Category Archives: writing projects

Rules Need Not Apply

I have a Master’s degree in Writing, Literature and Publishing. I worked in publishing for ten years and have been writing and publishing my own work for almost as long. But today, when I posted a question about which of two names I should possibly use for a new project, a old, white man responded with: “My writing books say…”

Patronizing? Absolutely. Mansplaining? Yup. And completely useless. Because how-to writing books are for losers.

Yeah, I said it.

Let me tell you a story about when I was learning to read tarot. I bought every book about tarot that I could find, and every time I read a spread, I’d check the books to see what each card meant, trying to suss meaning from what was in front of me. I was trying to follow “rules” but it wasn’t working. Then one day I just read a spread on my own. It was intuitive. It came easily. The cards made sense. The how-to books had been a buffer between me and the natural flow. They’d been a crutch to me because I’d been too afraid to try on my own.

Grammar has rules, ones you should stick to… mostly. Writing has rules, too, but they’re better learned from actually reading than from a stack of manuals. Why? Because I’ve found that people who write based on how-to advice produce stilted, dry prose and often terrible dialogue. Writing isn’t math, despite the use of the word “formula” being tossed around now and then. You don’t learn the rules and then apply them universally, not if you want to write anything with actual heart and emotion—basically anything compelling and, well, good.

I’ve also discovered that writers who’ve armed themselves with “rules” often never get far in their projects, largely because they worry so much about whether they’re doing it “right.” That’s the problem with these books and this idea that there is a wrong and right way to put words to paper. I’d say some things work better than others, but even then that doesn’t mean if you do it differently it’s somehow incorrect. In any case, I always tell people to write first. Only after it’s written should you worry about fixing anything that isn’t working. If you worry about it being correct the first time, you’ll paralyze yourself. First drafts are meant to be edited. So are second, third, and fourth drafts. Writing isn’t about getting it right the first time. There is no correct answer to your story. YOU get to decide what’s right for it, for your characters, etc. That power can be scary, but once you learn to wield it wisely, it’s also very liberating.

Writing rules don’t account for personal writing style. And many writing books are old and don’t apply to newer, more modern methods of writing. Some things about the craft are eternal, but much of the business is fluid and ever changing. That’s why books written in the 80s sound so different from books published in the last couple years.

Going back to my tarot example, there are hundreds of various decks one can use. Mostly, they all have the same cards (there are, of course, exceptions). But a Queen of Cups in one deck might look and feel very different from the Queen of Cups in another. While some of the core meanings of the card are the same, depending on the deck (and the reader), you might intuit very diverse meanings. That is to say, not all possible meanings apply all the time. Nor do all writing rules apply universally or with equal weight to every story.

Find your voice. Find your style. Write. And only after having written, go back and figure out what does and doesn’t work and which rules to apply.

Prioritizing Projects

I recently finished writing a short story. That felt nice because, for the first time in a seemingly long time, I had a completed project. The last project I finished was Faebourne a year ago. This year has not been great for getting any writing done. I’ve moved house, done house renovations (which are ongoing), juggled three kids at three different schools + their multitude of activities, gone on one family vacation… But writing hasn’t really happened.

Thing is, I do have a number of projects in the pipeline. Stuff I’ve started but have yet to finish, edits for repubs. In fact, I have so many, I don’t know where to focus.

  • Ms. Fortune (the new K-Pro book)
  • Mortleigh (working title; a new Regency romance)
  • Hunting Victor Frankenstein (novella based on the pilot screenplay)
  • The Lost God (an AElit novel)
  • Tales from AElit (anthology of myths and stories about AElit)
  • Changers: The Great Divide
  • Hamlette (rewrite)
  • The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller (edit & repub)
  • The K-Pro (edit & repub)

People will say, “Work on the one you’re most excited about,” but I haven’t been excited about much of anything these days. Nor do I have any new idea lighting up the back of my brain and yearning to get out. It’s times like these I wonder if maybe I’m through being an author. If I can’t be excited about the work, if I have no stories and/or characters pushing to pour out of me…

Used to be, I’d lay in bed at night and, as I drifted off, characters and scenes would play through my head. That doesn’t happen anymore.

Some might say I should take a break, but this whole year has been one big break already.

Maybe I should try more short stories? If I can come up with any ideas for them. If I write enough of them, I can put out a new anthology at least. Not that I think people read anthologies anymore.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Advice? What should I work on, or how should I find my motivation? Do you have any tips and tricks for jumpstarting the muse?

