Author: DeAnna Knippling (Page 1 of 57)

Which is more important, a good idea or good craft?

A question came up on Twitter that I’d like to address:

Is it more important to have good ideas or good craft as a writer?

A professional writer had told the questioner that good ideas were more important than good craft; that agents and editors needed something unique to sell and they could edit it better later but they can’t add ideas.

In my opinion, this sort of dichotomy misses the point entirely, and, on top of that I feel that the professional writer’s answer (whoever they were, I don’t know) was biased by their status as a professional writer.

To a professional writer who has already achieved a certain level of craft, the level of craft is no longer a factor.  To a professional writer with a sufficient level of craft, they no longer have to worry about craft.

They should, because you can always get better.  But it may appear to a writer at a certain level of craft as though it’s the ideas that are the issue, not the craft, if they get accepted or turned down on a proposal or submission.

In my opinion, here’s the actual answer.

  • You have to have a certain level of craft before you’re worth editing.
  • That level of craft appears to involve the intermediate-level skills I’ve been talking about on this blog:  pacing, structure (not plot), control of sensory details, character voice, and information flow.
  • Once you have that level of craft, readers who are not mostly like you can enjoy reading your work, and you have a wide enough appeal.
  • Craft is a factor but not the factor.
  • Ideas are a dime a dozen; without craft, they’re worth nothing.
  • A good, hooky idea is worth something, but cannot on its own guarantee success.
  • An “original” idea probably isn’t.
  • People enjoy remakes, retellings, and tropes more than originality in every art form imaginable; truly original work can take years to appreciate.
  • For example, it always takes me 2-4 years to appreciate a new Bjork album.  And I like her stuff.
  • Ideas are a factor in the success of a story but not the factor either.

What is it, then?  What is the secret key to success as a writer?

Make the reader feel something.

No one element of writing arouses feeling in a reader.  Each element of writing exists because it contributes to, and controls, the arousal of feeling–but it is all of those elements working in concert that causes the arousal.

Including, and especially, the reader.

(In other words, please don’t take it personally if people don’t like your stuff.)

The world is madness which can only be combatted with sly nonsense.  Read the latest at the Wonderland Press-Heraldhere!

 

Short Stories for Novel Writers, and Vice Versa

If you are a short story writer, then it is likely that you struggle with writing novels; if you are a novel writer, then it is likely that you struggle with writing short stories.

And yet people do write short stories, and they do write novels, so it must not be impossible.  Just…difficult to translate.

NOVEL WRITERS

A short story has four basic pieces.

  • Setup (a character in a setting with a problem).
  • The character tries to do something.
  • The attempt either succeeds or fails.
  • Wrapup (where the characters end up, whether the setting changes, and how the problem is resolved).

I’m going to guesstimate and say that a setup takes about 400 words, a wrapup about the same or less, and each try takes 400 words.

You can have several tries, but each will require 400ish words, with an extra 200 words of transition or setup, and another 200 words or so if you change settings.  I highly recommend that multiple tries in the same story be aimed at the exact same goal.  As the character fails at one tactic, they shift to another, but it’s still the same goal.

Some notes:

  • For flash fiction, generally, the charactor and/or setting are implied, and the problem gets the biggest description.
  • If you’re reading a short story and can’t spot the setup or wrapup, it’s because it happens elsewhere in the story, shh, almost like a secret.  Mostly don’t do this, but if your heart guides you there, it can be done.  Generally the story has to be pretty short to get away with this.
  • Don’t try to cut words on the setup.  Just write at your normal novelist pace.  You won’t have too much to set up, so it probably won’t end up as long anyhow.
  • I would stick to like 3 tries to do something.  Otherwise you’re going to start going, “Time for a plot twist!” and turn it into a novel.
  • To a novelist, a novelette is a laboriously long short story, like “The Metamorphosis” or “The Old Man and the Sea.”  The novelette is mostly about one main thing, and you don’t really need a novel’s plot points.

SHORT STORY WRITERS

A novel is a fractal short story.

