Iron & Glass, the author’s journey (part 12)

Finish it!

That’s right!! Since Iron & Glass comes out next week this blog series is almost over (oh no!). I will, of course, have a few more (maybe five? probably less) directly related to the book (in theory) after it is out. Also, I will answer any questions anyone has about the book once it comes out. But I won’t give spoilers away.

Anyways, now is not the time to talk about the finale our fabulous journey together, not yet. And don’t worry too much; I’ll keep posting about other things. If anyone ever has a question about the “writer’s journey” or whatever just let me know 

Back to business.

I almost wanted to save this theme for the last blog in the series, but that seemed cliché. So, what are we talking about today? Endings! I’m pretty sure I’ve covered beginnings (maybe I’ll do middles? that kind of falls under moving the plot forward . . . ).

So, how do you end a story? Bowtie? Bittersweet? Totally depressing? Cliffhanger? So many options (more than I just listed here)! But which one do you pick for your story?

Personally, I think it depends on three things:

1: The tone

2: The genre

3: Your personal taste

Tone and genre play into this but you’re the author. If you want a bowtie fantasy (Eragon?) go for it. Now bowtie dystopian may be stretching it. But, technically, you can end it with rampaging elephants farting rainbows that poison the air and kill everyone—not that I recommend it. Remember that you can end it however you want but if you want people to read it you might want to consider tone and genre (do remember you can play with expectation here too).

Your book (should) has a genre and tone that probably fits the genre. A comedy could take a sad turn and end on a bittersweet note; a fantasy usually ends with something/one defeated—at a steep price, obviously— and hope for the future; YA ends on cliffhangers (usually) unless it’s the last book and then who knows with all the subgenres it has.

Anyways, sadder stories should have sadder endings and so on. It wouldn’t make sense for a lighthearted Chick Lit to end with the protagonist’s sister dying while her lover leaves to fight in a war or something. Ending on a 180 turn from the tone will confuse the reader. “Savvy” readers will expect a certain ending within genres (who wants a fantasy to end all happy-dappy with roses and true love and victory without much cost? Not me!) 

(remember you can play with expectations!)

Readers will also pick up on your story’s tone and start to expect a certain ending. Imagine The Hunger Games ending with Katniss deciding the future looks awesome and skipping through a field of flowers with Gale on one arm and Peeta on the other (a bit of an exaggeration, but do you get the point?)? Think about Harry Potter ending with Voldemort’s victory? 

We can agree the overall tone should have an appropriate ending (please remember that doesn’t mean your story’s tone can’t change or evolve, just don’t’ “evolve” the tone in the last three pages . . .).

Don’t forget the “you” part. If you like a particular ending—and if it isn’t too far-fetched from the rest of the story—go ahead and end it that way. I personally like bittersweet ending; characters have gained something through loss and can look forward (isn’t life like that?). I don’t do long conclusions (usually a short (5 pages or less) chapter). I want my characters to have gained something but never without a price. And I always want to conclude that chapter of their lives and the stories main conflict.

Let me explain.

The ending should resolve the story’s major plot points. If you want to write a sequel, leave it open ended, but the novel should conclude something. I’m not saying you have too, some authors don’t. If nothing gets wrapped up, I personally feel cheated, like I wasted my time. I hate (dislike?) “happily ever afters ” where everything is supposed to be roses from now on. I think possibilities should always be left open. Life doesn’t stop (unless you kill everyone/protagonist). A part of someone’s life can end, but that doesn’t they end.

Does that make sense?

There are plenty of ending types I didn’t discuses. I could do an entire series on endings. This is just some general device.

I’m obviously not going to tell you how I ended Iron & Glass, but, if you read it, I’ll answer any questions you have about it.

Lastly, I’ll be having a party of Twitter on Thursday (the 11th , people) at 8:45 pm EST (with the rest of the Miss Millennia Magazine team (my publishers) so come join us! I’d love to chat with some of you guys. It will be a free-range-ask-me-whatever-the-hell-you-want! Fun, right?

