Sometimes, I think my writing life echoes the Dr. Seuss book “Green Eggs and Ham.”
Would you write it on a train? Would you write it on a plane?
Would you write it in a car? Would you write it near and far?
I can write it here or there. I can write it anywhere!
I’ve written book chapters and short stories just about everywhere. A big chunk of Deadly Curiosities was written on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. Most of the time, it’s not nearly that sexy. A lot of times, I can picture the hotel room where I wrote a story or chapter whenever I re-read it. Which means that a lot of my stuff reminds me of Hampton Inns.
I wrote the short story No Reprieve at my vendor table at last year’s Origins. I wrote my alternative Sherlock Holms story for Baker Street Irregulars (2017) in the Contraflow motel last year in New Orleans. The epically epic, epic fantasy that still can’t be named was written in more motels than I can count, edited in the car on long trips, worked on in airports, on planes, and at picnic tables in state parks, and given a final read through on the beach. If I’d have turned in a physical manuscript, there would have been sand between the sheets of paper.
Writing on the road has good parts and bad parts. Sometimes it’s easier to be creative when you’re not in your usual place or daily routine. Being somewhere new, having a view of the ocean or the mountains or a lake can let your mind rest and wander and come back refreshed. Hotel rooms are quiet (sometimes too quiet) and wifi is lousy, so distractions are at a minimum. Of course, lousy hotel wifi makes research difficult, and since traveling with my laptop messes with my back, moving documents between my laptop and my tablet makes for formatting issues. Planes are tight for writing space, and I’m always afraid the bozo in front of me is going to recline his seat into my lap and mess up my tablet.
On the whole though, writing on the road works pretty well for me. Good thing, or I’d have been screwed on deadlines six ways to Sunday. Maybe it’s a skill born of necessity. I’ve outlined new series either sitting in my motel room or nursing a glass of wine at a quiet table in the back of a hotel bar. I’ve worked out a lot of chapters when I’m driving long stretches of boring highway. Larry and I worked up the book outline for Iron & Blood and Vendetta and the first book in a new series on long car rides back to Pennsylvania. (It’s a good use of 20 hours round-trip in the car.)
Cultivating the ability to write just about anywhere gives me back productive time out of periods that would often be wasted–like sitting in an airport or a car or on a plane. Sometimes being in a strange place jostles me out of being stuck, or gives me fresh new ideas. I’ve found that sometimes a quiet hotel room with no distractions is exactly what I need to be hyper-productive guilt-free, because I’m not ignoring my husband or kids or dogs, since I’d be away from home anyhow.
I guess more to the point, I’m not sure writers ever stop writing. If I’m on vacation and I’m walking around a new city or going to a museum, or taking in the sights, part of my brain is filing interesting things away for future use. If I’m getting in some writing between con panels, I might put to use a nugget I heard earlier in the day. It’s all grist for the mill.
What’s the point? I guess it’s that if you’re feeling pressed for writing time, think about the ‘lost’ hours you spend traveling, waiting in a car, commuting on mass transit and elsewhere, and see if you can figure out a way to reclaim them by writing. Maybe you keep paper with you, or write on your phone or on a smart tablet. It might be difficult to focus at first in strange surroundings, but practice makes perfect. There always seem to be too few hours in a day when it comes to writing, so taking back ‘lost’ time can be one way to fit more words into your day.
I might not like Green Eggs and Ham, but I’ve learned to enjoy writing on the road–and maybe you can, too!
What are your favorite tips for fitting in some extra writing time? I’m always looking for more ways to add hours to the day!
Catch me at Confluence in Pittsburgh this coming weekend, and Gencon in Indianapolis the first weekend in August!
And don’t forget about Modern Magic–12 full-length books by 13 awesome dark fantasy authors. Only $1.99 and only for a limited time!
Sometimes we writers overthink our work (and in that spirit, this will be a brief post). We try to create spectacular worlds and amazing magic systems and plots filled with surprises and twists. And all of that is great. When I read, I love narrative complexity, rich settings, and remarkable magic.
But I read for emotion. I read, as do so many, because I want to delve into the internal lives of compelling characters. Humans are natural voyeurs and eavesdroppers. We are curious about other people, sometimes to a disturbing degree. (See: Kardashian, Kim) One of the great allures of reading, I believe, is the chance not only to listen to and watch characters, but also to have access to their thoughts and emotions.
