Tag Archives: authors

Authors Answer 151 – Tough Criticism

Authors will never please everyone. They have their fans, but also their critics. Check out some of the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, and you’ll see some pretty negative reviews, including for books that are widely loved. Authors need to develop a thick skin when dealing with criticism, whether it’s from readers or publishers.

Question 151 – What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

C E Aylett

Do you know what? I can’t think of anything I’d consider really tough. I mean, sure, I receive ‘harsh’ critiques on workshop pieces but in a constructively harsh way, so i don’t really see that as tough. More like helpful. When I was a Noob I got a bitchy critique from someone but I soon found out that they had some rather ugly and deep psychological issues. It was such a long time ago I don’t even remember what was said now.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

To be honest, I don’t take too many criticisms to heart. I learned a long time ago that most criticisms are based on personal tastes (which I can’t control, so why worry about it?) or peoples’ desire to be jerks for no particular reason (which I also can’t control, and those people aren’t worth my time anyway).

That said, there was one criticism that really bothered me, mainly because it was very public. I’d sent out a few free books to a service that passes those books on to reviewers with the stipulation that they rate and review the book on the platform of the author’s choice (in my case, Amazon), and I received entirely positive reviews except for one. That last reviewer completely demolished me, on Amazon, for the world to see, with a 2-star review and a major bashing of my writing style, wording choices, and claims of grammatical/formatting errors that not one other reader has brought up yet, so I’m not even sure what she was talking about. All in all, I felt it was an unnecessarily cruel slamming, and because of the wording of the review I felt like she was purposely being harsh simply because it’s a zombie story and she felt that zombies are “over”. I would have just brushed it off as someone who doesn’t like zombies and probably shouldn’t have even been reading the book in the first place, but it bothered me for a while because it kept showing up on the book’s Amazon page as the top review, and it frustrated me that that would be the first thing people saw if they scrolled down to see what people were saying about my book.

Jean Davis

To date, I would say the hardest thing to hear was confirmation on issues I suspected with one of my published books. You know, those nagging issues that you ponder in the night, but your publisher and critique partners assure you it’s all good. Then you begin reading reviews and realize you should have trusted your gut. Trust the gut, it’s there for a reason.

H. Anthe Davis

In the past, I’ve been told that I’ve tortured the English language. That’s part of the reason I’ve been going back over my early books to see where I can un-torture certain phrases and paragraphs — because honestly I can’t deny that sometimes my sentence structure and concepts get a bit over-complicated and knotty. I’ve had a lot of success recently in fixing those problems, and thus the flow of the stories.

D. T. Nova

Even the most negative criticism I’ve received has been given respectfully and constructively, at least.

The toughest was probably the (largely correct) observation that characters were spending too much time discussing important issues unrelated (or seemingly unrelated) to the plot.

Paul B. Spence

Hmm. Criticism vs vitriol… I suppose the toughest legitimate criticism is that I am a little sparse and dry in my writing style. Vitriol is another matter. I’ve been told that my characters are unbelievable because life is fair and someone can’t be tall, good-looking, and competent.

Gregory S. Close

The toughest criticism I’ve received as an author was probably the review of In Siege of Daylight on Creativity Hacker.

The reviewer didn’t find it engaging, was totally confused about what was happening (based on his description of what he’d gleaned of the plot) and he objected to the “proper noun salad” of people, places and things and thought the prologue was pointless .

It was tough to read, particularly because I made an effort not to fall into the bad prologue trap or the info-dump trap. Disappointing. But I actually like critical reviews. You can learn a lot from them.

Jay Dee Archer

For my serious writing, I haven’t received anything particularly tough, but the one that popped up often was my tendency to use infodumps. I told too much, and didn’t show enough. That’s fair criticism, because I completely agreed. But as for some less serious writing, I once published a parody online when I was in university that made fun of the writing style of younger people who don’t seem to know grammar or spelling very well. It was well-received by a lot of readers, but it was completely bashed by one who thought I actually wrote that way. He didn’t realise it was a parody until after I told him.

How about you?

