When your first work isn’t your best work, hone your writing as you go.


Floating Donut by Scarce at Wikimedia Commons

Hi there, Readers.

Have you ever hit the send button to submit your work, but then only moments after uttered a Homer Simpsonesque, “Doh! What have I done?”

Few authors will admit it, but I’m going to be honest here, trot out on a limb and present my “Doh!” moment for your perusal. It comes with highs and lows of what worked and what didn’t.

After sending my MS off to the publisher I realized that things were missed here, could have been structured better there. Timeframe might have been made clearer, etc.. Not to mention that my story strayed from the style of conventional books on the subject. I took a risk writing my novella, Stealing Time, in a non-traditional fashion, and wasn’t sure it would play out.

Formulaic lessons of writing generally call for a tidy wind-up in true Spielberg style; hero leading everyone safely over the top of the mountain, sun caressing shoulders, planes flying past in salute, and everyone beaming smiles down on a shining end.

Well, I didn’t want that.

My original goal in writing Stealing Time was to craft it with content and ending that you might find in the comic book series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, the original Watchmen. Their work left much to the imagination, some things hidden and simply not explained, and therefore open to delightful speculation.  A current example of the cliff-hanger style I wanted to replicate is Dirke Tiede’s manga-styled, Paradigm Shift. The author keeps me anxious to grab the next copy to see how it ends–or begins–come to think of it. Consider adding his series to your shelves.

But I digress; the desire to write in a way that was familiar to me as a reader, was harder to create as an author. I  ploughed my way inexpertly and inelegantly through my manuscript with plenty of “Doh!” moments. And yes, comments after publication on Amazon reflect those mistakes. Fortunately, most folk who read it liked it, but more importantly, they voiced complaints. What readers had to say provided a place to start in terms of improving my writing, even if it was after publication. So, what did I learn from the “Doh!” factor?

I practiced my art, writing to their demands to bring them an improved experience in the sequel. The readers  became my guides in bringing secondary characters into play, having them better developed, digging deeper into the plot, etc.. But, stubborn to the last, I kept true to my original vision, tried various techniques to explain just enough but not too much, because I remembered something else that shone through those reader comments.

Most of them wanted more.

Though my fledgling novel had holes in it, my goal to create a cliffhanger, something I haven’t often come across, succeeded because my readers liked it. It drove them crazy that it ended where it did. They were startled that not everyone had been saved, that questions went unanswered, that the plot thickened only to come to an end. The outcome? Mistakes of my first book were balanced by its success of keeping the readers engaged, turning the pages, and wanting more.

My point is, your early efforts might not be your Magnum Opus. Perhaps they fly in the face of traditional thought or style. Whatever your personal experience, consider a few questions: Can you know what your best work is if you haven’t yet written it? Moreover, how can a work with mistakes possibly be a success? By all means edit, and edit voraciously, but until you risk sending your book out into the world, how can you know if it will fly with your readers?

The answer lies in how you perceive success, and I have a theory that every book has an audience anxious to turn its pages, even through “Homer” moments.

*If a reads your work, even leaves a negative comment, if they point out where the author lost them, you have a map for your next efforts to impress Mr. Tough-Reader. That leads to working harder and smarter, which leads to higher knowledge and better acceptance from a tough audience.

*When a person takes the time to read your work and leave a comment, even if the comments are mixed, consider how many other books they might have read, and perhaps not commented upon. A great or mediocre response to your book means it is worthwhile to that reader, and their comments are an open invitation to hone your skills and delight them further in future.

*Finally, a book’s influence can be measured by what a reader takes with them when the last page is turned. You may not consider it your greatest achievement, but someone else may have an entirely different opinion. One of my favorite comments for Stealing Time, though not written on Amazon, was relayed to me through a bookclub. The reader said, “It angered me that it ended.” What a great compliment! Why so great? Because it touched off an emotional connect to the story and the characters and left him wanting more.

That’s more than enough encouragement for me to continue pounding the keys.

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Write to Pub Wednesday: Traditional Publish or Self Publish?


That moment of self realization has come; you are ready to begin the publishing process. So self pub or traditional? Holymoly, this is a huge subject, and lately all over the news and the Net. How is a writer on the verge of discovery to choose which route to follow?

Let me begin by saying that my coming release is traditionally pubbed. That said, I’d still very much like to try my hand at self pubbing, too, just to have that experience. It is not whether one is better than another; it is more which one works for the present situation. It is about achieving the balance between life as an author and commitment outside a writing career. Choose the one that  suits your current position best, keeping in mind that the other stepping stone awaits should you decide to walk that path at a later date.