Of course . . . you can always do that on the blog . . . but then this will be live!

Mmmmk.

おやすみなさい

(Oyasuminasai)

(good night)

(yea! my basic Japanese skills!)

 

 

Iron & Glass, the author’s journey (part 11)

Setting the Mood (doesn’t that sound sexy?)

(Sorry I’m late. Life is kicking my butt right now. But I finally got part 11 up! I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but if anyone has a topic they want me to cover to just let me know.)

Everything thing has (or should have) a “mood”. People behave differently at the beach, work, the mall, church, and so on. Having an appropriate atmosphere helps people decide the expected behavior in each setting. Sandy beaches help people to relax and wear underwear without shame (okay, that’s a bit of a joke. But, really, swimwear is an acceptable form of mild nudity. Kind of interesting if you think about it, but I’m getting off topic). An white-walled office with a desk, computer, and chair makes people focus and social correct and polite.

Surprise, surprise, writing follows the same concept. 

When you’re writing your story, set the “mood” around you to fit the story you’re writing. Some writers have a room they decorate to fit the genre of book they usually write. Some—like George R. R. Martin—have a separate house for writing. Now, most of us want-to-be authors can’t afford that, but there are still ways we can creating a writing space for ourselves and a “mood” for our stories. 

First: find a writing place. Try to write in the same place every time and try not to do anything else in that space. That will train your brain that this is where you write, where you creative juices flow.

I like to write in my bedroom, legs crossed, and in the middle of my bed. I can see out the window and into the little woods behind my house. My room is also the most private place I have access to. I can lock the door or tape up a little sign that says: “writing: please don’t disturb”. Or something. Anyways, it creates a calm environment where I easily slip into “writing mode”. Ideally, I would write outside. However, it rains too much, and the weather changes would prevent me from writing 6 months a year . I will, however, often plot and develop characters and worlds outside. 

For your own personal writing place, I  suggest a room with decorations that might help inspire your story (my room looks like a combination of a forest, an Elvish palace, with a bit of Native American flare, or like I’m a world traveler (which, sadly, isn’t true), which works well since I usually write fantasy). If you don’t have an appropriate room, a) find a room where you can find peace and quiet to write for long periods of interrupted time or b) find a room with virtually no decorations. Why? Because if it isn’t going to help set the mood, don’t let it become a detriment to it either.

For example, when I lived in Michigan (Go Lions!) my brother had a crazy bedroom. He had one bright red and two bright blue walls accompanied with one checker-patterned wall. As a little boy, he loved it. He also went to public school while I was homeschooled, which meant he gone while I was home. I shared a room with my homeschooled sister, so his room was often empty and mine wasn’t. I could have written in his room, but the decorations would have been a destructive to my story’s mood.

So, find a non-detrimental, quiet place to write. Or, if you have the room (and money), create one with an atmosphere to make your story(its).

Part two (I guess?): setting the stories mood.

Another simple, easy way to set the story’s mood is music. Please, please, please create a playlist for your story. Listen to music the people in your story might like, or what might get played in your story’s soundtrack if it ever became a movie. You’d be surprised how much this helps you.

What if you don’t have the music? 

Well, Youtube is your best friend. Create a playlist there. Or use a website like Pandora and tailor it to your stories mood. 

What is your stories mood? Well, that’s an entirely different idea. I won’t go into that here.

As always, I’m happy to answer questions.

Once again, you can pre-order Iron & Glass now!

Oh, yeah, Iron & Glass has a playlist. It’s 838 songs! (crazy, right?) I might go ahead and post some of it on here later. Let me know if that would interest anyone. 

Iron & Glass, the author’s journey (part 10)

Moving the plot 

 

I probably could’ve thought of a more creative title, but . . .its my second week back in school. My head hurts.

Anyways. Plot. It seems so easy to craft a plot. Introduce characters. Introduce conflict. Rising action. Climax. Fall action. Right?

