Pretend You Don’t Know

When you’re editing your manuscript, read it though, at least once, as if you know NOTHING about your story.

It’s so easy to get caught up in our own heads when we write, especially during the first draft. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you want to catch errors and inconsistencies you have to not only get critical, you have to suspend your own imagination and forget–temporarily–everything you know about your own story.

Crazy talk, I know.

But doing that changes your perspective and can give you insights you might not otherwise have.

But one of the hardest lessons I learned in my college poetry classes was not to make internal references or “inside jokes.” I might get the reference but someone who doesn’t know me sure as shit won’t.

The same thing applies to fiction. Readers can’t read minds. You might write something that makes total sense to you either because you get the joke or you know what’s going to happen three chapters or three books down the road.

Your readers don’t know these things. They might get confused. They might stop reading.

It also shows you things that you might take for granted. For example: does everyone know werewolves are bothered by silver? Does everyone know what necromancy is?

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to spell out every little detail, dumb your writing down, or waste pages with info dumps but it is important to be mindful of what expectations you are putting on your reader and if those expectations help or hinder your story.

Looking at your manuscript this way doesn’t just help fill plot holes. It can show you ways to enhance your narrative structure.

Here’s an example from my own experiences:

I love prologues.

I know AuthorTubers and many a podcast host tell you to avoid prologues like the plague. But I’m one of those weird people who love reading prologues so I thought, “Fuck it, I’m gonna write a prologue and it’s going to be my MC, Regina, reporting on the death of another character. And it’s going to be awesome.”

Well, I gave the manuscript to one of my beta readers and she didn’t like it. She has no idea who was talking and no idea who these characters were. Because there was no context. I knew what was going on because I have the WHOLE STORY in my head. She didn’t. And it didn’t work for her.

Then another beta reader said the same thing. And I was sad…because I made the thing and would have to change the thing.

If one beta reader has an opinion you can take it with a pinch of salt. But if more than one person has the same problem, the problem doesn’t come from their interpretations or expectations, it comes from your writing.

And I thought, “Well, what if I make it an INTERLUDE instead?”

And that works so much better because by the time this character needs to die you, the reader, know a little bit more about the world and can follow along with the MC and learn the WHY and HOW without getting confused.

So now, whenever I’m editing I always make a plan to read through whatever I’m working on as if I have no idea what’s going on. This helps me get into the mind of a reader and I can think about what kinds of things I, as a reader, would want to know.

I recommend that at least once you read through your manuscript and pretend you have no idea what’s going on. See what happens.

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Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash

Writing On A Schedule

So my plan was to make fiction. One novella and three novels. Follow the recipe. Eat the cake.

All sweetness. The sweetest ever.

Well, the writing had other plans.

Instead of coming up with one novella and three novels I had two novels and two separate collections of short stories.

And I also had this SCHEDULE I was trying to keep because I had goals/delusions of professionalism.

Well, I threw the holy schedule away.

Because the creative process does not stop. It is a flood. And the flood said, “You will come with me or else.”

Throughout the course of writing The Slaughter Chronicles I have learned so much about how to write a continuing story line and a lot about myself as a writer. My character Regina came into my head in 2014 and in 2016 I put her on the page for the first time. It’s 2019 now and even though YOU only have one tiny novella about her, I have all the stories, and putting them on paper has been a challenge and a joy.

So now instead of one novella and three novels and instead of two novels and two short story collections, I have two novellas, one novel, and two short story collections.

This is what happens when I try to write. I make a thing (novel no. 1) and I let it sit. And then I find the plot holes and fill them.

And then the writing tells me, “No, I want to be something else.” And when I try to fix it and can’t, I don’t write for 10 days and feel bad about myself.

But then I have an idea. And then another idea. And then the story finally becomes something I like (not that I didn’t like it before, it just wasn’t enough).

The novel I wrote was fine. But that was all. It was competent. But there was something about it that bored me. So I tried to change it. But that didn’t work.

I tried again, that also didn’t work.

Third time’s the charm in this case.

Never settle with your writing. Never, ever think just because your final draft is ‘done’ that you have to keep it when your gut tells you something is wrong or something needs to be added/taken away.

I am very lucky, I don’t need to publish books to pay my bills. I am only accountable to myself. I haven’t sold my work to anyone and no one is waiting to buy it. I can change my deadlines whenever I want.

And I have. Again.

So what does that mean?

How do I write?

What is the plan for the writing?

Firstly, there will be no more Slaughter Chronicles publications until next year. This is not a bad thing. I’m going to give you a better product than what I had planned, I promise.

Secondly, since I want a Halloween book baby so badly, I am going to publish a collection of short stories on October 31 this year. And next year. And the year after that. Check out the info on this project here :)

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Photo by Guillaume Bolduc on Unsplash

Not An Exit: An Annual Short Fiction Project

I like writing short stories. And flash fiction.

