Posts Tagged ‘JK Rowling’

My friend Kat Impossible of Life and Other Disasters tagged me (and anyone with an interest) for this Harry Potter-themed tag. Seeing as Harry Potter is the reason I became a writer, and Harry’s 38th birthday is today (that’s right, he’d be 38 years old if he were a real person. Let that sink in for a moment), I figured it only made sense to do it and spread the word. Thus, here we are.

So Alohamora, on we go. Let’s get this thing started.

What is your blood status?

On the one hand, I get why this question is here. But on the other hand, it feels so wrong to ask a question based on how “pure” your blood is. We all know that pure-blood families just destroy all records of the members who intermarry. And how are they so sure none of their relatives intermarried with Muggles prior to blood-status becoming such a thing (Salazaar Slytherin was considered an outlier in his day, after all)?

Anyway, Kat had two tests to determine this (click here and here to try them out). I got pure-blood on the first one and half-blood on the second. I flipped a coin, and got heads, which is pure-blood. I guess my theory that my mother’s side of the family is related to Moaning Myrtle wasn’t so spot on after all (yeah, that’s a thing).

What wand chose you?

According to Pottermore, my wand is ten and three-fourth inches, laurel wood, unicorn core, and very flexible and swishy. According to the site, that means my wand’s magical performance is consistent and decent, hates laziness, and very adaptable to my needs. I have to say, I kind of like that.

Did you take a cat, an owl or a toad with you?

Cat, of course. As cool as owls are, I’m not very fond of birds, and besides, the school has plenty of owls. And we all know that toads are boring and that only losers get them. So obviously, we go for cats…which in the Wizarding World, tend to be more intelligent and great judges of characters than other cats, so I guess that works very well for me.

Now what to name my magical kitty? A difficult question if ever I’ve heard one. I guess it depends on what kitty I get.

Where did the Sorting Hat put you?

Slytherin, according to Pottermore. I was shocked when I first found out, but I guess it makes sense. I mean, one of my nicknames is the Pale Dark Lord, and I have to be at least a little bit evil and ambitious to write horror like I do. Of course, when I told my mom, who is a huge Potterhead, she nearly disowned me right there and then over the phone. And my sisters were almost afraid to associate with me. But they’ve come around since then. My mom even bought me a Slytherin shirt when she went to Harry Potter World in Florida a few years ago. It’s one of my favorite shirts ever. And last year in Boston, I bought a Slytherin tie from an HP-themed shop. I love wearing it to work and when people there notice it.

What house did you want to be put in?

Gryffindor, I think. Everyone wants to be in Harry’s house, after all. And if not that, Ravenclaw, because I read a lot and like to think of myself as intelligent. However, I’m glad I went to Slytherin in the end. Like I said, it makes a whole ton of sense. And besides, I do a great Draco Malfoy impression when I take off my glasses.

What are your favorite and least favorite lessons?

 

Ooh, tough choices considering I’ve only heard Harry’s experiences with his classes to judge by. Though if I had to guess, I probably would enjoy Potions the most. Unlike Chemistry, where you had to understand how molecules and acids and bases interact, Potions is very much like cooking, except without food. And to use a bad joke, I can be a wizard in the kitchen sometimes (my friend and colleague Joleene Naylor can attest to that). So I think I’d excel at that. I might even take up potion-making as a hobby.

As for least favorite, I’d have to go with Arithmancy. Math-based magic does not sound like a lot of fun, and math has never been my favorite subject to begin with. I’m actually surprised that Hermione likes it, as in both real life and in the Wizarding World, it’s used to predict the future. Then again, numbers and patterns are used by economists and college professors all the time to predict economic trends and presidential elections, so I guess Hermione likes it because it actually produces results, unlike standard Divination.

What is your Patronus?

I’m a dolphin, apparently (which also means that’s what I’d turn into if I were an Animagus). Makes sense, as I’m a very fun-loving and excitable person. Though I’m not very fond of swimming, truth be told.

What does your boggart look like?

