With NaNoWriMo twelve days away, I'm starting to get e-mails about "WRITE THE NEXT GREAT NOVEL! HERE'S FIVE WRITING PROMPTS TO GET YOU STARTED!"
I thought briefly about checking the creative writing group that meets at the local library. The showrunner provides a writing prompt, you write for thirty minutes, then share your work with the group.
Uh, I don't think so.
Then there's a writer's meet-up in Lima that's run by a local poet.
Poetry isn't really my cuppa, and not what I do. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say. But guess what they do? The proverbial writing prompt isn't going to move me forward as a writer.
Ideas aren't my problem. Hell, a pre-made cover advertised by Alter Ego's new cover artist set off an idea for a super sexy dystopian fairytale fantasy on Tuesday. Needless to say, I bought the cover.
And wrote the blurb and two hundred words before I made myself stop and return to A Modicum of Truth.
Honestly, I don't get how a writer can NOT have ideas. I'm like the flipping dog, distracted by every squirrel that runs by. I CAN'T shut off the flow.
What I have to do is shunt it aside. For me, ideas are like a leaky roof dripping onto my brain. I stick a bucket underneath the leak to catch the drip (i.e. scribble down a few notes). Then I need to change out the bucket, which quickly starts filling, while I do my other work. When the next bucket fills, I swap it out for a new bucket so I can concentrate of my current story. At least, for a little while longer.
If you really truly need a writing prompt, unless it's a technique to get your muse unstuck, maybe you should reconsider whether a career in writing is for you.
But if you really, truly need a prompt, here's a real life example:
When I was still a practicing attorney, a male hawk used to sun himself on the sub-roof outside my office window. This was the summer of 2005. That same year, I also took my son to see the Mayan exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural History. Part of the exhibit included the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012. 2012 was also the year that our solar system crosses the galactic plane during its orbit.
So, take one or all of:
- a hawk
- the Mayan calendar
- Earth crossing the galactic plane
Guess what? I'm already 40K into the first book a new UF series. No, it's not this year's NaNo project--
I'm so happy Prince's estate has released his older material. While I understand the gremlin in the back of an artist's mind to keep control of their material, once the public has consumed it, the artist cannot take that experience away.
We seem to be a society that is never satisfied. You hit a career goal or an item on your bucket list, and you wonder why you aren't happy.
Before anyone asks, yes, I'm that way, too.
A week ago today, I released Ravaged, the seventh novel in the Bloodlines urban fantasy series. That bring my total releases under the Suzan Harden banner to fifteen. That doesn't count the four short under the Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress anthologies. Nor does it count the sixteen releases under Alter Ego's name.
For the first time ever though, I didn't have the surge of adrenaline right before I uploaded the files to the various retailers and distributors. I didn't have the latent fear in the back of my mind about whether the readers would like it. I felt very blasé about the whole task.
In fact, I went right back to working on A Modicum of Truth after I closed my browser.
That never happens to me. I'm usually a nervous wreck for the next two-three days after a release. I'm constantly checking my sales numbers. I fret about reviews. And I simply can't concentrate on the next project even though I make sure it's been started before this release occurs.
To be blunt, I haven't been making bank like I used to. Frankly, I'm averaging $30/month this year because I'm coasting on fumes. I haven't had a quasi-regular release schedule since 2013. I admit that's totally on me, and Ravaged is supposed to be the start of a new monthly release schedule.
(And I've probably just attracted Murphy's attention by saying that, and I will be royally fucked by the one, true god relatively soon. But that's an issue for another blog.)
But on various other indie writer blogs, I hear laments from writers about the pace (they're putting out books at one per month if not more), the money (oh, noes! I only made $10K this month when I've been making $25K per month for the last year), or they are quitting because of stress.
Here's the odd thing. We indies work for ourselves. We decide the pace. We decide the effort of making money. We put the stress on ourselves. We made the decision to be an artist and an entrepreneur in a world that has no respect for one and over-glamorizes the other.
What does that have to do with my weird emotional reaction to the release of Ravaged?
We humans need a certain amount of stress to thrive. The actual amount differs from person to person, just like the amount of carbs, vitamins and protein we need to eat differs from person to person. However, too much of any one thing, including stress, can harm us.
The fact that I was able to move on to the next task after uploading the files for Ravaged means I'm currently at my optimal stress-level. Not so little stress that I don't give a shit about getting any project done. Not so much stress that I'm a quivering mass of fear and angst.
If I can stay at this level for the next six months, I'm golden and y'all will have a lot of good stories to read.
P.S. Today's the last day Ravaged will be $0.99 at retailers. Tomorrow, it'll go back to it's regular price of $4.99.
A couple of weeks ago, a new(er) writer asked me if I used beta readers. When I said no, they asked, "But how do you know whether you're hitting the tropes of your genre?"
Maybe because I've been a reader for nearly forty-eight years?
This is why the long-term writers say you need to be a reader in order to write. You absorb a lot of the aspects of basic storytelling by consuming the product.
I grew up in a small town. A very small town. First there was the comics and Dr. Seuss books at Grandma's and my cousins' house. Those were a lot more fun the primers my mom gave me. I zipped through the contents of our county library annex and the grade school's library in no time flat. Especially, the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys original mysteries and the complete OZ collection someone donated.
