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Writing Tip: The Right Story is Worth the Struggle

Two things I can tell you about writing fiction:

  1. It’s hard work
  2. It only gets harder

When I say it’s hard work, I mean it takes far more than just jotting down what your imagination dictates. The greater part of writing is rewriting. There are stories that practically write themselves, and once you get to the end and read it again, the plot is pretty much good as is. But then there are stories you agonize over every step of the way. You rewrite them a million times and when you finally get to the end you realize you need to rewrite it a hundred times more. That’s just the nature of the beast.

The thing about it is you get pickier as you grow. Your first books flow smoothly because you have no expectation of yourself, other than to get the story on paper. But after several rounds of feedback on different stories, you start to see patterns. You see where your weaknesses lie, where you need to improve. You start to doubt yourself more and more, and consider every word more carefully before you commit it to the page. You become your own worst critic and, believe it or not, that right there is what ultimately makes you a better writer. Now you know what you want out of the story. You know what feeling you want to convey, and what message you want your readers to get. You develop strong likes and dislikes in your own writing, and the struggle becomes more intense.

A third thing I can tell you about writing: The struggle is worth it.

It’s worth it if you care about the end result. The stories that end up making you the proudest are the ones you never gave up on. They say to write from the heart. YES! Absolutely. Do that all day long. But writing from the heart isn’t a walk in the park. It literally takes your all. It means you don’t just throw your hands in the air and say, “Oh, well, I guess that’s good enough!” when the going gets tough. You buckle down and work that much harder to smooth out the rough spots, fix plot holes, give your characters depth and a purpose.

As a writer and a reader, it frustrates me when I can tell the author (myself included) takes the easy way out. The curse of being able to see behind the curtain is that now I am much more critical of what I read and write. And the pressure is even more intense when it’s an entire series on the line.

Any writer will tell you the beginnings are easy. You get a fresh new idea, your muse ramps up, and you just go-go-go until your fingers cramp and you fall asleep at your desk. Around the middle part, things get a little dicey. That’s when you need to have your characters well established, and your plot on its way to the main conflict. Once you get over that hurdle, the final one is the actual ending, and that can be the most difficult of all.

Expand that to a series, and your last book now carries the weight of all the previous ones on its back. It has to tie up every loose end and neatly wrap up the story while also standing on its own as a full story with a beginning, middle, and end. No pressure!!

3.3 POD PostcardAt this moment, I am in the process of writing the last part of the last book in my Dawn of Ragnarok series, and a picnic it is not. I’m now so emotionally invested in these characters that I want to do right by them in every regard. It’s a tricky book in so many different ways and every time I think one part is finished, I wake up in the middle of the night because I realize I’d created (or found) another issue that needs to be fixed. The next day, I open my file and go back yet again to find the problem area and fix it.

Like the title character himself, this story has layers upon layers and they keep shifting and changing with every iteration until the manuscript I have is not remotely what it was five iterations ago–and I don’t even have a complete first draft yet!

But the truth is, I would rather spend three years writing one book and make it the best it can possibly be than phone in three books in one year just to keep myself up in the New Releases on Amazon. But that’s me.

In the end, it comes down to what’s more important to you: Are you in it for the story, or the royalties? Are you writing to write, or to have written? Is this your passion, or your paycheck? None of these are mutually exclusive, by the way. But I still believe the old adage is true. You get out what you put in.

And this leads me to my official writing tip of the day:

You get back what you put in–so don’t ever give up. The struggle is worth it in the end. 🙂

Until next time!


The Dawn of Ragnarok series will be coming to a close soon. If you haven’t read it yet, catch up with The Royal Wizard and Dragonblood before Prince of Deceit comes out!

 

 

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Art Begets Art

Post #2 for the Wolfen world will focus on the awesomeness of muse sharing. I count myself incredibly blessed and fortunate to have a small, tight group of amazing friends, who also happen to be beyond talented artists. One in particular seems to share my muse when it comes to creating cool new stuff. Happi Anarky is an artist and photographer (among other, even more impressive things). She and I sometimes cycle back and forth. She will draw something that inspires a story from me and vice versa. Happi is a die hard fan of Wolfen and has been hounding me since before the book was even published to write a sequel. Wolfen Deux has been a running inside joke with us for years, which is why the dedication page of Helena now reads the following:

Because “Died waiting for Wolfen Deux” is not an appropriate thing to put on a headstone.

Yes, she has actually threatened to do that…

Anyway, whether it’s because the book inspired her to do it, or because she’s been subtly trying to hint that I need to get my arse in gear, Happi has created a number of stunning pieces of post-apocalyptic art, some of which she’s graciously allowed me to use to promote the book. Today, I share them all with you, so sit back, relax and enjoy. If you like what you see, please go show Happi some love on her website or social media:

Website: happianarky.com
Facebook: facebook.com/happianarky
Instagram: @happianarky_ig


Art by Happi Anarky

Shared with the artist’s permission



Have you read Wolfen? Who was your favorite character?


The Question of Humanity

In light of the upcoming release of Helena, I thought I would dedicate a few posts on the story for those who aren’t familiar with it, and maybe include a few new tidbits for those who know the first book, Wolfen by heart. (By the way, you have no idea how amazing it feels to say with total sincerity and no exaggeration that there are actually people out there who have not only read this book, but re-read it multiple times!)

