Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Plot Hole

Happy New Year, everyone! I apologize for the delay of this post. I was visiting family for the holidays and only returned recently. At least I can say I had a great time this year, and I managed to get a variety of fantastic photographs of roads in the winter. I like photographs of roads, and I like photographs of winter. Three hours of photographing roads in winter was highly enjoyable.

With that short side trip out of the way, onto the writing related subject!


Arguably, the plot is one of the most important parts of your novel. It is the whole point of the story. The plot determines what your characters need to do versus what reactions they have and *actually* do. It is the plot that is responsible for many headaches author's suffer over the course of their writing careers. With writing blocks, where authors cannot seem to form the next phase of the plot, coupled with the infamous plot hole, there are more downfalls than anything else when it comes to this subject.

The Plot Hole

What most people are concerned with is the plot hole. It is the most obvious form of writing problem and can stop new and experienced author alike dead in their tracks. The plot hole is many things. It is a show stopper, an annoyance, and something feared as people work on their stories. Below, you will find some of the common characteristics and symptoms of plot holes.

1: Inconsistancy.

At first, this is more of an error than an actual plot hole. However, it is not uncommon for inconsistancies in writing to bloom into a plot hole. Allow me to give you an example. Let us say that we have a story about a woman who has been kidnapped by three men because she is the daughter of a noble. So far, so good. However, let us take it a step further and have one of the men doing the kidnapping a noble -- of the same family. This is the potential for a plot hole. Right now, it isn't, but if the story develops so that the group is targetting all members of that noble family, you will need to justify just how that man came to be in that group. If not done correctly, it becomes a plot hole. If done properly, it is a plot device. More on plot devices later, however.

2: Developed Personalities turn into Plot Holes

One problem that many writers do not anticipate is the growth and development of their main characters. This often means that the story you originally came up with never comes to pass because your characters would not take an action required for it to do so. So, you end up writing a story with a certain ending in mind, but your character decides to take the north road instead of the south road. All of those loose ends that you were planning on wrapping up have a tendancy to become plot holes. This is ok. If your story has developed in this way, you can go back and close the holes later. However, you need to be aware of them come editing time.

3: You forgot about something

I'm guilty of this frequently. Editing is often a blend of fixing sentences, structure and all of those little things I have forgotten I had intended to do but never actually got around to doing! This can result in adding a lot more words than you anticipated, or cutting out a lot to remove the threads you were tossing around in your mind as you were writing and forgot about. Take heart, however. Even professional writers make this mistake. Having forgotten about something does not mean you cannot have a good book. The difference between a good writer and a 'bad' one is that the good one will either find a way to add that forgotten bit in later or make it so that the reader forgets about it as well. (After all, random 'what the hell?' moments happen in the real world as well...) A bad writer, or an experienced one, may end up sweating out the majority of their body weight over a small issue they had forgotten. A golden rule to remember is this: it is your book. You can fix it.

4: Ideas that evolve while you write.

Writing can be an extremely fun and creative process. When you come up with new ideas, these ideas evolve. This evolution can very easily lead to the plot hole. Most new writers -- and even experienced ones -- will allow the plot holes to form at this stage. First drafts are meant for this. However, if you are a writer who dislikes second drafts, this will cause you a significant number of problems.

Let us face the truth: there is little that you can do as a writer that does not have the potential to turn into a blazing plot hole that threatens to devour your writing. But, what can you do about it?

Let's find out.

Resolving Plot Holes

This is the second thing people think of when they are addressing a plot hole. Fixing a plot hole is important. A good book ties up as many loose strings as possible. When a series ends, you want a sense of closure. While a standalone or series is in the middle, closure is not as necessary. At the end of the book (or series), however, you want your readers to feel satisfied. Leaving plot holes can remove this feeling.

In order to resolve your plot holes, you must have a plot. If you have a plot hole and wish to resolve it, don't just resolve it right away. Stop now. This is not step two.

Identifying your Plot

Plot Holes exist because you have a plot. Isn't that fancy? However, resolving plot holes before you have outlined your entire novel can result in the creation of even more plot holes. Note cards, white boards or notes on paper -- no matter how you go about it, it is important that you identify all aspects of your plot. Only then can you determine how you can resolve a plot hole without adding a new plot hole to your story.

When you identify your plot and your apparent holes, you may even be able to add more depth to your novel. Sometimes plot holes are golden treasures in disguise. Consider what you can do with your plot hole before you pick up your shovel. Sometimes there are inconsistencies in the plot that need fixed, and sometimes there are just plots you did not pursue far enough. This is for you to decide.

