Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

 

It’s always satisfying to finish a manuscript. No matter the length, it’s satisfying to know that you’ve put in so much time, sweat, blood and creativity into writing a story and that it’s finished, that you were able to get over your fears before starting, keep going, and see it to the end. And after attempting a third draft a little year ago, failing miserably, and taking a year to work up the courage to try again, it’s especially satisfying. Hell, I even bought fancy honey-wine to celebrate this momentous evening.

Now if you’re unfamiliar, Rose is a novel I originally wrote as my college thesis. It follows an amnesiac woman named Rose whose body starts to go through incredible, terrible, magical changes. The only source of information on her condition is a man who claims to be her boyfriend, but he’s got some terrible secrets and isn’t all he claims to be. It’s a dark and bizarre story, with themes of dependence and abuse, perception and memory, in a story influenced by Stephen King’s Misery and Japanese mythology.

It’s also been the most challenging story I’ve worked with. I had to scrap my first attempt to write it because I made the story too bizarre, sprawling and complex, then go back and make it a bit simpler and contained. Then I had to write an entire first draft, then a second draft within a few months. Then I had an internship in Germany and a job search, followed by an attempt at the third draft. That draft, as I said before, was a complete and utter disaster due to the lack of routine I had at the time. I took it up again back in late June, after I needed a break from sci-fi and Full Circle and, with a routine, I managed to get through the draft in about four months, incorporating the suggestions from my thesis advisors to great effect while I was at it.

And I’m very proud of this draft. Every time I’ve worked on this story, it’s changed significantly. Plot points, emotional connections, characterizations, they’ve all gone through some incredible rewrites. With this particular draft, I feel like I’ve been editing the work of a different author, giving his work a much-needed makeover. I even added an original chapter to the manuscript, which also took the top spot as the longest chapter in the novel (I spent two week with Dragon Speech-to-Text software writing that chapter so it wouldn’t take a month or longer). And while this story is far from “done” (my high school English teacher said that stories are never “perfect,” because that’s impossible. But they can be “done,” where you can’t do anything more to improve it. It’s just “done”), it’s definitely in a much better shape than it was at the end of the second draft. It’s a draft I’d actually be proud to show other people.

Now before I show you what’s up next for Rose, indulge me in my bad habit of looking at page and word counts. Which with this novel is actually necessary: my advisor told me to double the word count of the novel when I did the third draft (I’m pretty sure it’s double the word count now, not add ten or twenty-thousand words). So how did I do with that? Well, at the end of the second draft in spring of 2015, the page count was (with 8.5″ x 11″ pages, double-spaced, Times New Roman 12-point font) 164 pages. With the third draft, the page count is 266 pages, an increase of 102 pages. With the word count, the second draft was a whopping total of 48,914, a respectable novella-length story. In the third draft, I got the word count up to 84,677, a good-size novel,  just a bit shorter than Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. And I like to think that every new word was necessary. I really had the chance to delve deeper into the characters, as well as the events that made them who they are. All in all, I think it’s a more fleshed-out novel.

Of course, critics, readers, and editors are free to disagree with me. We’re a democracy, we’re allowed to do that, even if others don’t like that.

And that brings me to what’s next for Rose and for me. And I have a few ideas on that:

  1. No return to Full Circle just yet. I’m still not ready to return to the world of Reborn City and finish the trilogy. Yes, the first draft needs ending, but I need a bit more time and a bit more horror before I do any more sci-fi. And since I don’t exactly a legion of fans breaking down my door to know when the story will be out, I think I can afford to take some time (George RR Martin wishes he was me in that respect).
  2. Beta readers and submissions. I have a couple of beta readers who have agreed to take on Rose, read it and give me some feedback (I’m sending the manuscript to them right after I’m done with this post, as well as backing up my flash drive so I don’t lose the novel). The plan is to take their feedback and incorporate it into the novel if I feel it works for the story. And after that, I’ll start submitting Rose to publishing houses and agents that specialize in horror. Hopefully it’ll find a home soon, and I can get it published. After that…well, I’ll see when I get there.
  3. Some shorter works. I have a list of short stories and novelettes that I keep so I don’t forget any of the fabulous ideas I have. It’s currently 57 pages long and closing in on 800 ideas. I figure I should at least get through some of those, as only a few of them are crossed off with at least having a first draft written out. I already have another list of stories I’d like to work on in particular, and I’ve picked my first from that list. I might even get started on it in the next week, after I do a bit of research for it. And maybe after a few of these stories are written, they’ll get published. Fingers crossed, right?