I bring this up because I have noticed in working with students and less experienced writers, a tendency to shy away from exploring the emotions of our characters. So let me be as blunt as I can be: Emotion is everything. If we do not connect with our readers on an emotional level, we can’t hope to keep them interested in our books. Plot, world building, and the rest are certainly important, but they are vehicles for the essentials of storytelling: character, tension, and emotion.
So how do we imbue our prose with emotion? Well, we DON’T do it with a sledge hammer. I am not telling you to bludgeon your readers with paragraphs-long explorations of your characters’ emotions. That would be no better than a data dump. Sometimes all we need is a gesture or moment’s expression — the twitch of a lip, a nervous gesture with the hands, the refusal to look someone in the eye. Delving into emotion doesn’t mean eschewing subtlety.
Emotions can trigger memories, or cause someone to change the subject in a conversation, or make a person throw a phone through a window. Sometimes emotional responses are huge and over the top, sometimes they’re barely perceptible, and sometimes the very act of suppressing emotion can be the perfect window into your character’s feelings and thoughts.
Emotional reactions are, by definition, going to be as individual and idiosyncratic as other elements of your character’s personality or physical traits. The important thing is to get into her or his mindset when you write, to make the character’s emotional triggers as much a part of your being as your own triggers are when you’re away from the computer or notepad. That level of empathy enables us to write realistically, emotionally, effectively.
Emotionless writing is flat writing. It really is as simple as that. Love, hate, anger, jealousy, joy, passion, grief, bewilderment, contentment — these are the things that make life interesting. And they are what make our stories and our characters come alive. Look for ways to inject emotion into your storytelling. Your readers will thank you.
Happy Friday, friends!
This time last week I was just starting a fabulous weekend at ConGregate, one of my favorite conventions, and thinking about the panel I was to sit on later that night: Finding the Right Editor.
It was a great panel, or at least I thought so. Sharon Stogner, Leona Wisoker, and I were the panelists discussing what a writer needs to consider when hiring a freelance editor. Since I talked a good bit about Magical Words during that panel, I thought I’d share some of what we discussed.
We primarily focused on hiring editors for either self-publishing or when looking for a publisher and/or agent since a lot of this doesn’t apply so much to publisher-assigned editors. Some does, so take what you want.
We compared finding an editor to dating, which actually works out really well.
Decide you want a date:
First, you have to decide that you want to hire a freelance editor and why. Do you want to self-publish? Do you want to learn more and improve your craft? Do you want to improve your chances of getting picked up by an agent? Basically, what’s your endgame? Like a date, are you looking to develop a long term relationship or just have some fun?
Once you’ve decided your motivation for finding an editor, you have to actually find one! Word of mouth is the BEST way to do this. Ask around. If people like their editor, they’ll tell you. Reputation is extremely important in this business.
Look at the acknowledgements in books you like to see if they mention an editor. Most self-published authors list their editor on Amazon as well as themselves as the author.
(Note to those of you who do or plan to self-publish: this is one way editors get business, so we’d love it if you’d take the extra ten seconds and add us as editors, okay? We will love you for it. It’s sort of like our reference list.)
Conventions are another great way to meet editors. You can talk to them face-to-face, get a business card, attend some of the panels they are on to see what they know and how they approach editing (because we all approach it differently). I make a lot of contacts when I go to conventions, not only with writers looking for an editor but also with other editors. We love to talk “shop” while we’re there. For example, I was on a different panel with Sharon Stogner, David Coe, Darin Kennedy, and Tamsin Silver about dialogue tags. Sharon and I got quite excited about the punctuation of them. We may have gotten funny looks from the other end of the table. But, I am getting off topic…
Once you have an editor in mind that you’d like to make contact with, check to see if your chosen editor has a website, social media presence, etc. and stalk them. (Not in a creepy way…much like you would if you were an employer checking out a potential employee.) You can generally find out a lot of information from their website: who they’ve edited, what they charge, what they like to edit, their editing philosophy, etc.
The First Date:
The first edit is much like a first date. You both are looking to see if you’re a good fit for each other. Writers, the editor is evaluating you as much as you are evaluating the editor, so professional courtesy should be extended by both parties.
Editors: don’t change the writer’s voice, be honest about the level of edit needed, be straightforward about your pricing and other policies, and communicate with the writer.