So why did I decide on traditional over self-pub for my book even though the traditional process takes longer? Chalk it up to inexperience. I can write, am a decent fact finder and edit with some success; but technology? Not my strong-suit. I decided to learn from the experience of going the traditional route and hone skills already present. Now, I have that knowledge to build on for self-pubbing later. Going initially with my strongest skill-set; learning and perfecting those before delving into self-pub is akin to an athlete changing their ultimate competitive sport. Could a swimmer make the transition to competitive rowing? Probably. Will the skills I’ve learned and perfected from traditional publishing transfer to self pubbing? Absolutely.

Balancing a day-job along with family needs left  little time to commit to another venture–but commit I did. While researching traditional and self-pubbed authors, the importance of scheduling time to write vs other needs cropped up time and again, mirroring my own situation. Having elements ready to go is like having a pre-made lunch packed for a long haul; very convenient and ultimately saves time and money.

Mastering the technology of self-pub appeared daunting for this newbie; I can barely program a cell-phone, let alone design cover art, format a manuscript into shape for an eBook or printrun, not to mention self-editing vs other people’s eyes making a huge difference in quality of the final product. The traditional publishing house was golden because they provided technical items such as no fee in-house editing, free cover artist, access to house-only master classes taught by seasoned professionals to better perfect writing and marketing skills, guides for style and content, a built in network of editors, and other authors for mutual support. All this leaves an author free to decipher the wonders of social media and set up a marketing platform for the book release. Did I mention that my publisher helps with that, too? The big picture here is getting a book to publication takes a commitment of time no matter which way you go. A traditional publisher can help free up your valuable time by providing a variety of services.

There exists the option of paying for most items listed, but funds were dear, and time to explore providers was being sucked up by my research for how to craft a better story, setting up and sending in a manuscript and to whom, learning about submitting to a big house vs a smaller house, and avoidance of predators within the business. Are you becoming aware that the true price of getting your work published involves a dogged perseverance and an Iditarod Musher’s drive? Good! Then we’re on to the next leg of our trip: Self Publishing.

You have some tech skills, are comfortable enough in the social media-sphere that set up comes easily, have a manuscript that looks like it is ready to go, and possess some knowledge about photo-shop. Sounds to me like you are a candidate for self-pub road-trip. There is a whole host of information about self-pub how to sites on the web,  in books, and even indie groups to help in setting it up. As with traditional publishing, there can be a lot of footwork involved in tracking down the right elements needed for your self-pubbed book, but there are plenty of authors who boast great success at it. Self published books are a hot ticket, if you do the research and put in the time to do it right, you can have your work in your readers hands the second you hit send. But wait! Before you hit that golden button, lets time out from the publication race to discuss proper execution of form.

What are the drawbacks of self Pub? The foremost gripe about self pubbing is the number of mistakes that appear in the final copy. Self pubbers need to allot plenty of time for rewriting. Run that manuscript by a handful of friends for critiquing, maybe join a writing group, hit up an old teacher for advice; anything to whip your manuscript into shape and catch errors. The downside of these books is that they have a reputation for poor content. I say rubbish to that. It isn’t a lack of good content; more it’s a lack of proper editing. The value of an outside editor is that they aren’t in your head.Your work comes across to them in an entirely new perspective because it is seen through different eyes. If your invited beta reader doesn’t get it, neither will your future audience. Time to chop sections that don’t work and rewrite until the meaning is clear.

Which brings us to the finished product–or does it? You have created your cover art, edited and polished your manuscript until it shines, consulted with indie groups for content and formatting, chosen where you are going to upload it for release day–what did you miss?

Marketing. Second to editing, for a self pubbed author, the trail of a social media platform through keen distribution plan is key to hitting a home run. In this arena, self pub is no different from traditional pub. Your name is your brand as much as your product, so getting it out there is what will make you visible to future customers.

So, which path is the best for you? If you research, train, and map out a good plan, there are multiple ways to reach the summit. Consider both types of publishing as valuable components in building your road. The short  answer is; each writer is unique; so their paths in publishing will differ too, but both have the same goal on the journey from writer to published author.