Rejection by people I love. I have this ongoing anxiety that something I say or do might cause people to hate me and not want to associate with me. A boggart turning into people I know saying they want nothing more to do with me and pointing out all my flaws would be a nightmare. As for what I’d turn it into, I think I’d have it turn into a performance the musical The Book of Mormon. That musical is hysterical, and forcing the boggart to become that would be such fun (see this video from the Tonys a few years ago just to get an idea of how funny this boggart would be).

Either that, or Tom Ellis playing Lucifer, because I can’t be scared of that devil. I’d just melt into his arms…

I’m sorry, I was drooling for a second. What were we talking about?

Do you partake in any magical hobbies or school sports?

Probably. As I said earlier, I’d probably enjoy making Potions, so I would definitely be part of the Potions Club. I’m not much of a sports player, so I don’t think I’d be on a Quidditch team, but I might enjoy flying for fun (in fact, is there a club for that?). Surprisingly, I don’t know if I would be a writer if I were a wizard. Except for the Tales of Beedle the Bard, a comic book about a mad Muggle, and everything by Gilderoy Lockhart (burn!), there’s not much evidence of fiction existing in the Wizarding World. There are plenty of non-fiction books mentioned in the series, but very little fiction.

Perhaps I might still be a writer, though. I’d just adjust my stories to be horror stories set in the Wizarding World, possibly dealing with entities that ordinary wizards can’t handle or Dark Wizards. But again, I don’t know. I guess it would depend on what forces shape my life while I’m at Hogwarts and then what happens afterward.

Where would you spend your spare time?

The library or the Slytherin common room. I love books, after all, and the library is a great place to read and study. And who doesn’t hang out in a common room? Oh, and wherever I could go to brew a potion. I have a feeling I’ll be using my cauldron quite a bit, so I’ll need a place where I can work without having to worry about the smell of cooking magic liquids.

What would you most likely get detention for?

Given what I got detention for in high school, either having late homework assignments or being too talkative. That last one has gotten me into trouble more than once in the past, though I’m better at controlling it nowadays.

What career do you want after graduating Hogwarts?

Well, if there is a Wizarding tradition of fiction, I could see myself going into that. Though seeing as writing probably doesn’t make that much money, even in the Wizarding World, I could see myself becoming either a Ministry official, or a Potioneer. Both of those would probably suit me very well.

I TAG…

Anyone who wants to do this tag! I mean, it is a lot of fun, so why shouldn’t you? Just make sure to link back to me when you do.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing this. Until next time, pleasant nightmares and GO SLYTHERIN!!!

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I talk a lot about my writing career. Not just on this blog, but everywhere else: when I was at school, at social events, at wherever I happen to be worshiping (usually it’s at a synagogue, but occasionally I’m at other places), when I’m hanging out, and of course, at work. I’ve mentioned to more than a few people at work that not only am I a writer, but I’ve told them that Rose is getting published by a publishing company. The vast majority of people I’ve talked to about it have been very excited to read it, even if horror is not their normal genre (though I think Rose would be more classified as a supernatural thriller at this point). It really boosts my mood when people say that, and makes me want to be an even better writer.

Today, a coworker from another office and I passed in the hallway at work. She asked me about updates on Rose, and I told her that my publisher was hopefully going to get back to me this week about some revision suggestions I’d made. She got that “how cool!” look on her face and told me to keep her informed. She then dropped this on me: she’d been telling her kids about me, as I was proof of success for “following your dreams.”

Well, this really got my thinking. I mean, I’m flattered and all, but do I really deserve to be called an example of following your dreams? To my coworker, I probably am. After all, to non-writers, getting the book accepted by a publisher counts as living the dream. But to me, I haven’t accomplished my dreams yet.

That’s not modesty on my part, I’m just not sure I can say I’ve reached my dreams. At least not at this point. My dream has changed over the years, from being the next JK Rowling to the next Stephen King to just being able to make a living off of writing and maybe writing full-time, which is where my dream is that today. And I’m not there yet by any means. I still work a 40-hours a week job to pay my bills (sometimes longer if I have to stay late to finish up certain projects). And while Castrum Press wanting to publish Rose is a big step in the right direction, the book still has to come out.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m still following those dreams. I’m still working to make it so that I’m in bookstores, to get lots of people to actually want and look forward to reading my books. And I say “books,” because it’s probably going to take several books, if I’m very lucky, to be able to write full-time. It’s rare for authors to be able to write-full time, and even rarer just after the first book. If I somehow manage to make that happen, then hooray. But at the moment, that’s still several years in the future.

