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 Boundaries We (Don’t) Set

Do you know why I love books? For a few reading hours, they allow me to be brave through the psyche of another person and not care about consequences.

Books have taught me that I have a massive character flaw: I am a coward. In a million tiny ways, most of them insignificant and shrug-worthy to others, I am a coward. I don’t always say no when I should. Resulting from a desire to solve problems and be helpful, I do that first, and think about whether I should have done it later, after it’s come back to bite me on the ass. It’s partly my own nature, and partly the nature of my day job, which dictates, “You do what is asked, you do it with a smile. You go the extra mile, do more with less, lead by example, and smile.”

As I read that back to myself, all I can think  of is the creepy guy on the street corner, always saying, “Gimme a smile, baby.” It’s the same thing, really. Except the former pays you to do it and the latter calls you a bitch if you don’t.

What would you do if you had the freedom to do or say anything? Would you tell that coworker who called 5 minutes before end of day to request 2-hours’ worth of work to take it somewhere else? Would you wear that outfit people call “inappropriate” with pride? Would you go to that club or bar people whisper about, but never admit to visiting?

What would you do if you no longer cared about what people thought of you?

I think about this a lot–about the boundaries we set, or don’t set in different ways and situations. I think most of us have pretty solid boundaries when it comes to the big stuff, and we’re more than willing to enforce those boundaries by any means necessary. Some people draw the line at having sex on a first date–some people draw it at having sex, period. Some people won’t lend money (or books). Some people refuse to step foot on a suspension bridge. Maybe you don’t want to give up your child’s recital to help a neighbor move. Maybe you refuse to go to that crazy rave party your friends are pushing you to go to. Maybe you don’t want to emigrate to a foreign country and leave your entire life behind so your spouse can take that great job offer. We draw lines in the sand, and we refuse to let them be crossed.

But what about the million and one little things we have to do every day and not even notice? You ask that the toilet seat be put down, yet every time you go to the bathroom, it’s always up. You say you don’t want to watch that horror flick late at night but, “Come on, babe, it’s only an hour and a half. It’s no big deal.” You tell your weekly lunch crowd you don’t want a certain type of food, but, “Oh, come on, just try it! What’s wrong with you? You never want to try new things.”

I am at an age where every unpleasant choice comes down to one question: Is the outcome so important to me that I am willing to risk temporarily or permanently damaging my relationship with this person? Most of the time, the answer is no, so I go along the path of least resistance. I won’t stubbornly argue a point of view that won’t make a difference in the long run. I will give in and do that thing, or go to that place, and grin and bear it for a few hours.

The problem is, after a while, people start taking advantage of that, and I get resentful, and it’s as much my fault as it is theirs, because I don’t say anything to let them know this is not okay with me. Until the proverbial straw breaks the camel’s back and causes an epic meltdown.

A big (and controversial) part of The Beast Series is that very concept of freedom from consequence. What would you do if you didn’t have to care about what people thought of you? That kind of freedom comes from one of two places: money and privilege, or apathy and the recklessness of having nothing to lose. My (anti)hero, Prince Bastien, lives in the former. He is untouchable, and he knows it. He does the things he does because there is no one to make him stop. There is no one to tell him, “No, this is wrong.” He is surrounded by people whose purpose in life is to do his bidding, and friends who revel in the immunity he bestows upon them through association. He doesn’t care, so why should they?

Bastien is what happens to a person when they stop giving a shit–about anything or anyone. And his friends are what happens when people gravitate toward that kind of assholery because it excuses their own bad behavior. People don’t like “bad” people, I don’t think. What they like is being able to be a little bit bad themselves, because whatever they say or do, they can always console themselves by remembering they’re still not as bad as the other guy. It’s the allowance of freedom from conventional rules of etiquette we crave; the “permission” to be mean under the guise of standing up for ourselves; to indulge those aspects of ourselves polite society deems unacceptable. Or maybe just to forcefully rebuild the boundaries we have allowed others to breach far too many times.

Boundaries are a funny thing. The word itself feels so firm and absolute. “Pushing the boundaries” is a phrase always associated with something nearly impossible–great feats of effort to overcome that ethereal border between what is possible and what is not. In contrast, our personal boundaries are sometimes so flimsy they feel more like a wish. They move and evolve constantly over the span of a lifetime, or even the span of a day. What felt like such an important principle yesterday becomes irrelevant today. The things we could demand last week are no longer an option come Monday morning.

We ourselves treat boundaries as if they were suggestions. We sacrifice the integrity of our own for the sake of other people and undermine other people’s for the sake of ourselves. If we put our foot down, someone is always on hand to accuse us of being selfish, having an attitude, not being a team player. So we pick it back up again, and play along–and smile. And then we take back our due from someone else, do to them what’d been done to us because, damn it, we deserve recompense! And so it goes…

I started this post this morning with the intention of making a new resolution: to be braver, stand up for myself more often, and set proper boundaries. It’s been hours since then, and in the time between me setting aside an unfinished post and coming back to complete it, I actually got the opportunity to do all of that. And I’m happy to report that I did. Maybe not as forcefully as I would have liked, but I took a step. I made progress, and I didn’t let myself get stomped into the ground by a temperamental hothead in a bad mood.

Today, I feel brave(r).

Tomorrow is Friday, so I’ll just focus on the positives. LOL

Until next time!

The Beast Series is available at your favorite online store as an eBook and paperback:

Smashwords
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
iBooks
Kobo
Books-a-Million

2018 Book Industry Predictions

Every year, Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords puts out a long post of predictions for the near future of the Indie book industry. He is usually pretty spot on, so every year, I spend a few minutes reading what he has to say. Today, there are two posts I want to share:

2017 Year in Review and 2018 Preview

2018 Book Industry Predictions

My main take-away from these post is perfectly summed up in this one sentence: “Fair competition at Amazon does not exist.” 

This is one of the reasons why I never even contemplated enrolling any of my books in KDP Select or Kindle Unlimited. It’s one of the reasons why I am making the move to IngramSpark. It would be totally hypocritical of me to ask readers to shop somewhere other than Amazon, since I myself have a Kindle and buy most of my books from their platform, but I do want to say one thing: You, my dear, beautiful readers, have more power than you realize. You’re the reason why we do what we do. You allow us to dream and share our dreams with the world, and for that, you will always have my undying gratitude. I may never get to meet you, but just know that you are among my most favorite people in the whole world.

For every book (my own, or someone else’s) you buy instead of pirating, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

For every book (my own, or someone else’s) you buy instead of reading through KU, I thank you in the name of all Indie author.

And for every book (my own, or someone else’s) you buy from any store other than Amazon (especially independent neighborhood bookstores), I thank you with every fiber of my writer being.

Thank you for every kind message you send about how much you loved one of my books. Thank you for every anxious note and question about when the next book will come out. Thank you for every time you share one of my posts on social media, and every time you tell someone about my books.

Just…thank you for reading.

…as if no one will ever read it

I haven’t done a real blog post here in a long time. Forgive me. Life, work, and other concerns have distracted me from what I enjoy doing most. Truth be told, I haven’t been writing much lately, either, and that hurts me the most. But certain things have happened in recent weeks and months to put me in one of my philosophical moods again, and very much on the defensive. Not of myself (much) but of the creative writer in general. So let me tell you a story or four…

Continue reading “…as if no one will ever read it”