Now you can go back and resolve whatever plot holes that you may have.

Here are a few sites that also cover the infamous plot hole:

Wikipedia's Entry on the Plot Hole

Cracked's 8 Classic Movie Plot Holes
: This isn't for books, but it does demonstrate just how movies and books can get away with plot holes.

Leah Michelle's Take on the Plot Hole

Truth be told, I don't use a lot of resources when I fix plot holes. I just do it. However, as I find more interesting sites, I'll try to get them listed here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Writing Year

Seeing as it is early December still, I thought I would take a moment to go over something for the truly dedicated writer. This is not the same type of crowd that National Novel Writing Month draws, but a more serious type of person who wants to do as much writing as possible.

Writing Year, or WriYe, is very similiar to NaNoWriMo with several significant differences. First, it isn't officially associated with NaNoWriMo in anyway. While NaNoWriMo influenced the creation of WriYe, it is a beast all of its own.

As such, you are not required to write 40k/month for an entire year. Instead, you set a goal for yourself and see if you can make it.

I'm setting a rather lofty and probably impossible goal of 1,000,000 words. Hey, never know if I don't try, and I'm sure I'll be very satisfied with whatever amount I get. If I do make it, I'll be pleased beyond expression. For now, I will view it as a good motivation to try to write as much as possible.

There are very few rules when it comes to WriYe, except the obvious be nice to your neighbors and don't cheat. The only person you are cheating in this case is yourself.

I have never done WriYe before, so this is new territory for me. However, I will treat it in the same fashion I treat NaNoWriMo -- if I make it, great. If not, I had fun trying, but it isn't worth sacrificing writing quality for.

I just thought those writers out there might be interested in participating. Enjoy!

The Rejection Letter

The rejection letter is something that everyone faces every now and again. In fact, some believe it is not possible to be a true writer until you have been tempered by the flames of the rejection letter. Whether or not this is true, there are a lot of things to learn about this letter, from how to cope with the fact you have been rejected to what you can gain from the rejection.

I have received far more rejection slips than acceptances, this much is for certain. However, I am one of those who enjoys receiving rejection slips. I am very curious to see what is contained within, and try to discover what I have learned from them. In fact, I have written stories and submitted them to important markets just to receive a rejection.

But, why would I do this? First, once you get one or two under the belt, they do get a little easier to accept having received. Using this logic, I would rather have my first faltering steps be done in a controlled fashion. While I expect my fantasy series to receive a rejection, it would not be so great a thing if it was the first rejection I ever received.

Know yourself. Would receiving a rejection on your prized story or novel send you for an emotional roller coaster that results in your cart leaving the rails? If so, grow some thick skin by experiencing rejection in short stories you do not care so much about. It will still hurt, but you will learn from it and grow from it, if you so choose.

I can not teach you what the standard rejection looks like. There is no standard. It is by slush reader or by editor and by publishing house, e-zine or magazine.

So, this guides us to the fun part of this post! The collection of sites dedicated or making mention of the rejection letter. I will have plenty of comments and opinions, both on editors and on writers, but this will wait until after you have had a chance to read the rejections.

Rejection Sites:

Rotten Rejections - A Reference to a Book

Literary Rejections on Display
Rejecting Rejection
Famous Author's Rejections Surface
Making Light: Slushkiller
Dallas Woodburn's Writing Life: Rejection Letters
Susie Smith's Children's Stories Famous Rejections
Rejection Letters before they were Famous
Collection of The New Yorker rejections
Ursula K. LeGuin: A Rejection Letter

Resources on Rejections:

Why you get Form Rejections
How to deal with Rejection Letters
Wikipedia's Rejection Letter Entry

There are obviously many, many more sites than I have listed here. This list will grow over time, but here is a good start.

The most important thing to remember is that the individuals who are reading your story do not have enough time to be personally offended by your writing. When you receive a form rejection, you story simply does not fit what they are looking for. This may be caused by poor writing quality or a story that simply does not suit them. The unfortunate part of the form rejection is that it is impossible to know exactly why your piece of writing failed.

This is where the handwritten or personalized rejection can be a double edged sword. Frankly, it is easiest to accept a form rejection. There is nothing personal in the rejection. Your story was not what they wanted, and that it that. When they personalize it, it is much easier to get personally offended by what the editor has to say.