I guess I’m still chasing my dreams. Right now, I’m on the right track, and I’m an example of how hard work, lots of revision and rejection, a bit of backbone, and a Plan B if you don’t happen to be one of those overnight success stories (aka employment) can pay off a little. But of successfully chasing your dreams? Well, we’ll see where I end up in the next few years. Fingers crossed it’s a better place than where I am now, even if I’m still not writing full-time.

On an unrelated note, you remember how in my last post, I talked about getting a statue of Cthulhu? Well, my boss took a look at it this morning and okayed me to keep it in the office. To which I say, “Yay! Now I can really start turning my workspace into a den of horrors!” But seriously, it’s nice to really be able to personalize my workspace in such a way. Before now, it really didn’t have that much to say, “Oh, this is totally Rami’s desk. You can just tell by looking at it.” There’s a lot of rules to how one can decorate their workspace at my job, so being able to just have Cthulhu there is a big deal for me. Perhaps in the future, I can also put some other cool stuff around my desk to really help me feel at home while I work.

Until then, I’m cool with just Cthulhu. Besides, he looks so cool there, doesn’t he? I think he does, anyway.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Thanks for letting me ramble on about this stuff. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

I’m sure that a lot of people are going to be confused by that title, and probably find it funny. Unfortunately, this is a serious topic that requires some discussion, so I thought I’d take a couple minutes to spread the word on what’s been going on.

Recently, it’s come to light that a romance writer named Faleena Hopkins placed a trademark on the word “cocky” (as in…you know), and has allegedly been sending cease and desist letters to authors who use the word “cocky” in their book titles. Of which there are many, and according to the letters, this is a form of copyright infringement, and authors should change the names of their stories or face the consequences. From what’s been going around, most of the authors who have received these letters are not big enough to actually take on a legal battle with other authors, rather than any big names in the romance field.

This is some grade-A bull. You can’t just copyright a single word and tell people they can’t use it in their book titles. You can copyright a specific word or words using a specific font (like nobody can use the word “Potter” with the Harry Potter-title lightning bolt script or the words “Star” or “Wars” with the Star Wars script without incurring the wrath of JK Rowling or Lucasfilm’s representatives), which is normal business practice. However, you can’t just copyright a single word, no matter the font, font size, or context, and say anyone who uses it in a story’s title is committing plagiarism or copyright infringement. Which is why nobody can sue me for naming my novel Snake, or why when Rose comes out, nobody can sue me for naming it that way.

And you know who else agrees with me? Lots of other authors, apparently. When I saw this trending on Twitter, I got curious and found plenty of other writers who were willing to explain to me what was going on and point me to links which went further into detail about this issue, which has been dubbed Cockygate, and who have also made the hashtags #cockygate and #ByeFaleena (get it?) trending topics. Thanks to them, I was able to find this article from Pajiba, as well as this video from author Bianca Sommerland, one of the first to break the story open. And the consensus seems to be the same as my opinion of this situation: it’s grade-A bull, and kind of sounds like bullying or blackmail.

I mean, imagine if this was allowed to happen. We could copyright all sorts of words, and anyone using those words would owe me money. I mean, imagine if I trademarked the word “the.” So many people would owe me money, it would be ridiculous! I’d have good friends and big names who would be liable to legal action for a commonly-used word. It’s ridiculous.

And apparently the Romance Writers’ Association is getting involved now, because they’ve been consulting with an IP lawyer and are asking anyone who’s received one of these cease and desist letters to send information and screenshots to Carol Ritter, their Deputy Executive Director (carol.ritter@rwa.org). That’s how seriously this is being taken.

Hopkins herself, who in the past has also claimed that anyone who uses stock photos (so everybody, basically) after she uses them is copying her (say what?), has taken to social media to defend herself. She hasn’t denied that she’s trademarked “cocky,” but has said that she’s done it because some of her readers have downloaded ebooks with the word “cocky” in the title thinking it’s related to her Cocky Brothers series, only to find out it’s someone else’s book. She’s also called those calling her out as “bullies.” First off, you can return downloaded ebooks and purchase the right one. And I’m sure the majority of your readers are generally intelligent people. They can figure that out for themselves. And second, if you really are doing something shady, then the people who object to it aren’t bullies. They’re legitimately upset.