Well . . . it is not that simple.

Most books follow that basic pattern, yes, but not all of them, especially not modern books. If they do, they break it up a little. Take Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind—amazing book, really, 5/5 or maybe even 6/5 stars—doesn’t really have much of a resolution or climax. Yes, a bigger problem is solved at the novel’s end, but the story kind just drops off, like, “Hey, let’s stop here.” It also starts at the end of the entire trilogy. You know what? It works. The book is told from the third and first point of view and it is bloody brilliant, (can’t say why: spoilers). For most books such a format would not work. It would read like a clunky disaster no one bothered to get through (like what Joseph’s Heller’s Catch-22 could’ve been).

So. Back to you (or us). The plot should follow a basic pattern, but don’t limit yourself to it. On the other hand, if you decide to go rogue, make sure its damn good. If you want to break the rules, you better break them right.

Generally, I would recommend sticking to the expectations of your audience, (please note: this doesn’t mean you should give them some cookie-cutter story they know the end too before they start reading. Now that I think about it, they might love or hate to have some fundamentals get shaken up. It depends on if you do it right. Sorry, I know that’s not helpful).

Here’s the rule of thumb I follow: make every scene count. There should be no “throw away” scenes. If you can cut it out of the novel and the characters still make sense, the plot still makes sense, and the reader didn’t lose some vital piece of information, then delete it. Don’t clutter your book with scenes that add nothing to the story; it will only slow your story down.

Some people may ask, “Well, what about character development? Or world building?”

Good question. Answer: build characters and world while moving the plot forward. Even in a scene where you’re supposed to learn something about x character or x world, it should move the overall plot forward.

This doesn’t mean every scene needs to become some plot-twisting thriller page. Rather, every scene should build towards something. Here’s where knowing your genre is important. You have a lot more time to build in a fantasy novel than a YA one. On the flip side, fantasy novels run a higher risk of “letting the world get away from the author”.

I try to keep my scenes as tight as possible. If you pointed to any scene in my story and asked, “What does this scene do?” I’d have an answer.

So how do you pace a story?

Again, depends on the genre. If you don’t write or read a lot (then start reading and writing; honestly, you can’t write unless you read), you’ll want to start small. Introduce a character and a conflict right off the bat (in fantasy, introduce the world too). Then, move the character/plot forward; introduce new characters, plot points, and conflicts as they come along. While all that is happening, develop characters, explain plot, and resolve or complicate conflicts.

Doesn’t that sound like fun?

This isn’t really something you can be taught. Read a lot. Write a lot. Practice. If you do that, it will come naturally (eventually, maybe).

One thing I will recommend is go through every scene and ask, “What happens here?” If you can’t point to something important, odds are you don’t need the scene.

Reminder: Iron & Glass comes out September 16th! Check it out and critique my plotting abilities. A gold start for anyone who tells me.

Question? Just ask.

 

Iron &Glass, the author’s journey (part 9)

Find Time to Write

So I’m back in college again this week (sad face). I have my third 16 credit hour semester (sullen face), and most of my free time just ran away from me,  crying laughing hysterically.

Well, most of the time, people are busy, too busy to pursue their hobbies for long periods of time. What does that mean for those whose hobbies take a long time? Say, mountain climbing? Traveling? Or—you guessed it—writing?

Writing takes a long time. Even if you type fast–which I do–it still can take 30+hours to write the book let alone research, plan, and edit it. Ugh. Right?  I have a new internship, a job, and 16 credit hours; I’m swamped, barely keeping my head above water in week one! So how do I/you find time to write?

Not an easy question to answer

First, you have to evaluate your free time. How much of it do you have? How much of that do you want to dedicate to writing? If you’re serious about writing, your answer is: A lot.

I don’t work on weekends, and I don’t have class on weekends. So, just guess what I do on weekends? Yep. I spend most of my time writing. Remember that “writing” doesn’t just mean “writing,” but plotting a story, developing characters, editing, drafting a query letter, researching agents, and so on and so on.