And that’s where things stand right now. I hope you continue to stay with me as I move onto the next stage of this novel’s evolution, and maybe write the next stage of my writing career. Until my next post, goodnight Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares.

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I’ve got a new article from Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors today, and it’s a good one. If you remember the last time I wrote one of these articles, it was about an author named Lani Sarem who had conned her way to the top of the New York Times bestseller list with her YA novel, “Handbook for Mortals,” and how the YA Twitter community found her out (click here for the article). Well, today’s article is a follow-up of that first article, based on the author’s own response to the controversy. I go over her response and give my two cents on the matter. Was she unfairly targeted by Twitter, or is she as bad as everyone says? Click here, and we can maybe make some educated guesses.

And if you haven’t had a chance, check out the entirety of Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. I and other indie authors bring you the very best in advice for writing, editing, publishing, and marketing independently. We’ve got just about everything, and we do an awesome job of it. Check it out, and see what you can learn.

So back in the beginning of the year, I took a number of steps to improve visibility on my blog, maybe grow my audience, and  become a better writer in general (jury’s still out on whether or not that’s working). One of those was to get a special email account through WordPress, one exclusively for this site and for use as an author. Studies show that professional looking email addresses are taken much more seriously than ones that look like awesomesoccerdude83 [at] website [dot] com. And while I love my personal email account, it’s not exactly the kind of email address that’s conducive for looking professional. And if I’m going to try and get an agent or publisher, might as well look a bit more professional. Even if my idea of high fashion involves a Sailor Moon-themed sweatshirt (don’t ask for photos. I just got that sweatshirt, and I’m waiting for the right weather to wear it).

For some reason though, I have to log out of my Google Mail account (which I only use to make sure I have access to a YouTube account. Priorities!) and then log into the other account. I can’t access both at the same time. And sometime after I got the account, I forgot the password. And then I didn’t pursue getting a new password for a while. Mainly because to get it back, Google wanted the last password I could remember. Which I couldn’t remember.

There’s a GIF for this situation. Which should I use?

That’s it. Thank you Hermione. I should’ve written the password down in the first place. You’re always and forever awesome.

But two months ago, I tried to get a new password. And that started the email equivalent of broken telephone. One person would answer my email to the WordPress help team asking for an explanation. I’d explain and send the email back. A second person would answer back and ask more questions. I’d answer those questions. A third person answered and gave me the exact wrong thing for my problem. Yeah, after a while of this, I just gave up and stopped.

And then two weeks ago, I decided to give it another try. No reason, I just thought if I got the email account, I might as well use it. I sent WordPress another message, this time wording it so that even a chipmunk would understand what I wanted. A week later, I got the link to change my password. And I wrote down the password, hiding the note in a secret location.

So finally, I have my author email account back! And I’ve set a reminder on my phone so I can check the account at least once a week. And I plan to be using it as much as possible for all author-y things. For submitting stories, querying agents and publishers, and even communicating with fans (I’m sure some of you exist) and friends.

So what’s this mysterious email address? Glad you asked. Here it is:

ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com

Simple and easy to remember, right? I’ll be posting it on my About Me page, so if you can’t find this particular post or your memory is as bad as mine, you’ll still be able to contact me.

So if you’re a friend or Follower of Fear, I look forward to emailing you from this new address.

If you’re an agent or publisher, I’m always willing to talk to you about business propositions.

If you’re a stalker and imagine showing up at my home, possibly with a knife, please seek professional help for that. You can live a happy life without being in close proximity to me and/or my corpse 24/7!

If you’re planning on sending me nude photos, please don’t. Those can ruin lives when uploaded to the Internet. And depending on your age, sending and/or receiving them can send us both to prison.