In a way, this reminds me of Lani Sarem, the author who tried to game the New York Times bestseller list and fell hard (you can read my articles on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors about that little incident by clicking here and here). She too engaged in something that rang of dishonesty in order to ensure the success of her work. People online found out and started investigating and spreading the word, leading to her book being removed from the NYT bestseller list, and her name becoming something of a joke. We’re seeing something similar here, only what Ms. Hopkins is allegedly doing is even worse, because it affects the most vulnerable authors out there by threatening them with legal action.

As this is still the early stages of this controversy, we’re bound to see further developments. And whatever happens, I hope a message is sent far and wide. We authors are usually a supportive bunch. But if we find out one of our own is doing something awful for the sake of money or fame, we will not take that sitting down. We will push back, and the offenders will not like that. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword, is it not?

Please contact Carol Ritter at carol.ritter@rwa.org if you or someone you know has received one of these cease and desist letters. You don’t have to live in fear of legal action. You can take the power back.

In my last update on Rose, I mentioned that I was probably going to do a whole lot of revisions and possibly a ton of rewriting, owing to the fact that the flashbacks were deemed unnecessary to the story and I had to throw them out or modify them. Well, I am rewriting a good chunk of the novel. It’s not what I’d hoped for, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. And while I’m still trying to figure out the final third of the novel, I have figured out the second third for the most part, as well as other things that I plan to include in the story. And one of those things I plan to use is something I call mini-anecdotes.*

Mini-anecdotes are something I’ve noticed a lot in fiction, particularly fiction aimed for adults. They’re not like flashbacks or mini-flashbacks, but they’re related. A mini-anecdote is when a character briefly thinks of a past experience, usually something that can be associated with the current moment in the story. It’s not a flashback, as it’s not going into the character’s past in order to show them something. It’s more like a quick summary of a flashback. A good example would be in The Shining (which I’m rereading now), when Jack is doing handyman work around the hotel’s playground and park, and thinks back to the park he went to with his dad growing up. This not only gives us a bit more on Jack’s past and who he is as a person, but also gives us a brief illustration about his relationship with his dad, which we learn further about in the novel.

Other great examples of mini-anecdotes can be found throughout the Harry Potter books. In the first book, we learn how Harry’s life has been strange since he was small: ending up on the school roof, his hair growing back overnight, a sweater shrinking as his aunt is trying to force it on him. This isn’t a full flashback, but it gives us a very good idea of what Harry’s life has been like up until Dudley’s eleventh birthday, as well as what he’s like based on his reactions to the strange things around him. And in the third book, we get a brief glimpse of Harry’s relationship with his Aunt Marge, how she also mistreats him and spoils Dudley, and once let her dog chase Harry up a tree while laughing at his misfortune. It’s an illustrative moment on how awful Marge is and gives us an idea of what we can expect from her during her appearance in the story.

Now, I’ve only just started identifying mini-anecdotes in fiction, so I’m not an expert at using them yet. Just as you can”t really be a great writer even if you’ve read hundreds of novels, you can’t immediately use mini-anecdotes even if you’ve seen them in hundreds of books. However, I think I’ve identified a few things that might make using them in Rose a bit easier:

  • They’re brief. Seems rather self-explanatory, but it needs to be stated. Mini-anecdotes are usually only a couple of sentences or paragraphs at most. The longest may be only two pages at most, but they don’t go on for several pages. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a flashback, and as I stated in a previous post, flashbacks can be difficult to use effectively.
  • Little dialogue or details. Mini-anecdotes tend to be very bare bones. They may have a few lines of dialogue, but no long speeches. And certainly not enough detail like the shape of a building or all the thoughts going through a character’s head. It’s more summary, telling vs. showing, than anything else. Going into anything more would be going into flashback, most likely. And as I said, those have strings attached.
  • They’re connected to the present. Like Harry’s early experiences with magic or his aunt, these mini-anecdotes have to connect to the story’s present, either to illustrate a point, give us further insight into a character, or just to help us connect to them more. Having one for the sake of having one will do you no favors. After all, you wouldn’t want to have a romantic scene that suddenly goes into a character’s dislike of geese, do you?

