Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lessons Learned from Writing A Sunset Finish

Thanks to A.G. for letting me guest blog today. My first novella A Sunset Finish came out a little before A.G.'s novella Brass Stars did last year. It's thrilling to get something longer than a short story published, and not quite as daunting as writing a novel. She asked if I'd do a Lessons Learned theme for the guest post. It was a great idea since I learned quite a bit writing A Sunset Finish.

1. Research pays off. I've lived all of my life in New Mexico and near many Pueblo Indian reservations, but I didn't know enough pueblo folklore to write A Sunset Finish off the top of my head. I was somewhat fortunate when it came to the music and dance aspects of the story because I had studied some local Native American music in college. But even my music experience was limited. To make up for the gap in my knowledge, I took trips to ruined pueblos, attended dances at the Pueblo Cultural Center and visited the libraries frequently. My favorite book for study was Dancing Gods by Erna Fergusson. While gleaning the information from it about pueblo ceremonies, I also found myself thinking up different short stories and a possible alternative history book. Two of the short stories I thought of during that time of research have already been published and another one is on the way this summer.

2. Watch out for repetition in longer stories. I sent A Sunset Finish to three places before it found a home. One of the editors who rejected it told me that it was well written except for being so repetitive. I had no idea what she was talking about. So I boohooed to my best friend who said, “Well, I thought that too, but a lot of published stories are so I didn't say anything.” After that, I read it with a different eye. Indeed, I had several chapters in there that were rehashing the same emotions or the same mysteries. I cut most of the scenes where Bruce's dad appeared and about half the dates between Stephanie and Bruce. It was accepted at the next spot I sent it to: Jupiter Gardens Press. Looking back on stories I've read, I now believe several novels would be better as novellas if the repetitious scenes were cut out :)

3. Don't waste time watching rankings. After A Sunset Finish was released, I was introduced to the world of rankings, which I had largely ignored. I made it to my publisher's best seller list, and then I was addicted. Watching rankings cuts into precious writing time and can be depressing. This month I've made a huge effort to not look so often and only focus on new stories. My production has gone up, even though I find myself looking more than I should.

4. Self-promotion is hard. I think most writers are introverts; I know I am. But now we are expected to tweet and blog and Facebook all the time. I really enjoy swapping blog posts with people like A.G. where we talk about the craft. I see it as a definite benefit to growing as a writer. But time blogging is also time not writing new stories. There needs to be a balance. I see some writers promoting every day, and I honestly don't know how they do it and still get their next novel out on time. I admire them, but for me, I need time to let my head settle on a story and crank out the words until it's done.

Thanks again for having me here, and please come and check out A.G.'s post on my blog at enchantedspark.com coming in June.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Spiders! (Update 5.15.14)

First, a bit of publishing news. The Spider Thief and The Sorcerer is live at Crowded Magazine. This one is light-hearted, free and has a lot of spiders. (Arachnophobes, beware!)

Secondly, next week I have a guest blog post from Melinda Moore. She's putting her own take on Lessons Learned and telling us about her book A Sunset Finish.

(On the flipside, I will have a guest blog over on her website http://enchantedspark.com/ on Wednesday the 21st talking about how I came to write Brass Stars.)

In writing news, the novel-ish (a part of the series I'm developing around the MC of The Spider Thief and The Sorcerer) is now past 43k and will continue to grow steadily as soon as some other RL business is taken care of.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Relationships and Other Fascinations (Update 5.5.14)

Every writer has themes or tropes they keep coming back to. Particular twists of fate they like to visit on their characters. Particular character types that intrigue them.

Some days I feel guilty about the fact I like to write primarily female MCs, usually tough, lonely and with a secret/not-secret talent. I start wondering if it's too formulaic that they tend to find a partner who is slightly older, capable but not a Prince Charming to their damsel in distress. (Mostly because my damsels may be in distress but they tend to solve their own problems with fists or magic or guns.) I worry that no one will be as interested in seeing how misunderstandings and hurt feelings happen and resolve without relying on the dreaded Big Misunderstanding (which I loathe in general principle).

But the truth is, I like exploring relationships between my characters. I like looking at what makes families tick. How children grow up and create their own families. How friends become lovers. Or enemies. (Or enemies become lovers.) I like the interaction because I think interaction is a significant part of the human experience.

The latest project (which was a short story that grew into a novella that is still growing into a real novel) has a relationship at its core. The Steampunk Novel has a relationship at its core. Why? Because a wild and imaginative as I can make my stories, the thing that tends to motivate my characters is the other people in their lives. And, because people need to act like people, and real people interact.

(Even Tashn, who is possibly the coldest, most driven character I've written yet, interacts. It doesn't end well, but she still interacts with those around her.)

In writing news: The aforementioned former-novella is up past 40k now. There's a fair chunk still to go, but I am reminding myself that there are really only two sequences left. BIG sequences, but they're all scenes in a row which makes them easy. Er. Easier. The plan is to have it all wrapped up by the end of the month.

"The Spider-thief and The Sorcerer" is due out from Crowded Magazine on May 14th. I'm very excited about seeing this one make it into the world and I will post the link as soon possible.

Also, reorganizing the blog. It's a slow process, but I'm working on it. Added a bibliography for the shorts. Next up is the flash fiction. At that point I will probably drastically reduce the "Published" list in the sidebar. (It will be redundant, that's why.) And, I don't know. Try and remember to write on the blog more often. (I'm currently experimenting with being more active on Twitter. And stuff.)

Happy Monday, folks!