Writing 101: Stepping Away

There is a rule out there that says when an author finishes their first draft they have to put it away for a certain amount of time before they edit it. While the amount of time that is suggested varies from a few weeks to “…until you forget that you even wrote it…”, according to a fellow author friend, everyone says the same thing.

I thought this was a really weird idea. I mean, when I’m writing a paper for school I don’t need to set it aside for a few weeks before I edit. I can usually do that as I write, or as late as the next morning. So, why should I bother with my creative work?

Well I’ve got a few ideas about why/how this works in our brains.

  1. You’re too close to it.
    1.  So, have you ever been digging around in your closet and come across an old work of yours? Do you remember how awesome you thought it was? How perfect the prose? How intricate the characters? Do you ever re-read it and think “Oh dear snicky-snack what was I thinking?” Yeah.
      Apply that same thought process to your work today. When you first write something you are absolutely sure that it is amazing. It’s your best work and it will only need the most perfunctory of editing polish to make it shine. I hate to tell you this, but you’re wrong.
      You need to put it away and step back from it. You need to give yourself some breathing room to let the rose colored fog seep out of your glasses so that you can look at it clearly.
  2. You grow as a writer over time
    1. As a creative person with a literary bent you should be devouring the written word. You should be reading poetry, literary fiction, non-fiction news articles, lifestyle articles, history, genre fiction of all variety. And with every word you devour you become a better writer. You see how other writers handle characters, situations, scenarios. You learn different words, or are inspired by different descriptions. With every piece of work that you read YOU become a better writer, and you owe it to your work to gain a little experience before coming back to it.
  3. You grow into your style
    1.  Have you ever been in the middle of reading a book and flat out said “Okay, I wouldn’t have done it like that?” That’s because you, as a writer, have a style that is all your own. You are looking at this work with your own perspectives and that makes you a more analytical writers than those who are reading just for fun.
      Now, this helps you. That little voice that says “Do it better!” will actually prompt you to go back to your own work and go “Okay, did I do this badly?”
  4. Your experience changes your perception of your work
    1. I know this might sound like a fortune cookie but I mean it: Every day is an experience. Read that again, it’s sorta a big deal where a writer is concerned. Every day you can see something, hear something, taste something that could add a dash of perfection to a scene that you wrote. While this is a tricky reason since it basically says that you could always do better…you should give your work at least a little time to make sure the inspiration is played out.
  5. You need to be in love with it, not just attracted to it
    1. Okay, you know the first part of a relationship when everything is wild and crazy and you just can’t handle not being around eachother? You call at three in the morning and you wanna smell each others hair? No? Just me? Oops…anyway!
      There is always a rush in the beginning of a romance. It’s not love, it’s attraction. You are drunk on the hormones of “Ooooo!” and you just can’t get enough. You, friends, are addicts.
      When that time settles down, and everything has lost that overwhelming shine you begin to see that the person you are with has a few flaws. Now, as intelligent human beings you decide whether or not these are flaws you can live with, or if that laugh is going to cause you to flip out and stab a pillow.
      You have the same interest in your work. In the very beginning you are enamored with it. You are besotted. You need to be able to be in love with it. Take a little break and come back to it to see it in that less impassioned light.

I hope this helps you, because what it means for me is that I’ll be working on Book 2 of the Domina Claire series. Yay.


Stop Hating on the EBook

Okay, I know there are probably a hundred blog posts like this one out there. They like to talk about how good for the environment an EBook is, or how it’s better for the author to pick up the hardcopy. Whatever. That’s not why I’m writing this. I got into this argument with a long time friend and am now feeling the urge to vent my frustrations. I apologize for the following rant.

I love books. We’ve been in a relationship since Spot went running. It didn’t become serious until the Nancy Drew Mystery Novels, but it’s always been there. In my heart. Tormenting me. (Star Wars Reference, boo-yah) It might not be my only hobby (I’m also a complete nerd) but it is the one that’s been there the longest and gotten me through the most.

But here’s the thing, books are expensive. Like, really expensive. Every time I take a trip up to my local bookstore I spend somewhere between $50-$200…easily. The last time I got a good tax return I spend half of it on books. I was a huge proponent of the hard copy story. I was a bit of a snob who felt that if you didn’t pick up the hardback as soon as it came out you weren’t a REAL fan.

But that was when I was gainfully employed, receiving some tax benefits due to being in college, with aspirations of the upper middle class. I never had to worry about paying my bills nor whether or not I’d be able to buy groceries. It was a very good time.

Then, as things tend to do, tragedy struck. Heath became an issue. I had to drop out of college literally 9 credits before getting my degree. The job I DID have, I had to quit. I had to move back in with family and got rid of my snazzy phone. I also had to say goodbye to spending $50 bucks a month on brand new pretty books.

I’m not going to say that I don’t watch any television. I love a few shows very much (Agent Carter, Game of Thrones, and a couple others), but I don’t watch them live, rather I watch them in big binge blocks.

I also lost a few friends during this time. People got really weird about the health (despite the fact that is was not, in any way, contagious) and me moving put me further from others. I also, in a time of stress, made a few bad decisions. That was one me.

