Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tip O'Day #446 - The Writing Comes First

Guest blogger Jennifer Allis Provost on being a writer.

So, you wanna be a writer.

Maybe you want to be a full time writer. Maybe it's just a hobby for you. Or maybe you just want to write your memoirs and preserve your family history for generations to come. No matter the type of writer you want to be -- full time, part time, fiction, nonfiction -- there is one thing you must do before all else.

You need to write.

Obvious, huh? But, not everyone realizes the obvious. In this day and age, everyone talks about building platforms, social media, queries and such. None of that matters if you don't have a finished product.

As for me, I've been pretty lucky. I've published a few fantasy books, been included in several anthologies, and my latest novel, Copper Girl, book one of the Copper Legacy series, was released two months ago. But there are quite a few other things I want to accomplish. Here's a list, in no particular order of importance:

Finish the rest of the Copper Legacy series
Re-release my fantasy series
Complete my historical fantasy and shop for agents

Okay, the above list encompasses twelve (!!!) books! Holy crap!

Now, it's not such a daunting task; four are complete, and five are in varying stages of completion. Still, that means I have to find the time to complete those five books, start (and finish) three more, shop for agents and publishers, and somehow promote my existing work. Add that to my day job, caring for my husband and children, and those pesky little tasks like eating and sleeping, and my little list takes on an aspect not unlike Mount Everest.

What's a writer to do?

Me, I made a schedule. I fired up Excel and laid everything out, from soup to nuts. I started with three columns -- one for each major project -- and listed completion timeframes for each. For instance, in 2013 I will have the first draft of book three of the Copper Legacy series, Copper Veins, completed by July, and the first draft for book four, Copper Princess, completed by December. With regard to my fantasy series, I have a rewrite due in December. The outline for my historical fantasy is due by June, and its first draft by December.

Okay, so that's three first drafts, one outline, and one rewrite between now and December. And you know what? I can do that. Now, are those the only things I need to complete to remain on track? Not by a long shot. Will I make all of my due dates? Hopefully, but I did schedule things a bit more tightly than necessary to account for little things like life getting in the way. For instance, I scheduled the first draft of Copper Princess for December 2013, but it won't be released until May 2016.

Still, unless I write the books (any by write I mean write, edit, revise, re-edit, re-revise, etc), I can't acquire an agent, or submit my work to publishers. Make no mistake, while all this is going on I'll still be promoting, building my platform, and generally being a nuisance across all aspects of social media. But you know what? The writing comes first.

Jennifer Allis Provost spends her days drinking vast amounts of coffee, arguing with her computer, and avoiding any and all domestic behavior. Her novel, The Chronicles of Parthalan, is available now, and Copper Girl was released in June from Spence City. You can learn more about Jennifer at her website.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tip O'Day #445 - Ignore the Rules

Guest blogger Franz McLaren on “I write wrong.”

Over the years I have been told by English teachers, grammar teachers and a smattering of writing instructors that I should outline, I should write proper sentences, I should never use contractions, and so on. I listened, I learned, I wrote as I was told, and I produced dozens of stories that bored everyone who read them. Friends and family delicately suggested I should seek another career.

That is when desperation set in. Another career? I already had a day job that writing was supposed to free me from. Was I supposed to change my dreams and find something, anything, which gave me as much pleasure as writing?

However, the truth was, writing had become a chore. I did it because I had to. For as long as I can remember, writing was what I wanted to do.

In frustration I sat and wrote without thinking about rules, word patterns or structure. I let my mind wander and fingers pluck keys as they chose. A few hours later I had the rough draft of a story that I liked. I liked it because it was a story only I knew, one that I told myself as I was writing, one that carried a small part of my soul.

When I started that tale, I had no idea what I would write. I had not tried to outline. I did not know my characters or setting. I just wrote a story I wanted to hear.

Did I dare let others read this stuff? Should I put a bit of me out there and risk ridicule? Not yet.

I wrote a few more stories, each without knowing anything about them before I started and each revealing a little more about me than I felt comfortable with. Eventually, people noticed I was spending time at the keyboard not game related. Tentatively, I presented one of my new stories to a friend.

After a few comments about how it was unusual and they would not have phrased this passage that way, this reader asked whether I had any others. No trumpets blared from heaven, no pompoms were waved by ecstatic cheerleaders but in that instant, I knew I really was a writer.

Years later I sat down to write my first novel. I intended it to be a horror. How did I know that, since I had no idea what it was going to be about? Because, every short story I wrote was horror. Obviously I have a dark soul seeking release through writing.

Only the story did not cooperate. In a few chapters, my characters found themselves in a land of fantasy. My fingers put them there, but the characters were dictating the story. It felt as if I was coming home. I was finally in lands I had never seen, having adventures I could not have conceived.

I have been a fantasy writer since. I have business cards that say so and hundreds of fan letters that tell me I am not the only person who needs visions of other worlds.

When I finished the first book of the Clarion of Destiny series, my sons asked to see the outline. I decided enough time had passed since I gave up trying to write right that maybe I should give structure another try. I managed to produce fifteen lines that roughly represented the first book and wrote, "Leena has adventures on the way to the castle," as line sixteen. Then I was stumped. I had no idea what I should add next. The outline ended there. Seven books and more than 500,000 words later, Leena made it.

Not once during the writing of the series did I fire up the keyboard with an inkling of what I would write. Each day I spent time in Leena's world, learning as she learned and feeling as she felt. Each day she told me a new portion of the story.

I am writing a new serial character now and learning more about him and his exotic worlds daily. I do not know in-depth biographies of my characters. I do not have an outline. I do not choose the rhythms of their words. I should. Hundreds of books and articles tell me these things are necessary. However, when I tried to follow their advice I failed.

I know now that I write best when I write wrong.

You can learn more about fantasy author Franz McLaren at his website or on his Amazon author page.