  • The novel as a whole has a setup, a big push to do something (the main point of the story), and a wrapup, just like a short story.
  • However, every element has fractal setups, fractal tries in which the character attempts to do something, and fractal wrapups.
  • The difference is that you can’t resolve anything until the climax, or the overall main push of the story.
  • Thus, every attempt by the protagonist to do something must fail until they hit the climax.

The difference between a series of interconnected short stories and a novel is that the interconnected short stories have mini resolutions at the end of each short story.  A novel has zero resolutions until you hit the climax.  The wrapup resolves everything not already covered in the climax.

Some notes:

  • If it looks like something is going well in a novel, there must be something truly awful happening right afterward.  Two characters reconcile?  Soon, one of them will be dead.
  • A chapter as a whole has a one main “try.”  Each scene has its own “try.”  Inside each scene, there are a number of different “tries.”  Every time a character tries a new tactic, it’s a new “try.”
  • Each try will have a setup, a try, a failure of some kind, and a wrapup.  The setup and wrapup might be implied, or super short.
  • Transitional material between tries doesn’t itself have to be a try.  It’s more of an extended setup.  No worries.
  • Generally, the entire novel is split into like four main tries.  Low level tries (first 25%), well that was interesting tries (second 25%), HOLY SHIT THINGS GOT SERIOUS tries (third 25%), and We Are Putting This to Bed (last 25%).
  • There is usually some Big Stinking Deal at the 50% mark that makes everything 10 times more serious.
  • The last section is weird, and usually ends up with 75-85% being getting ready for the climax, 85-95% being the climax, and the last 5% being the wrapup.
  • These percentage things are weirdly consistent; I’ve been checking on my Kindle.
  • A novella is a short novel, like Heart of Darkness or The Turn of the Screw, where a lot of stuff is going on on a fractal level, but you’re in and out, BOOM, no subplots.
  • Subplots often have either exactly the same plot as the main plot, or exactly reversed.  Subplots tend to look like minor short stories “stitched” into the main plot in a dotted line, where most of that plot is hidden by the fabric but pops up occasionally to show off the thread.

POETS, PLAYWRIGHTS, LYRICISTS, AND OTHERS

Oh GOD.  You literally do have to tell readers everything in a short story and in a novel.  You have to tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then remind them about what you just told them.  Literally 80% of what you write is explaining, and re-explaining, what the fuck is going on.  This is no different in a mystery.  You hide nothing.  It’s appalling how little fiction readers actually notice what’s going on, but it pays better.  The more you explain, as long as you explain in character, the more readers will like it.

Also, fiction writers tend to screw up the details and dialogue.  They get wrapped up in plot and forget about making it feel, and sound, real.  Put in good sense details and dialogue, and the readers will be all over it, even if you can’t plot for shit.

The world is madness which can only be combatted with sly nonsense.  Read the latest at the Wonderland Press-Heraldhere!

The New Thing

Once upon a time, a person had an ambition to do something new.  This new thing, it didn’t seem like a big deal.  “Aha!” said the person.  “I’ll just tuck that into the corners of what I’m already doing.  It will be fine.”

But it was not fine.

The new thing kept getting pushed back on the schedule.  There were always a million things that needed to be done, and the new thing, being new, was last on the list.  It involved a bit of a stretch, you see, so the person couldn’t just start work on the new thing.  There were other moving parts that had to be handled before the new thing could really get rolling.  A learning curve was involved.

Because the new thing hadn’t seemed like a big deal, and still didn’t, really, the person had promised to do something with the new thing that had a deadline involved.

And that deadline was fast approaching.

“All right,” said the person, “time to do the new thing.  For real this time.”

The person decided that all that was lacking was a little resolve.  Everything would still be fine.

Unfortunately, it was not fine.  The deadline was blown, people were disappointed.  The person may even have suffered a series of illnesses and minor emergencies during this time.  The new thing could all still be patched together, but it wasn’t actually fine anymore.  It was too late for that.

This time, the person really did dig in and start on the new thing. They didn’t want to fail at something so small.  So not a big deal.  But as the new thing drained more and more of their time and energy, they realized something:  they kind of hated the new thing now, and the only thing keeping them moving forward was just the idea of failing.

