Monday, November 30, 2009

Tuesday Linkage: 01.12.2009


1) Mark Charan Newton announced that his debut "Nights of Villjamur" will debut [sorry for that word play] on a new scene namely the ebook world and has some questions he wants readers to ask. The comment section is where to look at people.

2) Editorial Ass is hosting a sweet writing contest, where participants are encouraged to create a tribute or whip a good assassination for a person to shape your writing path. Details can be found here and the prize "Mentors, Monsters & Muses" is super sweet and totally worth the effort.

3) Author Todd Newton has a stab on the worldwide behavior of writers to write about writing and usually revealing how they do things to other writers, which in general just creates competition. I will definitely address the topic in a longer post. [LINK]

4) Eric at Pimp My Novel has reposted a very helpful vocabulary from inside the publishing industry so that you may talk the talk without feeling confused at hearing these words.

5) Catie Murphy over at Magical Words has posted a really good essay on the ages old debate Series vs. Stand-Alone.

6) Okay, so back to what editors and the Top Ten reasons they don't love what the critique group loves. Thanks to edittorrent.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Social Vacuum


It’s been a busy November over at my side of the world with academics stealing a significant share of my time and energy, which I would have dutiful applied towards writing and keeping up my Internet presence. I have been struggling to write and here without much success, since my mind tires rather quickly, when I’m doing mentally unpleasant tasks and I count economy as such.

Apart from that I feel as if my mind has gone a bit stale due to the routine I’ve fallen prey to. The need to shake things up arises, but with whom do I shake things up with? All the writing and book buddies I talk to are in the busy zone as well and due to uncomfortable time zone differences I can’t communicate as often as I wish.

It’s this situation that leads my thought process on the social vacuum writers exist in. As far as I am concerned I can’t talk to anybody about what writing I do or what books rock. I tried doing that yesterday and the responses were 1) why am I not making money 2) the person I talked with stated that if he ever were to get serious with his scribbles he would run me over and 3) writing dark and macabre speculative fiction means that I have a myriad of emotional and psychological problems. All of this under five minutes conversation, which certainly was a buzz kill.

But I am an extreme example. I live in a small country with small population, which makes readers and writers scarce and those interested in what I am even scarcer and if you add that I write in a different language than my native, I am virtually an anomaly. I guess that the USA and UK on a purely statistical level increase the chances of two writers to meet, connect and feed each other’s imagination. But even this is rare to behold in society.

Yes, the vacuum is evil, which makes any contact with like-minded people invaluable time. It is why I love my Thursday evenings from 7 to 8:30 pm, when my university Book Club meets and I get to immerse in literary goodness. In this purely social sense I feel as if the universe has decided to sprinkle some happy dust for me. The club right about now is in its early stages and we sidetrack a lot from the agenda. We discuss themes, tropes, genres, fads in literature, lyrics, poetry, bestsellers, favorite genres and why we love them, we read our own work both in my native Bulgarian and in English.

Before the book club I had no desire to even read, because my brain felt drained completely, but the synergy I experienced with the individuals from my university completely recharged. It is after all my sole breach in this social vacuum and I would suggest that everybody with reading and writing interests find something small, unofficial, organic and flexible with its agenda and get the creative juices bubbling. Nothing beats sitting across somebody as creative as you are by nature and establish a real connection. The Internet is liberating in the chance to contact, but it’s only a crutch.

Now in order to stir some of your own creative waters I am posting this drawing I scavenged from the world wide web, since one of my passive hobbies is to scout and gather cool drawings that catch my eye for whatever reason. This one is called "Blood Summons" and is currently in perfect synergy with my first ever in English written novel "Forged in Blood", which I plan to revise come January 2010. Artist's technique is not a favourite of mine, but the image comes closest my ideas.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Links and Things

Since in my original blog posting blue print I have link-ups on Tuesday, it's best to continue with the tradition and here I present you the juicier and helpful articles I have read courtesy of Google Reader.