I like writing speculative bits and pieces of terrifying nonsense.

I like writing the trials and tribulations of the human condition masquerading as fantasy.

I like writing random apocalyptic and dystopian one-offs.

I like challenging you, dear reader, and giving you strange things to think about.

At first I was just going to keep these stories in a file on my iPad and let them exist in the dark ether. But I really wanted people to read them.

Then I thought about publishing them individually, as I wrote and polished them. And while that was extremely satisfying, I didn’t feel like the publishing model I was using for my other fiction fit with these stories.

What I am going to do is this:

Every year, on Halloween, I am going to publish a short story collection. These collections will include all the random, stand alone short fiction I have written in the previous year.

In case you didn’t know already, all the poetry that I have self-published is free. The books in my paranormal werewolf series, The Slaughter Chronicles, are free. The books in my urban fantasy faerie series (when they come out) will be free.

But I’d like to charge 0.99 for these short story collections because, while The Slaughter Chronicles and The Heart of the Forest Cycle might not be your cup of tea, if you like speculative fiction there’s a good chance you’ll like these stories.

It’s not that they’re more “accessible” or “mainstream” than my other work, but they are the words that cast the widest net. They’re not as specialized–for lack of a better word–than my other fiction and thusly, I feel, more marketable.

So if you like short story collections and want a quick and quirky/slightly dark read, my stories are for you and if you end up liking them, please give my other fiction a try.

If you already like my werewolf series and my poetry and would like to give me some support, please consider purchasing my short story collection(s).

The project is going to be titled “NOT AN EXIT” and every year a new volume will come out. Each volume will be available for sale on every ebook publishing platform, including Amazon Kindle.

As the publication date comes closer I will release the contents list and samples for your enjoyment. As well as some behind the scenes writing shenanigans.

Thank you so much for reading my work and following me on this self-publishing journey.

And since you’re curious, here’s the cover for the first volume…

June 2019 Stats

I’m really embarrassed to share this information because I did really, really bad this month. But this is how life works sometimes.

Word Count:

I’d be surprised if I hit 4,000

Days I didn’t write:

Almost all of them.

Submissions:

Got 1 acceptance. Nothing sent out.

Project Notes:

SO this month was terrible for my productivity. Mr. J drove up from Alabama in the first week and we stayed in Arkansas for a few days before driving down to the Florida panhandle to visit my aunt for a week. Then further down the state to visit Mr. J’s grandfather for another week. And then a few days in Mr. J’s home port before I flew back to Arkansas.

But even thought I didn’t do a lot of writing (I gave up tallying my word counts and days after the first week) I did a lot of outlining and brainstorming. I fleshed out secondary characters and sub-plots. I worked on motivations and story arcs. It was a productive time in every other aspect of writing except actually writing.

My two other main projects, Resonance and The Heart of the Forest Cycle, are progressing more slowly than I would like but they are progressing. The biggest news there is that instead of being a trilogy of novels, The Heart of the Forest Cycle is going to be at least two volumes of short stories and novellas. I have a lot of characters in that series and tying all of their story lines together was becoming increasingly difficult so I’ve separated nearly everyone’s stories and things are flowing more easily. I might be able to publish the first volume sometime in the fall but I’m still not going to make it a priority. The Slaughter Chronicles comes first.

July is Camp NaNoWriMo. I will be participating this year. I didn’t win camp this past April but I also had unrealistic expectations. So for July, I will work on finishing the first draft of Havoc’s Moon and polishing Moon Shine for publication in October.

Here’s looking to a larger word count in the future!

Thoughts about #authortube

Back in 2017, when I “officially” decided I wanted to take self-publishing seriously, I thought about creating a YouTube channel. I am an avid YouTube viewer/lurker whatever. I love watching videos other authors and writers put out where they talk about their process, give advice based on their experiences, and participate in fun tags or challenges.

I love talking about writing and books to anyone who will listen so you’d think this would be something I would love to do.

But YouTube also triggers my social anxiety, big time. I barely participate in the comments section and if I’m lucky enough to catch a live stream live–not three days after the fact–I don’t participate in the chat because I am extremely shy and introverted. It’s the same reason I don’t do the instagram story thing or have a facebook account.

At the end of the day, I just want to sit in my bubble and write.

But last year I participated in a writing group and we used a video chat app to talk about our projects and I loved making videos for them. It was nothing fancy, I just turned my camera on and talked into it, usually while driving to and from work. And it was super fun. So if I could do something like that where I just talked for a few minutes and then uploaded…

But what about editing and all those cool techno things people do? And music, don’t I have to have music to drown out the static hum of background noise or whatever? And I’d need an intro and a catch phrase because everyone has a catch phrase and already I hear Mr, J’s voice in my head saying, “Don’t do that, that’s fucking stupid.”