In the end, they finished the new thing.  Never again, they swore.  Or at least, never that foolishly again.  The new thing, now that they’d worked out most of the bugs, wasn’t so new.  If they just gave themselves a little extra time…

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.  I must have done this a hundred times since I started freelancing.  I’ll come up with an idea for a project, and it will sound like the easiest thing in the world.  Then I’ll try to start working on it.

And even before I can run into actual setbacks, I’ll put everything off.  Something about starting doesn’t feel quite right.  So I don’t.  Until it’s almost too late.

It usually turns out that I’m fighting myself.  I’m scared of what I might accomplish if I succeed.  I’m scared of people I might piss off if I write the wrong thing.  I’m terrified I’ll end up with a hundred one-star reviews, or a book full of typos, or a blog post that someone sneers at in front of me, or a badly-created book cover.  There is no end to the nightmare scenarios I can come up with.

I’m not alone, though.  I see other people doing this to themselves, too, especially writers who procrastinate to the point of self-sabotage.

I think a lot of writers have big problems with scaling the learning curve on anything that isn’t writing.  We spend a lot of time learning how to write.  Trying to master another skill is like adding insult to injury, as if being a successful writer means you not only have to learn how to be a brain surgeon, but also a used car salesman.  “I just want to write!” is something you hear a lot from writers.

Other people, too, but because I mostly know writers…it seems like we’re the worst.

Everyone resists growth at least a little.  It’s hard.  But writers seem to be especially good at resisting—possibly because actual growth as a writer almost always involves either heartbreak or hundreds of hours of work, and usually both.

I don’t mean to lecture you as people, readers, or even as writers, saying that you just need to push a little harder, get started a little sooner, and fear success a little less.  That’s too exhausting to even think about.  Ugh, we’re already good at beating ourselves up.  Just no.

My only real point is:

When this happens to you, just remember, it’s completely normal.

My advice is to laugh at yourself a little as you get back up again, apologize to anyone you pissed off, and move on to the next no-big-deal-next-to-impossible project.

Trust me, you won’t be able to resist.

This post originally ran in the Wonderland Press Newsletter.  Interested?  Sign up here.

New Release: Alice’s Adventures in Underland: The Knight of Shattered Dreams

Release day!!!

Universal Link | Goodreads (reviews)

One thing was certain, that the zombies had everything to do with it…

Almost nine years have passed since that golden afternoon when gentleman zombie Charles Dodgson told Alice Liddell and her two sisters the story of Alice’s Adventures in Underland, the story of how Alice goes to the land of the zombies and what she finds there–and how she escapes.

The real Alice is no longer a little girl, but a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, troubled by the restricted life ahead of her as an upper-class woman in Victorian Britain.  Soon she will have to look for a husband…whom she hopes to find in a younger son of Queen Victoria, her old friend and playmate, Prince Leopold.

Queen Victoria has other ideas.

Then another, more virulent outbreak of the zombie virus spreads across Britain, leaving nowhere untouched…with Alice’s only hope being, once again, Mr. Dodgson and one of his wonderful stories, this time on the other side of a looking glass…

 

The Knight of Shattered Dreams finishes the story from book 1, Alice’s Adventures in Underland: The Queen of Stilled Hearts.  For older teens and up.  Some gore and violence–not recommended for younger readers.

Fantasy Indie Book Giveaway

Available through June 10 here.  Includes my book, Alice’s Adventures in Underland: The Queen of Stilled Hearts.  (Book 2, The Knight of Shattered Dreams, will be released May 31!)

“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice; “I’ve become one of the undead!”

A horrible plague has spread across Britain, infecting some of its citizens with zombieism. The British, however, have not given themselves over to upset, but have discovered a method for controlling the plague: a serum that halts the infection in the living, and restores self-control (most of the time) to the undead.

On one golden afternoon, gentleman zombie Charles Dodgson tells Alice Liddell and her two sisters a story, the tale of how dear little Alice (who is rather a troublemaker) comes to the mythical homeland of the zombies, Underland, and her adventures there.

Will she escape?

Or will Mr. Dodgson, as the story progresses, consume them all?