Especially if it is because your editor felt the story was so poorly written they couldn't leave it alone and had to mention it. Unfortunately, without seeing what you submitted, it is impossible to say whether or not an editor is justified in saying this. However, there are ways to find out if the editor was just having a bad day or if there is really something needing changed with your submission.

First, if the same piece gets several really bad, personalized rejections from different editors, then you should seriously start looking at the reasons why. There will be editors who are having a bad day and take it out on you. Accept that now, your pride might be a little more intact at the end of the day. However, like I said before, most are too busy to spend the time to do so.

Live and learn. If your writing skills need improvement, start your next book and continue improving. Keep submitting, keep writing, and keep learning until defeat turns into victory.

On the flip side of the coin, there will be stories that editors notice, they like, and just simply cannot buy for one reason or another. This will spark into the 'good' rejection. It is personalized, but it is complimenting you! Some smaller publishing houses will always send some form of personalized reply. However, most are just too busy to do so, especially the larger houses. I suggest you mount those rejection letters. They are few and far between, and are worth their weight in gold, so far as I am concerned.

But, if your story is good enough to get a 'good' rejection, why were you rejected in the first place?

Publication is a business. I suggest you drill this into your head now. A publishing company has no interest in catering to your 'fantastic new concept that has never been done before, sure it is weird, but it is different and interesting'. They are interested in what sells. You need a story that toes their comfort lines while providing something new to the market. This is a lot easier said than done. You need a story that grips them, fits into their business, and can be sold. High writing quality and a good story have a good chance of getting published. A talented writer who knows their market *and* has writing quality *and* a good story *will* find a home for their stories or books.

Surviving the rejection letter is more easy than it sounds. Accept it, learn from it, and move on.

For now, enjoy the rejections and feel free to link any rejection sites you find amusing or useful, and I will add them to this post.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The General Writing Process

Writing a novel, whether it is science fiction, fantasy, romance, non-fiction or any subject in between, is not an easy process. Many people are overwhelmed just on writing a novel. This is a normal response, as writing a novel involves a great deal of dedication. However, if you want to publish a novel, it is important that you understand the entire process from start to finish. This will help ensure that you have the best chances of possible of seeing your book on a shelf.

The ways of writing a novel are as numerous as the authors who write them. Each and every person writes their novel a different way. There is no one correct way to write a novel. So, how should I present the novel writing process to you then? This is simple enough. I am going to present to you how I go about the process as well as introduce methods that I do not use but have attempted in the past. I have tried many different styles of novel writing trying to settle into a method that suits my personality and needs. This is a journey that you must go about, although you can use my suggestions as guidelines for your attempts. Just remember: It is your novel. Write it how you see fit.

The following is my process for writing a novel.

Step One: Idea Conception.

The muse is rarely so kind as to present to me an entire story in a gift wrapped package. I will not claim that this has not happened to me before. It has. The current series I am working on was presented to me by my muse on a silver platter. I had every idea required to make this story happen.

What then, classifies as required ideas? This varies from person to person. For me, it means I have a beginning, a middle and an end. Huh, fancy that.

It is a little more complicated than that. In order for my story to have a beginning, it must have a conflict. I am the type of writer who needs to have characters actively facing conflict or be approaching a point where conflict will come to them. If there is no conflict, I do not think there is much of a foundation for a good story. Every story I have liked has involved some form of conflict within the first five to ten pages of the story. By pages, I mean standard manuscript format pages. For quick math, 5x250 to 10x250 words. When I read, I tend to lose interest if there is nothing holding my attention.

Please note that conflict does not have to be physical. It can be mental / emotional. Do not make the mistake that thinking that mental conflict can not engross a reader. It totally can.

Once I have a conflict, I have to have characters that are involved with my conflict. My stories are driven by characters. These people make mistakes, they are human. (Well, most times human.) Sometimes, conflict is bred from the very mistakes those characters have made. Without conflict and characters, there is not much of a story to tell.

And so, I have the beginning idea for my story. Once I have this, I can usually start writing. This can take me anywhere from one hour to a week to figure out. If it is in a world I have already written about, I can usually jump right in to writing. However, on a new series or a new world, I have to do some world building. I classify world building in the beginning portion of the idea. After all, there has to be a land for my characters to stand on. Depending on how desperate I am to write, I may only develop the village, town or city my characters are starting in and piece it together from there. However, this involves a lot more editing work later. I typically try to get a rough idea of the entire continent, the kingdoms on the continent, and as much information on the trades as my patience allows. (When the muse strikes, however, she typically provides me with decent starting information in this regard.)