Anyways.

If you want time to write, organization is a must. You might be surprised about how more free time you have if you plan things out. This even goes for people with full-time jobs. Set up some time to write, a hour, maybe two, after work/school and stick to it. Once your sitting in front of you computer, get to it. Don’t stare at a blank page or check out your social media accounts (I turn my internet off unless I’m name searching or doing various other kinds of research). If you find yourself watching a screen and unable to do what you planned, try to do something else writing related. If you can’t write, then edit; if you can’t edit, then plot; if you can’t plot, then write a query letter, or whatever. But don’t waste that time!

Now, you might want to set different times for different things. Like, if you’re actually writing, try to write later at night. A lot of people say when their tired they feel more free to write instead of question every sentence . If you’re editing, try to do it when you get home. If you edit with dropping eyes, you’ll might actually make a mistake instead of fixing one. You get the picture.

Still, dedication to your work and organization of your time will help you write no matter how busy you are.

I managed to write a 180,000 words story during a 17 credit hour semester (+ job, + internship)! Everyone can find time to write, you just have to set time aside and do it.

 

Sorry, this has nothing related to my upcoming novel, Iron & GlassBut . . . what the heck. I thought it might help.

Iron & Glass, the author’s journey (part 8)

Constructive Criticism 

Every author should have beta readers for their story. No one is perfect. You will make mistakes. Others can point those out for you. Some people may even offer suggestions that are better than your original idea. So, after someone kindly spends their valuable time to read your story, you have to decide what advice to keep and what advice to toss.

You (probably) don’t want to accept everything, but not listening at all is a bad idea. I don’t think there is a black and white way to go about deciding. But, there are some ways I use when looking over a beta readers suggestions.

Remember that not every comment is a critique. Iron & Glass (my self-published novel soon to be released) just had its 4th beta reader (hence this post). The beta reader–let’s call her “Pam” because I don’t know if she wants her name on here or not– asked several questions throughout the story. Thing is, she asked the exact questions I wanted the readers to asking at that point in the story.  Seeing them there felt like a pat on the back. I did a good job.

That being sad, Pam had some questions I didn’t want or anticipate as well. For those, I went back through the story to answer or clarify them.

Rejecting or accepting Pam’s other feedback wasn’t so easy. I had to decide one suggestion at a time.

Some were easy. Pam wanted me to change the name the USA International Ballet Competition (IBC) because it didn’t sound real. Well, it is real. So I’m not going to change the name of a real competition into a fake one to make the it sound more real (sorry, I think that sounds confusing . . . ). There was another case where she wanted me to change the name of a mythological monster because it didn’t sound scary enough. Sadly, that is the creatures name, so I don’t (and didn’t) want to change it.

Not too bad. Rejecting those suggestions was easy.

Other suggestions were easy to accept (sorry my tenses are all over the place. I’m so this is a rough draft blog post). Iron & Glass has a scene that takes place at a restaurant (everyone look shocked and surprised). Pam pointed out how I never tell the reader where these two people are sitting, next to each other, across from each other, on top of each other, or what? Hey, awesome, I can go fix that. I was really happy she pointed it out.

Then we have the “inbetweeners”. Should I delete that sentence? Is this scene necessary to the plot? I want to know more about how this character is feeling. What is the significance to this object? Clarify it. Introduce this character sooner. And on and on it goes.

I, usually, accept about 85% of the changes beta readers suggests. They offer good advice. But, for every suggestion, I have to ask myself: Does changing this better my story or take away from my original intent?

Then it really becomes a judgment call. Just remember to accept the criticism and be willing to make changes, but don’t let your story lose its purpose.

Sorry there not some neat formula, but I’d be happy to answer any questions.

And thank you Pam (you know who are), and my other beta readers! Especially my sister, who read Iron & Glass twice for me.