I’m going to be honest, I got pretty depressed. I really needed to enjoy some escapism.

I did what any bibliophile would do. I renewed my library card, but I couldn’t get out there very often and there were lots of books missing out of the series that I wanted to read.

I went to used book stores when I could and have developed what I can only call a frothing love with them. However, it suffers from the same issue as the library. Also, people love to keep good books.

That Christmas I got an iPhone handed down from my sister, and Kindle has been a lifesaver. The daily deals, the cheap kindle books, Kindle unlimited. All of that has been fantastic in helping me stay sane in my time of need. It is, in the long run, a cheaper option than going out and buying whatever book happens to strike my fancy, though I’m still guilty of picking up a new paperback from time to time.

Black’s Book Review: The Paper Magician

Publishing Information: September 1st 2014 by 47North
Page Count:  224
Genre: Steampunk, YA, Magical Alternate History, Romance
Note: The First Book in the Paper Magician series, and debut novel of Charlie N. Holmberg

They say to never judge a book by its cover. In this instance I didn’t listen. I had been passing through my local Barns & Noble with the intent of buying basically nothing (fool that I am) and this was sitting on an endcap.

Victorian Era?….Check
Female Protagonist…Check

Triple threat, and I was done. There is something I enjoy about a setting that incorporates history and magic. So I decided to fork over the dollars and pick myself up some entertainment.

The story revolves around Ceony, a young magician girl who aspires to be a Smelter, a mage who works with metals. Her dreams are dashed, however, when her academy sets her up in an apprenticeship with (drumroll, please) a paper magician. It’s heartbreaking for the young lady. Paper magic is the weakest of magics, and good for nothing but entertainment.

The lady mage is taken to meet one Mg. Emery Thane who is (shockingly) attractive and relatively young. Without giving too much away Mg Thane has a bit of a secret to his history that will get him in the kind of trouble where he needs rescuing.

How awesome is it to have a story where the lady is rescuing the dude? Very.

The Paper Magician has some excellent strong points. It’s written in elegantly simple prose which make for a quick, albeit well crafted, read.I think I finished the book in about six hours altogether. It had some really beautiful lines too. “Remember you are much different now than you were an hour ago” and “One of his odd smiles, for it was all lip and no eye” and, my personal favorite, “Curse Emery Thane for being such a difficult man to rescue!”

The characters are easy to distinguish from one another. Ceony is young, nineteen during the course of this book, and you can hear that in her speech. Emery hides his uncertainty behind a smile and is a master of derailing questions about himself. It’s easy to feel like you know them from the beginning.

The magical theory is well thought out and easy to understand. Magic can only be created through man made items. Paper, Metals, Rubber, Glass. There is only one forbidden form of magic, Flesh, and it ends up being a big deal in this particular story.

The story is a nice mesh of being heartbreaking and lighthearted. There is a gentleness to the main character that saves her from being that ‘I’m badass because I have traditionally masculine traits’ kind of heroine, which I like. But there are some rather dark moments which are handled by the author and the characters beautifully.

It does have a few drawbacks, however. I was not a fan of the villain being your typical dark curvaceous beauty while the heroine is the waifish pale blonde. I feel that this continues the trope of ‘busty ladies are bad’ and I’ve slowly grown jaded to the trend. I happen to be both brunette and busty and a very nice person, generally speaking.

The romance, while handled well, hits me on a couple of squicky notes. I’m not a fan of a person in a place of power and a person who is in their care becoming romantically involved, even when it starts on the part of the person in care. This is a personal preference, I know, but an important one.

Ceony has no friends. This annoys me. There are reasons that she might draw away from closeness (for the sake of spoilers I wont say why) but these reasons don’t really stop her from developing an attachment for Mg. Thane. I really wish that she had a friend or two upon whom she could have called to help with her adventure. It would have made me feel a little more comfortable about the romance aspect.

Also, I realize that this is a novel geared towards the Young Adult generation but I really feel that the story could have been lengthened to allow me to get a little more invested in the setting. The author clearly has the literary skills to craft fantastic prose, but there were certain moments where I was hungry for more description and a few more scenes.

Don’t get me wrong, I did like the story. I would definitely recommend, but the chances of me reading it more than once are slim. I will, however, be picking up the second book when I have the spare money. I would give it a 7.5/10

It Was the Character’s Choice, Not MIne.

I have finished my first draft. I had expected to feel something amazing, a lighthearted sense of accomplishment. I can’t really say that I do. All I can see is this glaring realization that I could have done better. I see is my run-on sentences and cliche descriptions, and varied comma usage.

The Dominatrix and the Beast was supposed to be a quick little short about a woman introducing a werewolf into the pleasures of BDSM.It was supposed to be a practice in just getting something finished. If it were still only that I’m not sure I would find myself in this predicament.

Starting off, the characters were little more than literary paperdolls posed in short conversations and long sex scenes.  There was Claire, the dominatrix of the paranormal and snarky intellectual; and Owen a grumpy wolf-guy who needed some release.