So here’s something you never knew: A couple of years ago, I had lunch with a fascinating man who worked in the film industry. He’d read samples of some of my books and we got to talking about Wolfen. He asked me something no one had ever asked before:


Did you ever intend for humanity to survive in the end?


My answer seemed to surprise and disappoint him. I don’t think he expected me to answer the way I did. At the time, I didn’t feel there was any other way to answer but, as I have revisited the question since then, my answer has stayed the same.

Before I tell you what it is, I want to say this book broke so many rules it’s ridiculous. That was kind of the point. I wanted to burn the rule book, let the story flow however it wanted, and whatever it turned out to be, that was what it would end up being. I gave myself no limits or guidelines, except one: be different. I didn’t want to retell the same stories that have already been told so many times, so right off the bat, I knew two things:

#1 My monsters would not be the result of a disease. That was too simple, too familiar, and too easy to fix. A disease is usually curable, or treatable. You can see a disease coming and take preventative measures. Moreover, disease outbreaks eventually burn out. They may claim a thousand victims, or a million but, historically, humanity as a species is resilient and bounces back, often with new immunities and vaccines to prevent another outbreak.

What makes my monsters so scary is that they are unstoppable. They don’t discriminate, they can’t be outrun or overpowered; very little can take them down and keep them down for long, and they multiply too quickly to be controlled in any way. Think of the destructive power of invasive species with no natural predators. Think of mice in Australia, for example. They can destroy an entire ecosystem at an incredible rate and are nearly impossible to eradicate. Now imagine if this invasive species preyed on the most readily available food source: humans.

#2 My monsters would not be inherently evil. We all know good is supposed to triumph over evil. Evil has a goal (whatever it may be) and everything it does is to bring it one step closer to that goal. If you know what the goal is, you can form strategies and battle plans to stop the spread of evil. Like a disease, evil is something that can be addressed and/or prevented.

My monsters have no evil master plan or ultimate end game. In fact, they aren’t even intelligent enough to know what those things are. They are pure instinct, and everything they do is merely the result of their nature. Not agents of evil, but agents of chaos. I always thought chaos was much more frightening than evil. Because, once it gets loose, there’s no stopping it.

Given these two parameters…


Did I ever intend for humanity to survive in the end?


No. Logically, there is no way they could have overcome the monsters they’d created. The threat was, by design, far better at survival than humans. In seeking to elevate their own species by forcing evolution, humans had not only created the means of their own destruction, but also crippled their only effective weapon against it.

By the way, in case you were worried, this isn’t a spoiler… it’s still only the prologue.

When I gave my lunch partner this answer, I could see he wasn’t happy with it. He told me most screenwriters would have at least provided a hope for survival. I already knew that. Which was why I’d made the decision to go a different way. Wolfen is not a story where humanity triumphs again–in fact, it’s not really about humanity at all, hence the title.

I think of the creation of converts (the monsters in question) as similar to the meteor strike that wiped out dinosaurs. They’re a giant reset button on the history of life on planet Earth. They wipe the slate clean, and clear the path for the emergence of a new dominant species–if it can survive. That’s the true question of survival in this book:


Once the dust has settled, which species will be left standing: Wolfen or converts?


Wolfen is available as an eBook and in print at your favorite online bookstore worldwide. Grab a copy before the release of Helena to get up to speed and avoid spoilers:

Smashwords | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Kobo | Scribd | Books-a-Million | Other

Helena will be available for sale as a print edition only at two book signings later this year:

Indy Author Event
September 14, 2019  12:15-5pm
Indianapolis Marriot East
Indianapolis, IN

Tickets*: $15 (General Admission) $25 (VIP Admission) Purchase here. Get $5 off your ticket price by using promo code ALIANNE 🙂 *Tickets must be purchased ahead of time via Eventbrite. Tickets will not be sold at the door.

Sweet as a Peach Author Event
October 5, 2019 1-5pm
Forsyth Conference Center
Cumming, GA

Tickets: $10 (General Admission) $25 (VIP Admission) Purchase here.


If you’re planning to attend one of these events,
USE THIS FORM to reserve your copy of the book.


A look inside HELENA

Don’t mind me, just stopping by to share the sneak peek that just went out in my latest newsletter. 🙂 I may or may not share more in the next few months leading up to the book signings. Speaking of which, if you’re planning to come see me at the Indy Author event in Indianapolis, IN, you can get $5 off your admission if you name drop me. 😉 Use coupon code ALIANNE to get the discount. Event details below the excerpt.

Until next time!


EXCERPT



EVENT DETAILS


Indy Author Event
September 14, 2019  12:15-5pm (VIP Check-in at 11:15)
Indianapolis Marriot East (7202 E 21st St., Indianapolis, IN 46219)
Tickets*: $15 (General Admission) $25 (VIP Admission)
Use Coupon code ALIANNE to get $5 off your admission!
Purchase here*Tickets must be purchased ahead of time via Eventbrite. Tickets will not be sold at the door.

Sweet as a Peach Author Event
October 5, 2019 1-5pm (VIP admission at 12pm)
Forsyth Conference Center at Lanier Technical College (3410 Ronald Reagan Blvd., Cumming, GA 30041)
Tickets: $10 (General Admission) $25 (VIP Admission) Purchase here.