Today I’ve taken a break from writing to share my indie author interview over on Booksbyilcruz. Please stop by and check out this new feature.
Today I’m really pleased to share a guest post from fellow writer, Ari Meghlen. She has some great tips for keeping your writing projects under control. Read on to find out more…
Keeping the Rabble in Line: How to stick to one story
A Writer’s Life
I always knew I was meant to be a writer. Even in those very early years when I struggled to read and was way behind, regarding reading levels compared to other children my age. After all, my inability to read well never stopped the ideas from coming.
While I loved to draw and was not bad at it, art never seemed enough to give all these ideas life! So, writing was the only way to go.
A Rabble of Chattering Ghosts
I have been blessed (and cursed) with always having ideas. Any time I suffered writers block, it was usually due to mental burn-out or a stubborn plot-hole that just won’t play ball. It was never due to lack of ideas.
I appreciate that is something I am lucky to have. However, it does have its downside. It’s certainly hard to complete a current project when some juicy new idea pops up demanding attention.
I recently discussed the concept of Muses and how to me, my Muses were a rabble of chattering ghosts. And might I say, they’re a rude, demanding lot too!
Their chatter follows me everywhere – in the car, in the grocery store, in the shower. I am forever reaching for a pen or grabbing my phone to jot down a note. It can be anything from a character, a scene or just an abstract concept or question.
It is awesome to have so many ideas. I love that I have enough ideas to keep me going for years to come.
However, it’s also a bad thing because all this chattering is a deep distraction. What is the point of having enough ideas for dozens of books, if I never finish any?
Acknowledging Bad Writing Habits
When I was younger, I fell into very bad habits. The ones where I would drop a working project (no matter how far into it I was) to start another. I felt as if every time a new idea crept up, I had to seize it!
That entailed abandoning story after story as I chased down whatever my chattering ghosts gave me.
This is a great route for disaster as a writer. Does it sound familiar? Have you ever caught yourself doing this?
We do it for many reasons, here are just a few:
- New and Shiny – I feel like writers are a bit like magpies. We are easily distracted by shiny objects and new ideas are those shiny objects. They draw our eye and it becomes our focus… until the next shiny appears.
- FOMO – Fear of Missing Out is a big one for people. Whether you get an idea for a story that is in a trending genre and want to exploit that, to feeling the new idea would be a better, more solid first novel to bring out than your current one. Sometimes we fear missing the opportunity that might be better for us.
- Ninja Level Procrastinator – Many writers don’t realise, but story-hopping is a type of procrastination. Some people have a (often unconscious) fear of completing their work so story-hopping allows them to procrastinate and never actually finish while still considering themselves writers.
But as writers, no matter what our reason, it’s not something we should do. It is more damaging in the long run.
Exorcise the Ghosts with a Brain Dump
So, what do you do if you’re bombarded by ideas all the time?
First, you need to acknowledge the new ideas.
Don’t try and ignore them as some will slip away, and you might always wonder if it could have been something great. Others will just bang loudly on the door, constantly demanding entry and stop you from working anyway.
Second, exorcise the ghosts with a good, solid brain dump.
This is where you just get all the chatter out of your head. Open a new document, save it in an Ideas folder and then just type. Whatever they are giving you – character descriptions, scraps of scenes, plot, dialogue, questions.
The idea here is to purge your mind of all the noise but don’t expand on it. Don’t jot down the basis of a plot and then spend 3 months developing it. That’s working on the project, whereas what you want to do is just create notes.
All the while remind yourself that your current project is being delayed and you must go back to it.
Third, expect that this brain dump might not be 100% done in one sitting.
For the few days following, additional pieces of ideas may pop up. Keep your Idea file open while you’re working on your current WIP and just jump into the document to add the odd nugget as it comes.
This is JUST for the straggler ideas and should not go longer than a few days. Anything beyond that and you’re working on your new project. Be firm, give yourself a cut off.
When you’ve gotten the chatter to hush, throw your focus back at your current WIP with vigour and let the idea sit patiently in its folder. Ideas must be taught to wait their turn.
Be Firm, and Cling to Your Discipline
While writers could possibly do with some drill sergeant keeping us in line, most of us don’t have that so we must rely on our own sense of discipline (terrifying, I know!)
But if you want to be a writer, if you want to complete something and get it published, you need to be firm.
Don’t read the notes you’ve made on your new project. Don’t keep thinking about it. Believe me when you come back to those notes eventually, they will still trigger ideas and you can build on it then.
Why an Outline can help keep the Ghosts under control
There is a lot to be said for having an outline of your work. If you have a strong, detailed outline written for your current work, you will find that the desire to drift off to new projects is somewhat diminished.