If you’re an author, what was the toughest criticism you’ve ever received? Let us know in the comments section below.

Authors Answer 150 – Creative Evolution

Writing is a skill that changes over time. The more an author writes, the better they become at their craft. Reading our first stories remind us how far we’ve come. And quite often we cringe and hide that story so no one can see it. This time, we’re talking about how we’ve changed over the course of our writing careers.

Question 150 – How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

H. Anthe Davis

I think I’ve most evolved in my editing skill — my ability to detect bad material and fix it. I’ve also loosened up a bit in my textual diction and am slowly figuring out how to not torture the English language, as I was critiqued once. I used to use more complex constructions and more high-falutin’ words in places where they weren’t necessary, or were in fact counter-productive to the flow and tone of the narrative. I’m trying to relax that, and clean up some of my descriptions and metaphysical concepts so it doesn’t take ten re-reads to figure them out. Clarity and precision are key.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Creatively? I think I can definitely say that over time I’ve expanded a great deal concerning the type of fiction I’ll write. Growing up, and as a young adult (not that I’m particularly old now), I would pretty much only write fantasy-type stories. Even concerning fanfiction, I stuck to things like Harry Potter and that novelization of Final Fantasy 3 that I never did finish (*cough cough*). As time went on, though, I began delving into genres I never really thought I’d be any good at – such as horror – and I loved it. These days, while I do definitely still focus on fantasy, horror, and supernatural themes, I’m a lot more open with what I’ll try. I haven’t shared much of it, but I’ve written lots of different genres now, from alternate history, to sci-fi, to erotica, and I think being able to do that really exercises the mind creatively, even if you know that you might never publish those pieces.

Jean Davis

When I first started writing seriously, it took me much longer, like years, to finish a first draft. Now that I’ve been at this for twelve years, I’ve managed to wrap up a full first draft in a matter of months. I’d like to think my voice is stronger, that I’ve got a better grasp of what works and what doesn’t, and that I now know when to abandon a project and when to slog my way through it.

Eric Wood

My writing has evolved slowly and quietly over the years. Where I once wrote straight forward without inferences, I now include hidden, deeper meanings. Where once all my characters were the same (basically, me) now are diverse and unique. Also, my stories have developed a complexity they didn’t have before.

Gregory S. Close

Over the years I’ve increasingly recognized the importance of craft in writing, rather than relying purely on talent. A natural talent for writing/story-telling is important, but it’s equally vital to have the tools to hone that talent. You can only be as talented as you, that’s a set value – but you can always improve your craft with hard work.

Cyrus Keith

If anything, I believe I’ve grown to be more careful in writing technique, using literary tools more easily. I pay attention to repetition, excessive speech tags, adverb usage, tension, characterization, and a host of other details that I always took for granted before. I think with every novel I complete, I become a better writer, more able to wield these tools with ease. I also think I’ve become more humble, through the many rejections that still come my way.

Paul B. Spence

I began as a sort protoplasmic ooze with single storylines but quickly became multi-linear. I suppose it might have been radiation, or that big black monolith thing in my back yard…

D. T. Nova

I’ve become more aware of my influences, and consequently become more likely to get a little meta.

I’d also like to think I’ve gotten better at writing things that work on multiple levels.

Jay Dee Archer

In the early days of my writing, I had fairly straightforward stories with a rather awkward way of narrating. I really don’t want to read what I wrote back then. My stories have added many layers. There are multiple storylines now. And I think I narrate far better. Word choice, avoiding repetition in speech tags, and a strong desire to avoid infodumps. But I also think that the eleven years that I spent teaching English have improved my grasp of the English language. I pay close attention to the grammar I’m using, though I think I may do that too much. I get hung up over a sentence, when I should just continue writing and worry about the structure later when I’m editing it. There’s always room for improvement!

How about you?

If you’re an author, how have you changed creatively over the years? Let us know in the comments section below.

Authors Answer 149 – eBook Piracy

Pretty much everything that’s been copyrighted or patented has been copied. There are bootleg copies of Rolex watches, bootlegged and pirated movies, sharing of music with peer-to-peer sharing software, and eBook piracy. It’s the last one we’re concerned about. This week’s question was asked by Gregory S. Close.