Then Claire just started prodding at me. She demanded more care an attention than I originally planned on giving her, or her story. I hadn’t expected that. I had expected to just jot down some steamy fun times laced with magic and get into the groove of writing everyday before moving on to more ‘serious’ attempts at writing.

Claire did not approve. She wanted to know why she’d chosen this line of work rather than being a paranormal anthropologist, since that is what she’d studied. She wanted to know if her and Owen developed a romantic story or if it was enjoyable business. So, the story became more.

While Owen and some of the other characters (there weren’t supposed to really be other characters, oops) are still rather cliche boxed in ideas rather than fleshed out people (something I plan to fix in editing); Claire is more. I like her and I plan on giving her more page time.

But, I have a first draft. It’s just shy of 22,000 words and it’s in desperate need of editing, but it’s mine. Now, to take a week or two away from it so that I can look at the story with fresh eyes.

Smacked with Inspiration

Anyone who has been following any of my social media accounts knows that I have been bashing my head against the last few chapters of my book. I wouldn’t really call it writers block. I could still write other things. I got some of my cookbook put together (have I mentioned I’m working on a cookbook? Well I have now) and I got some research done for other works. I was productive.

I just wasn’t getting anywhere on my main work.

Yesterday, after smashing my brain against the story for about an hour I decided to go out to my favorite diner who is kind enough to let me set up shop there and work. I don’t know if it was the change of location or not having to worry about making my own food but suddenly story parts began to fall into place.

It was an incredible experience.

That being said I still have two chapters (I  think) to write in order to get my first draft finished. I’m excited.

I Have Chosen…Poorly?

I do not have a lot of money. I haven’t had a regular job in nearly two years. This was due to medical reasons, not because I don’t want a job. It kinda sucks. When I did work regularly I was making enough to pay off all my bills, eat decently, and have enough left over to go see a movie or pick up a few books every few weeks. It was really nice.

Now? Now I have to find ways to make $94 a week of disability payments stretch to cover food, gasoline, and medical bills. That’s…yeah. That’s fun. So imagine my consternation (great word, right?) when my best friend found an incredible used book store.

Let me explain, I am a used book fanatic. There is something about the texture of a well loved book in my hands that makes me love it just that much more. I can see where the person (or persons) who had the book before me dogeared the pages, or re-read a scene so much that the binding is softest there. I feel like I am sharing an experience with another reader; a friend met only in the memory of the page.

I couldn’t say “No.” I was weak.

So I gathered up my loose change and a precious few crumpled bills, my person book index, and plopped myself into the passenger’s seat. I was sure that the place couldn’t be as awesome as she was telling me. I was right. It was better.

Three rooms of books, piled on shelves that went from floor to ceiling. In some places the books were three deep. There were paperbacks, first editions, school books, all beautifully organized. There were multiple editions of different books so I could find the ones that would match the others in the series that I already owned.

I was instantly in love.  I was also poor enough that I could only choose one, MAYBE two, books.

Have you ever seen Ever After with Drew Barrymore? That line she has about books, “I could no longer choose a favorite star in the sky.” I was having that moment. It was intense.

My first choice was a paperback romance by an author I wasn’t familiar with. It was a dollar, and I have a cheesy romantic heart. My second choice was a murder mystery…and this I probably should have left on the shelves. I don’t mind slashers, thrillers, or murder at large. My favorite show is Criminal Minds, and I’ve watched every police procedural show out there. Heck, I’ve taken a cadaver course as a science requirement in college so I could understand anatomy better.

But this book was a little too in love with it’s bloody murder scenes. I couldn’t tell you what the main character looked like, I’m guessing average middle aged grizzled Caucasian male, but I can tell you exactly how the victims were stabbed.

I guess what I’m saying is that I love description but only if that description is evenly spaced. I want to be able to see everything in the same clear manner, not having something rock from barely visible to so vivid that my jaded heart was like ‘Dude…’

So, murder mystery writers out there…take not. Love all of your book. Not just the stabby parts.

Autumn Rambles

Warning: Personal Ramble ahead.

I love the fall. There is something about autumn that just makes me feel happy. The cool crisp air, the colors of the leaves, and the fact that I can wear all of my pumpkin shirts without people thinking I’m crazy may have something to do with that. Yes, to answer the question you never asked, I am the annoying white girl who goes ape for pumpkin spiced everything.

Don’t judge me, I’m pretty sure they put crack in that stuff.

It’s also the time where I tend to read the most. I open all the windows in my house and curl up with my beloved cat and tear into a book. Yesterday I put up my review of Lisa Gardner’s latest book and I devoured that thing in like..a morning. I then got halfway through a second book, because why the heck not?

Okay, I probably shouldn’t have done that because what I should be doing is finishing my book. Update…I think I finally know how I am going to get the book finished. So what I really should be doing is finishing that. Right? Yeah, definitely.

Instead I spent today figuring out a blog schedule, sewing doll clothes, and seeing Crimson Peak. (Note: You should TOTALLY go see Crimson Peak, it is Victorian Horror on the big screen) It was not a waster of a day but I do think it’s time to buckle down and get it done. Right? Right.