Craft, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Scene, Tips, Writing

Why use graph paper to write a novel?

As a rule, I don’t write my fiction by hand, and I’ve certainly never written it on graph paper. But recently, in the middle of a session working on my next novel, I went to the supply closet and grabbed my graphing pad. For the next couple of hours, I did my WIP “writing” with pencil and ruler. Why?

I write fiction by “sight”, meaning I have to see it as a mental movie before I can write it out. Several scenes in my new story have characters moving about a large house that I couldn’t quite envision. I had a clear picture of individual rooms, but those rooms’ relation to all the others in the house stayed a bit murky. I needed to draw the floor plan.

That may seem nitpicky, but it bugs me if I can’t picture locations when I read a book. I want to see the “movie” while I read the same way I do when writing. And if I, the writer, don’t visualize the scene clearly, it’s likely my readers won’t either.

I expect I’ll have to map out the grounds around this house too, for logic’s sake. Heck, I might even sketch the exterior of the house for inspiration. That probably won’t figure in the cover art though. I have a different vision for that.

Your turn: Do you use any unusual tools to aid your writing?

Advice, Author, Books, Craft, Fiction, Imagination, Inspiration, Life, Memory, Novel, Short story, Tips, Writing

As the twig is bent? Does your writing reflect your inner child?

I’m reading Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, which is a collection of his essays. He mentions frequently the source of his story ideas, tracing them back to childhood loves and events. In that sense, he shows that he started writing his stories years, even decades, before he typed them out.

He writes:

“I was in love, then, with monsters and skeletons and circuses and carnivals and dinosaurs and, at last, the red planet, Mars.

From these primitive bricks I have built a life and a career. By my staying in love with all of these amazing things, all of the good things in my existence have come about.”

And in another essay:

“Do not, for money, turn away from all the stuff you have collected in a lifetime.

Do not, for the vanity of intellectual publications, turn away from what you are—the material within you which makes you individual, and therefore indispensable to others.

To feed your Muse, then, you should always have been hungry about life since you were a child.”

With that in mind, this past week, I’ve thought a good bit about my childhood interests—my “primitive bricks”. At first glance, I don’t see evidence that I fed my Muse the seeds that grew into Brevity. Maybe I just need to look deeper into my first loves. Or maybe that novel was an aberration. Maybe my next novel should be completely different.

What do you think about Bradbury’s thoughts on childhood loves being the true well from which you draw your story ideas?

Advice, Author, Craft, Doubt, Fiction, Goals, Motivation, My Books, Novel, Tips, Writing

On being an accidental author

In case you tuned in late to this blog, maybe I should explain that I started it as a public journal of my adventures in writing. I often confess things a professional author should probably keep to herself. Lately, I’ve come to doubt my professionalism. Maybe I’m more an accidental author.

I stumbled into writing The Brevity of Roses for publication. It was inspired by a dream, written into a story for myself and a friend, and then kept growing. I joined a critique group for help. I read books and blogs and sites to learn how to write better.

For the two years I wrote, edited, and polished, I thought about little else than Brevity. What I didn’t do was think about myself as an author. I didn’t think about a writing career in any sense other than generally. I didn’t think about being where I am now.

In a sense, I feel like I’ve just awakened in a strange place, confused and … nekkid. What the heck have I done? I feel so exposed. Of course, it’s only my writing that’s exposed, but it’s hard to see that as separate from myself.

I can no longer pretend that my writing is this or that, that the story is something it’s not. Some days, that hits me hard and I want to hide my eyes and pretend you can’t see me. I think about closing this blog, my Twitter account, and my Facebook Page. On the worst of those days, I consider pulling my novel off the market.

Then, something else clicks in and I lecture myself. So you’re not quite the writer you want to be. Keep working at it. So you jumped in the deep end. Dog-paddle for all you’re worth. Whether you got here by accident or design, you’re an author. Suck it up and write—and keep writing until you reach your goal—and then you’ll continue writing because you’ll be the writer you always wanted to be.

Professional or not, I wanted to be honest about my journey. I hope none of you do or ever will feel like an accidental author, but if you do, remember you’re not alone. Just keep writing.

Advice, Goals, Marketing, Social Media, Tips, Writing

Numbers are killing me!

I’ve never liked numbers. Throughout my school days, math was the only academic class I really had to study for. Numbers are impersonal. They’re the opposite of words. I love words. I can relate to them.

Now, I’ve become surrounded by numbers. How many blog subscribers do I have? Have many Twitter followers? How many Facebook friends? How many books have I sold this week? Counting, counting, counting. And for what?

I am a writer. None of those totals makes me a better writer. In fact, obsessing over those numbers hurts my writing. Numbers have kidnapped me from words.

Lately, I’ve let too many of my days be ruined by numbers—the lack of them, the loss of them. The only numbers I need care about are word counts. Even then, I can’t obsess. Twenty words today, two thousand tomorrow, it all adds up to writing.

Words are my life’s blood. Numbers? Well, they’re the vampires.

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Books, Feedback, Marketing, Promotion, Publish, Reader, Tips, Writing

Tag, you’re it … at Amazon!

Consider today’s post a public service announcement. At least, it concerns something I didn’t know, so I’ll assume one or two of you don’t. (Please, someone say you didn’t know.)

Because too much sensory input overwhelms me, when I go to a website with fifty things going on at once, I tend to focus on the main thing and tune out the rest. So, until my novel appeared on Amazon, I ignored the sting of words below the reviews on each book’s page.

The label above this section is: Tags Customers Associate with This Product. These words should be key words descriptive of a book’s genre and subject matter. Amazon uses them as search terms. Were you aware that one of your search choices is: Products Tagged With? I wasn’t. But why does that matter?

For many (most?) of us who write books, we’re responsible for promoting them. We do that, of course, because we want people to read our books. It’s no fun writing books no one reads. So making readers aware that our book is out there is serious business.

On Amazon, the more clicks a book’s tag receives, the higher the book will rank in results when a customer search uses that tag. Obviously, books by famous, top-selling authors won’t go undiscovered if no one tags their books. But high tag counts can definitely help a debut author’s book get noticed.

From now on, especially when you buy a debut, or indie, author’s book at Amazon, remember to click their book’s tags. (And don’t forget to click to see ALL tags.) In fact, you can do that even if you read it as a library book or bought it somewhere else. Consider this a chance to create good Karma. What goes around …

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