer, we don’t care about making money that way.  Okay, everyone likes money.  I wouldn’t say no if an extra $100 drops in my lap.

But it’s also not the reason I blog.

My secondary goal for this blog is to reach out and find people who are doing what I am doing – writing a novel – and sharing my experience with them.  That’s not my only goal, because if it were, I have achieved it.  My primary goal is to write my novel, and then when that is finished, I want to shout out to the world, I did it!!

So, if you are a writer, your aim is not to generate money from your blog, which again would be nice if it happened, but it is to tell people that you wrote something.

The point of this is that I’d like to tell as many people as possible.  Maybe I’m narcissistic, but there, I said it.  Okay, in order to tell many people that I completed my goal, I must also have a lot of people to tell, which is where driving traffic to your blog, and your blogroll come in.

Go out and find 5 to 10 more popular blogs and put them in your blogroll.  While you are there, comment on posts.  Go back regularly.  The reason for this is very simple.  If you haunt their site often enough (and they do read your comments) and you send them enough traffic, they will notice.  If they notice, and they appreciate, then they are going to send traffic back to your site.  Once your site gets more popular, do the same thing again and this time, aim higher.  Every blogger got there because he pays attention to the blog traffic reports.  Give him a reason, and he will reciprocate.

In summary:

  1. Put anyone who regularly comments on your site in your blogroll.  Be sure to visit their sites, too, and comment on their posts.
  2. Find 5 to 10 more popular blogs, and put them in your blogroll.  Be sure to visit their sites, and comment on their posts.
  3. Change up your blogroll every so often.

Let me know what you think.  Anyone with any success stories?


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