1) Time is pressing you and which writer hasn't experienced the pressure to do so many things. So Devon Monk calls for professional attitude and reorganization of priorities in order to make writing a profession rather than a hobby in her post "Bring me that Mountain". I chide with her that writing happens only when the writer is dead serious and sees his writing as a self employed entrepreneurship.

2) Over at Ecstatic Days guest blogger Kameron Hurley has let words loose and has crafted a rather long post about writing, which I find highly interesting just to compare to one's own path into writerhood.

3) John Scalzi has had something to say [that man usually does have to say something about anything so I am not at all surprised] about self-publishing [which makes total sense and has to be preached so that prejudices may be dispelled at a certain level] and then discusses the Harlequin situation, which I admit has been stirring everybody's cauldron as of late.

4) Mark Newton discusses the 7 things that make agents drop your work immediately at the very first chapter, for which I am most thankful for they all discuss the opening of the novel. Then he lists the things he doesn't like about writing and I found myself agreeing to almost everything.

5) Nathan Bradford lists the Top 10 Myths about e-books.

6) Over at StoryFix Larry Brooks discusses how to infuse your work with emotion and heart.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Talk the Time Table


The twenty first century won’t be the twenty first century unless you have too much on your plate, figure out insane ways to juggle with your priorities and interests, grind something hard inside the small snippets of time you have free and doing this without having to knock a few more hours sleep from your schedule.

I imagine the average closed minded person without a great myriad of interests [for whatever a reason], whose life fits exactly into reality, have a hard time do what life has written on that person’s chore list. So what’s left for the rest of us, who can’t survive the 9 to 5 hell [though in my country it usually extends to 10-12 work hours a day] and need to have hobbies to feel at least partially sane? I am one of the latter sort with zest to undertake new things, but a big fat lazy ass to actually exert control over the situation. Here is what I need to juggle with:

~ Academic life [lectures, studying, exercises, homework, exams]
~ Writing [novels, short stories]
~ Reading [for pleasure, for review, for research on projects]
~ Blogging [reviews, interviews, guest posts, for TLR and my writing blog]
~ Socializing [mail, twitter, blog hopping via Google Reader, actual people (yes, I occasionally do interact with actual human beings in the flesh)]

Due to financial circumstances that have affected the whole family, I shall have to become BREAD EARNER the 2nd and become once more employed, which let me tell you is not as easy in this economic situation, in my country, where part time jobs do not exist and for a student still in university. In time it will happen, which means that I will eventually find myself in a mutated time crunch. I do not foresee a happy ending here and the only resort to my aid will be time management skills. If life was a D&D session I would die to throw a twenty in that category, but since it’s not I will have to talk the time table. My schedule book is actually a folder and still a WIP, but looks promising.

I start from the big picture and move down to the day-by-day chaos. The first six sheets show the outlined goals in each category mentioned above with quota breakdown distributed in an even as possible manner. Writing and Reading are more or less on a calendar month basis, while the rest are on week dynamics. With these initial six sheets I will know what kind of productivity I aim to achieve. Pictures below.




Blogging about Writing:

Next follow the sheets that will house my notes on different topics connected to the six sheets, but have no immediate effect on my time table. Usually tasks I need to do in regards to project I am currently working on or notes on the book I am about to review. It saves me time, when I forget a detail I want to mention in reviews and is more helpful, while reading anthologies.

The last and largest sheet group contains the daily agenda for each day, where I will need to fit all the quotas in such a manner so that I can achieve the weekly and monthly goals. Since I am not that far in to be honest I didn’t get to doing these yet and I am not sure how effective this system will be, but it will certainly help me with my memory issues.

PS: Excuse my crappy photography skills.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What is a Writer: Part 2


It’s Wednesday and as promised I have returned with the further instalment of the signs to be looking for if you doubt you are a writer or suspect someone close to you being one as well. I have four shorter points to discuss, which are certainly more obvious than not, but then again we are all prone to ignore or forget the obvious, even when it is staring at our faces and bitch slapping greasy cheeks with the force of a volleyball player’s service.