Question 149 – What are your thoughts on ebook piracy – is it a terrible scourge, a necessary evil, or potentially great viral exposure?

C E Aylett

That’s a tricky one. I mean, before ebooks were around how many times did you lend or were lent a book? We didn’t recognise it back then as piracy, but it amounts to the same thing — sharing a work you didn’t have the right to distribute. Of course, that’s small scale compared to how things are shared nowadays.

I came across one of my Kindle stories on a reading site the other day, actually. I thought I’d investigate further and hit the ‘read online’ button to see what happened. It asked me to register and give my credit card details, even though they promised they wouldn’t take any money from the card. Obviously, alarm bells were clanging and I declined, but it did make me wonder how it worked. If I had given my card number, would I have been able to access the story for free, and if so, how can that be when it’s a story solely on Kindle and should be behind a paywall? If they had scammed me and taken money from my card, would I have had access to the story for free and who the hell is making money on the back of my work and not paying me? Because Amazon are the only ones who pay me for those stories. It’s one thing having stuff out there for free because you want to share your work or gain readership but it’s something else entirely if people have access to unlimited content for a small fee that isn’t being paid to the authors of the material the hosts are profiting from. That is noxious. But it seems the life of an author, sadly. Most short fiction publications want you to donate your work to them for nothing, too. It’s attack on the author from all sides!

D. T. Nova

A mildly annoying scourge, maybe? It’s bad and should be discouraged, but I think the scale of it isn’t sufficient to be as big a concern as some people make it to be.

Paul B. Spence

*Shrug* I don’t feel like it affects me. I could see it being a strategy for viral marketing, if anyone wanted the book. The way I see it, people who want to buy my book will buy my book. If they are pirating lots of books, they probably won’t ever read mine anyway.

Cyrus Keith

Any kind of intellectual piracy is the kind of arrogance I’d relegate to someone with the mentality and moral compass of a fly. The worst part is, they don’t respect anyone else’s privacy and property, and think nothing of stealing from others, justifying their theft through entitlement thinking. They don’t care how much blood, sweat and tears we have to pour out to create our work, they just want a free ride on our coattails. My blood pressure goes up even thinking about these cretins, these leeches, taking food from my table, stealing from my pocket, not caring that I struggle to meet my own bills. They may as well be coming through my window and making off with my wallet. There is no excuse, no good reason for what they do, and I wish I could implant something in every one of my books that could detect a piracy attempt and fry out their hard drive. I believe I’ve answered the question.

Gregory S. Close

I think piracy sucks, and there’s (generally) no excuse for it. I have no problem with friends sharing individual copies of paperback or ebooks, but actual piracy, where the book is taken and distributed to millions upon millions with one click – no. I don’t buy the “it gets you more exposure” or “there’s nothing you can do about it” arguments. It’s stealing. You are taking something that an author worked very hard to create and produce in a qualify way, and you’re not compensating the artist. That sucks. It’s also a bad way to ensure ever getting further creative content from that artist. If someone really wanted a free copy of my book, for example, they might try ASKING me for it vs. torrenting it.

Eric Wood

At first, my initial thought is that it’s a terrible scourge. I wouldn’t walk into a bookstore and walk out with a (or many) book without paying for it. Why I would I do that online? I might as well take the money right from the author’s pockets. However, with the internet being the internet, it’s going to happen. So perhaps it’s more a necessary evil? It will help word of your work spread when one reads it (for free or otherwise) and tells others that they read it and liked it and encourage others to read it who then go out and buy it.