I’m very exci…


I’m very excited to have cornered “The Book Geektress”, aka Christina Castillo for an interview!Image
For many years now, The Book Geektress has been friend and companion on a trek to prove that real girls like comic books, eat Zombie movies for breakfast, like a good whiskey, and read horror novels before bedtime that would make Freddy Kruger share a bed with Frankenstein’s monster and sleep with the lights on.  Not only that, but she was the catalyst who got me to sit my ass in the chair and bust out a novel or two for publication; I couldn’t have done it without her!
On any given day you might catch her reading Harry Potter or Wil Wheaton’s ‘Just a Geek’, catching up on the latest ‘Preacher’ graphic novel, or turning the pages of the ‘Hunger Games’ to see if it holds a candle to ‘Battle Royal’ (not) …all while listening to io9 podcasts of her favorite authors and dishing the down low on her latest reads.  Come with me through the labyrinth of her library to meet her. Careful–don’t lean on that! The towers of books are most carefully balanced; this is not a game of Jenga.
Q: Book Geektress, Years ago, I had suspicions you were a book fiend with a dark penchant given that you were managing a gothic-themed coffeehouse named after a character in a book; namely, Lestat.  I know you’ve read Anne Rice’s books, but did you ever get to meet her?
Book Geektress:  You know, unfortunately I never did get a chance to meet her. I know she lived in La Jolla, CA which was about 20 minutes away from the coffee house, but I think she was a bit of a recluse. If she had come in I am not sure how I would react. I have served a few well known people over the years and being a attendee of San Diego Comic Con for almost 20 years I have had run ins with people I admire, but I really have never been good at the running into celebrity things. Last year at SDCC I didn’t know what to say to tv writer Jane Espenson, so I blurted out that I loved her! Luckily, instead of being freaked out she told me she loved me too! J
Q:  Lol! I love you more.  Something that struck me from the moment I met you was your keen sense of trend spotting whether it’s games, books, graphic novels, horror or technology. How and where do you find this stuff?
Book Geektress:  Haha! Trying to steal my secrets, eh? Actually to be perfectly honest I pay attention. I am constantly on sites like Facebook and Twitter and various blog sites around the web. I also listen to quite a lot of podcasts for my geeky news. I love research and that is basically what it all comes down to. I was always the kid that if I came across a word or a concept in a book I didn’t know I would look it up. The same applies today.
Q:  You have a penchant for reading books that walk on the darkside, and urban fantasy featuring heroines that not only kick butt, but have brainpower. What are a couple of your favorite darker reads?
Book Geektress:  Wow. That is actually a hard question because there are so many good ones. I really enjoy the Kim Harrison Hallows series. Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series is an excellent urban fantasy which has some dark tendencies considering you are dealing with some occasionally nasty fae. And if you are so inclined, Seanan McGuire’s alias Mira Grant writes an excellent series about zombies and government conspiracy. In fact, that is my next review for the site. Vicki Pettersson’s Sign of the Zodiac series is also good. Of course Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series is a must read. I could spend all day talking books and books suggestions!!!
Q:  Oh, Lady, I quite agree; books are food for the brain and soul, what’s not to like? For those of us who enjoy a classic Jayne Eyre along with our Zombies, are there any authors or books you can recommend to fill that need?
Book Geektress:  Well, there are the obvious ones like Pride Prejudice & Zombies, which incidentally there is a sequel too as well. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer was an excellent book. I can’t wait for the movie to come out! There is also a series of books starting with Jane Bites Back, where Jane Austen has actually been turned into a vampire. I haven’t read that one yet, but it is on the list.
Q:  Love the classics and the zombie twists! Jayne Slayer is another that comes to mind. Now, aside from books, I know you play pool competitively on a local scale, but are you still actively engaged in games such as Halo and —?
Book Geektress:  I am still an extremely avid video game player although admittedly it gets harder and harder to find time to do so. I honestly haven’t played Halo in a long time. My favorite series right now is probably the Assassin’s Creed games. And of course one of my all time favorites is the Resident Evilgames . There is a new one coming out this fall and I can’t wait. I love playing games that can scare the bejesus out of me!
Q:  Nothing like enjoying a good scare your pants off game or book! A geek-girl requires knowledge of all things Firefly and Doctor Who, both written and on screen. If you had to, which show would you give up? Lol! Come back here, I’m kidding!
Book Geektress: Hahaha!  I am glad you added that last line!
Q:  Blue police-booth lands in front of you, Time-Lord steps out and invites you inside for a few years of danger in good company with the right Doctor. Do you get in or play it safe?
Book Geektress:  You get in of course!!!! Can you imagine what it would feel like if you played it safe and went back to your boring old life when you could have gone to see other planets and the edge of the universe, not to mention the events in history you could be there for!? I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.
Q:  Correct answer. What’s your favorite Doctor Who quote, and do you own a sonic screwdriver?
Book Geektress:  There are so many good Doctor Who quotes!!! Here is a good one:
People assume that time is a strict progression of cause-of-effect…but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly…timey-wimey…stuff
I actually own a couple sonic screwdrivers.
Q:  Lol! The Doctor Who and Joss Whedon series feature some pretty adventurous heroines. What are some of your favorite book heroines and why do they hold your interest?
Book Geektress:  Alex Craft from Kalayna Price’s series by the same name is probably one of my current favorites. She is a badass witch who Death himself just happens to be in love with. I like her because she has a lot of power, but she isn’t perfect and some of the sticky situation she tends to get in reminds me of me.  [Kim Harrison’s] Rachel Morgan is much like Alex Craft; Badass witch who has a penchant for getting in trouble. But that is what makes her more of a real character.
I enjoy heroines who are strong and have a good sense of self, but are not all powerful and have certain vulnerabilities. Several of the characters in Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Underworld series are like this.  Phédre from the Kushiel’s Dart series is another one. She is a woman born to a certain circumstance that she cannot change, so she learns to live and work with it and it is all on her own terms.  Again, this list can go on and on, but I don’t want to bore you!
Q: Phaedre and Rachel are two of my favorites from your list, and immensely engaging! Okay, when you are not reading or doing book reviews, you listen to Podcasts.  What’s the draw, or appeal of Podcasts to the booklover?
Book Geektress:  Mainly to keep up with what is going on in the book world and finding out what interesting books that I may not have thought to look at before are floating out there. I really enjoy it when the Podcasts have author interviews. It is always fun to hear what the author was thinking while writing the book or how the idea may have popped into their head.
Q:  Nice. I listened to the Podcast with Cherie Priest: terrific, and I could get stuff done while listening! About your own site, you have some pretty detailed book reviews there.  What was the driving force behind making the decision to share your knowledge of the books you read with an audience?
Book Geektress:  Honestly, I love talking about books, thinking about books, being surrounded by books. I think if I could craft a bed made out of books I would do it! My office is a cluttered mess of books everywhere and I love it! It makes me feel safe. But, I mainly started the blog so I could focus on reading different types of books and put a bit deeper thought into what I was reading and to share my thoughts. I would like people to read what I am writing, but at the end of the day I did it for me as a catalyst to write more and to read more!
Q:  With all that you’ve got going on, do you see yourself hitting the keyboards with your own novel anytime soon?
Book Geektress:  I really hope so! I have a lot of ideas floating in this brain of mine that are just dying to get on paper, but it is a game of finding and balancing the time to do it. I honestly don’t know how other authors do it! I am in constant awe.
Q:  Well, I don’t know about you, but all this talk of books and Nerd-vana makes me ready for a good night’s read. Let’s share a nightcap to ease into a relaxing evening with a selection from the Book Geektress’ shelf; whiskey or wine?
Book Geektress:  Ha! Depends on the night (and the book). Tonight is feeling like a very red wine type of night.
Q:  Red wine it is. *clink!* It’s been lovely spending the evening amongst the towering shelves of your library, Book Geektress, I hope you’ll visit again very soon!
Book Geektress: Thanks for having me! Hopefully you won’t find me buried underneath any of those towering book shelves.
Q:  Stop it; you’re teasing the Zombies with delicious talk like that, pinned human and all sounds like dinner!
Now, how can we contact you and where do we find your book reviews?