This is because often writers will feel a spark with new ideas, especially if they aren’t 100% sure where their current work is going. So, rather than just sitting staring at a screen and dealing with the plot-hole or up-coming conflict, we drop it and turn to the new project.
An outline is a map, showing you the way. It reduces the need for staring blankly at a page, trying to figure out where you’re going in the story.
I was a pantser for a long time and my work has suffered because of it. I have been much better since I (with brutal reluctance) started to do full, detailed outlines.
Those whispered ideas don’t grab me as tightly any more because my focus draws right back to the next scene I need to write in my current WIP.
So, do you often find yourself swayed by the siren of new ideas? How have you managed to stop yourself from dropping one project to start another?
A big thanks to Suzanne for letting me be on her blog, much appreciated.
At the age of 8, Ari Meghlen wanted to be a pirate, because who doesn’t look great in baggy pantaloons and an eyepatch. However, lacking any access to a ship this dream was relegated along with so many others: Professional Ninja, Best Friend to a Dragon, Palaeontologist.
Yet Ari found that, in stories, she could be anything she wanted and so a great love affair started with the written word. She mainly writes Preternatural Urban Fantasy as well as more Traditional Fantasy.
When she’s not creating worlds from the screaming, shuddering recesses of her mind, Ari can be found blogging about writing on her website or indulging in other hobbies such as drawing, shooting arrows, watching movies, playing cards badly.
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/writerarimeghlen
Today I am really excited to welcome Colleen Story to my blog for a guest post all about research…
The One Question You Need to Ask When Doing Writing Research
When Suzanne first asked me about the research I did for my newly released non-fiction book, Overwhelmed Writer Rescue, and how it differed from the research I did for my novels, my first thought was, Oh it’s completely different.
But then as I starting looking into it, I thought, Well, maybe not—there actually are a lot of similarities.
In discovering those similarities, I’ve found that no matter what type of writing you’re doing, it’s important to ask one question. The answer will help you determine whether the research will benefit the writing or not.
Health Writing is Researching in its Purest Form
I’ve been researching non-fiction writing for over 20 years. I specialize in health writing. If you’re unfamiliar with what that is, just imagine me writing research papers all day long on things like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, preventative care, alternative treatments, nutrition, and the like.
Sounds about as fun as a root canal, right?
Well, if you’re interested in what you’re researching, it can be fun, and much of the time, I am. Over the years, I’ve gradually expanded into personal growth, motivation, and creativity, which I particularly enjoy, and for which the research can be extremely intriguing.
I’ve written fiction for about the same period of time, but for years, I didn’t research it at all. Looking back, I think I probably avoided it simply to get away from what to me was my “day job” as a freelance writer. Fiction was my time to play and indulge my creative muse—I certainly didn’t want to bring any dry research into it.
When I started writing novels, though, that had to change, at least somewhat.
Gradually, My Fiction Writing Began to Require Some Research
My first novel was a fantasy, so I researched things that appealed to my imagination, like gargoyles, stone sculptures, and ancient myths and legends—all fun stuff that didn’t really seem like “research.” Instead, I was indulging my own sense of curiosity.
You see, in my mind, research is tough. I’m used to regularly reading challenging material that typically goes something like this:
“Most studies agree that the classical pathological criteria for AD, neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, can account for 40%–70% of the variance in cognition seen in elderly subjects, with additional pathologies such as cerebrovascular disease (Dolan et al. 2010b) and Lewy body pathology (Schneider et al. 2007) working together with AD pathology to account for an additional 20%–30% of dementia cases. (O’Brien and Wong, Annu Rev Neurosci., 2011)”
Not exactly light reading, and this is one of the simpler ones. After a day of it, you’re ready to move onto something else.
So “researching” my fiction has always been restricted to an “as needed” and “for fun” basis. I really didn’t think of it as a key component in my fiction writing—until the last couple years.
As promised, here’s the link to my guest post on Louderthansilver.
I hope you enjoy seeing how writing has influenced my learning. And in case you missed it yesterday, I posted some photos of the birds of prey I visited a few weeks ago in the name of research (and because I love them).
Join me again tomorrow for the last day of the blog tour.
On day 6 of the blog tour I’m featured over on Sacha Black’s blog, sharing my insight on writing a standalone novel vs a series. I’ve devised 12 questions all writers can ask themselves before embarking on the task.
Please head over and let me know what you think.
The Lost Sentinel blog tour will continue later with a book review from Another World Book Blog. See you then.
