Inspiration: Anthony Ryan, Bloodsong

1 Aug

As a successful epic fantasy writer who quit his day job and got picked up by Penguin, Anthony Ryan definitely attracted my eyeballs. It was also heartening to see that he was not 16, but rather was a middle aged person with a former real day job – totally real life stuff. Plus he’s really dryly funny.

Why reading this post makes me better:

1. He took 6 years to write his one book, Blood Song.

At that rate I’m still ahead as I’ve never spent 6 years on any book. That said, I’ve spent like 20 years writing and yet to finish even 1 book. Much less publish. 

2. Sales started off slow.

In his 5 first months of publishing Blood Song he sold 2000 copies, most of them in month 5.

3. Quality.

He writes the old fashioned way, concentrating on plot and language and all that instead of just churning out stuff for the sake of stuff.

All things for us aspiring writers to remember.


Feeling Stuck

20 Jul

Today, as I often do after a stint of intense productivity, I felt stuck. Unmotivated. I’ve been feeling that way for a few days after 2 weeks or so on fire. This is good, as it means I can actually concentrate on real life stuff like laundry, client work, etc. Morale-wise it’s kind of scary though — that tiny voice in the back of my head starts nagging, And you actually think you can finish a decent novel!? Ha! LO-SER.


Which put me in mind of a really awesome blog entry title I read once, so awesome I had to Google and find it again: 

The Neverending Hamster Wheel of Revising Doom

Ha! In a nutshell, how I (and probably long suffering husband) feel.

As it turns out, that was the title of an entry by Maggie Stievater, which you can find here: Much more imaginative a title than the title of this entry. With that down, I’m going to stop bashing myself for the night and see if I can do 15 minutes of writing…

Protagonist’s Inner Character Arc

17 Jul

After years of searching and trying to figure out what it is that gives that feeling of emotional depth and “umph” to a character, I finally found this post which nailed it for me:

Ironically it wasn’t a site on novel writing but a script writing site. It talks about the necessary “transformation” of character that we’ve come to expect in much of modern writing. Now, this stuff isn’t new to me but I always got confused in applying the catchphrases to my own work, especially dealing with YA stuff. But after reading this post and others on this site, and synthesizing the insights with other items I’ve studied/read, I think at the end of the day what they’re all trying to say is that, over the course of the story the protagonist(s) need to grow emotionally. That growth can be positive or negative, and it can happen gradually or in an instant (much more dramatic) as all the inciting incidents come to bear in a flash of growth-provoking pressure.

Two instances – again, citing movies, and ironically movies that the Crawling Yarns guy didn’t even like that much but that I did – are Sideways and Up in the Air. Technically, nothing climactic happens here: at the end of Sideways the protagonist is still single, lost, divorced; at the end of Up in the Air, George Clooney’s one anchoring relationship has gone up in smoke. BUT. You get the sense at the end of Sideways that Miles is moving emotionally out of the morass of his divorce; his love interest actually calls him back and tells him his screenplay doesn’t suck, and he is now able to receive that news positively instead of wallowing in self doubt. He’s looking forward to the future at last. And as for Clooney, at the end of the movie he has realized the shallowness of his current life, suggesting that he can now do something to change it. Oh, and a last one, Little Miss Sunshine: having lost the beauty pageant and the grandpa (dead) to boot, what did they accomplish? The triumph of a dysfunctional family pulling through instead of concentrating on their own selfish crap.

Now, the stories I’m personally writing are much more traditionally dramatic, with an Big Evil to fight against and Lesser Bad Things on the way. And my imagination furnishes no lack of those.  But it’s always been that subtle sense of inner transformation that’s eluded me in these epic, sprawling stories (I can nail that transformation well in short stories).  In addition, character growth in a YA story is often – beat me here and yes, it’s a generalization – less nuanced than in grown up stories; by which I mean, since it is by definition a time of growth and searching for identity, typical character growth revolves around these themes (in a gazillion different ways of course). Whereas, adults aren’t usually portrayed as consciously searching for identity.

So, I hope that’s helpful…

PS. updates on novel? Still stuck at Chapter 17 and now feeling like I need to rethink the whole dam ending. Only about 5 chapters but pivotal. Ugh!


Refugee II

19 Jun

In the beginning it had been a shadow of a doubt, a dream of a dream (or nightmare rather). I can’t even begin to pinpoint when it started.



19 Jun

A rich girl, or had been before the conflict. Her steady gaze before the Master, the generous spoonfuls of expensive saffron on the cakes, told of a life lived in expansive comfort; her smooth, unsteady hands as she moved to clear the tray showed she was unused to work. I watched her with detached clarity as the Master bent her attention on another acolyte. Mornings at this little self-appointed enclave, the Fountain of Al-Ramba, were always busy as syncophants and orderlies sought audience with the lord of the realm.
Strictly speaking, Master Ayra was no lord. The old lord had perished fighting for one of the Kings-over-the-Sky and the genetics of the heirs were much in doubt. For the time being, while the heirs skulked and postured awaiting their High Court day, the land deferred to Master Ayra, and she kept a heavy if doubtful peace.
The girl knelt before me, gathering the aluminum cups filled with coffee. I stared down at her, seeing the white of her scalp through the severity of the part in her hair. A small mole on her neck, three earring-holes in the left ear. I did not know enough of Keem society to know if that meant anything. No rings of course, or any other tell tale signs status – she was little more than serf now. She looked up and her eyes met mine.
Wordlessly I held my cup out. Then I wrapped my robe around me to hide the weakness in my knees, and watched her leave for the kitchens with her slow, careful gait balancing the tray of discarded cups. Hopeful, fearful, desperate: I’d seen eyes like that before. Every time I looked in the mirror these days.


How to go bankrupt on self publishing

6 Feb

Planning a Novel

29 Jul

Oh this is neat:
Back to Planning a Novel In Detail

Like I said at the top, the easiest way to tackle planning a novel in depth is by breaking the story down into elements.

More specifically, the five tasks you need to perform during this step of the Novel Writing Process are…

1. Sow the Seeds of Theme and Symbolism
2. Decide on a Point of View
3. Create Your Fictional Characters
4. Construct the Novel’s Setting
5. Write Your Novel’s Central Plot

Step 6 of this 9-step process, incidentally, involves re-combining all of these individual story elements into what I call a “Master Plan”.

I’m one of those people who suck at planning and prefer just to write – need to get around that and become more efficient!