http://thebookgeektress.blogspot.com

C.K. Garner: We’ll see you there! And remember; after you visit The Book Geektress’ Blog, check out my steampunk novella “Stealing Time” releasing August 10, 2012 at http://www.musapublishing.com

Can you take the Heat?


A good Critique hammers out the bumps in your manuscript!

If someone asks for a critique, or for you to go over their writing, should you?  Would you be kind or let ‘er rip and tell them what’s  not working for you? On the receiving end, how do you handle being Critiqued? Today, I read a  manuscript from an acquaintance, then related what I felt worked and what didn’t. Instantly I became public enemy #1.

In nicer words than those here, I pointed out a lack of tension causing the story to flag and my interest to wane. I tried for constructive criticism— because I want very much for my fellow writers to keep working at it and not give up– applauded parts that flowed to the concept of the tale; but mentioned disconnects between actions of the characters and the reader trying to comprehend the flow of the story. The key here is, what I took in was what the writer conveyed in their manuscript.

The writer decided I am too much of a novice to critique them and could not see the picture they conveyed. Au contraire; I was picturing Giovanni Ribisi, one of my favorite actors, in the Protagonist role, and I tried to see scenes in full realization as they stuttered past in my mind, Giovanni looking for direction. I presented a few suggestions that might improve the MS, but the writer rejected any alterations, fearing tidier segues would change it too much; if they introduced more  feeling of the place, tried to build a bit more on the characters, then it wouldn’t be their story anymore. Topping off the list of backpedaling the writer expressed they shouldn’t have to personally explain each scene for a reader to get it.

On the last gripe I agree. The writing itself should speak to me. Setting, conflict and resolution should convey to me, the Reader, what is happening in the story. Tension should keep me wanting to turn the pages to find out what happens next, and each scene should ease into the next instead of me flipping back and forth to find a connection; bringing to mind Giovanni: all apologetic, his character says, “I’m sorry, but can you point me to the nearest segue?”

I have come to the conclusion that some folks don’t really want a critique.  They want you to read their work and tell them it has points so well-formed they stab you in the eye while perusing the brilliance of their  DARLING bit of fluff, and now you must wear an eye patch and become a pirate, you are so blown by the wave of their stature.

Give me an effing break.  Better still, don’t ask for a critique if you can’t take the heat.

Here is my take on how to handle a Beta Reader‘s POV: Welcome the harsher voices, the gulls of Criticism if you will; their opinion is as valuable, perhaps more so, than the sweet voiced variety of Critique.