Jean Davis

As much as it might potentially be great exposure, I work for months, sometimes years on a book. Giving that effort away for free doesn’t pay my bills. It’s not like I’m working for some giant book making company that pays me regardless and can absorb the losses piracy creates. When you don’t purchase the book in one way or another, that’s lunch money for my kid, my electric bill, etc, that falls short.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

That’s a tough one. I don’t know if I’d call it a “scourge” any more than I’d use the same word to describe the thousands of people who pirate each episode of Game of Thrones (hey, if HBO is going to make it effectively impossible to legally obtain episodes in Canada, I’m calling the piracy fair game!). A necessary evil? Perhaps, because it’s simply one of those things that’s nearly impossible to avoid, so why bother worrying too much about it? Potentially great viral exposure? I guess that depends on a number of factors. All in all, I can personally say that, as an indie author with little-to-no royalty income to her name, I do find the idea that people might be passing around pirated copies of my book to be very vexing. But then again, these pirates who are reading the book probably wouldn’t have ever read the book if they hadn’t been able to pirate it. So it’s one of those situations in which you almost have to just be happy with the less crappy option; either way I’m not getting paid, but at least someone is reading the book. Was my thought process bouncy enough for you on that one?

H. Anthe Davis

As someone who doesn’t write for the money, it doesn’t really mean anything to me. So long as people are reading it, I’m happy. Though I’d like it if they’d leave a review somewhere…

Jay Dee Archer

Necessary evil? No, it’s not necessary at all. Scourge? Probably not as bad as people may think, but it would be incredibly irritating for me to find that one of my (future) books is pirated. Potentially great viral exposure? Exactly how is it going to go viral? Thousands of people download the pirated copy, and I don’t see a single penny? No. Absolutely not. I’ve been working on this for years. I want my money. Am I greedy? No. Any artist who works on something for a long time, putting so much time and energy into something, would want a return in their investment. While I don’t expect to be a bestseller, I want to be able to pay bills. I have a family to support. Just like I’m not going to write for someone for free just for the exposure. I write for you, you pay me. Same thing if I was doing photography. You want me to take pictures for you, you pay me. You want me to paint a picture for you, you pay me. I write a book and spend a large amount of time and effort on it, I expect to be paid for it. So, eBook piracy is stealing. It’s that simple.

How about you?

Are you an author? How do you feel about eBook piracy? If you’re not an author, but you’re a reader, how do you feel about obtaining books through questionable means without giving compensation to the author? Let us know in the comments below.

Where’s Authors Answer?

You may have noticed that the last three Authors Answer haven’t gone up. Never fear, they will all be up this week! This is going to be a big Authors Answer week, so plenty of answers to read. What happened? Life, generally. I won’t go into details, but a lot happened.

What’s in store for October? Normalcy! Actually, it’ll be Authors Answer’s third anniversary at the end of this month, and if you’ve been following it for a long time, you’ll know what we do for our anniversary questions. Guest authors! I don’t know who’s going to be a guest yet, but I have a lot of people I want to ask. In the past, we’ve had Michael J. Sullivan, Django Wexler, Janny Wurts, Mark Lawrence, and more! I’m hoping for some more authors this month.

Who do you think I should ask? Keep in mind that most books I read are fantasy and science fiction, so I’d be more inclined to ask fantasy and science fiction authors.  Let me know in the comments section below.

Authors Answer 146 – Being Charitable

A lot of the big authors support charitable causes or projects. They could be for education, poverty, medical, or many other causes. With plenty of money from contracts and book sales, many authors want to use the money for some good. This week’s question comes from C E Aylett.

Question 146 – If you became a big-name author, like Rowling or Lee Child, what personal projects would you pursue/create with your fame and fortune? What causes would you support?

H. Anthe Davis

I’ve never looked into this, as I doubt it would happen, but I generally support environmental causes so I’m sure I’d start there. And probably give grants to some library systems.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I am a huge, huge, HUGE fan of the “Always Keep Fighting” campaign that was created by Jared Padalecki of the Supernatural TV show. Padalecki has suffered a great deal from anxiety and depression, and has used his fame and influence to create this campaign selling shirts with logos from the show in support of mental health awareness and support. I really respect that and admire the success he and his co-stars have had with the campaign, because I myself have also suffered – mostly in silence – from anxiety and depression. With that said, I’ve promised myself that if I ever do manage to become a big-name author with any kind of real ability to affect social influence, I’ll start my own similar pursuit to support those who don’t always know how to support themselves, because I know what it feels like to struggle with the idea that you’re all alone inside your own broken head.