While these won’t help a writer (let alone me) use mini-anecdotes well, they can be a starting point for their use. And if we as writers can learn to use them well, then we can use them to make our stories better and more memorable to readers. And in the end, isn’t that part of the reason we write in the first place?

Do you use mini-anecdotes in your stories? What tips do you have for writing them?

*At least that’s what I call them. I don’t know if there’s a technical term for them. If there is, please let me know in the comments below.

I did not finish watching the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, owing to how depressing it was (I like dark stuff, but that show just took the joy out of living!). But in recent weeks, one scene from that show, a surprisingly not-sad scene, has been coming back to me. In a flashback, the main character Clay is critiquing another kid’s essay, and notices the latter uses the word “unique” several times. When the other kid asks why that’s an issue, Clay says that if everything is unique, it means nothing is unique. And on the surface I agreed with that sentiment, but I didn’t realize how it applied to my own writing until almost a year later.

As many of you know, I recently finished a fourth draft of my college thesis Rose, and that I had the novel beta read by a couple of people, including my colleague and good friend Joleene Naylor. One of the things she pointed out was a problem throughout the novel, and which I’ve been trying to avoid in subsequent stories, is repeating words, especially adjectives. Apparently I’ve been using the word “unique” several times in a single chapter or paragraph, though “unique” wasn’t usually the word I used.

Actually, it tended to look something like this (not an actual line from the novel, but I think you’ll get the idea):

Rose stood in place, refusing to show her fear. Angrily, Paris placed the book on the table.

See how I used “place” twice? A better way to write this might have been:

Rose held her ground, refusing to show her fear. Angrily, Paris placed the book on the table.

See the difference? And I had to do this throughout the fourth draft, identifying where I repeated words in close proximity to one another, and then coming up with a better way to say it.

And I feel like this is a really common issue that writers have to deal with at some point, or possibly at several points, in their careers. Despite our reputations for loving really big words (verbose, callipygian, penultimate, etc), when it comes to fiction, we tend to just use everyday words. After all, we’re normally writing for everyday people, not for a small niche of scholars or people associated with a small religious movement. So if a simple word, like “unique” or “place,” fits the bill for telling the story, we’re likely going to use it. And we’ll use it again and again, if it’s the first word that comes to mind.

But as the above points show, you have to vary what words you use in order to tell a story and not distract the reader. And that’s something I’m trying to learn how to do as a writer. You know, along with learning how to write good short stories. And writing good stories in general. Again, I leave that up to the feedback of my readers. But this is getting a lot of emphasis as well. Because as great as a story is, the language it’s told through can determine how successful it may be. Imagine if Harry Potter had been published and it read like a sixth grader had written it. I guarantee it wouldn’t be the phenomenon it is today and I might not have been inspired to be a writer (unless JK Rowling was in the sixth grade when it was published. Then she’d be the Mozart of literature).

So while I may never actually need to know twelve different ways to say “unique,” hopefully in the future I can avoid making mistakes like the ones above. And if I do (because let’s face it, no author is perfect), I hope I have a good group of editors and beta readers around me to point out those mistakes.

And if you’re an author who makes this mistake, the only way I can think of to avoid it is to do what you’re already doing: think about the words you use. Just do it a bit harder when it comes to the individual words themselves. At least, that’s what I’ve been doing. And I think it’s been working.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Expect another post from me (or maybe even two) very soon. Until next time, pleasant nightmares.

I’ve mentioned it before, but short stories are often hard for me. And one aspect of writing those that I often have trouble with is the very first part of any short story. Openings. They give me grief.

With novels, I have a lot of room to maneuver around. After all, even a short novel is around sixty-thousand words (and mine are never that short). With all those words, I can take a lot of time and space just setting up the scenario of the story. Take my novel Rose, for example: if we count Chapter One as the opening, that’s sixteen pages and nearly five-thousand words just devoted to setting up the story. And I’m very used to writing this way. I like long, expansive stories. I grew up on a diet of Harry Potter, and in my teens delved into the novels of Anne Rice, Stephen King, and Dan Brown. No one could accuse those guys of being short.