4. Hazed Look

Writers don’t usually enjoy the Real World experience with unpleasant things that have to be done in order to not starve and have Internet access and the logic that drives reality’s as Greek to us as creativity is to the movie industry. Concepts like personal finances confuse the major number in our ranks. Just read what Scalzi had to say about it. Frankly, it’s way more fun in Writer-land, where responsibilities don’t follow and you can be your own deity in a realm that exists to satisfy your whims. Telltale sign that a writer is in that happy place is the hazed look that resembles a zombie’s slack expression, but not quite there yet. Usually there is intensity in the eyes directed to a faraway point not unlike dramatic flashbacks in Latin American soap operas. You spot that strange look; you are dealing with a writer. If you realize time’s skipped and you have been daydreaming, then you are potentially a writer at heart. If this zoning out persists and you do enjoy involving yourself into the fates of nonexistent people, then chances grow for you to be a writer at heart.

5. Vocalized Creative Prowess

The VCP is the most elusive and sliest signs to spot a writer. All VCP practitioners reveal a negative and often malicious reaction to the latest movie/book/song that is milking the better part of consumers [New Moon, Twilight saga, all under drinking age pop singers are my sole targets for outrage] and publicly declare that they can write better scripts, novels and lyrics with their hands tied, one eye pierced and half the brain lost to a lobotomy gone wrong. Now I can imagine that with the low quality high gloss garbage the entertainment industry has and is spawning a lot of people will get these ideas, but among the majority are the writers at heart, who feel outraged that their field is molested by stupidity. Quite frankly VCP drives writers to sit down and prove that there is quality still to be found, even if it nears extinction.

6. “Love to Hate” Syndrome

Real writers [aka the devoted ones, writers at heart] cannot experience a novel in the manner a regular non-writing person would. More often than not they snicker at poorly written works, learn from the classics and modern titles, but I think it’s in our genome to never love a novel without some allergic reaction that tips our fragile mental welfare. Most common is crippling frustration that you could never ever in a million years write anything as brilliant. Then there is the rage, which manifests in those cases, where the said writer sees his idea written not only better written, but also filling a niche in the market, which would have made said writer rich to a degree and unique. Last but not least the professional envy, which turns a writer’s face greener than grass and the selfish wish to one day be at that caliber. Naturally I am not saying that all writers feel all these things all the time. We muster true happiness that someone else we know is doing great or that a concept is being well received or that an idea we are toying with has an analogue in the market, but these negative reactions to outstanding books have their way of creeping in the dark and striking, when we least suspect it. Sadly, this is one of the kryptonite sides of being a writer.

7. Scribble Typist Addiction

It would have been pointless to add this tid bit in the beginning as it would make all the other fun facts about writer’s behavior irrelevant, but if you suffer from the STA, which means the inability to not write, then you are a writer. You may not have all the awards, movies deals, fans and royalties from foreign translations, but if sanity is threatened by the overpopulation building inside your cranium and you need to materialize the stories on paper, then you can sleep soundly, because you are a writer. To further illustrate my point I will direct you to the army, where you see all these ranks and medals, but at the end of the day, when the general takes off his stripes he is the same as the regular soldier, a man or woman brave enough to risk their life for the country. Writers don’t sacrifice their lives literally, but when vocation calls you respond.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What is a Writer: Part 1


Inspiration for this post comes from Karen Mahoney, who bravely declared what a writer is and who should dare to call themselves writers and that there are no such things as writers with the capital W and that publication doesn’t matter so much. I chime in to further break down this misconception. When you strip the awards, the contracts and the popularity from all the iconic names in literatures you get the same core that every other writer has and that is the devotion to the craft. This unity in concept prevails in my language for the native word in my language for writer and author is one and the same, although we did steal ‘author’ and added a Slavic spin on it.

So there we have it - “publication a writer does not make” would say Yoda. But what are the behavioral criteria to categorize a person as a writer. I have a list compiled with the symptoms and signs that will tell you whether you are a writer or know a writer personally. I am starting with the first three things and will continue on Wednesday.