The best Authors and Writers, or at least my favorites, are happy to have people read and share their thoughts of the characters and settings and how these work with each scene.  Equally, they welcome the point where you fell asleep reading their  tale. This is because they want to kill that bit of needless fluff  to make it read better, and take their writing to the next level.  They crave, I crave (!) to know what interferes with the flow of the story, where the bogs are that suck away the action, when it is too candy coated and needs added complexity, or where the story has too much description and wants a good conversation between the prime characters, or even the comic relief to ease darkness, just a little, see?  A good Critique gives you possibilities.  

The best thing about encouraging your friends and acquaintances to read your work, to critique it, is that they are your first audience!  *applauds beloved Beta Readers* If you pay attention, really take their constructive criticisms to heart, you will discover that their eyes are invaluable, because they are not in your head. They are Joe Reader. If they get it, chances are your future audience will, too. If they are struggling to wrap their heads around a passage, perhaps you should revisit and make that concept clearer.

It is human nature to balk at criticism, but if we unplug from our initial negative reaction, we open ourselves to the Reader, gleaning that pearl of wisdom that makes our story have luster. So, leap into that boiling cauldron with a smile. Find some Readers to critique your work, then tell them to please, turn up the heat, you can take it. Your work will be better for it, and your naysayers will at the very least respect you for being able to swim in the deep end of the pool of magma.

Well folks, my manuscript calls…a great friend of mine red-inked the heck out of it…for which I thank her!  I’ll take the advice and change what needs tending, toss the rest…that, too is valuable. 🙂

Keep writing!

See You Around,

C.K. Garner

And the Blog played on…


Coffee Break!

This weeks Blog is dedicated to Tunny, who gave me props for focusing more on the Writing of my manuscript and less on my Blog.  So, it is a little ironic  that I’m here blabbing to all the world about it, but it got me thinking about all the ways in which I procrastinate about hitting the keys.

If you are like me, it’s really hard to make yourself write more and visit with folks less.  There always seems to be one more person you can share with, one more funny email you can respond to, eight more things you could Blog about, someone who needs an answer to a text message, etc., right?

However,  all the texting, visiting or emailing with any of those wonderful people are sucking up time you could be spending on your manuscript.  You wanna get those idea down on the page?  You need to detach a little from your electronic umbilical cords, and tell everyone to sit tight, you’ll get back to them after you’ve written the next chapter.

Now that I know I can begin a story, craft a middle, and have a notion of an end, from where I’m at now, the point is to COMPLETE my manuscript .  Completing my manuscript needed to become, and has become more important to me than socializing.

If I spend a majority of time Blogging, my manuscript writing time suffers for it, period.  But, because it is my Blog about my writing, it’s okay to take a break now and then and Blog for a little while.  Did y’all catch that, NOW & THEN .

I am Blogging now because I took a bit of Writer’s Break.  I was on a writing roll for the last several hours, body starting to grow sore and stiff, and my eyes feeling a bit dizzy.  Good time for a break and a cuppa Joe.  So, I decided to check my email and I noticed a comment on my Blog.  This being my break, I allowed myself to follow it, and here’s why:

I’ve a new rule about breaks:  During a Writer’s Break, all socialization and attachment to the electronic umbilical cords must be solely to people who are Authors or Writers.

I know that other Writer’s understand the need to be mostly absent from the world so you can write, and you don’t expect me to Blog or contact you every day.  You expect me to have my nose to the proverbial grindstone, churning out the pages and mixing my metaphors.  I expect the same of you…except the part about hashing up the metaphors.

One of my favorite Authors, Seanan McGuire said, “Writing a book is a solitary exercise, actually finishing it is not.”

She is referring to all the people who helped her in getting her manuscript through all of the stages of proofing and the many people it took to read and reread and hack out the stuff that she couldn’t see through to edit out herself, along with those who hosted her when she was writing abroad, and folks who simply listened to her whine.  Notice that even on the home stretch there is still a lot of writing to do?  I highly recommend McGuire’s Blog  50 Thoughts on Writing for her best Writing tips.  Check it out.

So, our writing Blogs are important for us as Writers aspiring to be Authors.  They are a place where we can get writing advice when we are crumpling up the 20th false start.  They are a safe venue for venting our frustrations and cheering ourselves and each other on when the going gets tough and the tough want to quit and take an aspirin and a shot of whiskey, or to offer the same to another Writer in need.

All of this until the day we become an Author.  That’s when our Blogs become part promotion and part lesson, where we answer questions about how we got there to our fans, and why we didn’t off ourselves instead to our worst critics.

Right.  Time to get back to my manuscript, folks.  Thanks to you all for reading this Blog, and may you get right back to your manuscripts; my coffee is finished and this Writer’s Break is over!

What?  Are you still here?  We’ve got work to do!  Ciao,  C.K. Garner  😀

Get into Character!