If you’re a troll or con artist looking to use me for your own sick purposes, please refrain from doing so. And if you still insist on sending me emails meant to make me angry or take my money, then…YOUR MOTHER IS A ***** ***** ****ING **** **** LORUM IPSUM ****** AGMINTUM VEVEUM ****** **** ***** ***** TRUGULA ***** **** ***** *** HIPPOPOTAMUS ***** ***** REPUBLICAN ***** ***** **** ***** AND DANIEL RADCLIFFE *** **** **** ***** WITH A BUCKET OF ***** **** **** **** AND A CASTLE FAR AWAY WHERE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU *** **** **** **** SOUP ***** **** **** WITH A BUCKET OF **** *** ***** MICKEY MOUSE **** *** AND A STICK OF DYNAMITE *** ***** *** MAGICAL *** **** ***** *** ***** ALAKAZAM!!!!

Points to whoever can correctly guess what the hell I’m referencing with that long profanity.

Well, that’s all, my Followers of Fear. I’ll check the email account next week, and maybe even see an email from you guys. Until then or the next blog post, pleasant nightmares!

Wow, thought it would take at least a couple more nights for this happen. And again, it’s like an hour before I’m supposed to go to bed! Ooh boy. At least if I’m tired tomorrow morning getting into work, I’ll have a good excuse as to why it happened.

For those of you who don’t know, Rose is a novel I wrote as senior thesis in college, and which has had quite the crazy time just getting edited (click HERE to read my last post on Rose for more background on this crazy time). The story follows an amnesiac girl who wakes up one day and finds herself suddenly turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). It’s as bizarre as it sounds, but also very dark. Not as comical as it might sound if I were to tell you about it at a party.

As I’ve said before, the last time I tried editing this story, it took me months just to get through a couple of chapters. Now, it’s been just over three weeks since I last posted an update on Rose, and I’m two-thirds of the way through the story. The latest chapter, I managed to get done in one sitting, in only an hour and a half, with a cup of tea on my bedside table and a New Age spiritualism lecture on YouTube to keep me focused on the writing. Consider my normal writing/editing speed, I consider that a really big deal. May the last seven chapters be as easy to edit as this chapter.

Though to be honest, I’m really enjoying the editing process. The story feels new to me, like I’m discovering the characters and twists for the first time as a reader. And going over it, seeing where the descriptions can be expanded or the language brushed up and improved is a pretty satisfying experience. It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens in the last seven chapters, which contain some of the biggest revelations of the story, and most of the scenes I’m looking forward to expanding/making better.

If I’m lucky, I’ll even be able to make good on my thesis advisor’s suggestion to add about ten to twenty-thousand words to the novel (or did he say  double the novel? I forget so much in my young age).

Speaking of which, time for me to annoy you with page and word counts. At this point in the second draft, the number of pages in the novel (8.5″ x 11″ paper, 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced) was a total of 103, with the word count measuring up to 32,765. In the third draft, I’ve expanded the story to this point to 137 pages, and 42,768 words. That’s an increase of 34 pages, and 10,003 words. I think I’m doing quite well. The second draft was only a couple thousand words longer than where the third draft is now, so once I expand it, I could get it beyond sixty-thousand or maybe even seventy-thousand words. That would be pretty incredible, wouldn’t it?

Well, I’ve probably taken up probably enough of your time and/or phone data. I’m going to head to bed and savor this milestone as I sleep. Goodnight Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares!

Today, we have a new interview that I’m very excited to share with you, because it features someone very special. Matthew Williams is one of the oldest friends I have in the blogosphere (by length of relationship, not age), as well as something of an inspiration and mentor for me. A science-fiction writer out of British Columbia, Canada, he’s created quite a few stories over the years, as well as written a number of science articles for Universe Today.

And today, I’m bringing him onto this show to discuss a very special book, The Cronian Incident, being published by Castrum Press next month. Let’s get this party started!

Rami Ungar: Welcome to the show, Matt. Tell us a little about yourself, both as a person and a writer.