The Queen of Stilled Hearts begins the story of Alice’s Adventures in Underland. It is continued in the second book, The Knight of Shattered Dreams, in which a tale is told of a certain looking-glass…

For older teens and up. Some gore and violence–not recommended for younger readers.

 

 

Upcoming Release: The Knight of Shattered Dreams

Coming May 31…

 

One thing was certain, that the zombies had everything to do with it…

Almost nine years have passed since that golden afternoon when gentleman zombie Charles Dodgson told Alice Liddell and her two sisters the story of Alice’s Adventures in Underland, the story of how Alice goes to the land of the zombies and what she finds there–and how she escapes.

The real Alice is no longer a little girl, but a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, troubled by the restricted life ahead of her as an upper-class woman in Victorian Britain.  Soon she will have to look for a husband…whom she hopes to find in a younger son of Queen Victoria, her old friend and playmate, Prince Leopold.

Queen Victoria has other ideas.

Then another, more virulent outbreak of the zombie virus spreads across Britain, leaving nowhere untouched…with Alice’s only hope being, once again, Mr. Dodgson and one of his wonderful stories, this time on the other side of a looking glass…

 

The Knight of Shattered Dreams finishes the story from book 1, Alice’s Adventures in Underland: The Queen of Stilled Hearts.  For older teens and up.  Some gore and violence–not recommended for younger readers.

 

How to Study Fiction, Part 25: The Fall of the House of Usher

This is part of a series on how to study fiction, mainly directed at writers who have read all the beginning writing books and are like, “What now?!?”  The rest of the series is here.  You may also want to check out the series on pacing, here, which I’m eventually going to fold into this series when it turns into a book.

Last time on “The Fall of the House of Usher” study, we looked at the paragraphing throughout the story to see how Poe handled the paragraphs.  The paragraphs, dear reader, were long, resuling in very slow pacing…except for a few little things:

  • The epigraph, or short quote/poem at the beginning of the story.
  • A poem, in stanzes.
  • Another short quote, near the end of the story.

Now, whenever a good, skillful writer changes pacing, it’s a sign to the reader that something has changed in the content.  A story that goes from slow pacing to fast pacing might indicate a shift from thoughtful reflection on the forest surrounding the narrator to an attack by bears.*

Because of what we’ve looked at in previous areas of this story, I’m going to say that, for the most part, Poe’s long paragraphs are:

  • Slow paced.
  • Reflective in mood (literally so, in places).
  • Deceptive, possibly with buried clues and implications.
  • Indirect (the sentences are also long and twisted; it’s possible to have long paragraphs and short sentences together, so the long sentences in the long paragraphs are also a nuance of pacing).

So what purpose do these shorter, faster-paced sections serve?  Probably, they serve to mark some change in content, because of the nature of pacing in fiction.

However, there’s another element to consider:  where those changes occurr.

The three locations are:

  • Beginning.
  • Midpoint.
  • Near, but not at, the end of the story.

Why is the location important?  Why did Poe put those things there?

In order to answer those questions, we have to look back to how stories are structured.  Where something is located in a story is important, because Western fiction is based on a pretty typical structure:

  • Setup
  • Conflict
  • Resolution

There are all kinds of way to expand on that structure, but that’s generally how it goes.  Sometimes (in other stories), Poe will take the resolution, slice it into bits, and hide it inside the rest of the story, so that the story ends at the exact moment of the greatest conflict.  (In “Usher” he does not; one of the stories he does that in is “Ligeia.”)

A slightly expanded version of the traditional Western structure might go like this:

  • Setup (10-15% section of the story).
  • Initial conflicts (lower stakes) (up to the 50% mark of the story).
  • Reversal/twist (generally at the 50% mark).
  • Stakes raised (50%-75% section of the story).
  • Final conflict (75-95% section of the story).
  • Resolution (final section of the story).

Side note: A very short story will tend to have fewer structural pieces; a longer story will tend to have more of them.  “Usher” is over 7K, which is at the long end of short stories (2.5K-7.5Kish), and has more structure than “The Cask of Amontillado,” at ~2300 words.  There tend to be very few Hero’s Journey stories at the 2300-word length!