That leads me to the mentioning of the muse. Many people blame the muse on their failures and successes. The muse, for me, is nothing more than an amusement. I write my novels on my own creativity. There is no outside force that makes me write a novel or gives me an idea. They are all mine. It just sounds nicer to say 'muse' rather than sound snotty and impressed with myself. Sometimes writers can be humble. Sometimes.

Step Two: First Draft Writing

Now that I have a world, a beginning, a middle and an end, I begin to write. The first draft is never a masterpiece, but I try to write with some quality in mind. This is where I am flushing out my characters and allowing them to grow. There are many things that need to occur, especially in an epic fantasy. Science fiction is little different, although there are rarely the 3.3 million word monster series in science fiction as there are in epic fantasy.

Since I am currently working on an epic series fantasy, I will be throwing out a lot of commentary in regards to how I approach this. While I have written science fiction in the past, it is not my forte.

If you are planning to publish, this is the draft where you begin to put your craft to the test. It is important, however, that you tell the story. Quality is important, but it is vital that you express your story. Now is the time to make mistakes and experiment with your plot. The first draft will be edited and changed. While there are some who can write publishable works on the first draft, do not make the error of believing you are one of them. Edits will occur, get used to the idea now.

When I am writing, I try to view all of my characters as real people. Real people make mistakes. Real people overreact to things. Real people make decisions that aren't always logical. Many writers try to have these perfect characters who never make a mistake. These books, frankly, are boring. Don't be afraid to have your characters do something stupid as you write. Who knows, you might even have fun with it!

Also, people die. It is natural. It is remarkably easy to kill a human. If you have a situation where someone is at high risk of death, they probably won't survive. This should carry on through your novel. If you have them live, you need to suspend disbelief and prove to us why they should live. This is your job as a writer.

If you have not noticed yet, I do not plot out my first draft. I write it. That is for the next phase.

The first draft writing phase should not end until book 1 has come to a close. Don't continue to book 2 of your series. Stop at the end of book 1. I will explain why shortly.

Step Three: Plotting.

Question: What? Why am I plotting after I have written the first draft?

Answer: Because I have to do a second draft OR major edits, and I do not want the important plot points to be missed.

So, how does one go about doing this?

You read your novel. As you read each and every scene, do the following:

Characters Present:
Major Plot Points:
Minor Plot Points:
Corrections Required:

You may have more or less on your list. This is what I use. I may have character deaths listed in a different field, if there are enough of them. In my current series, there are enough of them to justify the listing in some chapters.

You may wish to use note cards to do this. Note cards can help you keep things organized in such a way where you can see a lot at one time. You may also wish to do a character biography at this point. If you do, here is the sort of information you will need.

Eye Color:
Hair Color:
Basic Personality:

There are many things you can add for this section. Do as much as you need to succeed at keeping your characters organized.

Once you have done this, there is one final plotting aspect that you may wish to do. This is the overall plot line. I find this is best done with a storyboard of some sort. A cork board is fantastic for this if you can afford one. Take the major plot points from your scene cards, and put them on small scraps of paper. Lay them out on your cork board, then read them. If your plot makes sense in the order you have presented it, the plot checks. This is a great way to identify plot holes.

Do this with your minor points as well. Your minor points should tie in with your major plot in some form or another.

Now, you are prepared for step four.

Step Four: Edit or Rewrite.

You have a draft, you have a plot line. Now, you need to take what you have written and turn it into a work of art. Editing a novel is hard work. If you thought Step Three was intensive, Step Four may break your brain. But, stick with it.

You are a writer, and by extension, you are an editor. It is time to bring your editor out of the closet and let them work. If you rely on your 'muse', fire him or her. They are going to get in the way here. Now is typically not the time to add in a new plot line or do major revisions to the story, *unless* you discovered in Step Three that this course of action is required. If it is required, this will be a rewrite phase rather than an editing phase. If you are rewriting, return to step one. If you are editing, please proceed.

Editing may involve rewriting certain sections. Just do steps one to three for those sections. This will provide your checks to ensure clarity throughout your novel. Yes, this is hard work. Don't whine about it, just do it.

Please note the bold. This is the heart of being a novelist. It is *work*, not play. Get used to it. There is no easy way out. No one said you couldn't have fun doing it, but... even if you don't use my way of writing, there is no way to avoid the hard work portion.

I find the easiest way to edit is to read out loud and record what I am reading. It is slow, but it can often point out sections that I am missing when I'm just reading. Of course, I do read and edit as I go, but I read out loud to myself and record. And no, it isn't because I like the sound of my own voice.