As promised, here’s the first stop on The Lost Sentinel’s blog tour. Find out why I love spreadsheets as a writing tool.
I’ve always loved using excel spreadsheets, which probably goes back to my office job days (yawn!). But it was only as I recently plotted and planned the second book in my Silent Sea Chronicles, that I wondered if other writers had considered the benefits of using spreadsheets as a writing tool. Excel is great for;
- Planning your novel
- Plan scenes in brief (or detailed if you prefer)
I do a mixture of both on the spreadsheet. Sometimes I plot out the basic scene, but I might add a few bits of dialogue to help me get into the scene when it comes to actually writing it.
- It’s easy to copy, cut and move scenes around until you find the right place for them in the story.
- Keep track of viewpoint characters
This is great when you have a cast of characters. I don’t like to leave too long between…
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The next volume in the Birth of Saints series is available now!
Following Grudging–and with a mix of Terry Goodkind and Bernard Cornwall–religion, witchcraft, and chivalry war in Faithful, the exciting next chapter in Michelle Hauck’s Birth of Saints series!
A world of Fear and death…and those trying to save it.
Colina Hermosa has burned to the ground. The Northern invaders continue their assault on the ciudades-estados. Terror has taken hold, and those that should be allies betray each other in hopes of their own survival. As the realities of this devastating and unprovoked war settles in, what can they do to fight back?
On a mission of hope, an unlikely group sets out to find a teacher for Claire, and a new weapon to use against the Northerners and their swelling army.
What they find instead is an old woman.
But she’s not a random crone—she’s Claire’s grandmother. She’s also a Woman of the Song, and her music is both strong and horrible. And while Claire has already seen the power of her own Song, she is scared of her inability to control it, having seen how her magic has brought evil to the world, killing without reason or remorse. To preserve a life of honor and light, Ramiro and Claire will need to convince the old woman to teach them a way so that the power of the Song can be used for good. Otherwise, they’ll just be destroyers themselves, no better than the Northerners and their false god, Dal. With the annihilation their enemy has planned, though, they may not have a choice.
A tale of fear and tragedy, hope and redemption, Faithful is the harrowing second entry in the Birth of Saints trilogy.
Faithful– November 15, 2016
Also enter to win a signed paperback of Grudging, the first book in the series:
A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.
The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.
On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.
The Women of the Song.
But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.
A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.
November 17, 2015
Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two kids in college. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.
She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow.
Her Birth of Saints trilogy, starting with Grudging and Faithful (November 15, 2016), is available from Harper Voyager. Another epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. She’s repped by Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary.
I just wanted to share a link to my guest post over the Writing & Wellness blog run by Colleen M Story.
To view the article click here . While you’re there, have a look around. There are plenty of great articles to read.
After my exhausting two week blog tour, I’m happy to take a break and hand over to another blogger Dan Alatorre. Today he shares with us a guest post all about creating memorable characters using his newly released book ‘The Navigators’ as a guideline.
6 Steps To Creating Memorable Characters – a guest post by Dan Alatorre
As young readers, we probably loved a character that we saw in a book and ended up carrying that character with us the rest of our lives. As adults, we still love big screen movie icons and characters from books, wishing we were that courageous or that suave or that funny.
As authors, we want our readers to feel that way about the characters we create.
Findlay, the bad guy in The Navigators, my fast-paced sci-fi thriller about a group of paleontology students who make an amazing discovery, was accidentally created – by the good guys!
Melissa, the hero in this new release, starts out as almost a secondary player. “Missy” eventually she takes over and saves the day.
Peeky is Ishmael watching Captain Ahab go crazy after the whale, merely a witness to events, until we learn what he’s hiding. Then we realize nothing is what it seems in this story, why he’s the narrator, and that we are in for a fun ride.
So that’s WHAT they are; HOW do we make them memorable?
- Whether real or larger than life, the reader has to connect with the character.
When you read The Navigators, you have a feeling about most of these characters before the end of chapter one. I make them a person the reader identifies with – and not always in a good way.
As kids, we’ve all known a bully. We’ve all had a crush on somebody we couldn’t talk to. We’ve all had an embarrassing secret get out – maybe at a really bad time. We don’t forget that stuff, and if we’re reminded of it in a story, we are right back in the eighth grade cafeteria, dropping our lunch tray in front of the whole school. We’re with the character right up to our eyeballs.
That’s gold for an author.
I showed Peeky as likable, then much later I revealed his secret and showed him to be less than likable, and by the end of the story he had regained the readers’ sympathy.
But we first made him likable. I did that by having other characters show they like him.
But… we had to like them first.
