Monday, February 28, 2011

"Write What You Know"

Okay, I just had to pimp this out when I found it. Delaware Dangerous, a writer's retreat. But this ain't your grandma's writing retreat. No siree, they provide 12 hours of gun training, 6 hours of knife training, and 6 hours of hand-to-hand combat training by trained professionals.


I'm a strong believer of "write what you know." However, this doesn't mean you should limit yourself to only writing about what you know. It means expand your horizons and learn about new things so you can accurately protray them in your writing.

And honestly? Hours and hours of research won't compare to holding a gun in your hands.

Your character doesn't care about what type of gun they're using or the number of bullets it can hold or the amount of colours you can get it in on eBay (unless they're the type to care about that.) If you're character is in a life or death situation, they're going to be focusing on what it feels in their hand, the punch of the bullet firing, the sound it makes. (As well as running for their life.)

Real world experience, when you get down to the nitty gritty details, is what makes literature come alive.

Go, if you can afford it. And if you can't, I really encourage you to head out and experience what your character has experienced. People are extremely helpful if you just ask. If your character likes riding horses, go out to a ranch or riding school and talk to the people about what it's like to ride a horse, how to fasten a saddle, how to care for it, ect. Nothing compares with hands-on experience.

(Disclaimer: If your character is a serial killer... hands-on experience is not advised. Please seek professional help and do not blame the writer cowering behind the computer screen.)

"Write what you know" should not be a limitation. It should be an excuse to get out there, learn everything you can, and apply that realism to your writing.



Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dork Alert!

So, Shell is officially on submission. Which is great. I feel incredibly relieved, but at the same time... not. I think it's because I'm a control freak. With the querying system, I was in control. I sent out the queries, I did the research, I got the responses. Having someone else do it for me is stressful.

So besides working on my new project, I've found myself drifting back to a passion that I don't always pay attention to: making dolls.

I really love doll making, though after they're done, I don't really want them around anymore. It's something to do to occupy my hands while I'm watching TV or I have some time off. When I wrote my last book, In The Eye Of Death, I got into one of my frenzies and made some dolls based off of two of my main characters, Jonah and Alexis. My plan was that if my book ever sold, I would do a giveaway with the dolls along with a signed copy of my book. Of course, In The Eye of Death went into the trunk, and the dolls took up residence on my bookshelf.

There they are! They're hand made, of course. I know it's really dorky to make dolls out of your own characters, but I worked really hard on these guys.

Here's Jonah, my MC. (He doesn't really stand, but he leans quite well) His shoes are made out of foam board with a bit of paint that I added to try and put some detailing in (Won't be happening again. It just looks bad.) He does have a jem in his chest (part from the book) and he is 100% cuddly and soft. Except for his shoes and hair, of course. Though I am proud of his hair. I used golden felt and then added some touches of red paint to give it some dimension. I quite like his hair.

This is his love interest, Alexis. I didn't stuff her head quite enough, so she looks flat. She also looks smaller compared to Jonah. (I blame his massive coat.) Both of their faces are drawn free hand with black marker. (Extremely stressful when you can't draw it out first in pencil.)

Here's Jonah with his hood up. He is very cuddly. (And a great listener!)

Alexis with her bandana drawn up a bit. They look really white in the photos, especially Alexis, because her hair is near-white, but they actually don't look that bad in real life.

So those are my little secret, dorky joy! And just because I can:

This is Marta, she's my baby. Such a camera whore. She doesn't like the flash, so she always closes her eyes, which makes her look like some weird anime cat.

So there you have it. What do you guys think? Do you like my dolls? Would you enter a contest with them as part of the prize or would you prefer to just feed them to your dogs?



Friday, February 18, 2011


So, my birthday's coming up. On the 20th, I'll be turning 19. I feel way older than I am. (Probably because I hang out with so many writers who are usually much older than me. Then again, my mother always said I acted 30 when I was 10, so you never know.)

But, all this thinking about birthdates made me wonder if characters deserve birthdays. If you don't plan on throwing them a party, what's the point?

I'm going to wave my "characters are people too" flag here. Because I suck at writing characters. I'm 100% a plot writer. Some of my earlier books, my MCs were cardboard cutouts. (Yet my side characters were fully fleshed out. I think I may need a psychological analysis.) But after a few trial and error books, I realized characters were never going to just "come to me" like my plots did. I had to work on them.

So what do I do? I create the most extensive character interview sheet out there. (If there's one that's more extensive, I don't want to see it. Mine's three pages long.)

I hate starting a new book because it means I have to run my MCs through my interview process. While very helpful, it's also time consuming and incredibly boring. But birthdays are on there! Because I feel it really helps get a grip on who that character is. Especially in an urban setting.

Just think back to elementary/junior high/middle school. Kids in the same classes are all about the same age, so when you're that age, you use the dates of birth to determine who's older than each other. (There was a girl who was born on Feb 4 in my junior high, and because she was born 16 days before me, she was definitely the "older kid." It traumatized me, since being born in february, I was used to being "older" than all the other kids.)