Because I am masochistic/sadistic, I will do an edit example of my own writing below.

First draft example:

Demons were real, that much Laelia knew. It had not been that long ago that someone had attempted to create a demon from the bodies of a bear and a boar and had succeeded. The creature was nothing but beastial fury bred to unholy delight in the kill. Unlike a chimera, which was a more peaceful blend of several animals, the demon had been created for one purpose only: slaughter.

Editing examples:

Demons were real, that much Laelia knew. It had not been that long ago that Yetritris had birthed a demon from the bodies of a grizzly bear, a wolverine and a boar. His success was bestial fury bred to unholy delight in killing. Unlike a chimera, which was a peaceful blend of several animals, the demon had been created for one purpose only: slaughter.

Notes: This needs more work, but its just a quick example of how a few word changes can completely alter the mental images associated with a paragraph. Not only must you edit for the single paragraph in mind, you must do it with your scene and plot in mind. This can be difficult, but it is not impossible.

I find the editing process to take significantly longer than the drafting process. I typically do not do a full rewrite, but revisit steps one to three as needed for specific scenes. If I have a major plot revision, I may spend a great deal of time in one to three, but I don't typically scratch a first draft unless I do not plan on revisiting that story. Granted, there have been a few instances where a draft has not been salvageable. I put those drafts into my Hall of Shame and write a new story. I may use the same basic idea and the characters over again, but it is a new story.

Editing is vital. Take your time with it. Your novel should be sparkling and perfect before it ever leaves your home.

Step Five: Manuscript Format

So, you have survived steps one to four. Great work. Now, you need to put your story in manuscript format.

I am not the greatest of teachers on manuscript format, so I will let the masters teach you instead.

Tor | Forge Manuscript Format

Holly Lisle's Guide to Manuscript Format
William Shunn's Guide to the Manuscript
BBC's Guide to Manuscript Format

If you know a good resource for the manuscript format, please feel free to leave a comment. I will add good references at later dates. The starting posts I have added should be sufficient for understanding the format.

You will also need to write a query letter. The letter will often include information about your novel and your series, if applicable. Every publisher has different requirements, so take the time to do your homework. The query letter may or may not be required in order to submit your novel. If you are submitting chapters, the 'query' letter is very much the same as if you were not. Here are some resources on the query letter:

Holly Lisle's Guide to Querying an Agent

Manitoba Writers' Guild Query Letter Sample
Gail Eastwood's Query Letter Do's and Don'ts

Step Six: Submit.

SASE. Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope. Never. Ever. Ever. Forget. This. Let me repeat: Never, ever, ever forget this. Always include a SASE with your manuscript for the reply and return of your manuscript. Never submit your original manuscript. Be patient, and make certain you mail it. After all, you can't be published if you never try.

Do NOT include bribes, art or anything or that nature. Do NOT bind your manuscript in anyway. Stuff it in an envelope in numeric order, do not embellish, and mail it. Get a tracking number. Most companies will not send you a notice saying they have received it until the date it is opened and review has started, and only if you include a postcard that is SASE'd.

Step Seven: See Step One.

What? See Step One? What does this mean?

Your novel is completed. Start a new one. If you are working on a series, you should be working on book two now. Wait patiently for a reply to your submission. By the time that horrible six month wait is over, you should be in process of editing book two.

You will probably get a rejection. However, good books will find a publisher. Keep trying.

Good luck. This is the basics to the novel writing process. Every writer is different, so please remember that this is how I do it. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Scams amongst us!

I had not intended to post again, but I have this tendency to find things as I use the internet and work on my freelance work. Today, I was reminded once again why writers must be very careful.

Today's discovery was found via twitter. I follow a great many publishing companies because it is my business to know the business of publication. This is how I know the market, and know what to write for that market. (Hint: if you do not know the market, how can you write targeting the market?)

Allow me to introduce you to IFWG Publishing. This is a Print on Demand company. However, they require that your manuscript be passed through their quality monitors, just as a real publishing company does. (A real publisher, being individuals such as DAW, Tor | Forge or Baen.)

At the time of this post, here are the services that IFWG offer:

Basic Publishing Package: US$299.00
Action Publishing Package: US$499.00
Pro Package: US$799.00
Distribution Package: US$999.00

Each of these packages offer a variety of different things. The basic package includes a website page about you, ISBN, Distribution through Amazon, and a basic press release. The rest have more, ranging from e-book releases to Kindle compatibility.