Matthew Williams: My name is Matt Williams. I was born in Ottawa, moved to the West Coast in 2006, and have lived on Vancouver Island with my wife and family ever since. I studied history and the social sciences in University and was a high school and elementary teacher for about ten years. I quit teaching in 2015 to pursue writing full-time and am now a regular contributor to Universe Today and the Curator of their Guide to Space section. In my spare time, I write science fiction that’s focused on hard science and the human condition.

RU: Why does science and science fiction appeal to you so much?

MW: A good question. On the one hand, I spent my formative years watching some of the best science fiction movies and series’ of all time – Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, etc. I was always drawn to SF because as a child, I was always a daydreamer, the kind of kid who would rather be thinking about fictitious universes than paying attention in class! As I grew older, I began to contemplate creating my own SF, the kinds of things I knew fans like me would enjoy.

I was also drawn to science from a very young age. In addition to having a starter chemistry set, I loved circuit boards and broken electronics, which I would take apart and play with for hours on end. As Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” To me, these things were magic! That fascination has not diminished by time. The more I’ve come to know about science, technology, and the complex relationship we humans have with them, the more fascinated I have become.

RU: Tell us about your new book, The Cronian Incident, and how you came up with it.

MW: The Cronian Incident takes place in the late 23rd century, where humanity has colonized the Solar System. On every planet, moon, asteroid, and in rotating cylinders at the Sun’s Lagrange Points, human settlements have been established. Whereas people in the Inner Solar System (known as Extros) live lives characterized by post-scarcity, clinical immortality, and endless augmentation, people in the Outer Solar System (Retros) live a simpler life. For generations, this situation has been the norm. But as the story begins, we find that some people have plans which could threaten to upset the delicate balance.

The inspiration came largely from my professional writing. For years, I have been doing articles about the planets of the Solar System for Universe Today. After finishing an article about the planet Mercury, I began talking to a friend about how humans could live there someday. Before long, I felt the seed of an idea being planted in my mind! I then went about planning a story that would realistically address how humans would go about living on all the planets of the Solar System.

For years, I had also been contemplating the idea of how changes here on Earth would drive human colonization of space. I eventually came up with an idea for a Solar System that was divided between people who embraced the development of AI, nanotechnology and biotechnology (and all the revolutionary changes that will follow) and those who chose to stick to a more traditional way of life.

Not long ago, I decided to marry these two sources of inspiration together. And from that, The Cronian Incident was born!

RU: What sort of research and work went into writing the book?

MW: The research was actually pretty incidental. For years, I’ve been studying climate change, technological change, and all the predictions that are constantly being made about the future. And my day job, as a writer for Universe Today, involved a tremendous amount of research into space exploration, planetary science, physics and astronomy. It wasn’t long before the things I was researching and writing about started to give me ideas! After a while, I came up with one I was particularly fond of and began committing it to paper.

RU: How do you approach writing sci-fi? Is there a particular sub-genre or style you prefer?

MW: My preference is towards speculative and hard science fiction. As long as I can remember, I was fascinated by those stories that made predictions about the future that were based on hard science. Granted, most of these predictions do not come true. But it’s the very act of predicting where we are going based on what we are currently experiencing that makes it all worthwhile.

RU: Do you see yourself writing further stories in the universe of The Cronian Incident?

MW: Indeed! In fact, I am currently working on the sequel and the publisher and I hope to have it ready for release in a few months. The book was never meant to be a standalone, and I plan to take this fictional universe (known as the Formist Series) as far as I possibly can.

RU: You used to be exclusively a self-published author, but now you’re working with a publishing house. What made you decide to become what is known as a hybrid author?

MW: In truth, I always wanted to follow the traditional publishing route. However, I had decided that rather than wait to be discovered, I would promote myself. And the interesting thing was that it was precisely the strategies that I was pursuing as an independent that landed me an offer from a publishing house.

In today’s world, a writer needs to promote their writing and their ideas using social media and all other digital means at their disposal. And publishers – the good ones at least! – make sure to peruse these sites in order to find aspiring writers they think have promise.

RU: What’s on the horizon for you at this point?

MW: Well, there’s the work I’m putting in on The Cronian Incident’s sequel. That will certainly eat up plenty of my time for now! And once the two books are out, I hope to attend book signings, science fiction cons, and other events. Basically, I would like to connect with the readers and see what they have to say about the Formist Series.

