Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Writing Your First Novel: The First 13 Tips

So I thought that as I hit what I hope to be halfway, I'd put down, in no particular order, some short, sweet tips. What I've learned from the journey so far. What may help you.

1. You must plot.

Unlike shorts or flash, without plotting you'll hit trouble. Make a decision on what it's going to be early. And for the love of God try and stick with it. Don't and you risk hitting a wall, I don't know, halfway?

2. Don't give up.

Don't: be a whiny snivelly little... 'I can't'. Do or do not. If it's still in progress, finish it. If it's been in progress for the last five years, it's not in progress. You're not really doing it, are you? Really?

3. Don't let your Antagonist and Protagonist be the same person.

Give your characters a voice. Make them unique.I found as I hit second draft that my Antagonist was too alike to my Protagonist. I wanted him to be darker, obviously, but also cooler, more than just evil, sinister maybe, but someone that you could root for. He wasn't. I had to change him. That in itself has changed the situations, which is causing more re-writes. It's an ever-decreasing circle.

4. Don't lose your way.

Your novel needs to be what you want it to be. Don't write it in someone elses voice. When you've finished you won't like it. And if you don't like it, no one will like it.

5. Look at things differently.

Literally. If you can't make something work, see where it's going, grab a laptop and go somewhere else. It doesn't matter where. (I found drinking wine in the garden works. It doesn't get any writing done. But it works.) Sit somewhere else. Feel a different ambiance.

6. Forget it.

When you've finished writing, editing, whatever, don't sit there in the theater scratching your head worrying about it. You'll resent the work. You won't want to go back to it later.You'll hate that thing.

7. Whatever you do, don't forget it.

Never let the work stroll too far from the mind. The mind is a beautiful thing. What? Sorry. Ad break in the movie? Great. How-ma-gonna-get Swathey McCool out of that jam?

8. Rest it.

Really important. Stick it in a draw when you've finished. (No. Not that.) Leave it a month. Let it rest like a expensive carve of beef. Decant it like a fine wine. Then cut it's heart out. Just... later. It allows you to be able to take a more refreshed approach.

9. Read this.

10. Read.

Don't let your self obsession with creating an artwork that will define the ages from stopping you from learning. Read. Read novels. Read blogs. Read articles. Read the Goddamn TV Guide. Read something.

11. Show, don't tell.

During the first draft I found a lot of tell. If you have rose tinted glasses, throw them away. First draft sucks donkey balls. In an effort to 'get it on the page' I found a lot of non-descriptive exposition that shouldn't have been there. Particularly in the second half.

12. Don't have a mental breakdown in the middle.

I did. Takes balls to start writing it again after six months of not writing.

13. Write.

You can't write a novel without writing. Straight up, balls to the walls, pen on paper. If you don't write, you can't finish anything, can you? Yes, you. You at the front. Pay attention. It won't write itself. No. That 1K of flash isn't the same thing. You wanna write flash? Write it in your own time.

Now drop and give me 1K of novel.

'Til next time...

Monday, 24 September 2012

Being an Author: Writing your First Novel, Part Six.

Third draft. I can't believe I hit third draft already.

First draft: Spew words on paper.

Write. Just write. Must finish. Tell the story. Read the story. Hate the story. Accept the story. But you already know this. That was in the first five parts.

Second draft: Cull words from paper.

Novel is no longer novel length. I've shortened it. I've taken out rubbish from within the pages. The ramblings. The delirious mutterings of an author on the brink. Okay. So at end of the second draft, what have I got, and am I happy with it?

At this point... well, it's short. The plot is intact. It has less... meandering in it. I can't show it to anyone because it's not finished. I keep seeing more and more problems with it.

Am I happy... wwweeeeellllll.... yes-no-sort of...

I don't dislike it as much as I did. That's a positive thing, right?

And then I hit third draft.

And then there seemed to be an epiphany.


I sudden know where to go. I know what's wrong. More importantly, I know how to fix it. I know what made those bits in the middle make me get drunk and kick my monitor. I know what the story needs. I can see it. I can see it so clearly.

I'm not afraid of the words anymore. I can overcome. (I'm still afraid of the hamsters. With rocket launchers. Riding the backs of giant spiders.)

I now stride forward. I will complete. I will conquer.

I have come. I have seen. I will kick it's ass.

'Til next time...

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Being an Author: Writing Your First Novel, Part 5

So I'm now on what I'd like to think of as 'the beginning of the real work'. I've got to make this thing right.

I decided to read it.

The whole thing.

Make no changes.

And this is what I thought:

It started surprisingly well. I found the first few chapters okay. Sure, they needed work. But they were okay. Readable. Not too much stink. Cool, I'm thinking, I might get this wrapped into something decent in no time.

Then things went a little, shall we say, downhill.

I was talking to one of my friends. My closest friend. I was a bit drunk. I recall the conversation going something along the lines of...

"I hate it. I can't... it's *hic* rubbish. I thought it was okay, and I got to, I dunno, chapter 8 or something, and it all fell to bits... and it's shit. I Hate it. It's never going to get put right." - I think I was extremely insistent at this point that I was a hack.