It was a treat when my grandma took me to the big county library a half hour away. More Nancy Drew, plus Doctor Doolittle, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and anything by Andre Norton.
Then came the bussing to another town for junior high. New library! That lead to McCaffrey, Asimov, Bradbury, and Homer.
When I hit high school though, I wasn't impressed with their collection of fiction. Most of collection was far younger than the level I was reading at. Meanwhile, the county library expanded its program to allow borrowing by mail. From there, I was introduced to James Clavell, John Jakes, and Patricia A. McKillip.
I could keep going, but you get the idea. Nor should story consumption be limited to the written word. Comics, radio serials, theater, movies, and TV are also good learning places.
So, after inhaling all those stories, the basics are pretty ingrained in your brain. You know the tropes of the genres you love. You could write them with your eyes closed.
We often don't trust ourselves. In many of us, any artistic endeavor is actively discouraged at best, or punished severely at the worst. We let those challenges gnaw away a part of our souls, so that by the time we actually produce a full story, we seek a way to fill the hole.
That's what critiques and beta readers really are. Their feedback becomes the stuffing we desperately want to fill the hole in our soul that we shouldn't have allowed anyone to dig in the first place.
That's what really missing in our writing--the trust in our own abilities. Not someone else's opinion of our abilities. Not how they would have written the story. Not their ideas.
Your ideas are just fine. Technical stuff, like grammar and spelling? That's easy to pick up. Actually, so is storytelling. But learn from the masters. Learn from the writers you love. Don't listen to people who aren't writing the fucking the story. They don't care. You do. It's your story.
And it won't be your story if you let other people tell you how to write it. Which means, no, you don't need any beta readers.
Proofreaders? Yes. Beta readers? No.
Trust yourself. You can do this. And you will rock!
The second most anticipated movie of 2017 (for me, after Wonder Woman). Eggsy is back! And again, he's driving both his allies and his enemies crazy!
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After the events of Kingsman: The Secret Service, Gary "Eggsy" Unwin has settled into life as the new Galahad. He and Princess Tilde are living together in Harry's old house with J.B. Dumbledore has become the new Arthur. Merlin and Lancelot are still Eggsy's best buds.
So of course, that's when an old enemy from the first movie shows up to kill our hero.
1) I'm so sad there wasn't more of the fabulous Michael Gambon as the replacement for Arthur. There's nothing better than hearing the former Dumbledore say R-rated words on screen.
2) The inventive way they brought back Harry. It may stretch the suspension of disbelief, but it wasn't a one-trick pony, and it showed the talents and inventiveness of the Statesmen's Ginger Ale.
3) Speaking of bringing Harry back, the writers, et al, didn't make Harry perfectly all right once Eggsy found out he was still alive. He had memory and physical problems from being shot in the head. It was a touch of realism I appreciated.
4) OMG! The Happily Ever After was awesome!
5) Let me amend that. Mark Strong's rendition of "Take Me Home, Country Roads" rocked!
1) There wasn't as much Channing Tatum as the trailers and ads promised. I was a little sad because watching his and Taron Egerton's characters bond should have been the highlight of the film.
2) Killing J.B. was a shit move. The filmmakers should have known better than to kill a pet even if they used the incident to move Eggsy and Tilde's relationship along.
3) Okay, part of me was rooting for the Kingsmen and Statesmen's resident geeks to get it on. It was a total waste of Mark Strong and Halle Berry's awesome onscreen chemistry.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a worthy successor to the original. However, it's a lot more emotional, so bring some tissues. Overall, I give it 9 stars out of 10.
About midnight last night, I finished uploading Ravaged to Amazon, Smashwords, and for distribution to iTunes and Kobo. B&N will be a few more days since they want the number of pages for the paperback, and I don't have the formatted paperback back yet.
But I'm late and I wanted to get the e-book out ASAP.
I can't guarantee when Ravaged will go live on any particular site, but I'll be updating the links below as they go live.
Frack! I couldn't even make it through the first book of the next eight I want to release before more cow defecation hit the spinning turbine. Shit is happening that I can't talk about at the moment for someone else's privacy reasons. It's getting taken care of, but taking care of it is time-consuming as all get out.
My formatter had sent me the Kindle e-book file for Ravaged on Tuesday, September 26. I haven't completed reviewing it yet. It should have been a two-day job max. I'm not even at the half-way point on A Modicum of Truth either, and I'd planned to have it finished by now.
Why can't I have normal adult first-world problems? I have a friend whose kid is trying to decide between Harvard and Yale. Another friend and her S.O. are debating on whether he should take a promotion across the country when their youngest is also in his senior year. A third friend is simply thankful that her teen driver is all right after a drunk adult hit her daughter's car head-on when she was on her way to school.
If I weren't high on cider, donuts, and pumpkin spice lattes right now, I'd probably be curled up in my bed with a bottle of tequila, bawling my eyes out. But then, nothing's stopping me from going to the store for a bottle or two.
On second thought, maybe I should head over to Kroger for a bigger chocolate cake...
There are certain scenes in movies that simply make the entire film. Sally's fake orgasm. George running through the streets of Bedford Falls on a snowy Christmas Eve. Toto revealing the jerk manipulating the innocent Dorothy and her friends.
Well, last night, I was watching Magic Mike XXL for this scene:
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