The Road is Not Easy (and Nor Should It Be) / A Meditation on Pain.

Originally posted on JamesRadcliffe.com:

To be human, and to live a human life is to be, (at least in part) almost continually beset by: pain, hardship, and obstacles.

Strangely, far from being the despicable and discouraging news that this, on the surface, appears to be; I believe that this is not necessarily a bad thing….

In fact, I believe: pain and obstacles can be a great impetus to our continuing growth and evolution.  And furthermore: that a life lived without them would be largely useless and benign; bereft of much of the merit gleaned and accrued from the full gamut of human experience.

But (and here is the kicker), without the correct approach to these things, without the correct guiding idea, we can all too easily spiral down into a dark pit of: victimhood, learned helplessness, and general malaise.

How can I possibly prove all this?  Why am I even…

View original 759 more words

Iron & Glass, the author’s journey (part 7)

Staying Focused 

I personally struggle with staying focused on a single story. I’ve got a bad habit of getting amped for a new idea right when I’m about 75% way through the first draft of another story. Writing the last quarter of it becomes a torture as a new, shiny idea fills my head.

So how do you maintain interest in your current project? Running off to chase the newest idea will never help you finish a book—or get published.

Inspiring authors need discipline, discipline to finish a story, to edit it (several times), to query it, and to market it. Basically, you need to stay passionate and committed to your work. If you can’t drag your attention away from the shiny, new idea, then ask yourself: Is my current idea worth pursuing? If the author’s bored, odds are the reader will be too. Or do you lack the discipline to follow the story through?

I’ve dropped a few stories after deciding they bored me because they were boring. Most of the time, I buckle down and finish, knowingI’m just over excited about a new idea.

So how do you tell which ones to drop and which ones to fight for?

Well, there really are no tricks. Either the story is or isn’t worth reading. You’ll have to sit down and think about that on a story-by-story basis. Think about the characters; will it bother you if their story is left untold? Will you feel bad for abandoning them? Do you think others would enjoy this story? How could it benefit people?

Ask questions like that and make a choice depending on your answers.

Now, if, like me, you have ants in your pants and want to jump on new story ideas, then here are the few methods I try when the “new story bug” bites me.

When I first stated writing (which was, what? eleven years ago?), I wrote down the basic idea of the new story and try to leave it alone until I finished the other. However, the  ideas never really sat quietly. New characters and plot points would pop into my head no matter how I concentrated. .

Now, you can force the idea from your mind, if you want, and focus on your current story. From time to time, I visualize new ideas like some sort of ball that I mentally bat away. But, usually, I don’t want to slam new ideas away. I want to let them flower and flourish, even if I can’t expand on them right then.

If you believe in your current story but don’t want to lose the new idea, I suggest two options, depending on the person.

First, try working on multiple projects at once. I do not recommend this, though. Unless you’ve been writing for a while and are extremely organized and focused, this could (will probably) end in disaster.

So why did I put the suggestion on my blog? Because you can make this work. Don’t write two stories at once. Instead, break your stories into stages. Write story A, edit story B, query story C, and develop story D. Or something like that.

I work on many projects at once, however, when I’m writing a story, I only work on that one. If I’m not currently writing, I’ll go ahead and edit one story while querying another and plot pointing a third.

Still, it’s difficult. Dividing my time like that isn’t easy. I want to work on all the stories and end up feeling like nothing gets done on any of them. To avoid that problem, I prioritize and order which stories I consider more important to work on right now. The order is usually based off how much time I have, what I’m trying to do, and whats hot on the market right now.

The second option: Write your current story, but go ahead and write down the ideas that come to you, just don’t develop them. That lets you finish the story without smashing your own ideas. It can also help with writers block. If you just can’t think of what to write for your current story, go and play the idea for the new one. It might help free your mind up a bit.

I’m sure there are other ways, but I’ve personally tried and used those two.

