The Most Inspirational Thing For a Writer I’ve Ever Heard: Writing Excuses Season 5 Episode 27: Perseverance

Every writer, whether published or aspiring, has had that low moment in their writing where they’ve mentally and emotionally hit rock bottom, and have felt like quitting and never writing another creative word again; just giving up; some may have had it happen to them on multiple occasions.  Often, during those low moments, you need something to pick you back up and get you back writing away at the keyboard again, seeing life and hope in your work.  There are numerous books that can help, various public speakers . . . But honestly, I just think you need to listen to one fifteen-minute episode of Writing Excuses to make you realize your talent and love for writing and to get you back into the typing seat.

If you’re not familiar with it, Writing Excuses is a great and entertaining podcast to help aspiring writers, with each episode around fifteen minutes long, featuring the talented minds of bestselling authors Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells, and popular web-cartoonist, Howard Tayler, on a particular topic about writing.  In Season Six, author Mary Robinette Kowal joined the casters.

The episode of Writing Excuses in question is from Season Five, Episode 27, entitled “Perseverance.”  The episode features a guest appearance from New York Times bestselling author Sherilyn Kenyon, know for her very popular paranormal romance series.  The subject of the episode was actually suggested by Kenyon, and its highpoint is when she tells of her driving battle to first get published, which involved countless rejections until the point when she admitted she would never do it again for her own good, and then stole a postage stamp off her husband (which they could barely afford), and it was with that query that she got her her first publishing contract.  She also tells the story of how in the mid-nineties publishers stopped accepting and publishing paranormal romance, and all of a sudden she had no career and her family was poor once more, until she climbed her way back up to become the bestselling sensation she is today.

Sanderson also shares his low-point story, which was after he continued to receive nothing but rejection for his twelfth novel until he was almost ready to give up, and then three months later got a publishing contract.  Dan Wells’ story is a little different, as it happened after he’d published his first novel, but it hadn’t done as well as he’d expected, compared to other bestselling authors like his good friend, Sanderson, but he soon realized that his was what he loved to do and nothing was going to be make him stop.

Ultimately it comes down to this: even when you have so many other things like jobs and family and social lives happening constantly day-to-day for you, if you’re still making that time to write because it’s something you love to do and will always be doing no matter what happens, then you’re a writer.  There’s nothing else to it.

And for when you’re feeling a little down about your work and wondering if it’s all worth it, or whether you should bother writing anymore because nothing’s really happening with it; give this episode a listen, it’s always available online (or you can download it and have it ready for these particular situations), and you’ll find yourself inspired and excited about your ability and typing away at your keyboard in no time.

And in case you missed it in the post, here’s the direct link to the episode.

“2012 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market” edited by Adria Haley (Writer’s Digest Books, 2011)

2012 Novel and Short Story Writer's Market
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In the 2012 version of Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market — the 31st Annual Edition — perhaps more so than ever, the key to the 600+ page book is its ease to navigate through it to help the user/reader get the information they need as quickly as possible.  It begins with a thorough contents listing and a “how to use this book” guide, along with the detailed index, finding that necessary publisher or magazine is a cinch.

This volume features articles divided into sections: “Craft & Technique” includes “Avoiding Cliches,” “Writing Authentic Dialogue,” and “Crafting Short Stories” to name a few; “Fiction Genres” on “Romantic Author Roundup,” with specific articles on authors like Julia Quinn, Lisa Gardner, Michael Swanwick and Ken J. Anderson; as well as “Managing Work” covering “Agent,” “Self-Publishing” and “Practical Tips for the Nighttime Novelist.”  The “Resources” section helps clue in every kind of writer on terms and organization, even with a special section for Canadian writers.  The editor has even included a whole section called “Writing Calendar,” featuring a page for each month of the year, as she talks about the importance of goals, and there’s a page for each month to help the writer hit his or her goals.

The layout of the publishers and magazines makes it quick and easy to find a contact email or website, which is crucial in this technological age.  This edition also includes a free one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com (www.writersmarket.com).  The volume has been thoroughly updated and made ready for the advent of the ebook and self-publishing revolutions, providing many necessary tools and references for today’s writer.  Whether you’re a novelist with plenty of books under your belt, or a first-time freelance writer looking to publish that first piece, 2012 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market is a simply must have book.