What a Character!

Do you start your story with all of your characters already written out?  Do you know how they will act, what they might say?

I am a person who sucks at dialogue; but now, because I’m dabbling in character creation, I feel like I’m learning, or they are teaching me… it is as if the characters, once created are speaking for themselves, each with a distinct voice to suit his actions.

The fun part of writing is pushing the situations just little bit, or a whole shove from the norm, at the same time as  trying to keep it real.  The characters can help you along, or you can create a character grid, and make sure to follow closely.  What might a character do?  How far should you push them?

For Example, if I think a character is vain, I really get silly with that vanity, i.e., I try to take it way beyond what a normal person might do.   I’ll have them missing conversation, irritating people, and losing weight because they are so engaged in their reflection in the dinner plates they forget to eat!  If a person is clumsy, I have them tripping all over the place.

Are they an evildoer?  They are going to take a shot at your baby sister’s baby bunnies, drag the key down the side of someone’s car, blow up pigeons for fun and chuckles, and generally wreak havoc.

Same goes for nice.  Made of sugar, but sometimes spice is the answer there.  As for the middling ones, it helps to shove them over either edge to see how they will handle the drop.  Sometimes a character will grow if you push them, this is especially true if you shove each into the other!  The characters will tell you what they will and won’t do along the way once you start getting them down on the page.

I like to take them to extremes because it makes the story better, even if I tone them down later.  It’s just fun to have a character go beyond the bounds of what is the accepted “norm”.  The lengths to which you can manipulate your characters into a twisted tale are endless, and even impossibilities are, well, possible if you decide they are real enough to write them down!

For the rest of the month I’ll be catching up on all of the possible goofs I have missed in adding the new characters.  I want a seamless blending where I have added them in, which means line by line editing.  I take the time when doing this to catch dropped punctuation, spelling errors, grammatical no-no’s, etc..

It is also a good time to check and see that your characters are showing, speaking, and acting it out rather than you telling the story.

Believe me, no matter how many times I go over it, I catch a couple more errors, and kill them off, hiding the evidence, so that by the time I get to the end, I will be ready for the next batch of revisions from Friends, Beta Readers, Agents and Editors.

I recommend you  try adding a couple of characters and see what happens with your story.  I’ll bet it grows in ways you didn’t expect.  Have fun playing in your world, the company is great!

C.K. Garner

More On Audience:


Don't know who your audience is? Find the perfect fit using character and content!

I commented to a recent blog:  Foetal Positions in an attempt to explain why I blog to an audience, but it got lengthy, so I decided to expand on the manuscript portion of my answer here.  For me, content  and character are  high on the list in choosing my audience,  and you might consider examining this for yourself if you elect to have an audience at all.

I thought I was writing a fantasy novel for adults, but it may be a young adult novel instead, or perhaps a young adult dark fantasy book, due to its content and character development leaning in that direction.

Though the situations may be a bit dark,  young people live in a much harsher reality than society gives them give them credit for understanding.  By the time they are teens many are exploring darker imagery.   However, beyond the darker side of life and pushing boundaries, my manuscript is growing into a coming of age story on its own, but I think that it can be enjoyed by adults, too.

Now, this was not really my initial plan, but rumor has it there is an audience for YA fiction, and lets face it, who amongst us wouldn’t want to have our scribblings published, perhaps be successful enough at the game that we can, if not quit our day job, ease up on those hours and devote more time to writing?

I have another manuscript started, a horror novel.   This second enterprise is definitely adult in content, moreover involves murder, sex and violence, and it is already holding steady in the adult audience position of its own accord, the characters dealing with adult situations more graphic than in my fantasy novel, even as they grow through solving the mysteries and murders, and evolve in their character arc.

My audience with the first novel, when I’m published, will likely be adults at first; those who have guided me on my journey, and those friends who will buy one to show support, but I’ve a feeling my young adult audience will trickle their way through to find my bit of work, and with any luck, come back for more.

The second novel will pull in a mature audience, and have a following in perhaps both the horror and dark fantasy genres.

Here is one thing to keep in mind when writing to your  audience, and your intentions and responsibilities toward them:  This quote by agent Jon Sternfeld“All genres are mysteries…” 

What this means is that you, as a writer are attempting to engage your audience, your readers in a play of, “Hey, there’s a mystery to solve here,” or a dilemma to overcome, etc., and you promise, as an author to give them a bit of a peek, a chance to anticipate, participate, and unravel the clue, to care about the characters, and solve the problems presented, regardless of genre.

http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.comblogAgent+Jon+Sternfeld+On+Engaging+Your+Audience.aspx

Batton Lash in Good Company at ArtLabs Studio


Durante el panel de Troma, comentando sobre el...