1. Accessories.

This is the most obvious and slightly misleading criteria. The proverbial writer does not leave his/her house without the essential notebook/journal, which guarded with the writer’s life and is more valued than the wallet filled with IDs, important documents and money. Said journal is handled with utmost care and if lost can cause a writer heart failure. On second spot there is the novel, which is kept in case circumstances do not allow writing in the journal. This applies to book-a-holics in general, but valid for authors as well. To a writer pens are as important as lighters to a heavy smoker and yet the writer fails to keep track of where all his/hers pens go and usually goes around in search for a pen. Writers also have affinity towards scattered pieces of paper and other writing materials such as colored markets, tape, sticky notes and staplers. Then again scrapbookers are also fond of these, so context matters.

2. Skewed perception of time.

Time is not exactly the same in Writer-world. Real world operates with seconds, minutes and hours and in Writer-land it’s all words, pages, chapters and drafts. If you really think about it, I think you have been in a situation, when you replied to another person that you will go to sleep after 500 more words or that you will go grocery shopping after this one chapter or that you will go out after 35 more pages in this book. Word counts and writing goals in general is how writers operate and that’s how a writer sees the week as some deadline that stretches on and on and on. Otherwise writers are not that good with calendar dates and real-world time is so fleeting and confusing, when a writer is in the zone.

3. Uncomfortable curiosity.

Writers exhibit great interest in life, when a certain aspect of life corresponds directly to their newest work in progress, even when the aspect of life is gruesome and questions regarding the socially taboo topic raise eyebrows. To a writer no experience is wasted, especially, when the writer is writing about it. Having high fever and induced heavy palpitation, which brings an ambulance to your heart. Super exciting, because the writer gets to know how it would feel to have an ambulance come, neighbors pry and paramedics act. A field trip. Been there and done that. Broken heart, winning a free prize, falling in love, finding two bucks on the side walk, participating in a fight, being in an accident, watching somebody be a jack ass, being the laughing stock of the school, being an athlete, training a sport, being sick or handicapped. All these things build the material a writer needs to breathe life in his story and much like an actor would do, a writer would immerse himself in his subject matter, experience the things he writes about or ask both polite and uncomfortable questions.

PS: If anywhere I am incorrect please do tell, but I am speaking of personal experience with myself, observation and interaction with other writers, so I think I am objective and accurate.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Draft Notes: 13.11.2009


It’s that time again. I haven’t been very active and organized these past two or three weeks, because my world trembled under some serious tremors coming from real life, so I haven’t been as industrious as I had hoped to be. Nevertheless November I decided to be disciplined and write everyday around 1,500 words, which usually takes me up around an hour to an hour and a half. The weekend has been rather chaotic and so were some additional days, so I didn’t to the new system enough justice, but the overall effect on my word count is positive:

21079 / 80000 words. 26% done!

It’s true that I have some problems with the novel in terms of self-censorship that comes from various places, a topic that I need to discuss in detail later on. So I need to remind myself yet again that I am writing for a niche group and that the story will only suffer, when I am pulling punches. That invisible brake held me in place and back to my progress at 17,000 I was near the middle, because the censorship held me back. I had a panic day and needed to clear my head and think. Thankfully I managed to slip inside my MC’s head and figure out what to do. So I introduce actively around six more characters and have Milo work his magic on them. I am back at the first six or so chapters to add the missing scenes here and there and surgery is fine.

“Lunar Hues” is waiting on second edits from my amazing mentor M.C, who I hope manages to snag a look, while facing the most important moment in her life. I love her for not turning me down, when she had the full right to and that makes her an inch more amazing.

While that is baking I am on chapter one of the newest novel project, which I am doing for fun and at a much slower pace called “SIL”. I am not sure whether it will be ever completed, but it allows me creative freedom to do some unconventional things I have yet to see done, but then again I may not be looking at the right place.