So, what is the problem with this? There are a lot of them.

First, the publisher is taking the responsibility of your book from their shoulders. They are forcing you to pay for the basics that a true publishing house will handle for you. Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to what a legitimate publishing house does, and how this differs from what IFGW does. If you want to see a legitimate Print on Demand, please refer to LuLu. This site has the best reputation of Print on Demand markets at the moment of this blog writing.

1: Manuscript Sent to Publishing House for review. I will note here that unlike true print on demands, IFGW has a review process.
2: Publishing House Accepts or Rejects the manuscript. In the case of acceptance, it will be a request for the completed manuscript. This is by no means a guarantee that your book will be published. In the case of IFGW, an acceptance means you get to pay them. (Does anyone see what is wrong with this yet? Let me bold it for you.)
3: Publishing House reviews your completed manuscript. This is when they will decide if they want to make you an offer.

This is where the notable difference occurs. The publishing house will make *you* an offer. This means that they are paying you. (Here is that bold again, funny that.) You never, ever, ever, ever, ever pay your publishing house unless you are requesting a copy of an imprint book. Even then, they will often give copies away to their authors. And, it is often faster just to go purchase the book in your local bookstore. This is dependent on house, of course. A publishing house should be paying you, not the other way around. Every aspect, from ISBN to the printing of your book, is handled by them.

4: Once you have an offer and a contract, you negotiate the contract and you sign. This signs over the copyright of the novel to the publishing house. They own it now, with limitations as set in the contract! They'll work with you to make certain that your book is published and all edits are done if needed. The typesetting, etc, will occur after the contract is signed. IFWG does this, except you pay them instead of them paying you. As they do not have their contracts online, it is impossible to see if you sign your copyrights away. I assume you do, seeing as they require them to do the printing. Please note this is a guess / assumption and not a fact.

5: Your book is released to the public! Your publishing company works hard to ensure it is marketed properly so they do not lose money.

Granted, this is just a 'basics' on how it works. It does not cover every step of the phase. That is for a different post altogether. However, let us pursue what IFWG does.

The main problem is that IFWG is scrubbing for quality while attempting to be a Print on Demand. It is this crucial difference that puts up a lot of red flags and puts this company in the same class as scammers such as PublishAmerica. Please note the PublishAmerica link routes to SFWA's Writer's Beware. You can also refer to Preditors and Editors, an excellent resource on the traps and pitfalls writers may get themselves into.

This is not to say that Print on Demand cannot, in fact, work. It can, in certain situations. However, print on demand is something that you should be very careful about. SFWA, once again, has an excellent article on Print on Demand. Here is Wikipedia's entry on Print on Demand.

However, you should be very cautious. Never accept anything less than a true publication. If you go with a print on demand company, remember that you will lose the ability to publish that novel elsewhere until the terms of the print on demand have expired. Because print on demand prints your novel, most publications will not take your work. This is not always the case, but this is the case 99.9% of the time. Publishing houses do not want to have to deal with the investment and hassle of freeing a book from the clutches of a POD publisher.

Writers, there are scams everywhere. Never go with something just because you are desperate to see your work in print. This can have consequences that can not be easily repaired.

EDIT: After several hours, IFWG has shown its true colots. They have launched their royalties page. That is right, ladies and gentleman. They operate via royalties, just like a traditional publisher and unlike a print on demand. Here is a sample from their royalties page.

Author Royalty $3.98
Production cost $4.89
Trade discount $5.12
portion $1.00

For comparison, here is how LuLu breaks it down:

Lulu takes 25% OR $0.19. If you look at IFWG, this is very similiar.

However, Lulu's printing cost for the equivalent novel is $5.95. In addition to this, Lulu gives you *full* control over your manuscript.

In other words, if you wish to publish total crap, they are not going to stop you.

'nuff said.

National Novel Writing Month

Seeing as it is early december, I think my first specialized post will be on the wonders that is National Novel Writing Month, commonly referred to as NaNoWriMo. Always performed in November, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words during the month. This is roughly 1,667 words per day.

The 1,667 words per day may not sound like a lot. However, unless you are into the habit of writing, it is a challenge. It is a challenge that I suggest every new writer tries to attempt at least once, as it is a very unique experience.

Having participated in NaNoWriMo several times, I can confidently say that many of the people who attempt this sacrifice a great deal of their regular life to accomplishing this lofty goal. I think this is a fantastic thing, especially for those who have never written a novel and wish to learn how.