Depression on the book had set in. Drinking doesn't help. If it had been a full bound manuscript, and I'd had a shredder... well.

That's when she said that it didn't matter what was wrong.
I could put it right.
I could make right what was wrong.
She said I wasn't a hack.
She said I was better than that.

I sobered up.

She was right.

I continued reading the rest of the book another day. It's not all bad. At one point somebody actually says something that's meaningful. It's only a few lines out of the thousands, but it's a start. I like that bit. Then I found another bit that wasn't too bad.

And by the time I'd finished?

Blimey. I think I can make something out of this.

Something that means something.

Now I can start changing stuff. Everything's going to be okay.

'Til next time...

PS: I little while ago I did a Being an Author post, 'Being an Author'. If it wasn't for point 1 things like this will go bad. Whether you destroy your art to make it better, destroy it because you hate it, or worse throw in being an author - kill the artist inside of you - if you don't have point 1, sometimes there's no one to bring you back from the brink.

And that's the worst thing ever.

Trust me.

Let them touch you too.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

An Interview: Jessica A. Weiss

Jessica. She's the one on the right.

It's a very proud moment for us at FW to welcome Jessica A. Weiss. We have worked with her, shared anthologies and edited with her (-even still have things in the pipeline-) for many, many years.

Jessica is an Author, an Editor, the founder of Wicked East Press, and a friend. 

So, to the interview...

FW: As an author, editor and founder of a press, could you tell us, what is your driving force behind your work? And which role do you enjoy most?

JAW: My driving force is the act of creating. I've been making things my entire life. Being an avid reader, I've always wanted to create a permanent document. With the press I get to create covers, interiors, blurbs, ebooks--a little bit of everything. My favorite role is…can I say all? There are great and horrible moments for all. If I HAVE to choose just one, it would be founder of a press. It's rewarding to publish someone for their first time and then watch as their writing career takes them off into bigger and better projects.

FW: How hard is it to juggle all of these roles that you have placed upon yourself?

JAW: It is extremely hard. My own writing has fallen behind everything else. Besides author/owner/editor, I am mother/wife/taxi driver for 4 kids, and animal rescue volunteer. My hobbies have also fallen behind, but I still try to squeeze everything in, just in smaller proportions.

FW: Do you see yourself becoming the next Rowling/King/James - what I'm saying is do you foresee a prolific writing career, or would you prefer to become the driving force and business woman behind the writer?

JAW: I don't think I'll ever be in the same group of Rowling/King/James. I prefer to be the driving force behind other writers; to be the one that gives that unknown the confidence to keep on writing and submitting.

FW: What are your future plans for Wicked East Press?

JAW: Besides the annual collection, and the wide variety of subject matter WEP already works with, I plan on doing some charity anthologies to support animal rescue. There are two planned for 2013; Shelter Dog Love, and Shelter Cat Love.

FW: As an author, who do you aspire to? Who is your inspiration?

JAW: Holly Black is my inspiration as a writer. She has a passionate force behind her writing and she covers a multitude of genres. As an editor, I aspire to Ellen Datlow--no explanation needed on that one!

FW: What are you writing at the moment, and when are you going to unleash the great 'Jessica' novel?

JAW: I don't plan on writing a “Jessica” novel. I do have a collection of poetry that I am considering putting out in the real world. But when it comes time to unveil my own large work, I can guarantee you that it will be a collection of short stories.

FW: Tell us, just because we must know, something that no one else knows about yourself.

JAW: Though the written word is near and dear to my heart, I've always dreamed of a professional singing career. Even used to compete in Karaoke contests when I wasn't DJing a karaoke show.

FW: And of course, what are you reading - for fun - at the moment?

JAW: At the moment I am not reading anything for fun.  I recently finished “Beyond Anon” by Pete Giglio and will post a review as time permits. I carry short fiction collections with me at all times as well as hundreds of other reading venues. Whatever I read gets reviewed on Amazon, you can find all reviews there.

FilingWords would like to thank Jessica for her time in coming here. You can find her at Wicked East Press find her on Facebook (of course) and when you see her, say hi. Open submissions for the press, news and updates can be found at the forum, here.

'Til next time... 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Finding time for Kevin...

Kevin is causing me some angst. Only a small amount. But some.

Now, I'm used to writing everyday. I write when I get home from work each day, and some at the weekend. When Kevin shows up, I write more. Sometimes a lot in the evening, but I still try to do less at the weekend.  Kevin is being a little snot this time.

Today I have written before work. I was early to work, wrote more before I was due to start at work. Will write at lunch. Got to write tonight.

You see, I've always tried to keep a lid on what I'm doing. One or two projects in motion at once.

Kevin has flushed me with a new one.

I'm now editing two novels. One mine alone and another collab. Not a problem. I'm writing another. Still fine, but reaching the end of where I'm happy with the work load. I've got a sequel to The Human Condition on the go (you know, I haven't mentioned that one recently), Human Behavior btw, which is about a third written.