Missy has achieved status in the group of friends by being smart and hard-working. Missy is also the moral compass of the male-dominated clan. She isn’t afraid to set everybody straight. These are all admirable qualities, so we like her. When she jokes around with Peeky, we like him because she does.
- Make the character a whole person with three dimensions.
The reader transfers that initial fondness – and gives the benefit of the doubt – to Peeky. Later, he will have to demonstrate his worth, which he does by trying to save his drowning friend’s life – but only after he accidentally sees Missy go for a near-naked swim. He feels bad about seeing her, but he’s human. So now we see he’s flawed, and we appreciate his shame. We feel that shame, too (after all, as we read it we were right there watching with him). He’s complex and three-dimensional, not a cardboard cut out.
- Have your characters grow during the story.
I kind of explained Missy there, but here’s the rest. She a graduate student but she isn’t in charge of her life yet. She doing what she’s supposed to do and it’s only after she sees how easily everything can be taken away, like she’s seen studying great civilizations in the past, that she steps up and takes charge, ultimately taking charge of the entire group.
- Solidify our opinion of the character.
Mr. Mills, her dad, is a rich and powerful man who is a big teddy bear when his daughter is around. Readers like Missy a lot, and when she’s in for a big time scolding from dad, they love that he can’t help himself and just gives her a look and then bails her out while giving her a bear hug. We all want a dad like that. We love him, he loves her, and that reaffirms our good feeling about her. We trust her even more. We’ll follow her anywhere. She’s becoming larger than life.
- An adversary that challenges the hero
Findlay, our bad guy, starts out as a good guy! He gets made into the bad guy only after the gang cuts him out of his contribution to the discovery. So he has a vendetta, but from his perspective, he is in the right.
- If the bad guy is reeeeally bad = the good guys are even more good.
When Findlay captures Peeky, our meek and mild-mannered narrator, Findlay tortures him (verbally). Readers start to hate Findlay now. He already did things to mess with our heroes, but when he gets Peeky, Findlay dials it up to ten. He says and does things we’ve had said and done to us, and Peeky squirms the whole time. And I drag it out, so you really feel it. Findlay embarrasses Peeky. He then humiliates him. He makes sure every awful rock in Peeky’s past has been turned over and then almost makes Peeky grovel. Nobody wants that to happen to them. And the whole time, Findlay keeps saying Peeky’s name in a taunting manner. “You sat and watched them beat me up, didn’t you Peeky?” and “You didn’t help, did you Peeky?”
We’ve all had some kid on the playground in our face doing that. Nobody likes it, and by relating that commonality readers will feel what the character feels.
Then we have to show (red cheeks, squirming, wiping his sweaty palms) our character feeling what we want the reader to feel, and we have to take it to a new higher dramatic level, but we do it best by drilling down to our own core and taking the embarrassing, humiliating, cheek-reddening, never-forget-no-matter-how-hard-I-try stuff from our own lives, and putting that emotion out there for all to see and saying YOU’VE BEEN THERE, TOO.
That works. The readers connect again.
Memorable scene, memorable character(s).
Everybody who reads The Navigators comes away hating Findlay.
They all love Mr. Mills.
They cheer for Missy at the end and feel positive about where she’s going in her life.
And they are divided about Peeky. Most readers like him; a few don’t. That’s how he was written, so I did it right.
But who will they never forget?
The ones they connected with most. That’s why you have to put yourself in there. Your heart. Because it’s different for everybody but when you go there yourself, you make it universal.
Dan Alatorre is author several bestsellers. His new novel, The Navigators, is a fast-paced sci fi thriller that breaks new ground in its fascinating characters and truly unique story.
The Navigators (global link)
Dan’s Amazon author page
I am very pleased to have Catherine Ryan Howard on my blog today as she celebrates the release of her debut thriller ‘Distress Signals’. Over to you Catherine;
Why Didn’t I Self-Publish Distress Signals?
Catherine Ryan Howard
My debut thriller, Distress Signals, was published on May 5 by Corvus/Atlantic, the first in a two-book deal. (The second will be out this time next year.) If you search for my name on Amazon, you’ll find more results than that for my name, because starting in 2010, I self-published. I started with Mousetrapped, the story of the year and a bit I spent living in Orlando, Florida and working in Walt Disney World. I followed it up with Backpacked, the story of what I did after that, i.e. went backpacking around Central America for a couple of months. Finally – since the self-publishing of the first two went well – came the obligatory ‘how to’, Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing.
So I have an established platform, I know how to self-publish and it’s gone well for me in the past. So why didn’t I self-publish Distress Signals too.