Originally written on December 30, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of 2012 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“White Horse” Progress Report 23

WORDS WRITTEN:2,327

TOTAL WORDS: 64,583

REASON FOR STOPPING: Reached a good stopping point for the week.

WORDS FOR THE WEEK: 14,181 words

This was easily the most productive week writing-wise I’ve ever had in my life.  Who knew the key was to not have a job keeping you busy each day.  It was kind of fun to feel like a full time writer for the week.  And here were the word goals I hit each day:

  • Monday – 5274
  • Tuesday – 4419
  • Wednesday – 2161
  • Thursday – 2327

Completed all of chapter fifteen and made some good headway with chapter sixteen.  The novel is moving along with great speed now that I’ve completely outlined the rest of the plot.  I think 75k is still a good final word count goal for the manuscript, though there is a chance it may go over, but this is definitely the right ballpark for it.  The other goal I hit at the end of this week was I reached PAGE 300!
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“White Horse” Progress Report 5: 1458 words

Made some good progress tonight. Not only was chapter three completed, but the novella is now taking shape.  I’d reached the point in a previous draft and wasn’t quite sure where the story was going to go next, but fortunately my characters were established enough that they knew what to do and the scenes flowed one after the other.

It’s without a doubt my favorite part of writing: where you have no clue what is going to happen next in the story, and your subconscious takes over and continues the story for you . . . somehow.  It feels like your characters are writing the story for you and you’re just along for the ride, which is kind of crazy to say, but is partially true in that some part of your mind is using the characters to drive the story.  Sometimes this facet of writing is readily available and the story writes itself; other times it’s hard work, requiring rewrites.

Today was one of those important days where the complete story took its shape.  This being the first novella I’m writing (I’ve either done short stories, full-length manuscripts, or short stories that turned into books), I was starting to wonder how to keep the story honed so that it wouldn’t turn into a full book.  Well, today, my mind did it somehow, and the story has its novella shape now that just feels right.

Also the entire four-novella project feels less like a giant piece of work with no end in sight that will take years.  Now I can somewhat see an end to this novella, with the whole project having more structure and substance.

Enough banter, time for some work in progress:

“Something on you mind Alan, or do you just like spooking your customers when they’re using the facilities?”

He laughed at that.

“No, something just came through the grapevine I wanted to pass along to ya.”

I was going to thank him before he said anything, but in the dim light I saw a serious look in his eyes I’d never seen before.

This wasn’t good.

“Seems like something’s spooked the honchos upstairs.  Spooked them in a big way.”


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“On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King (Scribner, 2000)

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Stephen King’s On Writing is out, so go get a copy!  Having read past the three-quarter mark already, I can veritably say that this book is a doozy.  First off, this is not an autobiography, even though it is being marketed as one.  Trust me, I have heard from Steve himself (in the book that is) and he most certainly does not want the Constant Reader to think that.

The book is just under three hundred pages long, for the simple reason that King wanted to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible, without the boring drivel that so many other authors employ.  In his words: “This is a small book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit.”  There are many sections throughout the book, but it can be divided into two main parts.

The first consists of Stephen King’s life, growing up in a poor family, without a father, and with a mother who was always working.  He talks about how he spent most of his early years traveling from state to state; his family struggling to get by.  He graduated from the University of Orono, Maine with a degree in English education, but he couldn’t get a job, so he ended up working in a Laundromat, washing sheets every day.  His first story to generate a substantial income was “The Graveyard Shift.”  Then there was nothing until a publisher picked up Carrie, whereupon he began the journey to success, fame and riches, not to mention being one of the world’s bestsellers.

The second major section of the novel consists of his view on writing: what he believes to be good writing, and what he thinks one should look out for when writing, the pitfalls and hang-ups, as well as his pet peeves.  The reader also learns of how he came up with his ideas that eventually led to the lengthy novels that have given him great success throughout his career.

