Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Who sets the rules anyway?

Let's talk about some of the rules of writing:

No passive voice.

No dialogue tags other than he said or she said.

Never kill off a main character.

Make your protagonist likeable.

No adverbs!

And the list goes on and on . . .

Now comes the critical question: who makes up the rules of writing?  The reason this is asked is because, despite the rules, there are books out there that break them.  I do not have a literature degree to educate you on all of the various rules and why certain books are "rule-breakers."  Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of them, as well as Harry Potter.  Yet these book series are a smashing success.  The same goes with George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones--a main character got his head taken off (literally) in the end.

Don't worry so much about the rules.  Just write the best damn book you can.  And if someone doesn't have the foresight to publish it--and several others are telling you it's the greatest thing since sliced bread (or cheese)--then it's possible you may need to choose the self-publishing route.

Then write another book.

And another.

And another.

Get the idea?  Go for it!

Monday, February 25, 2013

What I listen to - ThrillerCast Podcast

The ThrillerCast Podcast is a podcast for both readers and writers of the thriller genre.

The hosts are David Wood and Alan Baxter, both accomplished writers, and they are currently on their 64th episode.

Each episode runs 30-45 minutes in length, which is perfect in my opinion.  Also, since they talk about, and interview, the thriller genre, this one is a must for all of those who want to know more about publishing in the thriller genre.

Personally, I found the ThrillerCast Podcast when I was searching for podcasts and all I seemed to come up with were ones centered around fantasy or science fiction--not that there's anything wrong with it; it's just that none of them were talking about thrillers.  Well, the ThrillerCast Podcast was the answer.  And, quite frankly, I can't really find any other podcasts that do cover thrillers and they do a marvelous job of covering the genre.

Alan and David also interview various authors, from Chuck Wendig and Gail Z. Martin to Steven Savile and J. F. Penn (Joanna Penn).  They even talk at length regarding changes in the industry, from the Big Six (or is it Five at this point) to even Amazon.

So, be sure to add the ThrillerCast podcast to your list of podcasts to listen to.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 22-Feb-2013 / The pains of being a discovery writer (i.e. pantser)

On the first draft of my next novel--the alternative military history fiction genre--I am currently on chapter 17 and I have 19,422 words written.  How many the final word count will be, I have no idea.  I'm shooting for between 75-85K.

The writing is a bit slow at times, and one of the reasons is because I am not an outliner (I am a discovery writer AKA pantser [writes by the seat of his pants - I did not make that name up - honestly]).  Whenever I come up with a story, it usually comes to me like a series of dots and dashes, much like Morse Code.  The dots are points in the story (this happens and then this happens and then . . .) and the dashes are scenes (okay, here the guy picks up the gun and . . .).  Sometimes there are llllllllooooooooonnnnnnnnggggggggg spaces between the dots and dashes.  This makes for a complicated writing process.  Complicated, yet highly rewarding, for I typically delve into areas I never intended.

I have a novel I write years ago where the bulk of the book I had no idea what was going to happen.  In fact, I didn't even have an ending in mind, except something very basic.  But, when I started writing, the story unfolded perfectly.

A few days ago, I was staring at one of those llllllllooooooooonnnnnnnnggggggggg spaces and the writing slowed down.  But, it didn't take too long--I believe it all unfolded in the course of taking a shower--that most of major scenes next folded.

I'm still agent-searching.  I've gotten a few more back (rejections, of course) and I've got to send a few more out.  Then, I'm also preparing where to send a few of the short stories I've finished.  I have some ideas.  It's just to do it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Convergence, the Upper Midwest's #1 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention


This is the theme of the 2013 Convergence convention, an annual science fiction/fantasy convention held in the Twin Cities.  This year it's on held July 4-7, in the Double Tree by Hilton, in Bloomington, MN--also the home of the grand Mall of America.

So, if you like science fiction and/or fantasy, consider attending the 2013 Convergence convention.  I'd like to say I'll be there . . . I'll have to cross that bridge when the time comes closer.

As of this posting, their list of guests isn't updated, but I've heard rumor from a recent podcast (sorry, I can't remember which one) that Lou Anders, editor at Pyr Books, may be there.

Here is also a link to their schedule of events.

Monday, February 18, 2013

What I listen to - The Dead Robots' Society Podcast

"By aspiring writers, for aspiring writers."

This is the tagline for the popular podcast called The Dead Robots' Society.  Currently at 259 episodes, as of this writing (although they may be at 260 when this actually posts), Justin Macumber, Terry Mixon, and Paul E. Cooley meeting weekly to talk about writing, the business of the craft, and even interview science fiction/fantasy/horror writers.