Writers: don’t rush the editor (ex: if it’s your first novel, your edit will likely take more than a few days, so don’t plan a huge release party!), reply promptly to their emails, remember that their job is to critique your work so it won’t be rainbows and butterflies the whole way through, and communicate with the editor.
Develop the relationship:
I prefer to work with writers on a continual basis because I can learn their writing style, their habits, and know what to expect. They learn the same about me.
That being said, sometimes using multiple editors is a good thing — you can get a fresh perspective or different opinion. However, if it’s your third or fourth or fifth book in the series, don’t expect an editor to know what happened in book one or two if they’ve not edited them. Even if they’ve read them, editors read differently than they edit and notice different things. For example, in my post on style sheets two weeks ago, I talked about how I approach making sure things are consistent. It’s time consuming, so I am surely not going to do that for a book I’m reading for pleasure.
Another benefit of working with the same editor repeatedly is that you develop a relationship — often even a friendship — that extends beyond the editorial. You have to keep in mind, however, that you have to keep those two relationships separate. You may get angry, but you can’t talk to your business associate in the same way you’d vent to a friend. You can, but you risk damaging one or both of the relationships.
Ending the relationship:
Finally, sometimes relationships need to end. The same goes for writer/editor relationships. You may decide you want a different editor if you’re moving to a different genre, or an editor who can return things more quickly, or for any number of reasons.
Regardless of why you decide to no longer use the editor — or the editor decides to no longer edit for the writer — please be professional. Don’t bash the editor or writer on social media. Don’t advertise that you’re seeking a new editor when you’ve not told the editor. It’s a small community; they’d likely find out. Don’t refuse to pay if the work has been completed correctly.
Basically, be professional.
You can find my editorial information on my website at www.clickingkeys.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/writerservices or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/clicking_keys
Late last week, I received the edits for a short story I wrote for an upcoming anthology. The editor began by apologizing for it taking so long, and said, “I tried to concentrate on the stories that looked like they need the most editing first. So I guess the delay is a good sign.” Sounds like a compliment, yes? That’s because it is. So you’d probably laugh at me when I say that my first thought was He’s just saying that because I’m friends with the editor who invited me to write for the project.
Which is stupid. But that’s what imposter syndrome makes you do – think stupidly.
Diana Pharoah Francis talked last week about Imposter Syndrome, and how crippling it can be. When I sold Mad Kestrel, every time I got an email from my editor about this rewrite or that suggestion, there was a tiny voice in my head insisting that the only reason Tor bought it was because my agent was friends with my editor. As if an editor at a major publishing house had the room in the schedule to do his friends favors. Doesn’t happen. There are too many people that have to agree on a book before it gets picked up. It goes through editors and their assistants and various meetings and levels before it ever earns a spot on the publishing schedule. Major publishers have budgets to adhere to and marketing studies that recommend what sort of books they’ll buy. They don’t do favors for first-time writers for the sake of being nice. It’s bad business. All of that meant that Tor bought my book because it was good enough to publish. I knew that good and well, but that tiny voice would not shut up.
I don’t have a solution, either. It’s not generally something you can talk yourself out of. But at least I’m aware that I have a problem, which helps me fight the bad feeling when it pops up. It’s been popping up a lot over the last few days, too. I left my job with the library a week ago today. They’d hired a new building manager who decided to change things, and the changes weren’t going to suit my lifestyle, so I gave notice. Which means that now I’m going to have to devote all my energy to making myself successful. As long as I’m working, all is well. It’s in those quiet moments between that I start hearing that annoying little voice, telling me I’m going to be a burden to my husband and make us destitute, because certainly it’s impossible to earn a living writing. Maybe for other people who are good at it, but not me. And that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I believe I’ll fail, I’ll fail.
So I’m going to get back to work, to shut that voice up and defeat that prophecy. How about you? What are you going to do today to prove to yourself that you can do it?
I got into a debate with a few people about 2 weeks ago on character. This was brought about by a well known character from a 70’s TV show being altered in a 2016 movie reboot. Y’all likely know who I mean but I’d rather we not state it so we don’t attract trolls or fan fanatics/purists to come yell at me.
After I had this discussion, where I kept using the words “character core,” I thought about what that means. I specifically pondered on how it relates to things like, changes that occur when stories go from books to screen, about Fan Fiction, and about editing. For example, if someone changes things about your character, is it still your character? I think it is, IF they leave their core the same.