However, NaNoWriMo is not all sunshine and cookies. Like all things, it is designed for certain audiences. While many people will get something out of participating, November is truly a hats off towards those who have always wanted to write a novel but have never had the courage to sit down and do it. With that said, below you will find all sorts of things I like and dislike about NaNoWriMo. These are my opinion. The salt pile is that-a-way, ladies and gentleman. Take some at leisure.

What I like!

1: The Community

The most powerful part of NaNoWriMo is definitely the community for me. It is the one time in the year where you can find thousands of writers converging into one place sharing something precious to each and every one of them. Ideas pour out from the fount of enthusaistic minds. People with knowledge are available to answer even the most mundane of questions. The forums are an excellent source for those who are new to the craft and need a little bit of help. The downside? People go home after December 1st and the place typically turns into a haunted house for much of the year.

2: The Need for Speed

NaNoWriMo is about writing fast, writing a lot, and meeting deadlines. These are awesome traits for a promising novelist, and a great way to get a view into the life of a professional author. Quality means nothing to the average NaNoWriMo participant, and that is how it should be. There is one simple rule for those participating: Edits are for December.

3: Quantity over Quality

Getting the words onto paper is vital for a novelist, and NaNoWriMo excels at making that happen. If you want a book, this is really one of the best ways to make it happen. Believe in yourself and go. Edits, after all, are for December. This is much like point #2, but it is important to specify that Quality is a homeless mutant freak for most participants in NaNoWriMo. If the horse is not dead and beaten yet, allow me to ensure that it is. Quantity. Over. Quality. This is a double-edged sword, however.

4: Proof of Life

In kidnappings and hostage situations, Proof of Life is a basic. In NaNoWriMo, it is the reward. If you win at the end of the month, you will be at your computer staring at a manuscript that belongs entirely to you. This is your Proof of Life as a writer. For someone who has never finished a story but wants to, this is even more rewarding that seeing your own novel on a bookshelf in some store. The first time you cross that threshold and can say "I did it" is truly a moment that will be cherished for years to come. While I did not complete my first novel during NaNoWriMo, I still remember the moment quite clearly when I could say, "I wrote a book."

For many, that moment comes in NaNoWriMo, when a month of slaving has bloomed into a beautiful flower.

What I dislike!

1: Quantity over Quality

Huh? Wasn't this in the list of what I liked? How does that work? As I mentioned, it is a double-edged sword. The concept of Quantity over Quality for a new writer is so important. I am a firm believer of the concept that it takes one million bad words to write a good word. This means that practice and dedication are what will help you succeed. Talent will only take you so far. It is perseverance that will make the difference in the long run. For established writers, Quantity over Quality can have a serious negative impact: it can lower overall writing quality. For a professional, this can be devastating. It is for this reason that it is strongly suggested that a professional writer _not_ participate in NaNoWriMo. It is hard enough to let loose as an amateur, and it can cost a contract for a freelancer. If you are someone who depends on your deadlines and writing quality to survive and get paid, this is not something you should participate in.

On the other hand, if you want to challenge yourself as a professional, paid writer, you can attempt NaNoWriMo as a Quantity AND Quality endeavor. This is a great way to force yourself to draft high quality material. Just do not expect to fully jump into the community, as everyone except you will be doing Quantity over Quality. Just remember, don't fall behind on your contracts. Not getting paid really sucks.

2: The TGIO mentality.

While it is very reasonable to say "Oh, Thank God it is over", many people say that, throw the manuscript into a closet, and that is that. The journey ends. Some people do not even finish their story, but stop writing after 50,001 words. I have always viewed NaNoWriMo as a gateway to the writing world. Writing once a year during NaNoWriMo only does not make you a writer. Even if you do not finish in November, it would be nice to see many more people go on with their story until the true conclusion of the tale. Just because November has ended does not mean the writing can not continue.

Now, granted, every person's situation is different. If that is all you want from the experience, more power to you.

3: The Formation of Bad Habits

This really should be point #1 in this section. It is very easy to develop bad habits during November, ranging from poor eating, disrupted sleep cycles and writing habits we'd rather not have occur. If you plan on participating in NaNoWriMo... take some time to sleep and eat well. You do not want to make yourself sick! (I should not have to feel compelled to say this, but after seeing just what some people do to themselves during the month, I feel I have to.)

4: Watching other's word counts

Part of the glory of NaNoWriMo is watching your word count go up. That is half the fun! However, there are those who can just write so much so quickly that it is very easy to get distressed and discouraged. Do yourself a favor and don't focus on the word counts of others.