Batton Lash: at Troma Panel

Batton Lash, The Author of Supernatural Law and one of the writers of Radioactive Man comic strip among many other hats (mentor and friend to C.K.Garner among them) launched his new studio this evening!  See his comic book series here: Batton Lash/Supernatural Law

Located within ArtLabs Studio on San Diego’s famous Adams Avenue, a street long known for its antique galleries and Street Fair, Lash’s new studio found perfect company with four other artists who share the ArtLabs Studio space, and whose works were featured on every wall.

The opening of the new studio coincided nicely with the annual Art Around Adams event, here’s the link:
Art Around Adams

A constant crowd of folks flowed into the Art Lab building from the two mile long Art Around Adams Walk, which features art and music incorporated into local businesses, a truly unique format in San Diego, checking out the art on every wall, chatting with the artists, and sharing champagne toasts all around, accompanied to live music.

I had the opportunity to meet and chat with James Hudnell author of “Aftermath: Humanoids” who gave me a great mini lesson about “theme” and “character arc” in writing, which I will be thinking about as I continue scribbling my own manuscript, you can see his work here: James Hudnell Aftermath: Humanoids.  I enjoyed the fine company of one of Batton’s long-time artist assistants, the charming Madame Melissa, as well as meeting Batton’s famous wife, at least famous for all Geekdom and comic book fans, Jackie Estrada.

Though though you may not have met her, if you are a Comic-Con International fan, you’ve likely seen Estrada’s name and work.  Jackie is the administrator of CCI’s Eisner Awards, which represent an Oscar equivalent for best of the best in the Pop Art and Comic industry, and has for years been the editor of several Comic Con related titles as well as holding the position as co publisher of Exhibit A Press.  So, this was a night of high falutin’ company indeed for this very new Writer!

Hats off to Batton Lash and Jackie Estrada; pioneers of the small press industry!  Congratulations on the new studio!

C.K. Garner

J.K. Rowling plays nicely with all the tropes and genres..


Our love worn copy of Harry Potter

I’ve been thinking about Harry Potter today in relation to writing my own novel.  I dusted off my son’s battered old copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, abandoned now that my son is twenty and moved out into the muggle world as a young adult, and began rereading it, with an eye for what drives this little volume that started a worldwide reading frenzy.

After a few chapters, I caught up on a few things that I had seen before in many, many books happily read over the years.  At the most obvious, this is a classic coming of age story.

Harry has the ability to grow, and the reader, if he starts reading this as a child, will mature right along with him, can relate to him from every aspect of what it is to be a kid.  From what he is required to eat as opposed to what he wants to eat, from  the tedium of studies, to happiness with professors  he enjoys, and the schoolyard bullies, lurking around the corners, kids, and adults who remember being a child, can relate to him.

Then there are the friendships that develop as Harry gets to know Hermione Granger, Ron and the whole Weasley clan, and learns how to relate with the other students.  He goes from a lonely child to a boy with close friendships.

Finally, there are the adult figures.

Harry has absolutely no experience with adult characters beyond the Dursleys, and he has no reason to trust any adults.   But with the arrival of childlike, if intimidating Hagrid, Harry begins to see adults in a new light, and this will continue as he grows and meets Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, and the rest of the cast, keeping in mind, he meets the not so nice ones as well, but chooses who he will associate with, once he has freedom of choice beyond the Dursley House.   Thus, Harry Potter comes of age before our very eyes through his interactions with humanity, or rather Wizards and Half Bloods and Muggles who touch his life, and change him mostly for the better.

Next, Harry Potter is a rags to riches story.   He sleeps in a cupboard, and lacks bedroom, pets, toys, friends, family and good inside or outside activity.  He has no one who sees or cares what is happening to him at the Dursley’s hands.  Creature comforts as simple as a decent bed and a good meal are denied him.  Just a couple of chapters in, he is eating savory sausages,  has a protector and companion in Hagrid, and finds a new place, richly vibrant and alive in contrast to his life with the Dursleys.  The money wealth is only secondary with all that comes his way.

Last, but only because this is such an involved subject, the tropes available just endless, Harry Potter is the classic tale of Good against Evil, and the struggle of our protagonist to learn about himself, the sacrifices his parent made, the eventual knowledge that his father wasn’t always the nicest kind of guy, the ambition to push forward and become a leader, albeit reluctantly, and the battle against the Ultimate Foe, one who goes after children…well, the need to choose between the good and the ugly and the middling ground in between lay in at the door of this classic Genre series.

So, what to do with this deluge of information?

I take it as a lesson that my novel doesn’t have to fall into just one category or subject arena.  Sure, it’s nice to bust out with something original, but the tropes laid down in stories past are still going because they are beloved familiars.  I can twist and tweak them at will just like J.K. Rowling did and does.  The good guys can become bad, the bad good.  The rich can become richer, and the poor stay poor, or the poor can gain wealth to no good end.  The lonely find a host of company, or just the reverse, find delight in the art of being alone.  It’s all up to me, and to you, the writers.