But what is that? What do I mean when I say a character’s “core”? I am talking about the moral ground upon which they stand, their purpose, and what drives them to fulfill it. In oversimplified terms, I would point toward the Alignment of a character in D&D. I’ve mentioned these before…even put up different pictures of examples. Go HERE to see that post (titled, Some People Just Want to Watch the World Burn). But I wanted more, so I Googled, like we all do, and here are a few other sites I found for character sheets:
You may be saying, “This is great, but what is your point?” I’m getting there, have faith.
Here are a few examples of character changes:
TV Show: Elementary – This show has Watson played by a woman and the show set in NYC.
Movie: Interview with a Vampire – This has the role of Armand played by Antonio Banderas (the character in the book is very much a red-headed man with pale skin…HERE is fan art of the character)
Theatre: Hamilton – This has Angelica Schuyler played by an African-American woman (when THIS is Angelica from history).
I won’t even name the amount of Shakespeare that’s been rebooted, so to speak, with changes…we’d be here all day. LOL!
Anyway, my point is that none of these changes alter the core of the character being portrayed.
I think that sometimes we get too protective of our characters (whether we write them or portray them on stage/film). For writers this will get in the way of you doing a quality edit. If you are not willing to adjust things here and there that the editor is asking for to make your story make more sense OR to cause it to flow better, you’re only hurting yourself. Unless the change goes fully against their core (their purpose, what drives it, and their moral standing) or goes removes something that needs to happen because it is a stepping stone for something we see later on (and the editor may know a better spot it can go, so explain and ask), take your wall down.
Stop resisting change. Nothing grows without it. So the next time you see something get altered and your Purist attitude rears it’s head, slap some gaff tape on it’s mouth and think about if that change hurts the core of the character. Does it go against the grain of who they are. If so, then explain why and see what the editor has to say. If it does not, play with fixing it up and seeing what happens.
Examples posed to me during my discussion were if James Bond or Austin Powers was set in America. The person chatting with me used them as examples of changes that would ruin a character that aren’t core. However, I disagree. Here’s why: With Bond and Powers, being British and dealing with British issues, are part of their core. For with characters such as these, their location is part of what makes them who they are. Could you do Bond or Powers as Americans? Sure, and it would be an interesting swap over to see. Hell, maybe even if done right it would work…but it wouldn’t be the same at all. So setting, if it impacts the actions and morals/purpose/drive of your character, then it may land under their core as well.
Obviously the aforementioned discussion revolved around the fact that the character used to be a straight male on the TV show and is now being portrayed as gay (not in dialogue, but we see he has a husband vs. a wife) man. I see no reason for this to be an issue as it does not alter the character’s core. Some may disagree (mostly men, I noticed when this discussion was going on) because they feel that their sexuality is the center of who they are. I get that. I don’t think being a heterosexual defines my goals in life, but that’s me. If your sexuality does, that’s okay.
However, when it comes to fictional characters and the portrayal of them, unless you’re talking about a role like Robin Williams played in the movie, The Birdcage, where the sexuality was the central theme and core of driving purpose, I don’t see swapping out a wife for a husband (or vice versa) as a situation to get bent out of shape about. Pick your battles, folks. But for me, just like it doesn’t change how I see a person depending on their sexual orientation, it doesn’t change how I see a character in a book/movie/TV show.
And yes, the actor of said role wasn’t pleased (though gay in real life), but I he took the producer’s choice personally (in a negative way) and I don’t believe it was meant to be. I think it was in honor of who he is in real life and I think it was in staying true to the show pushing boundaries and the alternate timeline concept.
In short…loosen your grip on some things concerning your work when editing. Sure, it’s your baby, but just like with real babies, they grow up and walk without you…make it so your baby can do just that or it will sit on your lap (in a drawer) for the rest of your life and that’s not where it was meant to stay.
OBVIOUSLY there are a lot more things that go into a character and what makes them who they are…but I’m already over 1200 words on this post and we can chat about the other stuff in the comments section. So…that’s it for me this time around…until next time, write hard, bathe in imagination, and don’t close your mind to options when editing your characters!
OH…and if you’ve never read my Windfire series, head on over to Amazon…for a LIMITED time the first book in the series is on SALE for only 99 cents! Find it HERE!