Final Comments!

For me, NaNoWriMo has always been a great experience, win or lose. As my professional career as a freelancer has developed, I have had to take care with how I approach NaNoWriMo. However, if you are in the position to do it with no boundaries, it is a liberating experience. It is also an enabling one, where you know that you are not the only one going "I will do this!".

NaNoWriMo is open to all genres of writing. If you are interested and this little blog post hasn't scared you away, there is a fancy FAQ available that will answer most of the questions that you may have on the month.

Also, ignore the name. It isn't National, but International. InNoWriMo just didn't sound as nice. Yes, you can participate, even if you aren't sure which Nation it is for! (Don't worry, I'm sometimes not so sure myself.)

If you choose to participate, good luck!

The Basics of Writing

The dream of many writers, both young and old, is to one day walk into a bookstore and see their published novel sitting on a shelf. But, this dream is often smashed through ignorance and a lack of realization on just how difficult the publishing industry is.

I am working towards submitting a novel manuscript to Tor | Forge. This journey started when I was somewhere between ten or twelve years old and I picked up a copy of A Wrinkle in Time. Until I picked up this book, I was functionally illiterate. Sure, I could sort of read and write, but I had no interest in it. I was more interested in seeing how far I could hit a softball or trying to determine just how high one really could jump when using a trampoline. I am entirely unsure how my parents survived my antics, or even how I survived them unscathed. But, I owe a great deal of thanks to Madeleine L'Engle for doing what an author does: writing.

In the years since I first picked up a pen and begged my mother for notebook paper on which to write, I learned one thing painfully quick. In truth, I knew nothing at all about writing. In a detour that did me far more good than not, I began to read every fantasy novel I could get my grummy paws on. My first piece of advice to those who wish to write? Read, read, read. Then, just as you feel that your brain is full to capacity, please read some more. Learn from the mistakes of the published. Learn to identify what errors that they do not make.

Then, lay your own writing out before you and compare it to those who have come before you. There are reasons that these writers are published and you are not. This is a very good first step.

This blog is not meant to make you feel happy. I will try to be as blunt and honest with you as possible, because these are my experiences. These posts will also delve into resources that I find extremely useful. As a writer, I do a great deal of research. The blame for this is on my work as a freelance author. While I am specialized in search engine optimization, I have ghost written several non-fiction books. Unfortunately, due to the very nature of ghost writing, I cannot mention the titles of these books. However, I will say, if you do not have a high threshold for punishment, avoid the freelance market like the plague. You will make more money at McDonald's.

Because I am interested in the science fiction and fantasy fields, this blog will be specialized towards providing information on these two genres.

Back to the meat of the subject: writing. If you wish to be published, there is one very important thing that you must have: a manuscript. When editors discuss a book or a short story, the term manuscript will come up often. Manuscript format is often intimidating for those who are not familiar with it. Every publishing house has their own guidelines for submission, as well as their own opinion on what manuscript format is. Here is Wikipedia's entry on the manuscript format. Here is Tor | Forge's submission guidelines. I suggest you read both and make yourself comfortable with them. There will be a future post dedicated to the manuscript format, but this is a good start. Tor | Forge is very clear about what they want. Not all publishers are, so beware.

Do not feel like you need to write your novel in manuscript format. There is time for formatting after the story is written if you do not have a firm grasp on the right formatting yet.

If you want to write a novel but have not started yet, I suggest that you learn the basics of plotting. While many successful novelists can write a draft without a plot line, knowing how a plot functions is a fundamental part of writing a marketable novel. Even if you do not write the plot line explicitly, you need to ensure that the elements of a good story are present.

Yes, if you clicked the above link that reads plot line, you will quickly determine that it is referring to plays and screenwriting. This is intentional. Your novel may have many plot lines, but every line you draw should reach some form of logical conclusion and contain the elements found within, even if they are not necessarily meant for science fiction and fantasy. Every good book, no matter the genre, has the elements of the plot line as described above.

If you have the basics of a plot line, characters that your reader can associate, and a strong desire to succeed, novel writing is far from impossible. However, expect the journey to be long and hard. You will fall down. What matters is that you get back up and try again.

For now, I leave you with Writer's Beware. Writer's Beware is a part of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, or the SFWA. If you are interested in publishing, have a manuscript, and want to see your work in print, this site is for you.

I will be doing a future post dedicated to Writer's Beware, as well as the scams that you may encounter on your journey towards publication.

For now, I leave you with a decent supply of reading material. Enjoy!