Now for some secrets:  the main character in Carrie was actually based on two girls Stephen King knew in high school; for the first fifteen years of his career, he was an alcoholic and a cocaine addict; he remembers nothing about writing Cujo; in Misery he is the writer and the number-one fan, Annie Wilkes, is all his problems, including the drugs and alcohol.  This helps to explain the numerous characters in his book who are either raging alcoholics or have been.  It also helps to explain some of the wickedly twisted and fucked up, yet always entertaining, ideas that he has produced throughout the years.

If you’re an aspiring writer, read it.  If you’re a published writer, you should still read it.  If you’re a fan, don’t hesitate!  And if you’re none of the above, still read it because it’s a great book.  On Writing is currently available pretty much everywhere, but the nearest location is your campus bookstore.

The book is filled with pearls of wisdom for everyone; you will not be disappointed.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally published on October 9th 2000 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer” by Jeff VanderMeer (Tachyon, 2009)

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Jeff VanderMeer is a writer who’s done a little bit of everything, whether it’s publishing compelling fiction, editing his own anthologies (as well as co-editing with his wife, Anne), going on book tours for author appearances, or presenting writer workshops around the country.  He’s the sort of guy who has a lot of say about writing and publishing and advice he can offer just about any level of writer.  Fortunately, he’s done just that in his new book, Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer.

Booklife is a book for any kind of writer whether he’s someone who’s never published anything and is looking to make it in the business, or whether she has a few books under her belt and is looking to make it really big.  Booklife has a little something for every type of writer.  The book is divided into two parts: Public Booklife, which covers how to present both yourself and your work as a writer, how best to organize and carry out successful signings and book tours, and – most importantly – creating and managing your goals so you can really make it as a writer.  The second part, Private Booklife, covers some of the mechanics of writing, how important feedback is – and not just from friends and family, and using some of the lessons from the first part of the book in different and constructive ways to make your writing the best it can be.

And it doesn’t all end when you reach the last page of Booklife, there is the booklifenow.com website, filled with helpful articles, tips and strategies, updated three times a week, and affiliated with Publisher’s Weekly Booklife portal.  Booklife is not just a book, but a whole package experience that gives you ideas and suggestions to help you achieve your goals; it’s not necessary to do every thing this book tells you; it’s up to get what you want out of it, which depends on how much work you put into it.  But Booklife will certainly help you along the way to becoming that bestselling writer you’ve always dreamed of.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on December 11th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

The Importance of Voice

Mage of None Magic

I’m currently working my way through A Mage of None Magic by A. Christopher Drown and enjoying it in certain ways, and it gives me the chance to talk a little about voice.

While the story of A Mage of None Magic isn’t incredibly compelling or fascinating to begin with, and at the moment is an ordinary fantasy tale with a cast of familiar characters — magicians, apprentices, sailors, inn keepers, the usual — the voice of the book is thoroughly entertaining and interesting.  If it weren’t for the voice, I probably would give this book another fifty pages and then stop reading; give up on it.  But the voice of A Mage of None Magic keeps me interested and enthralled enough to wonder what’s going to happen next.

Voice is important in making a story stand out and separating books from being like all the other similar stories out there in the same genre.  A good voice will be unique and immediately capture the reader’s attention.  It may be something the reader latches onto and enjoys reading; or a strange voice that the reader may not love at first, but want to keep reading due to curiosity.  In some cases the voice may be too unusual or jarring to turn a reader off the book, but at least the writer has done their job of making their story stand out.

The voice in A. Christopher Drown’s book is keeping me reading and entertained, not too slow to make me bored, or too fast to make me confused, or using a complicated vocabulary or sentence structure that I might find jarring.  Much like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, at the moment the voice is just right.

John Irving’s “Last Night in Twisted River”

I’m just about to reach the halfway point of reading Last Night in Twisted River; John Irving’s latest release.  Knowing how Irving works in writing and constructing his novels — starting with the ending, planning out the entire book, then writing the whole thing, and then spending literally years editing it to perfection — I was a little surprised with Last Night in Twisted River.  It begins with a long opening chapter on the history of logging in New England and the different types of people that do it, and the type of work that is done, the sort of accidents that can happen, which would be perfectly fine for any novel, but with John Irving, he has a very specific style and way with his characters, which didn’t show itself until the second chapter, when all of a sudden it was like: “Ahh, here’s the John Irving I know.”