>Back to the Reason for the Blog: The Writing!


On Writing

Stephen King advises, "Kill your darlings" for better editing.

>Now that I’ve finished for the most part with creating a Blog and then transferring that Blog to WordPress Blog, I can get back to the parts I like!  Writing and Editing and Research for my manuscript. Yay!  That is today’s plan.  So, lets focus on tips for writing and editing.

I have a magic wand for you, Dear Reader, to use when editing! It is Stephen King’s formula for writing, then cutting out the clutter. This was good advice that he received from an agent after one of his manuscripts was, yet again, rejected.

Here is the formula King uses:   Second Draft = First Draft -10%

I read about the formula in Stephen King’s book, “On Writing “ recommended to me by Tone Milazzo, Author of Picking Up the Ghost , and Batton Lash, Author and Artist of  Supernatural Law . Thanks guys!

Much of  King’s book is a humorous tale of his background, and his life as a constant Writer before getting well published. But once you get to a chapter he calls “Tools the book really takes off!

The “Tools” chapter and beyond are some great, solid bites of getting your words on the page, and then editing, and to quote King, “Kill your darlings “.  What this means is, after you have decided you have edited out all you possibly could from your manuscript, after you think it is finished, do it again.  You do not have your final draft until you have killed the passages you think are “Darling”, i.e. your “keepers”, etc.  When you have rewritten your best scenes, then you are on your way to a better manuscript.

If you think it sounds nit-picky, try it.  Are there any adverbs you left in play?  Get rid of them and rewrite those sentences that contain them.  Do your Beta Readers (Also called Betas, people who read your manuscript before editor or agent) yawn each time they hit a certain passage?  Kill it!  Got a long tirade that really doesn’t move the story forward, or back story that doesn’t clearly have a reason for being there?  “Kill those Darlings!”  I’ll chat at you later after I’ve revamped my favorite passages.

My latest “What if” session resulted in a new mission: Add Characters=Realistic Protagonist


Puppeteer

Adding additional, or secondary, characters can help develop your protagonist!

After my last “What if ” session I found myself developing a whole new character.

I’m going to plop this character down into several scenes from beginning to middle, which is the extent to which I have written my Fantasy Manuscript, and add her to my protagonist‘s friend list.

Yes, this means I get to go back and revamp every interaction between most of the characters already written, but I think my readers will know my protagonist better through the new character.  It will aid in moving the tale along, and add some moral compass, too.  So, all in all, it is worth the extra work!

I’m also introducing two more characters, one  originally planned for  the second book  of the Fantasy series, and the other an enemy, or frienemy as they are called.  My protagonist needs work, and I need to show the reader her less desirable traits, as well as her better traits.  My protagonist must learn how to make good choices to grow in maturity, and act to follow suit.  These can be expanded on through her friends points of view.

Conflict, not perfection, and the struggle to move forward make my protagonist appear more real, and that will help my reader to relate to her.  The secondary characters provide support for, or undermine her  further development, which helps to drive the plot.  Mission accomplished…well, not quite yet.

Guess I’ve got my work cut out for me!  Now you try.  Add a new character and see what it does for your story.

>Get started on your manuscript!


start start start

Getting started: Plant ass in chair, then play "What if?"

>People ask me, what does it take to get started writing a novel?  Well, for me my writers block broke, and the ideas just came flooding into my head.  It was so overwhelming I had to leap out of my shower, where I was when it happened, and run for paper and pencil.  Then I spent the next couple of hours wrapped in a towel, scribbling the ideas down on ten sheets of paper stolen from my printer.

When I finally stopped, my hair and towel were dry, and I had ten sheets of tightly cramped writing using both sides of each sheet. The ideas that rushed forth that day were the basis for the manuscript I am working on now, and I guess I should count myself lucky I had such an experience.  But many writers just can’t seem to get started.  I am not really an exception.  There were things I was doing that got those floodgates to burst. 

So how do you go about getting to the beginning of writing, pushing those ideas you have banging around in your head to the page?  I don’t remember where I heard it, but it is some of what I had been attempting to do before my writers block broke.  The answer is “ass in chair time”.

You must sit yourself down in the chair either with paper and pen, or an open blank page on your computer screen before you, and not allow yourself to leave from that spot until you have written something on the page.  Even if it is only, “Dear G*#, I have no idea what to write!”  Then play the “What if” game. (See earlier post)

That is what I was doing several weeks before the big flood of ideas in March of 2010.  See, I even remember the month in which it all started, because it was that momentous an occasion in my life from ideas for a great story, to actually getting them on paper.

Remember this:  “Ass in chair time” is where it starts.  So go plant your ass in a chair, and get writing!

Writer’s Break: >I think today deserves a big fat beautiful quote…about writing, of course!


Ray Bradbury

Image via Wikipedia

>”If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
Ray Bradbury

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