I started writing the new book that Kevin waved under my nose this morning. (So writing three, technically, editing two). Another collab in plotting.

What to do?

For me, separating the editing and the writing is easy. I don't see editing as the same as writing, so I don't mind doing twice as much, if you get my drift. But writing three books? Eek.

I've decided to rotate them. I'll do one until I reach a lull - a suitable place to stop - and then hit the next and so on. See how that works.

Maybe blast one every now and again. Who knows?

I'll let you know.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Being an Author: Writing Your First Novel, Part 4

I've taken it out the cooler...

...and held it in my hand - I felt like Indiana Jones. It's precious, priceless even. It is... mine. 

Or is it?
Is it a pile of donkey balls?
Only one way to find out...

Editing the first draft:

So I've never edited my own novel before. How hard can it be? It's only like a really long short story, right?



So I've done the first chapter. And now I'm filled with fear. I know that it's not supposed to be like this. I don't know how to say it... but... I like it.

The first chapter is slightly askew to the rest of the book. It is set in another place, another time, and serves only as a back story to one of the main cast of characters. It is then fundamentally a short story in itself. Maybe that why I like it.

Sure I changed things, but I didn't change much. It seemed... pretty good. It was tense. It portrayed what I needed it to. It was okay. No complaints. Good so far.

Now at this point I have to mention that I glanced at the first page of the second chapter.

Look out!

Flying donkey balls!
I feel that perhaps I should leave that to another day. So I will. (But, boy, did that look rough).

So anyway, in amidst of my sheer panic over the obvious 'oh my God, I've written a whole novel of darling,' (and by this point had started on the beer) I realized something else. I had forgotten it. It's been in the cooler for a month (maybe a little more) and I have forgotten it.

This, people, is why we cooler it.

I'll be back with chapter two later, along with, I fear, deep loathing and disgust for my own words. And alcohol. Much, much, alcohol.

'Til next time...

Thursday, 6 September 2012

When Kevin Comes, He Comes, He Comes...


Yeah, you know what  I'm saying. So I've got: Shorts out on subs; Flash out on subs; Novel in the cooler; Collab novel in editing; Novel on the go; Colab novel in plotting; Oh, got another idea for a short; Quick scribble down this bit of flash...

Can't stop. Don't want to stop. Should I stop? Don't know. Don't care. Not a 'Being an Author' post. Just rambling.

I've got a head ache.

When Kevin turns up at my door, on occasion I have to say, enough. I've spurted thousand upon thousand of words this week on my new novel. I plotted it. See my 'writing novels' posts. You have to plot it. Or you'll go crazy. Crazy I tell yer. Oinking you'll be. Squeelin' like a little piggy.

I have written so much in fact, I've written so far off topic that I could just put all my notes on the original idea in the drawer and do that one later. Resemblance = None. (Apart from names. Names stayed.)

(Back to 'trying something new' though, I still like it)

So anyway, where was I? Yes. Take a break. My norm would be to write less at the weekends than during the week. At the moment, I'm writing a lot. A really lot. A lotta lot. Lots. Jesus. I just can't stop. It's good. Feels great*. But I'm tired and the editing is suffering. So I need to take a step back. Take a breath. 

Will I? No. Kevin's a drug. The more I write, the more I want to.

The only problem is that I keep waking up with an imprint of a keyboard on my face. Which is embarrassing at work.

Want to hit 2K tonight. That's 10K of novel in 4 days. And I've done some editing. And flash. And this. I should start editing the one in the cooler as well. Might start that after I hit 2K tonight.

...9...10...Never sleep again...



*When I say feels great, I mean feels great like I've just take a massive hit of barbiturates and feel great. Later I will feel like death. Just death. Not even warmed up.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Being an Author: Trying Something New

Horror. I'm not going to say it again. You know this. But I stumbled across something new. I started writing another novel. I haven't finished planning it entirely yet, but I felt that it was largely ready enough for me to 'put pen to paper'.

So I started.

Opening chapter. Introduce protagonist, mild peril, the regular sort of thing. But then something new happened.

I had a very clear picture in my mind of how I wanted the feel of the work. Something more gothic than I was used to. Burtonesque, if you will. A tact that I have stayed away from for a couple of years, and something that I felt would reflect the content of the work well.

But it didn't come out right.

It was... lighthearted? The content is dark, pitch black, I haven't imagined my usual story with this one. I'm bringing my something new to the table. And yet, it's coming out all... odd. Stylistically it's not me. It's more like my fantasy work than my horror, and yet the theme is darker than even my, dark, tastes.

And I like it.

Could it turn into my opus? Could it be my greatest work? Open doors into new worlds? Path my future with gold?

I doubt that last one, but it would be nice.

Either way, this week I have put my toe in the waters erotica, looked at poetry in a new way, read Shakespeare, and this.

Whether it works or not, it is exciting. Hopefully for the reader as much as me. And well, the future? You never know.

'Til next time...