And I am to pretty soon start on a new short story, which I hope to embark on Saturday with 500 word snippets a day for good measure in order to plot and plan with relative ease. I will aim at a length of 3,000 to 5,000 words in order to pass submission guidelines for more web zines. I am not sure of a title, which is relatively strange lately, since I usually start with titles and then use it to stir the actual story in the right direction.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dissecting the Genre


I am not sure whether this is the best of times to be discussing this since I have major writing to do and probably should focus on the elements that make a story tick, but as my story goes near the core, where the themes and ideas begin to gyrate, I am at a loss for the genre tag I am to provide for this one.

Hitting the market’s bull’s eye is the most important marksman skill a writer has to develop. As trends come and go and the readers are distracted by the latest shiny a writer has to ride on top of the tidal wave and hope to submit the right story to the right agent at the right moment for the hottest genre. No problem. This is how business rolls and there are plenty of examples underlying the rule. ‘Twilight’ erupted on the scene and so many other teenager friendly love stories with monsters popped up that it felt like they’ve always been on the bookstore shelves.

But what happens, when the story you try to sell is a little harder to define? I’d very much like to see this one published, because I feel that after a several drafts it will both entertain and ask some uncomfortable questions. Yet, I can’t peg what genre it is or find a similar to my idea novel to have been published. There is a lot of time before I get to the pitching stage, but this is not giving me sleep, so I decided to trace my story’s potential heritage. For now this raises more questions than answers.

The two core elements in my world building are 1) a contemporary Europe and 2) a magical sub-society, hiding in plain sight and shaping the destiny of the world through the people they come in contact with. The easiest answer would be Urban Fantasy, right? I mean after all the story evolves in cities and has magic. That has to do it, right? Wrong. There is a formula to urban fantasy that is not equivalent to my story.

For starters there is no action, no force from outside or threat that demands ass kicking. It’s all manipulation and a rather cruel chess game. There is no detective main plot that needs solving and the gruesome bits are swapped with a bit of human drama and although the humor relies on sarcasm is scarce, dark, bitter and profane.

Then it can be contemporary fantasy, which is the parent of urban fantasy, since the overall definition includes the two core points that lie within my world building and setting. Now I bet that this did it, huh? Easy. It even fits the whole manipulation, back stabbing and murder threats that seem to resemble court intrigues and can be applied to contemporary fantasy as an element. But I am not satisfied.

What genre fits profanity, debauchery and erotica that is a bit more spiced up that is dancing on the line between tasteful and shocking pornography? From the paranormal romance works I have read I can safely say that it might in there, but although there is the happily-ever-after moment I am not inclined to believe that the relationship is the main plot line. The romance plot is a means to an end for the protagonist to accomplish his Machiavellian scheme and that is more or less the antagonistic approach that dark fantasy is accustomed to.

In the end I am yet again clueless… But the very least I know that my novel is not formulaic and can rest with that thought. If all else fails, I might twist and turn the genre definitions to my advantage and just ride with the tide. It’s not like the borders between each is set in stone.

Friday, November 6, 2009

On Novel Beginnings: Is there a right way?


With NaNo already on the loose and everybody on their special way to begin new projects I am thrown into the topic of beginnings. I’ve spoken with a very sophisticated writer friend of mine, who has been discussing how the whole concept behind hoarding words at draft stage is not working in my friend’s case.

That got me thinking again about how similar and different as a breed we are. In theory we do the same, our stories have the same elements and tropes and the problems that plague us are in theory the same. Yet every writer has an individual approach and while two writers can share the same work pattern and process, there are differences nevertheless. With the Internet and the myriad of authors sharing their personal experience it’s hard for a writer on his/hers first attempts to discover whether he is right or wrong in his strategy. And as with everything that has to do with writing a writer needs to find the best way to channel his story into the Word fail or on the paper, if you are a traditionalist.


Some like to handle multiple projects and hop from the main to the side projects, while doing rough drafts. This is what I do for the most time. While working on my main project “SMH” [btw I plan on revealing the title while I am done with the first draft], I am attending a rather fun novel called “SIL” [a title I am planning on not revealing]. And to keep my juices boiling I am entertaining a rather pesky main character from a YA project I will be doing soon. I do this because I bore easily and when I lose interest in a project, which happens always when it dominates my schedule, I lose interest in the act of writing, because it feels like a chore. Now I know people that are like bulls, who after fixating the red cape do not let go of the chase until victory is theirs. After the initial stages of getting to know the stories I get enveloped and focus on the primary one.