To predict what content each of the three pieces marks a change in, without actually reading or rereading “The Fall of the House of Usher”:

  • The epigraph near the beginning will reflect the theme of the story–possibly a hidden theme.
  • The poem will reflect a reversal in the conflicts of the story.
  • The short quote near the 75% mark of the story will reflect something that either sets off the final conflict, or that marks “the beginning of the end.”

Let’s see if I’m right.

The initial quote:

Son cœur est un luth suspendu;
Sitôt qu’on le touche il résonne.

De Béranger

Translation:

Their heart is a poised lute;
as soon as it is touched, it resounds.

Knowing what we know about “Usher,” we have three characters:

  • Usher.
  • His sister.
  • The narrator.

Whose heart is being played?  We know from reading the story that Usher’s heart isn’t touched by, really, anything, other than feeling sorry for himself.  His sister’s heart is never touched; she’s barely a character, wafting in and out of rooms.

The narrator, though.  He gets played like a lute.

“Hey,” says Poe, “the key to this story is that the narrator is being lied to.”

The poem:

In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace—
Radiant palace—reared its head.
In the monarch Thought’s dominion,
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!
Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow
(This—all this—was in the olden
Time long ago)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A wingèd odor went away.
Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically
To a lute’s well-tunèd law,
Round about a throne where, sitting,
Porphyrogene!
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.
And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.
But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch’s high estate;
(Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him, desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.
And travellers, now, within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody;
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh—but smile no more.

The content of the poem is basically (by stanza):

  • Once upon a time there was a beautiful palace, the capital of Thought itself.
  • This place was great.  It even smelled nice. (This cracked me up.)
  • Looking in through two windows of the palace, visitors could see the king of Thought.  The palace is probably some dude’s head.
  • Noise exits the mouth, singing the king’s praises.  (Usher speaking well of himself, that is.)
  • But then bad things came from outside the palace.  (Usher blames his issues on external influences.)
  • The palace of Thought is now lit with red lamps, and full of crazy-ass dancers, which spew from the mouth.

What we know from the story overall is:

  • Usher is insane, and probably a narcissist and committing incest to help preserve the family name.

Before the poem, he’s kind of weird, and you sort of want to feel bad for him, although not too bad.  After the poem, he starts talking about how the house of Usher (the actual building) is sentient, and, in fact, is to blame for everything that’s going wrong with him, Usher, personally.

I well remember that suggestions arising from this ballad, led us into a train of thought wherein there became manifest an opinion of Usher’s which I mention not so much on account of its novelty (for other men* have thought thus), as on account of the pertinacity with which he maintained it. This opinion, in its general form, was that of the sentience of all vegetable things. But, in his disordered fancy, the idea had assumed a more daring character, and trespassed, under certain conditions, upon the kingdom of inorganization. I lack words to express the full extent, or the earnest abandon of his persuasion. The belief, however, was connected (as I have previously hinted) with the gray stones of the home of his forefathers. The conditions of the sentience had been here, he imagined, fulfilled in the method of collocation of these stones—in the order of their arrangement, as well as in that of the many fungi which overspread them, and of the decayed trees which stood around—above all, in the long undisturbed endurance of this arrangement, and in its reduplication in the still waters of the tarn. Its evidence—the evidence of the sentience—was to be seen, he said, (and I here started as he spoke), in the gradual yet certain condensation of an atmosphere of their own about the waters and the walls. The result was discoverable, he added, in that silent yet importunate and terrible influence which for centuries had moulded the destinies of his family, and which made him what I now saw him—what he was. Such opinions need no comment, and I will make none.

Side note: the asterisk ends up at the end of the story, and might be considered another change to the pacing:

* Watson, Dr. Percival, Spallanzani, and especially the Bishop of Landaff.—See “Chemical Essays,” vol. v.

I tracked this down to a reference in Family Secrets and the Psychoanalysis of Narrative, by Esther Rashkin (Princeton University Press, 2014), which says that those three men were…talking about something completely different: cross-fertilization between species.