Stack of WIP

I haven’t been writing much for a number of reasons, but I find myself taking out this or that old project, futzing with it, then abandoning it again. So I’ve decided to make myself a list of these WIP. Many are old and may never see the light of day. But it’d be nice if even a couple did.

  • “The Lost God” – this story (which may end up a novella) is the one I’ve been referencing on Twitter’s #WriterlyWIPChat, and it’s the one I keep coming back to most. An old piece based on my AElitian mythology.
  • Ms. Fortune – the K-Pro sequel
  • An adaptation of my Hunting Victor Frankenstein television pilot
  • An adaptation of my 20 August feature screenplay
  • Teaching Mina (title subject to change) – a new Regency romance
  • Changers 2, assuming anyone is still interested
  • Hamlette rewrite
  • Peter Stoller edit
  • “Certain Purpose” – another really old story that may be more like a novella
  • “Voodoo Lessons” – same as above

If I finish “Certain Purpose” and “Voodoo Lessons” I could maybe put them under one cover as a twofer. Then again, part of me says I should get another Regency romance out there since those are my best sellers. But in all, I’m just having trouble finding anything that really excites me. “The Lost God” comes closest, so I’ve mostly been chipping away at that.

Ideally I would release at least one, preferably more, book a year. But there have been gaps. This may be another gap year. I don’t know yet.

IWSG: April 2019

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

As I type this, we’re facing a weekend of moving house. That pretty much has all my energy and attention at the moment. But I did start working on a really old piece of writing that I dug up, and I’m enjoying that. I don’t intend to publishing (I don’t think); for the first time in a long time I’m just writing for me, for the pleasure of it.

I recently made a decision to quit pursuing an agent or publishers. And I may not self-publish anymore either, simply because the trials are too great: fighting piracy, trying to market, and all for so very little return. I know many self-published authors are supposedly raking it in (those are the stories one hears about, though I doubt they’re the norm), so I don’t know if I’m just bad at writing or don’t write what people want to read. Either way, I’ve mostly ceased to enjoy it. But this older piece… I’m having fun playing with it. So I’ll keep doing that for as long as it amuses me.

Question of the Month: If you could use a wish to help you write just one scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be?

I don’t know. I guess I won’t know until I reach that point. Once I got stuck, that’s when I’d want to put that wish to use.

The Romance is Gone

First off, sorry for being absent. I had surgery and now I’m in the throes of a house move. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing or blogging. And the truth is, I don’t feel much like writing these days. Despite having a number of projects on hand, nothing is speaking to me.

Or should I say no one is speaking to me?

I was trying to get to the bottom of why I’m not feeling the urge to write. In the past, I’ve had times when I don’t feel like writing, but the pressure builds up in me until I can’t not write. But this feels different. I’m oddly content, even though I’m not writing.

And I have all these WIP, filled with pretty solid stories and characters, but…

Ah. BUT.

I like a lot of my current characters. But I don’t love them. And that, I’ve discovered, is what I really need in order to feel pushed to write. I have to be totally, head-over-heels in love with my characters. (Or at least one of them.) And right now I’m not. I’m the author equivalent of single.

So what I need is a new romance with someone fictional. Until I find him or her, though, it appears I won’t feel that drive to write. Oh, I could try to force it, but we all know that love really can’t be manufactured. That’s true in fiction as much as in real life.

The right one will come along… Eventually…

Why I’ve Given Up

I will no longer pursue landing an agent. I no longer have hopes and dreams of a traditional publishing deal. I’m not even sure I’ll do much more writing, despite having many projects in various stages of completion.

There comes a time when, if your work is not valued, there seems to be little to no reason to continue. If I had the drive… I used to, but I don’t any more. I don’t feel compelled to write, and I think good writers should feel that way. They should have to write. They should be unable to stop themselves from writing. And they should do it for themselves rather than for readers. I know that we’re told to consider our audience, write what they want to read, but I honestly believe it’s better to write the thing you want to write. That will be the thing that is genuine and has power. Readers can feel it, and they respond to it.

I’ve had a lot of good feedback from agents who tell me that I’m a great writer. Unfortunately for me, I don’t write the kinds of things these agents can sell. I’ve heard many variations on, “Try me with something else.” But all my somethings else are equally unsalable.