Some like to do research before sitting down to write the first chapter, while others research, when it is absolutely inevitable. I tend to be a lazy researcher, who has no idea what to do a research about to bother. When the story demands something I sit an research and make notes on how to fit the info later or earlier during redrafts. It has to do with me being confused and lazy, which has a lethal potential for any human being.


Some like to chug in words until the rough draft is done and then go and fix anything. Others for sure are perfectionists and know how their story will go down so they try to be as pristine as possible. I myself am not much of a plotter and have a basic skeleton figured out for my stories. Around 2/3 in any project do the pieces of the puzzle start revealing themselves and if the novel gets better it has happened during the revisions, when I have sewn the elements I had discovered earlier into it.

In the end what I am trying to convey is. Start the novel any way you want to and see what sticks best. Reading all the methods can be tiring to the mind and making you believe that you are doing something wrong or you should be doing things this and this way. Usually it involves opposing ideas. So experiment. I have done it around three times and know what sticks with me and what doesn’t. Now with every following project I will weed out the kinks in the process. Anyway this is how I feel about it from personal experience, when I used to take any advice to heart from anyone with a book on the shelves without actually writing. At the end of the day when the fingers meet the keyboard it’s your subconscious that decides what works best and delivers faster and more comfortable. All you need to do is catch on where the mind stirs and refine its course.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NaNo - Open Season


November, apart from having an amazing name, is also the NaNo month, host of the word count progress on steroids event called NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month], where plots and ideas are hunted down, subjugated and written down. If I had an idea that this year's badges and icons were going to be as awesome I would have joined in, but alas judging by my to-do list from here on that is a negative, so I joined the ranks of the people doing the IndieWriMo, which is a slimmer version of NaNo with required word count being about 30 000 words. It certainly fits my overall plans for productivity every month and I hope that this commitment irons out some discipline in me.

There are several reasons why I think that this is an amazing idea that the writer community needs for both seasoned authors and newly hatched writerlings. There are two main reasons, which I think I watched on a vlog over at YouTube, but I have deleted the link into oblivion.

1) Writing is more discipline than it is inspiration. In the dream universe [which in my case involves super powers and food torrents] a writer is visited by a muse and via the magical essence called inspiration we accomplish everything. Reality is a lot more crueller and I learned this when my inspiration spurts became less and less frequented and their durability shortened as well. I still loved my idea, but getting it on paper involved no fully formed passages that conveyed what I wanted the way I wanted it. I did the math back then and decided that if I was to wait on my muse alone, I would finish at first draft at my admission day into a retirement home.

Word count is our writing dream's money maker and it has to shake hard and fast and with an intensity. And it has to do so every day or at least 80% of the days a year. During NaNo your money maker has to shake at 1,667 words a day in order to push through the challenge and meet the deadline. This is the discipline that NaNo teaches. If your head does not stop, ever, nagging about ideas then you need to writ every day and if you cannot stop writing ever, then you also need to realize that this is a high priority in your life and discipline plus dedication here fall in the handy skills to have developed.

2) Quantity does not mean quality and quality doesn't give a damn at first draft stage. Quality doesn't even feel that it needs to be present while you type that first draft. That is why it's called a first draft. NaNo forces you to write super fast and unless you are some undercover genius then it makes you suck, but write. By making you realize that a serious writer needs to have big word counts and forcing you to suck, NaNo also tries to make you realize that it's okay to suck so early on. It permits you to suck as long as you are a devoted busy bee. Besides you know already that most books become readable after many revisions and usually the puzzle and intricate details fall in place during those stages, so thanks NaNo for that favor as well. Be Frankenstein. Sew and stitch together gory limbs and body parts unabashed and play plastic surgeon bent on perfect later. It's far more liberating on your psyche and your confidence that way, tacking in the initial inner suckage as something normal and not a deterrent.

Top notch life lessons, I'd say.