But if I’m writing a short story, the highest word count to still count as a short story is ten-thousand. And if I want to get published in most magazines, the limit is usually around six-thousand. So while I’m used to opening a story with about five-thousand words, or half the length of the longest short story, I now have to try to contain my openings into a much shorter length.

The struggle is real.

Because of this need for brevity, one of the things I sometimes end up doing when I write a short story, at least in the beginning, is to use a lot of exposition. And in some stories, exposition is good. It helps fill in essential information. But in other cases, exposition is just…bad. Instead of actually presenting the story,  the author is just explaining things. Telling you stuff. It’d be like if instead of actually showing Harry Potter growing up, learning about his heritage, and going to Hogwarts, it’d be like JK Rowling wrote, “There was a boy named Harry Potter. One day he found out he was a wizard, his parents died saving him from an evil wizard, who disappeared and gave him a scar in a process, and then he went off to wizard school.”

I often worry that when I do exposition in short stories, it’s the latter kind. Which probably means it is the latter kind. That may be cynicism on my part, but when you’re still inexperienced at something, you’re prone to making mistakes. So perhaps I really am using exposition, and in all the wrong ways too.

Luckily, there are a few things I’m trying to remedy that. One is that I’m keeping in mind something important: I’m writing first drafts. And first drafts are always terrible. Even if they contain intriguing stories, they’re rife with issues that require lots of fixing. This is why we writers edit, multiple times if necessary, before we publish. Heck, Rose had to go through four drafts before I felt it was ready to be sent out to a publisher. And likely if a publisher does like it, they’ll probably have me do a fifth or even a sixth draft before they’re ready to publish.

So if I feel an opening needs work, I can edit it in the next draft, and remove any bad exposition or other problems with the opening I spot.

Hopefully I can improve this part of short stories.

And sometimes, I don’t even need to wait (and this is my second method, by the way). Sometimes a way to fix a short story’s opening comes to you just while you’re writing it. On Friday, I started a new short story that I think has potential. I think I got four hundred words in before I stopped, but then I was like, “Is this really the opening I want?” And as I thought about it, it wasn’t. But how to fix it? And yesterday at some point–I think it was right before I saw Winchester–a way to change the opening occurred to me.  I think this is the right way to open the story without going into exposition. So the next time I work on the story, I’m going go back and rewrite the opening, see if this produces better results. And if it doesn’t, there’s always something new to try. Or I can go back to my original opening. After all, it’s a first draft. I can make as many adjustments as needed.

And finally, I’m reading a lot more short stories than I’m used to. I learned how to write novels partly from reading novels, so reading short stories should help me get an idea on how to write them. I’ve already listened to two anthologies on audio book, and I just started reading the Stephen King collection Night Shift on Friday. So far, they’ve been very helpful, but I’ll need to read a lot more to get a better sense of short story writing.

And finally, I just need more practice. After all, you become a writer by writing in the first place, and continuing to write no matter what. With any luck, more practice with short stories will lead to better ones. Hopefully, anyway.

I’m still trying to be a better short story writer, and openings are still hard for me. But with practice and exposure to good ones, I can hopefully make some progress on that. And who knows? Maybe even produce some stories that a magazine will be proud to publish. Anything’s possible, right?

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve been looking at a screen for most of the day, so I’m going to take a break and read something. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

I’m far from perfect. And there are lots of areas I can be better (especially my impulse control when it comes to sweets). However, this post will be focused on the writing aspects I can improve upon.

There are a couple of reasons why I want to talk about that here. One is that for personal things I want to improve upon (damn you, sweet tooth! Damn you to hell!), I only talk about those sort of things here when it’s really important. Like if I’m really struggling with my choices in life, or if I want to talk about being on the spectrum. And at the moment, there’s nothing in my life I feel like talking about here at the moment. Second, this is a blog for a writer, so it makes sense that if I’m going to talk about improving stuff, it’ll be about improving my writing. And finally, while a lot of people I know in real life and even a few people online treat me as THE writing expert, especially when it comes to fiction writing, I’m far from an expert. If I were an expert, I’m pretty sure I’d have several bestsellers out by now, a few of them would have been made into movies already, and I’d be writing full-time in a nice three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath house (I have goals that I aim for).