Why should this matter? Because depending on where your character was born in the year, it's going to determine how the other kids in their class see him/her, and how s/he views them.

For example. A friend of mine who was born on Dec 23 was always seen as younger than everyone else. Because when she was turning fourteen, everyone else was turning fifteen. That can frustrate a kid. (Especially when you just turned 17 and all your friends just turned 18 and you can't go to the bars with them for another year.)

In the long run of your urban fantasy, is it really going to matter? Probably not. But I like to think if you're ever in a situation where a reader, or a critic, is asking you questions, those small details show you've really thought about your book, and you know what you're talking about.



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You are a Reject.

Ladies and gentlemen, you are a reject.

You've been rejected by agents and editors alike. Rejected by teachers, by pretty women/men in the bar, by friends and lovers and future friends and lovers.

You've been rejected because, quite frankly, you're just not good enough.

You're too fat. Too skinny. Too tall. Your story's too long. Too short. Your character's not active enough. They're too active. They need to switch genders. They're too cynical. They're too upbeat. They're not real. You're not real. Your story's just not "real" enough.

You pour your heart and soul onto the pages of your books. You spend years perfecting each chapter. You kiss it and send it off into the world, where some naiive intern stamps a big red NO on it and sends it back with coffee stains and four missing pages.

You're hurt. You're pissed. You want to seek revenge with flamethrowers and rabid ninja squirrels.

But you can't. Because you're a reject.

But things get better. You get an agent. Things are great! But they aren't. Because you've got to revise. But that can't damper your mood! You sit up tall, pound out revision after revision, synopsis after synopsis, draft after draft. And you hand it to them, all nice and shiny. You believe in it. Your agent believes in it. You believe in yourself.

But you can't forget: you're a reject. So it'll come back from editors with coffee stains and big red NOs.

It's not good enough. The writing's too dry. The writing's too plain. Your MC's obnoxious. They're not obnoxious enough. You need more action. You have too many fighting scenes. This doesn't work. It'll never work. It's unrealistic, stupid, moronic, anyone could've written this. It's dribble. It's not good enough.

You're not good enough.

Until you are. Because then you find true love. An editor! You're happy. Your agent's happy. Your editor's happy. Everybody shares cake and muffins and rainbow ponies because we all believed you could do it and you did it and yay! And then you revise. With new vigor. You write and rewrite and read and reread because it has to be perfect. Because you have to be perfect.

You're no longer a reject. Because you aren't. Because you made it.

Except you are, and you didn't. Your book's on the shelves and people love it, except for the people who don't. And they won't. They don't get it. They don't like your love interest. They hate your point. They don't agree with the subtext you never wrote. Your plot is perdictable. People are reviewing it on Amazon and your stars dwindle by the day.

You're a reject.

Except when you really make it. And this time it's real. You've got a movie deal! You're a bestseller! They're teaching your books in college classes! You're a legend! You wear turtlenecks and square glasses because you are an artist. You made it. You're accepted. Past lovers and friends are begging to have you back in their lives. Of course, you won't let them. Because now they are the rejects. Now they know how it feels.

Except you're still a reject.

Because the kids in those classes hate your book. They'd rather torch the pages than sell it back to the school. Literary snobs discuss the poor quality of your worldbuilding over wine. Nasty emails pile up in your mailbox from groups who think they're offended by your prose.

And you're a reject again, because you always were.

Except when you're not. Because maybe, you weren't. Maybe, even though things are hard, and you've got no mythical movie deal or snobby turtleneck or editor or agent and it's just you, the reject, sitting at your computer and counting your rejections as they pile and pile and never end. Maybe even though you're none of these things and all of these things, it's okay.

Because accept it: you're a reject. I'm a reject. We're all rejects. We're too skinny, too fat, too tall, too literary, too genre-y, too this, too that.

We're rejects. Rejected and rejected and rejected and rejected. And maybe that's okay.

Because you there, the reject, you'll pick up your socks. You'll look over your piles of NOs from those silly agents and interns and editors and you'll say "No" right back. You'll say, "This won't stop me. I'm THE Reject. I'm the ultimate Reject! I've been said no to in every language, every way, every font and gosh darn it, that's not going to stop me!"

So you put the rejections aside. You pin them on your walls because you are the Reject. These NOs are battle scars. They hurt and ache with old pain but you are the Reject, and this won't stop you.

So you'll rewrite your query and rewrite your book. You'll make your MC more active, more passive, more sarcastic, less edgy, more this, more that.

And it STILL won't satisfy them. And you'll write another book, and another, and another. And you'll get better, and you'll get more praise, and you'll get more rejections. And you might pass a landmark or two, and you'll keep pushing onwards. And it's hard, but it's okay, because you're always learning, always getting better, and each day is a new day. You're a new you. You're a new Reject.

Because no matter what you do, or see, or write, or taste, or look, or draw, or feel, or say, or scream, or smell, or fling, or dance, or cry, you'll always be the Reject.

And as long as you keep going, keep pushing on, you'll be okay.

Because it's when you stop. When you quit. When you surrender. When you GIVE UP, that you've rejected yourself.