And he’s right on two fronts. The first is: I don’t want to do something that I don’t know how to do or that I don’t like because it will be a shitty product and anyone who watches it will see that I am not having fun and they won’t have fun. So if I do the YouTube thing I will not be making fancy, heavily edited videos with music or images inserted or fun backdrops because I don’t have time for that. I have like, 10 books to write.

But the second is: Do I really want to put myself out there? After thinking about it on and off for two-ish years I still don’t know. I like the idea of making YouTube videos; I want to do the author tags and actually tell you about myself and my projects, not just write it down here in my blog. But is it really something for me?

I hope to figure out the answer to that soon because there are a few very good reasons to participate in social media platforms like YouTube. The most important one is it will help promote my books.

I am a firm believer that social media is essential to an independent author. Newsletters not so much (just my opinion) but social media is a must. Traditional publishers love authors with established platforms and readers love all the behind-the-scenes stuff. I do anyway.

And, for the most part (yes, I know about the drama), AuthorTube is full of really cool, awesome people who I would love to be friends with. But I’m so. Damn. Shy. and worried I’d say the wrong thing and offend someone. I’m also terrified of making a complete ass of myself. Etc, etc, etc. And it’s not about what you think about me. Or what strangers think about me, I could care less about other peoples’ opinions. It’s how I would think about myself. If I fucked this up I would never let myself live it down. Mortification and shame forever.

Again, I think I’m putting too much thought into it.

I guess the main thing I’m worried about, more than being embarrassed by my own content, is that it will take time away from my writing.

I’ve thought about doing a podcast too but I haven’t yet because I’ve gotten bogged down by all of the technical stuff. I have made a few recordings of my poems and created an extremely bootleg audiobook that is up on Bandcamp (free, of course). But beyond that I haven’t done anything else.

And that kind of bothers me because if I want to do something, why not do it? It’s not like I want to climb Everest. Making an AuthorTube video is a very achievable goal. So why not try it? If I don’t like it I can always delete it.

But the writing time is precious and anything that cuts into that is bad. But I’d really, really like to try.

Now that you’ve read me flopping back and forth like this, I’m going to end this post.

Are you on YouTube/AuthorTube? Do you like it? Do you hate it?

Meet Vermin!

I’m super excited to announce my collaboration with Little Fears went live today 🙂

Conquest is the story of a tiny monster with big dreams.

It was so much fun watching the art and my story come to life, I am beyond grateful for the opportunity 🙂

For more Little Fears spooky goodness click HERE 🙂

Character Consciousness

This is an example of one of the ways I think up characters:

Me: (recording poems for my audiobook)

Icharus: I want to be a character now.

Me: But you already are.

Icharus: In a book.

Me: …what?

Icharus: I want to be in a book. I didn’t die when I fell. And I love Orpheus.

Me: You do? Ok just hang on a–

Icharus: And I want my book to be like every James Baldwin novel but with more sex.

Me: I don’t know if I can be that brutal.

Icharus: And it’s going to be a trilogy.

Me: Really?

Icharus: Yep.

Me: Well you’ll have to get in line behind Regina, all the Echos, Helen, and everybody else.

Icharus: Did I mention I love Orpheus? And maybe one of the gods too. Apollo could be very metaphorical.

Me: Take a number and get in line!

Icharus: I really, really want a book-trilogy.

Me: You’ll get one just shut up and let me work!

Icharus: I don’t trust you.

Me: It’ll happen! You’re in the queue. I promise!

Icharus: You’re going to have to do a lot of research. Geography is really important.

Me: I know!

Icharus: …maybe Achilles…

Me: Don’t push it.

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And on and on it went and that is how I made the decision to eventually write a gay romance. A character popped into my head that wouldn’t shut up. But really this character has been in my head since 2012 and didn’t find his voice until day before yesterday. Before that he was a shadowy idea floating around in my brain meat.

It happened during a writing exercise I did back in grad school (see how long ago). The exercise was to look at a book cover and write the synopsis on the back. No influence from the real synopsis or any other information from the book. Just write something based off the cover. You should try it, it’s super fun.

When I read my little blurb the girl sitting at the table directly across from me lit up with a smile and after class she told me I had to write that character, that his voice was so clear to her.

At the time I wasn’t writing fiction but I thought she was super nice to say so, so I put the suggestion away and now almost 7, count em, 7 years later here’s that voice again.

But this time I am writing fiction and I don’t want to tell him to go away. So I guess I’m adding another project to my publication schedule.

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How do your characters come to you?

Or, if you’re a poet, how do poems happen?