Originally from Michigan, Tamsin L. Silver is the creator/writer of two YA Urban Fantasy Series, Windfire and The Sabrina Grayson Novels, as well as the Web Series, Skye of the Damned. She graduated from Winthrop University with a BA in Theatre/Secondary Education and a minor in Creative Writing/Shakespeare. She has taught both middle school and high school theatre and run two successful theater companies, one of which in the place she currently lives: New York City. You can learn more about her and find links to all her things at www.tamsinsilver.com
Making Money Mondays…
To be published, there is nothing better than the one-on-one of a writer to an editor, talking about a proposal, an ongoing project, or even a project that didn’t go well and didn’t sell well. Unless you are independently wealthy or have a sugar-honey-love, and can make trips to New York to talk to editors, and actually get an appointment (no they usually even don’t make lunch appointments with prospective writers, despite what film industry says), you need to go to writers’ conferences.
Which cost money.
So what to do? First, make a list of what you want out of your dollar spent:
Editors as guests?
Professional writers in your genre as guests?
Opportunity to pitch your project?
Opportunity to have a professional critique your writing?
Cost of hotel within a certain price range?
Near to your house?
And then do a search. Make a check list and go to work on finding the cons that might offer you the most opportunity to present yourself and your writing to a professional—preferably an acquisitions editor at a publishing house.
Use your money wisely. Dress nicely—business casual—be hygienic, learn how to shake hands like a business professional (the “wet fish in the palm style handshake” is not helpful), practice your pitch. And go. And good luck!
And yes, I’ve talked to several people who attended two small cons in North Carolina over the last month, and most of them had positive responses to pitches, and even some sales. That one-on-one can’t be beat.
First, I just want to say how awesome and amazing the articles on Magical Words are. You are so lucky to have this resource. I wish I’d had it back in the day. I’m so honored to get to be a part of a group of such smart and talented people.
But to the topic at hand. Imposter Syndrome. It’s defined (according to wikipedia) as:
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
News! News! News!
Now, I’ve felt like an imposter forever. It started in my PhD program and has only increased over time. The imposter in me says–high-achieving? Really? Am not. Not even close. And yet, I have a BA, an MA, and a PhD. I’ve published 15 books. I’ve been married 26 years, had a couple pretty awesome children, and have owned several houses, and published stories and articles, and won awards. By most reasonable definitions, that’s fairly high achievement (I, obviously, am unreasonable).
I have never overcome the syndrome. It seems to run rampant in the writing community. Maybe creative types are extra-susceptible to it. Who knows? But the reason I’m talking about it again, is because of this article that popped up on my radar the other day. It was published on an entrepreneurial website and was titled: Imposter Syndrome Will Kill Your Business. It describes the syndrome and then, for the first time I’ve ever seen written about (and no, I haven’t really done a lot of searching on the subject), it offers solutions.
I found two particularly compelling. The first: write down achievements. You know them. Write them down. Come up with categories–writing, life, business, exercise . . . Whatever categories make best sense to you. And then ruthlessly write down your accomplishments. If it helps, imagine that you’re writing somebody else’s. Don’t skimp. Be thorough. Be tough on yourself and make yourself write them ALL. If your forget some, go back and add them. I suggest putting them somewhere where you can read them regularly. In fact, read them several times a day, every day, and take time to acknowledge that these are big deals. BIG DEALS. You did amazing things.
The second suggestion: keep a file of complimentary . . . well, everything. Emails, written notes, telephone conversations, award nominations . . . All of it. Get in the habit of writing down the compliments that are verbal. Make a point of it. And then read them over, particularly when you’re feeling particularly imposterish. Remind yourself that this isn’t just an ego thing–other people admire and respect you. It’s important.
Go do both of these things now.
Writers often keep a brag shelf of books/stories/articles they’ve published. It helps us remember that we are pretty good at this job. I never look at mine. Never think about just sitting there and paying attention to it. I should. I should spend a few minutes every day just considering the amount of work I’ve done, the hurdles I’ve jumped, and how much I’ve really done.
I’m going to do these things. I’m going to make a priority of them.
What about you?
Diana Pharaoh Francis writes books of a fantastical, adventurous, and often romantic nature. Her award-nominated books include The Path series, the Horngate Witches series, the Crosspointe Chronicles, and Diamond City Magic books, and the Mission:Magic series. She’s owned by two corgis, spends much of her time herding children, and likes rocks, geocaching, knotting up yarn, and has a thing for 1800s England, especially the Victorians. For more about her writing, visit www.dianapfrancis.com. She can also be found on twitter as @dianapfrancis.