After getting deeper into the book, I can’t help but feel like the first chapter felt like a clear “set-up piece” for the book, which is very common in writing where you begin a story or a book and you need to set the scene and get the ball rolling to start the whole thing off, then you find your place, pace, and rhythm, but once you go to editing, all this early, set-up stuff is usually cut out.  That’s what the first chapter felt like to me: something that should’ve been lost at the editing stages.  And for a writer who spends actual years editing his novels, I was surprised that this first chapter stayed, and apparently there was something in it that I missed, and that made Irving keep it.

As for the rest of the book so far, I’m certainly enjoying it, and it’s definitely better than Until I Find You (which was just too much), and the terrible thing known as The Fourth Hand.  It is feeling a little unoriginal in that Irving is pulling from The World According to Garp with his main writer character writing about his life, and from A Prayer From Owen Meaney in that the main character is going to be a writer, and the omniscient narrator likes to point this out with beating-over-the-head foreshadowing and set up.  I didn’t enjoy this with Owen Meaney, but I know many other readers did and it’s their favorite Irving book.  (Mine’s The Cider House Rules).

But I’m not making any solid and certain decisions about the book yet until I make it to the last page, because there’s still a lot of story and manuscript to be read.

At the moment, it’s a decent Irving novel, but not one of his best.

Wyrd Progress Update VIII

Work continues on the novel and while I find it slower than other books I’ve written, I believe it is because of the prose that’s being generated, along with the necessary research and needing to get a lot of the details more accurate for a story set in the fifth century than one set in the present day.  But as I’m going over parts that I wrote some years ago that are now being rewritten, I see where the holes and necessary new scenes are needed, even if their awkward ones to write, but it’s all adding to the characters and overall plot of the book, and the message I’m trying to tell.  I’m also forcing my self to not fix or change too many things, as I’ve always been a writer who goes back and fixes and edits later, and just gets the words on the page first.  I know there are lots of parts that will need fixing, or tweaking, or complete rewriting, but I’ve at least got the idea of what I’m trying to say down on the page.  And it’s helping to pave the way for the rest of the book.

It’s as if I’m creating crucial coordinates in these first chapters so that the rest of the book can steer true and stay on course and not get lost in the doldrums.  Which is good, because even with my basic chapter outline (which I’ve already veered considerably from), I wasn’t sure where the book was exactly going.  And I still don’t fully know, and I’m also certain the characters will take it to new and undiscovered islands that never occurred to me.  But as I said — and this is the last time I use the metaphor in this post — the course is plotted, at least initially with some important points, and this book is heading in the right direction.

And now for some of the writing:

There are the Northmen, the Geats, Swedes and Danes who are beginning to push south, all in search of land, riches, in search of something new to their lives.  The Saxons are feeling constricted, attacked from all sides and are looking for an escape.  A way out.  So when Vortigern offers them this.  And bear in mind that the Saxons, Angles, and Franks have been raiding the British coastline for over a hundred years.  It’s a dream come true to be offered new, fresh land in return for protection.”

WORDS: 970

PAGES: 4 1/2

P.S. I’m also on track for doing a little bit of writing every day this week so far, whether it’s the two pages on work days or the four pages on non-work days (like today).  Woot.

Wyrd Progress Update VII

Even though its now going on for 2:30AM, as I don’t have work tomorrow, I’m staying up late with everyone else and as they were watching Shaun of the Dead, which I’d seen recently, it made me do some late night or rather early morning writing.  Got a good chunk done and now the readers will know more of my main character’s meetings with the Saxons.  And just clocked 50 pages and on to Chapter III: Equus!

And now for some work in progress:

In fact most Saxons are illiterate and appear to have no need for recording any matters or deeds on parchment.  But their knowledge is still vast, which is kept, as I said, orally through the people, in each family past down from one generation to the next.  In this way the important rules, as well as knowledge of their customs and ways of farming and hunting and gathering are past on and the way of life is never lost.  At times I admit to being really impressed with this system, and while recording ideas on parchment can lead to their lasting for centuries, if the page is burned, soaked, or destroyed in some way, it is gone.  While when it is passed down to each family member, should one or more of them pass from this world, the knowledge is not lost, but maintained through its other members.

WORDS: 1216

PAGES: 5 1/3