But their tagline is a bit of a lie, as all three are not aspiring writers--they are accomplished in the field with publications to their name:

Justin Macumber - author of A Minor Magic and Haywire, all of which can be found on his website and Amazon.

Terry Mixon - self-published author of several erotica fiction (I believe under a pen name).

Paul E. Cooley - author of the "Garaaga" series.

A bit of a warning for those not accustomed to foul language (not sure who you are, but I'm positive there are a few dozen out there by now), there is some thrown around, but the information concerning publishing and the craft of writing is valuable.

Podcasts around typically around an hour in length, and the episodes nowadays seem to be more the three of them talking about the business and craft of writing than interviews.

So, be sure to check out The Dead Robots' Society Podcast . . . and be inspired.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 15-Feb-2013 / No more NaNoWriMo (for now)

Between last week, when I finished the novelette Guest of Honor, and this week, I've written roughly 5,000 new words to my new alternative military history novel.  When I first wrote the book, years ago, I stopped around chapter 9 and it had roughly 9,500 words.  This morning I just completed chapter 12 and have 14,500 words, which also includes the admission of a prologue.

So, how am I doing in my NaNoWriMo in February goal?  (this would be 50K words for the month)

I've quit.

And here's why.

When I first started charging back into writing the novel, I found myself struggling with the story.  I seemed to be more focused on writing more words and more words and more words . . . okay, you get the picture.  Anyway, I was more focused on words than I was constructing the story.  When I was in college at Bemidji State University, I wrote my first novel.  How did I do it?  I set a goal of one page a day.  Then, before too long, I increased it to two.  Then three.  I kept track of how many pages on a calendar and watched the number of pages written in a week increase over time.  The most I've ever written in a single day was 26!  Holy cow!  At roughly 250 words a page, this was 6,500 words.  But all along, I've been focused on the story and filling pages instead of constantly looking at the word count.

That being said, I've decided that NaNoWriMo may not be right for me.  Not to say that I can't write roughly 2,000 words a day, because I've proven that I can.  But right now, at least for this story, it's going a little slower--I know, all of you outliners are out there spouting off that this is another example of why I must outline.  It is not.  I have difficulty in putting together outlines (although I will force myself to when the time comes when a publishing company asks me for one in an upcoming novel or three).  I'd rather write the damn book.

And write it I will.  I'm still keeping track of the word count, just not as closely on a daily basis.  I'm writing roughly a chapter a day, which equates to a little over 1,000 words.  Dean Wesley Smith wrote a recent blog post regarding Goals and Dreams.  In the post, he says that writers should set a goal of 1,000 words a day.  As I get further along in this new novel, this number will increase, more than likely past the 1K mark.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day, Sweetheart!

This was taken almost 16 years ago.  Happy Valentine's Day, sweetheart!

Can you guess who I am?  (Hint: I'm the taller one)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Prologue or no prologue. That is the question.

Last week, I had a blog post where I touched on the use of prologues.  I then decided to touch on it a little more here.

Some people lately have expressed a deep hatred towards prologues--and have even said that they'll never read a book that has a prologue.

What is a prologue?  Quite frankly, I'd say a prologue is a part of the story that sets up what the rest of the story will be about.  One could argue that instead of having a prologue, you could just have a chapter one.  That's true, in a simple sense.  Take a thriller, for example.  In the beginning, you see from the POV of a killer.  It ends on a cliffhanger, thrusting us into the rest of the story where the POV is from the cop or detective or whatever the protagonist is.

Could it still be chapter one?

Sure it could.

Recently, I started back into my alternative military history novel.  As I re-read the nine chapters that I had written previously, I came to a startling conclusion: I needed a prologue.  Could I have just made it chapter one?  I could have, but it wouldn't have the same impact.  Here's my reasoning: the prologue is during the present day, and involves the President of the United States (the one who is in there right now) coming across a soldier in a military medical center.  Then, he is told a tale that has been kept secret regarding the war in Iraq.  As we go back, enter chapter one.

I could have easily made it chapter one, but I feel it has more of an impact as a prologue.

Like James Bond movies?  The entire opening scene is a prologue, because it has nothing to do with the rest of the movie.

Take the opening scene in every Star Wars movie.  The words as they scroll up the screen is, in fact, a form of prologue.

Does every story need one?  Certainly not.  But if your story can be enhanced by it, put it in.  Try it as a chapter one first.  And if it doesn't work, change it to a prologue.