Point is, as a writer there are areas I’d like to improve in, so I thought I’d list some of those and ask for your feedback. Many of you who follow this blog are writers, and have much more experience than I do. Perhaps you’ve dealt with some of the issues I’ve dealt with, and have some tips on how to deal with them. Anything’s possible, right?

1. I’m addicted to adverbs and gerunds. Now if you don’t remember most of the fancy terms from grammar class, adverbs are words that end in “ly” (wildly, musically, horribly) and gerunds are words ending in “ing” (ending, writing, killing). And I overuse them in my writing (see? Did it right there). One of the biggest criticisms I got from Rose, truth be told, is that I overuse them. In fact, I almost used “actually” instead of “truth be told” in that last sentence. And in the one before this, I started writing “nearly” before I switched to “almost.” And in that last one, “I switched” started as “switching.” And before that–oh, you get the idea!

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about how I had a similar problem with semicolons. I overused them, especially when they weren’t needed. Once I recognized the problem, I was able to correct it. But I have a feeling correcting these issues won’t come so naturally (see?). For one thing, while the semicolon issue was about fixing incorrect uses of punctuation, what I’m doing here isn’t technically wrong. These are speech patterns used everyday, you just don’t see them in a lot of fiction to the extent I use them. At least, not really good fiction. So one thing I’d like to do is know when to use adverbs and gerunds, and when not to use them.

2. Passive vs. active voice. I have a lot of trouble telling those two apart. Which is bad, because editors and publishers tend to prefer active voices in fiction, and I somehow always end up writing in passive voice. What’s the difference? Is there a video I need to watch or something that explains this? Help!

3. Writing snappier action. This is something I’ve taken steps to improve, but it’s still a work in progress. I tend to write these long sentences that illustrate a character taking a certain action. Example: “She stood, walked to the kitchen, and placed the glass in the dishwasher.” It’s a good sentence, but for fiction, this is better: “She put the glass in the dishwasher.” Boom! And if I’ve already established that the character is on the couch, it works even better. It shows the same amount of action with less words.

I’m trying to implement this sort of snappy action into my stories. Editors and publishers seem to like it, and when there are limits to how many words a submitted story can have, it’s helpful in reducing the word count. Still, it’s going to take some work. This, like the adverbs and gerunds and possibly the passive voice thing, are deeply ingrained habits.

No reason to add this photo. I just want to show you my new author profile pic.

4. Short story writing. I’ve written novels or works meant to be novels for most of my life. That’s what I mostly read, so that’s what I mostly wrote. I’ve learned how to write short stories and read plenty of them since high school and college, but I’m still not as good at them as I am at novels. Which is sad, because I’ve had many, many ideas for short stories and novelettes over the years. And since I’ve spent most of my time on novels, I’ve written only a few short stories, and not many of those have been published.

What I want to do is write more short stories and novelettes, get better at writing them, and get a few of those published. Is it necessary, especially since I prefer novels? No, but a lot of authors I like do great short fiction, so I’d like to do great short fiction too. Good news is, I’ve been reading a lot of anthologies lately, and I should have a bit of time after I finish the fourth draft of Rose. That should give me time to practice.

5. Not listening to my anxieties. All writers deal with anxieties, especially with how their work will be received. Sometimes I let them have too much control of my mind, and I start freaking out Just yesterday, I got panicky over whether certain characters in Rose might be called tacky stereotypes. After a lot of discussion online with friends and colleagues, I don’t believe they are, but the worry ate at me for a while.

The important thing for me is just to be a bit more confident in myself, and the stories I write. And I should work on techniques to combat those anxieties when they try to tear at me. Because at the end of the day, I’ve still written some decent fiction. And I won’t let doubt or fear keep me from improving it and making it into possibly publishable fiction.

 

Well, those are the things I want to improve on with my writing. What are your suggestions on fixing those issues? Let me know in the comments below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve only six chapters of Rose left to edit, so I’ll hopefully get started on the next one tonight. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!