In turn, I’ve found modest success in self-published work, but it’s very difficult to rise above the noise. There’s just so much out there, and I’m a bit exhausted with it all. Again, if I had really strong feelings about my work—if I felt I had to write or die—then it wouldn’t matter. I’d write regardless. And I used to feel that way. But something has changed. I just don’t know what.

I will try to finish Hamlette, which I’m posting on Wattpad (see the post below this one). And maybe I’ll get back to various other projects too… someday… But for now I’m calling it quits. I can’t seem to please anyone with my work, not even myself, and that seems like a good reason to pump the brakes.

Brynnde Coming in Paperback!

Better late than never! Soon you’ll finally be able to pick up Brynnde in paperback! I received the print proof yesterday, and it looks lovely. Brynnde + Faebourne = beautiful additions to any collection.

As for my current WIP, we have a lengthened list of potential titles:

  • Mortleigh
  • The Widow’s Tutor
  • Grey Mourning
  • Love Lessons
  • Love in Lavender
  • Mina’s Mentor
  • The Widow and the Scholar
  • An Enlightened Heart
  • Tutor for a Tattered Heart

Which is your favorite? Any other suggestions?

Title TBA

So I’m working on a new Regency romance novel. This one is about a young widow and the tutor she hires for her son. And I’d like to find a title for it because things seem to flow more easily once I know the title of my manuscript. Right now it’s simply called “tutor” in my files.

My two other Regency novels have single-word titles: Brynnde and Faebourne. How important is it to stick with that convention, I wonder? Some of my critique partners pointed out that neither of those titles say much about the books themselves, and that many historical romance titles are pretty descriptive, as in (I’m making up examples, though for all I know they actually exist): The Duke and the Milkmaid or Romancing the Rake or whatever. Truth is, though, I don’t love those kinds of titles. Hmm.

So here are some options that have been floated around this WIP. I’ll tell you that the tutor’s name is Samuel and the widow’s name is Mina Mortleigh (the estate’s name is also Mortleigh).

  • Mortleigh <— in keeping with the single-word titles
  • Mina’s Mentor
  • The Widow’s Tutor
  • Love Lessons
  • An Enlightened Heart
  • The Viscountess and the Scholar
  • The Widow and the Scholar

And so on and so forth in that vein.

So what do you think? Do you like any of these? Other suggestions?

BTW, Brynnde will finally be available in paperback next month! Pre-orders will be up soon, so stay tuned!

Whatever Happened To…

Now and then I get questions about sequels to some of my works. So I thought it might be handy to answer a lot of them in one post.

Whatever Happened…

after “The Mystery of the Last Line”?

A lot of readers found this story open-ended. I never intended to write a sequel, though after so many readers seemed to want more explanation, I did toy with the idea. I even started one, but I just couldn’t find the thread, so I abandoned it.

to the K-Pro sequel?

It was going to be called Ms. Fortune, which is a title I still really love. I had it all planned and even showcased it one year for the A—Z postings they do every April. But the first book didn’t do so great (and truthfully, if I had the energy I’d go re-edit it), so I didn’t end up investing any time in writing the second book.

to Peter Stoller?

That’s another one I started a couple sequels to but never finished. You’ll find a lot of that on this list, and that’s because [most] writers go where the readers are. If as an author I never hear from people who want more—and certainly if a book doesn’t sell—then I (like many authors) often won’t pursue that series or character.

If you’re wondering what happened to Peter specifically, though… I don’t know. I’d have to write the books to find out.

to The Great Divide and A More Perfect Union (the Changers sequels)?

Same story: yes, it was originally meant to be a trilogy. But the book sales were middling and the publisher never asked for more. Meanwhile, this was around the time I published Brynnde, which has been my best-selling book. So I redirected my time and energy in that direction.

to Hamlette?

Ah, the sad truth there is that I queried for over a year and had no takers. Some of the feedback left me really doubtful about the book’s viability. So I don’t know what I’ll do with it. I’ve rewritten it a number of times, but I can’t seem to get it right (at least not according to agents; CPs and betas enjoyed it). Sigh.

Sneak Peek

Want to see what I’m working on now? You can read the first chapter (subject to change during editing) here.

Note that it’s not another historical romance, though I will write more of those, too. This one is contemporary, and it’s an adaptation of my television pilot. Sort of a mix of Joss Whedon, Grimm, and The X-Files. Let me know what you think!