So the footnote is there to show (if you knew the reference) that Usher is unable to grasp the idea of cross-fertilization.  I wonder what that says about the possibility of incest in his freaking screwed-up family.

However, I don’t think Poe would have thought that the majority of his readers were familiar with the text.  I suspect it’s just a joke that he wrote for his own amusement.

The quote near the end:

Who entereth herein, a conqueror hath bin;
Who slayeth the dragon, the shield he shall win.

The quote is in the middle of a goofy story about a knight named Ethelred (I don’t think this is supposed to be Aethelred the Unready?) that the narrator grabs and reads to Usher in order to help calm him during the storm.  Ethelred, a doughty knight, forces his way into the hovel of a hermit who just pissed him off.

At the same time that the narrator is reading the story, the sister is breaking out of her tomb.

Ethelred expects to face a hermit, but instead faces a dragon:

“But the good champion Ethelred, now entering within the door, was sore enraged and amazed to perceive no signal of the maliceful hermit; but, in the stead thereof, a dragon of a scaly and prodigious demeanor, and of a fiery tongue, which sat in guard before a palace of gold, with a floor of silver; and upon the wall there hung a shield of shining brass with this legend enwritten—

Who entereth herein, a conqueror hath bin;
Who slayeth the dragon, the shield he shall win.

After which, once again, comes evidence of the sister breaking out of the room with her tomb in it.

This goes back and forth a few times, story…uncanny noise…story…uncanny noise.

Then, finally, Usher breaks down and admits that he’s known for days that his sister was still living in the tomb, and that she is now coming for him, just like Ethelred came for the dragon, presumably to kill him.

As she should.

The story of Ethelred serves as a contrast to Usher’s story:

  • Medieval cheesiness versus Usher’s pretentious poem.
  • To show that Usher isn’t the good guy in this story (he’s not the knight in shining armor).
  • To be the narrator’s last, failed attempt to instill some sanity in Usher.

The quote itself raises the stakes to life and death, and hints that it’s not gonna be life in the final outcome.

I think I nailed it on my prediction of the epigraph and poem, but bunted on the other quote:  It’s not really the quote that is the major turning point, but the story of Ethelred itself.  But I was close.

Next time:

The final “Usher” episode to follow, where we will focus more on the structure of the story.  We touched on it here, but I’m going to go into more depth–and color.

The world is madness which can only be combatted with sly nonsense.  Read the latest at the Wonderland Press-Heraldhere!

 

*If you’re not sure about how pacing changes content, please see the series on pacing.

 

Priorities 2019 – and Knight of Shattered Dreams cover reveal :)

I am running on fumes trying to get caught up over the last few weeks.  Here’s one of my posts from my newsletter, which originally ran in January, when I decided to change my newsletter format from trying to accomplish All the Things to what I felt was most important.  If you’re interested in signing up for the newsletter, the link is here

Priorities 

I decided to stop making New Year’s resolutions.  You know how it goes.  First you push hard.  Then you slide a little.  You push even harder.  Then you slide a little further.  Eventually, all that pushing makes you tired.  And you stop.Last year, I decided that I wanted to move from a freelance-based business (ghostwriting for clients) to a royalty-based business (selling my own books).  I knew it was going to take a lot of time.  I started blocking off mornings for my own work, and afternoons for my clients.  And then I spun my wheels.  I was doing a lot of minor tasks that didn’t get me any further toward my goal.

So, knowing myself, I decided to do one small task per day from several categories:

  • Writing for myself.
  • Studying.
  • Promoting my work.
  • Publishing more work.
By November I realized I was missing one category:
  • Growing my business.

I had run into a situation where I had to do a massive behind-the-scenes overhaul on my website.  I had let things slide…and it had become frustrating to use.  You can’t grow business based on a website that annoys people.  But I hate updating my website.  Bleah.

When I sat back during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I realized that having those categories was nice, but that I wasn’t really accomplishing what I had set out to do.  Publishing my backlog of work, in particular, hadn’t really gone anywhere.

My priorities had defaulted to:

  • Promoting (if you include social media).
  • Writing.
  • Studying.
  • Publishing.
  • Growing my business.