Beyond that, I hope to expand the Formist Series further. And of course, I have many other ideas I want to work on and eventually bring to light, ranging from near-future stories to a few space opera ideas. And of course, there’s my day job and writing about space news. That’s something I hope to do for many years to come!

RU: If you had to give advice to any writer, regardless of experience or background, what would you tell them?

If ever I find myself in the position to give advice, I like to share the five main lessons I have learned over the years. Many of these were passed on to me by other writers of note, or just people I have come to respect a great deal. And some is stuff I learned on my own

  1. Do what you love, the money will follow – It sounds cliché, but if you love what you’re doing, it won’t feel like work. And in the end, all the hard work and sacrifice you put in are sure to pay off!
  2. In the meantime, keep your day-job – Whatever you’ve been doing to pay the bills, keep doing it until you know for a fact that you can commit to your writing full-time.
  3. Don’t wait to be discovered – You don’t need to limit yourself to shopping out manuscripts to publishers and waiting six months just to hear back. Utilize new media – blog, tweet, post, share, link, reblog, and share – to let the world know you are a writer and what you have to offer.
  4. Find your voice – When committing to writing, make sure you do your homework first and find out who (if anyone) has written something similar. Also, it pays to know the difference between different subgenres and styles of writing, so you can find the one that works best for you.
  5. Be patient – as my father would tell me, “It takes 20 years to become an overnight success”. No matter what you are doing, it will take time for it to get off the ground. Don’t expect instant results or even to succeed on the first try.

RU: Finally, if you were stuck on a desert island for a while and could only take three books with you, which would you take?

MW: Ouch, tough one! But I guess I would have to choose 1984, Neuromancer, The Diamond Age, Accelerando and Finnegan’s Wake. The first four are masterpieces of science fiction that had a profound influence on me. While the last book is not a science fiction novel, it is a classic of western literature. And I think that if I were trapped on a desert island, I might just have the time and mental energy to figure it out!

RU: That actually sounds more like five, but I’ll let it pass this time. Thanks for being on the show, Matt! I hope the book does well.

If you would like to check out The Cronian Incident, due out September 15th, you can pre-order it from Amazon. And if you would like to know more about Matthew Williams, you can check him out on his blog, Stories by Williams, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. He’s a great guy, so give his stuff a look.

And if you are an author and would like to be interviewed, check out my Interviews page and we’ll make some magic happen.

That’s all for now. Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

 

Authors, who are usually as human as the rest of us, are as prone to mistakes and insecurity as the rest of us. That said, sometimes authors worry about creative decisions when it comes to their stories. We’ll look at a scene, or a character, or even a whole plot, and think to ourselves, “Is that the right thing to do here? Should maybe we change it?”

We end up second-guessing ourselves.

Actually, some pretty famous names have second-guessed their creative decisions in the past. JK Rowling went back on her decision to have Hermione end up with Ron in Harry Potter, and that Harry might’ve been a better match for her, which still has the fandom in a tizzy (personally, I still ship Harry and Cho and wonder what could’ve happened if they’d actually gone to the Yule Ball together). Stephen King has expressed regret of ever writing the novel Rage, which has been connected with several incidents of gun violence (I’d still like to read it someday). And Anne Rice has actually said she’s not proud of the crossover novels she’s written with her vampires and witches.

And they’re just a few among many.

I’ve been having this problem at a lot of points in Rose, including last night. I’d just finished editing the latest chapter (only nine more to go!), adding over a thousand words of material while I’m at it, and I find myself thinking, “Wow, there’s a lot of just high-tension moments here. Very little time where the readers and the protagonist can just take a moment and breathe. This whole chapter, it’s just boom! Boom! Boom! One thing after another. I wonder if that’s maybe too much excitement in the story. Maybe I should add some more quiet moments, where we can explore the characters?” And then I find myself arguing back that plenty of great horror movies and novels, such as Annabelle: Creation and Gerald’s Game, that are like this, where there’s very little breathing room and just one thing after another of scares and high-tension scenes. And there are scenes that are “quieter:” they are usually exploring the protagonist’s past, which is a mystery to even her. They’re not moments like in It, where the main characters are just building a dam or something, but they’re slightly calmer and do develop the characters a bit more when they happen.