Iron & Glass–the novel I’m self-publishing–was a rarity for me. While I finished up another story when I got the idea for it, no other ideas came to me while I was writing it. I stayed focused on Iron & Glass without any distractions. Yea me!

Anyways, how what ideas have you tried to deal with this little problem?

If you have any questions . . .

The Message Of Saint Paul ! / Infinite Hope & Love.

Originally posted on mysuccessisyoursuccess:

“” What will separate us from the Love of Christ ? Will Anguish ,or Distress ,or Famine ,Or Nakedness ,or Peril ,or Sword “”?

No,in all these things we Conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For neither Death nor Life, nor Angels nor Principalities ,nor Present things ,nor Future things ,nor Power, nor Heights ,nor Depth ,nor any other Creature will be able to separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

J.M.Sabbagh-http://mysuccessisyoursuccess.wordpress.com

View original

Iron & Glass, the author’s journey (part 6)

I wanted to discuses one of the touchier topics of writing: when does inspiration become plagiarism? Yikes. Plagiarism is such a scary word and has some heavy consequences. In some ways the word has been defined; in most ways it’s pretty vague, especially in the “stealing ideas” department.

 

In creative writing, plagiarism becomes a nightmare. Other stories inspire writers all the time. They’ll borrow ideas and “make it their own.” Sometimes, the inspiration is so clear readers can point it out; other times the story takes off on its own. Often authors get accused of being “inspired by” a story that didn’t inspire them at all. This tends to happen with popular series, and readers will accuse authors of borrowing/stealing ideas that aren’t really that unique.

 

Three of the worst offenders (remember this has nothing to do with the authors of these series) are Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight. Anybody notice how many books get accused of copy one of these? If a book has a magic school, the authors must be ripping off of Harry Potter (note: the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, founded in 1888, was the first magic school I’ve heard of). If the book has a situation where kids must kill each other to escape something, the author must be copying The Hunger Games (note: Battle Royal did something similar before Suzanne Collins and before both came the Theseus myth, which is thousands of years old). And any sort of paranormal romance is obviously a Twilight knock off. Right?

 

As an author, such accusations can get annoying. Someone may have gotten an idea before ever hearing/reading it somewhere. Authors can also feel boxed in because of this, and they can fear adding certain elements to their story because others might accuse them of copying someone else.

 

Before I ever heard of Star Wars, I wanted to have a protagonist who ended up being the kid of the story’s “big bad”. After I finally watched Star Wars, I decided against doing that for years. I didn’t want to “steal” the idea, though I had a similar one years before seeing it there. Now I realize that idea isn’t particularly unique. Start Wars is just one of the most popular franchises to have utilized it.

 

Because I talk about what authors can do about this mess, it is important to remember the other side of this: people actually borrowing/stealing ideas from others. This happens all the time. Some believe every story is part of one great story that never really ends. Ideas are borrowed and re-shaped all the time. Usually, authors are pretty up-front about their inspiration, telling people what stories launched their own. But, a few times, you get people who basically re-write the book, which does feel like stealing or a fanfiction.

 

So, how do you navigate these tricky waters?

 

Well, for one, I wouldn’t let another story prevent you from adding something to your own. If you thought of the idea, that’s great. Don’t sweat it too much. You could always tell people if they asked. You could even blog about where that particular idea came to you. If you’re pulling an idea from a book you love, give the book credit. Let everyone know your book was, in fact, inspired by different book. Just make sure your story is your own. Don’t write a fanfiction with altered names. There are no black and white rules when it comes to this, so use your best judgment.

 

Lastly, don’t worry about getting accused too much. More than likely, it will happen. If you write a paranormal romance, people will say Twilight inspired you; write a dystopian and sudden The Hunger Games inspired you. On and on it goes.

 

For the record, a no specific books inspired Iron & Glass. A scene in a movie? Yes. A CD? The sound of it, yes. And sitting under a tree. That’s what started Iron & Glass. I already wrote about that, but forgot the CD parts. Opps.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Like I said, it’s a tricky one.