Okay, okay, I'm biased when it comes to prologues, I admit.  Sorry I'm just not one of those who will skip a story because of it.  It's just another tool in the storyteller's toolbox.

Monday, February 11, 2013

What I listen to - This Is Your Life by Michael Hyatt

Want to know more about being more productive?  Having intentional leadership?  Or just plain improving your life, Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, is one to read and listen to.

His weekly podcast, called This Is Your Life, is a must to listen to.

From leadership lessons to even the benefits of taking a nap everyday, and from improving the quality of your marriage to the best advice for first-time authors, Michael Hyatt's podcast (and blog) is one to subscribe to.

This past November, Michael even had a podcast dedicated to listener questions.  I had submitted one of my questions . . . and he answered it!  It had to do with becoming a fiction writer and building a platform.  (Thank you, Michael!)  Here is a link to that particular episode.

Be sure to check out Michael Hyatt's podcast titled This Is Your Life.  He currently has 40 episodes--and I have been listening from the very beginning.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 08-Feb-2013 / NaNoWriMo in February

Two days ago, on the 6th of February, I finished writing the novelette titled Guest of Honor.  At a little over 11K words, I finished just shy of midnight.  Goal accomplished!

I'm still going to continue with what I've been calling my "NaNoWriMo in February".  Now I'm starting work on the first draft of a . . . alternative history/military fiction/thriller novel (holy crap, what a combination, but the writing industry loves their little tags and categories so there it is).  I wrote about nine chapters about 4-5 years ago, then stopped.  I stopped because I wanted to edit one of my completed novels for publication.

In re-reading the nine chapters, cleaning up some of the language and changing the date of the time period, I came to a conclusion: I need a prologue.

I've been listening to some podcast episodes lately on the use of prologues.  A pros and cons, so to speak.  Many are severely against it--one guy on a podcast even said he would NEVER read a novel that had a prologue.

I may write a blog post on this (okay, not may.  I will!) soon so watch out for it.

Prologues have their use.  If used properly.  Here's the way I see it: prologues are used to set up the story.  Movies do this.  In fact, I've been watching the DVD of John Carter (no, don't feel sorry for me . . . at least not yet) and the opening few minutes sets up the rest of the movie.  Even National Treasure and The Amazing Spiderman and . . . the list goes on and on.

The prologue in my new novel would be new.  I haven't written it yet.  But I have made a decision to do so.

Because it's needed.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What is your favorite novel while in elementary school?

As February is the "I love to read" month, my youngest daughter brought home a paper for me to fill out: what was my favorite novel I read while in elementary school?

This one was difficult to put a finger on at first, because I first started reading Stephen King (Salem's Lot and Cujo to start with) in those years.  I also read 2-3 Sidney Sheldon novels in 5th-6th grade as well--not really the most appropriate but hey I'm still a well-mannered functioning male so it didn't really scar me that much.

Then, I came to my decision: The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Although I didn't know it at the time, it was full of similarities to Lord of the Rings.  Even so, it was my first novel I read that was considered an epic fantasy.

And I loved epic fantasy ever since.

Monday, February 4, 2013

What I listen to - "The Secrets" by Michael Stackpole (and Dragon Page: Cover to Cover)

Near the genesis of most podcasting (in my opinion, given the age of it which was around mid-2005) is by a bestselling science fiction author Michael Stackpole called "The Secrets"

Although it has long since been retired, and replaced by "The Dragon Page: Cover to Cover", you can still access most of the archives and gain much valuable information in regards to writing, including the predicted rise of epublishing.

Unfortunately, it has been a while since Michael Stackpole (and his co-host Michael Mennenga) have released a podcast, you can still download most of the shows--I have, and have gained a great insight into epublishing and how one can take advantage of it.

So, in this blog, you get two in one:

Michael Stackpole's "The Secrets"


Dragon Page: Cover to Cover

Friday, February 1, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 01-Feb-2013 / Day one of NaNoWriMo in February

Today is what I call "Day One of NaNoWriMo in February."

"But, Mark, NaNoWriMo is in November, isn't it?"

Why, yes it is, my good fellow.  But last November was busy for me and I decided to put it farther out, when I could plan for it.  Hence, NaNoWriMo in February.

I'll keep this short, as I'm writing the first draft of Guest of Honor, a novelette--at least, it feels like a novelette in my head.  When it comes out on paper--or digital paper--my stories always seem to take on a life of its own.

Update on my January goals: I finished 5 out of the 10 short stories.  I don't consider it a failure, as those five a pretty-well polished.  One is offered for free on this blog ("Salute") and the other four I have to try find homes for.