1. My goal was always to get published
My goal, since I was a child, was to get a novel published. I wrote Mousetrapped, initially, because I felt woefully underprepared for my move to Orlando and thought that the other people who went out there on the same programme I did might benefit from the book. I self-published it because no one was interested in doing the publishing bit for me. Non-fiction felt a low-stakes game for me – it wasn’t the only thing I’d ever wanted to do with my life, so there was significantly less pressure. I wasn’t crippled with fear and anxiety over every last decision. I could have fun with it, because failure wouldn’t be devastating.
I feel totally different about fiction, which is why I wanted an agent to represent it and me and then, hopefully, a publisher to get involved. If Distress Signals had been rejected all over town, my thoughts might have turned to self-publishing it too. But we didn’t get that far.
2. My dream needs a traditional publisher
I’ve held this dream for the best part of three decades and it looks a certain way: a champagne welcome to a publishing house, a beautiful printed book, that book on shelves in bookstores all over the country, interviews and features in newspapers and magazines, a launch party where someone else is footing the bill for the wine. (And all the other bills too…!) Five years or so ago when e-books had an explosive surge in popularity, this dream didn’t suddenly change. I didn’t suddenly decide, after about twenty-five years of wanting a very specific thing, that hey, this other thing will ‘do’ instead. My dream remained the same. And I needed a traditional publisher in order to achieve it.
I understand that if you go to the Kindle store to download your next read, it’s hard to tell if it’s been traditionally or self-published, and it doesn’t seem to matter. But for me, that’s looking at the process very selectively, through an incredibly narrow lens. Over the last year or more, my publisher has done countless things for me that I just could not achieve by myself or, at the very least, wouldn’t have the money, experience or contacts to make happen. Getting e-books on Amazon are just one small part of the publishing process. There’s so much more to it than that, and it’s a ‘more’ I can’t make happen for myself.
3. Team Distress Signals
I loved the challenge of self-publishing and I’m so proud of what I achieved with it, especially because I made it happen by myself. But it can be a lonely road. The buck stops with you. All mistakes are your own.
Right now I have a whole team of people working with me – my agent, my editor, publicists in Ireland and the UK – while numerous other people (designers, sales agents, digital managers) do more heavy lifting behind the scenes. We all have the same goal: to make Distress Signals the best book it can be, and to make its publication as successful as possible. Each person brings years of experience, unique insight and boundless enthusiasm to the table. Because I was paid an advance, these people have invested in me. They’ve taken a risk on me. Now, we’re all working together to make sure that risk pays off.
Yes, control has to be relinquished. Yes, there are frustrating days, or confusing decisions. But so far, I think it’s more than worth it.
* * *
Ultimately, I didn’t self-publish Distress Signals because I didn’t want to and I didn’t have to. That doesn’t mean I’m done with self-publishing though. In fact, I’m certain I’ll return to it again at some point in the future, because I want this to be my career and a career has highs and lows, feasts and famines. Also, traditional publishing runs on contracts, and contracts expire. I have this deal now, yes, but no one knows what’s going to happen in the future.
Even if things go swimmingly, I still think self-publishing should have a place in every author’s master plan. But for now, I’m seeing what the view is like from the other side.
ABOUT DISTRESS SIGNALS:
Published May 5 by Corvus/Atlantic in Ireland and the UK, June 2 in Australia and New Zealand. Details of North American publication later in 2016 coming soon.
Did she leave, or was she taken?
The day Adam Dunne’s girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart. Days later, the arrival of her passport and a note that reads ‘I’m sorry – S’ sets off real alarm bells. He vows to do whatever it takes to find her.
Adam is puzzled when he connects Sarah to a cruise ship called the Celebrate – and to a woman, Estelle, who disappeared from the same ship in eerily similar circumstances almost exactly a year before. To get the answers, Adam must confront some difficult truths about his relationship with Sarah. He must do things of which he never thought himself capable. And he must try to outwit a predator who seems to have found the perfect hunting ground…
“Pacey, suspenseful and intriguing … [A] top class, page turning read. Catherine Ryan Howard is an astonishing new voice in thriller writing.” — Liz Nugent, author of 2014 IBA Crime Novel of the Year Unravelling Oliver
“An exhilarating debut thriller from a hugely talented author. Distress Signals is fast-paced, twisty and an absolute joy to read.” — Mark Edwards, #1 bestselling author of The Magpies and Follow You Home
Read a preview of the first three chapters here:
Catherine Ryan Howard was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1982. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida, and most recently was a social media marketer for a major publisher. She is currently studying for a BA in English at Trinity College Dublin.