Ouch!  I was spending the majority of my time keeping up with stupid Facebook notifications.  I was jumping whenever someone whistled.

I went over the last ten years of my writing career.  I’m not where I used to be.  I’m a much better writer.  I looked at the things that made me better.  The top thing wasn’t writing, per se.  It was studying.  Specifically, it was about five years ago that I started typing stories in an doing analysis on how specific parts of them worked.

Studying how to write in an effective manner (typing stuff in) helped me write faster, edit less, and feel more confident about what I wrote.  It was a game changer.  I can type stuff in if I’m depressed, anxious, or brain-dead that morning, and it will help me focus on writing.  And, if I stick to typing in a thousand words a day, it doesn’t really take that long.

But it was embarrassing to realize that writing wasn’t the top item.  Also embarrassing?  Realizing just how much backlog I had in my files, waiting to get edited and published.  Write as much as you want, but by itself it can’t make your career.

I sat down over a few days and painfully sorted out what would put me where I wanted to be, eventually:

  • Studying.
  • Writing.
  • Publishing.
  • Growing my business.
  • Promotions.
(I put publishing over growing my business right now because I have literally ten different things that I should have published years ago, so right now that kind of is growing the business.)

A lot of things are important.  But when you say to yourself, “I can get it all done!” then something is going to slide, and it’s going to be the hardest, most brain-intense, most life-enriching items on your to-do list, unless you have priorities. No priorities = Facebook.

I’ve been using the new list since January 2, and I’ve already had two super-productive days, and one day of running errands.  I honestly feel a little panicked, because I’m not jumping on top of my emails and messages first thing in the morning, and it’s easy to convince yourself the world will end if you don’t reply to people immediately if not sooner.  But I got a lot of stuff done.

We’ll see how it goes.  If you try something similar, please be gentle on yourself:  getting myself sorted even this far took about half a year and involved a lot of mistakes.

But I think in ten years I’m going to be pretty pleased.

**Update May 2019:  So far so good.  I’ve finished two novels, did a major rewrite on a third, and wrote several short stories since then, gone to a professional-level workshop in Vegas, made progress with my continuing study (still on Poe, btw), updated my website pages (I hate doing this), and participated in several anthologies. The next release should be May 31, and here is the cover!

Alice’s Adventures in Underland:
The Knight of Shattered Dreams

Alice, now 17, is on the cusp of womanhood and in love with a forbidden prince (well, just Leopold) as the zombie infection mutates and changes. Will the love of her life survive? You can find the first book, Alice’s Adventures in Underland: The Queen of Stilled Hearts, here.

The world is madness which can only be combatted with sly nonsense.  Read the latest at the Wonderland Press-Heraldhere!

New Release: The King of Cats (Defenders of Dream #3)

The King of Cats (Defenders of Dream #3)

Universal Buy LinkGoodreads (reviews)

Whose friendship matters most in the land of dreams?

Ferntail the cat and his friends have been summoned to the capital of dreams. Why? No one explained, but it seemed foolish to decline. Perhaps the King of Cats would like to recognize them for their brave and valiant deeds.

Or perhaps the King of Cats needs their help.

The nearby Kingdom of Mice has been overthrown, and suspicions abound. Who is undermining the land of dreams?

Only Ferntail can find out.

A Defenders of Dream story:

The Society of Secret Cats
The Nightmare House
King of Cats

New Release: Cat Tales Issue #4

Cat Tales Issue #4

Universal Book Link | Goodreads (reviews)

Featuring my short story “The Nightmare House.”

Nine of the wildest and weirdest cat stories that you have ever come across. Fantasy, mystery and true-to-life tales of cat wonder. You will laugh, you will cry, and your cat will wonder if it is time to put you down and call you breakfast.

“The problem with cats is that they get the same exact look whether they see a moth or an ax-murderer.” – Paula Poundstone

“After scolding one’s cat one looks into its face and is seized by the ugly suspicion that it understood every word. And has filed it for reference.” – Charlotte Gray

“Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose.” – Garrison Keillor

“A cat will purr when it is angry, or happy, or sad – and you will NEVER freaking know the difference – until it is too freaking late.” – Steve Vernon

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