This argument went back and forth in my head even after I went to sleep, making for some interesting dreams.

But it’s not just this whole “are things too exciting?” issue that’s got me second-guessing. I think I’ve mentioned before that there are scenes in Rose that I would like to expand. Most of these are in the final third of the book, and one particular scene, a flashback scene, has me wondering if I’m making the right decision in what I want to do with it. On the one hand, there are about a hundred ways I can push the envelope with it, and I’ve already set up in previous chapters clues that point to the importance of this scene. But at the same time, if I were to push the envelope on this scene in some ways, it might be indulging in certain cliches I prefer to use sparingly at best. Also, I worry that if I were to go in those directions, it might actually take away from the main reason for this scene rather than reinforce it for the audience. It’s something I’ve been worrying about since well before I started this draft of the novel.

So yeah, authors do a lot of second-guessing. And it can cause a lot of headaches, anxiety, confusion, and the occasional burst of anger. Is there any solution for when this happens?

Not really. Yeah, I usually have solutions for stuff like this, but I think it varies on situations and stories and authors. I think every author will second-guess themselves at several points in their careers, sometimes during the writing, sometimes before, a few times after. And sometimes solutions will present themselves. While writing this post, I’ve figured out one of the problems I’ve been second-guessing in this post, which I honestly didn’t expect.

Honestly, I guess the best advice I can give is to try one way. If you don’t like it, try another if the opportunity is available. If you’re still unsure, let beta readers give you some much needed feedback. That’s what they’re there for.

Honestly, I’m probably going to encounter this issue throughout my writing career. I’m second-guessing some possible routes for a novel I haven’t even written yet, if you can believe it. And if you’re a writer, you’ll probably going to deal with it too throughout your career. All I can say is, you may argue with yourself plenty. You may have to try more than one way to write the same story so as to see what works. But eventually, hopefully, you’ll work through it, and come up with something great.

And if not, there’s always a chance that people will still like who the characters end up with (I hear Harry and Ginny are great spouses and parents. Especially if you don’t read/see the play. Also, Ron and Hermione’s storyline actually mirrors a lot of anime couples, so I guess if it works in those shows, why not?).

What are your experiences with second guessing? Any tips for fixing this problem?

As promised last week, I’m pleased to announce that What Happened Saturday Night has been published on Wattpad. I’ve been working on this story, on and off, since my final year of college, so I’m really glad to finally have it out there for you guys to read. Plus, check out this amazing artwork by friend, author, and ardent Follower of Fear Joleene Naylor (if you haven’t checked her out, why haven’t you yet? What’s wrong with you? CLICK HERE ALREADY!!!)! It gets right to what this story represents. And what does this story represent? Read the description:

High school is hard enough. But Louise is different from other teens her age. For one thing, she has feelings for her best friend Nicola. Feelings she knows she shouldn’t be having.

Another thing: she’s going through changes, but these aren’t the sort of changes teen girls normally go through. Louise is a werewolf. And her biggest fear is what might happen if an episode like what happened on Saturday night happens in front of Nicola.

I’ve been told it’s a touching story about coming to terms with yourself, in more ways than one.

Based on the results of Gynoid (which, if you haven’t read yet, here’s Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), I’m hoping that even more people will respond to What Happened Saturday Night (or WHSN, as I’m going to call it from now on). I’ve put the same amount of work into both stories, so hopefully all that will pay off like it did with the former story. And they contain similar themes and elements, so that will probably help.

I also think people will be drawn to it because it’s a coming out story. As an out of the closet bisexual man, I know how scary that is. I know what it’s like to feel weird in your own body because of the way you feel, because of whom you’re attracted to. I think there should be more stories that not only explore that issue, but help normalize it to some degree. What I mean is, coming out should not be scary. It might be my delusions of grandeur, but if WHSN can help do that for some readers, then I’ll be glad that I published it.

If you would like to check out WHSN, follow this link for a read. And if you like it (or don’t), let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and it helps me in the log run to make me a better writer.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!