Jean Davis

Assuming I was a big name author, I’d love to so some anthologies with lesser known authors to help get them noticed by readers. With anything resembling a fortune, I’d continue to support National Novel Writing Month to a better degree than I do currently. I’m sure there are many great causes out there, but that’s the one that comes to mind first.

Eric Wood

There are two I think I would support. Since I just gave blood yesterday, something I do often, I would support the blood drives. Perhaps I would get that license plate that says “vampire” for when I park at blood donor clinics. Being a teacher I would support education. Perhaps through breakfast programs or free lunches or simply rally the people around teachers and all they do. I would also consider creating scholarships for kids who wanted to pursue a degree in education.

Gregory S. Close

If I had the money and influence of someone like J.K. Rowling… Wow. I would love to contribute money, time and resources to raise funds and awareness for lesser-known diseases and cancers, like Langerhans-cell Histiocytosis (LCH). Ironically, it’s LCH Awareness Month in September and I always do some sort of fund raiser this time of year (this year, giving away free books and asking for donations in return: http://lightdarkandshadow.blogspot.com/2017/09/free-book-92-94-in-support-of.html). So hey – go get yourself a FREE BOOK! 🙂 If I had a larger social media presence, my tiny little effort would be magnified a thousand fold and might actually make a difference. That would be great.

I would also like to start a foundation (or contribute to an existing one) that focuses on teaching critical thinking, rational discourse and civility to youth. Social media has amplified how far and how fast ignorance can travel and propagate misinformation. We need to provide the tools for people to discern what really is fake news versus what some politician might claim is fake news for their own personal gain. People are arguing back and forth with very subjective, meme-based arguments that don’t make sense and don’t contribute to solutions. Love to help stop that.

Cyrus Keith

I have a dream of transforming run-down, crime-ridden neighborhoods from the inside out, being able to provide capital and a hand-up to bring local businesses back in, and provide incentives to clean up and provide self-policing efforts to reduce crime and renew hope for folks to get rid of ghettos one at a time.

Paul B. Spence

Hmm. Personal projects? Powered armor? Practical nanotechnology? A space program? I’m not sure what you were looking for here. Causes? You mean like world peace? I’m not much of a cause-head. I think I’d probably support feeding and housing the homeless. While we cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of people in other countries, we need to put our own house in order first. We should be leading the world in education and medicine… I guess I do have a cause of sorts.

D. T. Nova

Personal projects: An animated adaptation of my writing, maybe?

Causes: clean energy and human equality.

C E Aylett

In my twenties I spent a week in east Burma, around Kengtung area. I didn’t know anything about the place – we just happened upon a ‘guide’ at the Thai border when we went to get our passports stamped to enable our visa extension, and met with him a week later and off we went. He took us to some of the mountain villages which, unbeknown to me, we weren’t supposed to go to — tourists at the time were only allowed to stay — i.e. spend their dollars in — government owned hotels (i.e. all the hotels).

The villagers had never seen white people before, and the children were hesitant to come near us, though massively curious at the same time, peeking around walls and then hiding if we looked their direction. Their hospitality was unmatched by any other place we went that whole year trip and one place in particular stands out in my mind, though I don’t know the name of the place exactly. They threw us a party, we danced all night and in the morning we had to wait until our guide had sufficiently recovered from the night before. Turned out he was into the black smoke and we had financed his addiction as this happened almost every day. So, while the men all seemed to do nothing but smoke opium, and the women seemed to have gone off to work the paddy fields from early morning, we were left with the children and the grandmothers. We had a pack of playing cards and a biro and some paper and the kids completely enthralled by us trying to teach them card games (not very successfully) and drawing around their hands and stuff. They particularly liked it when we tied our sleeping guide’s shoelaces together! (he-he) The kids were crying out to learn, it seemed to me, but there was no school for them, which was part of the oppression of the people. Turns out that area of Burma had only recently opened up to tourists and was historically where most of the rebel action happened. (Yes, research countries before you visit them!)

Anyway, getting back to the question, if I had that amount of success and it was politically possible, I would finance some schools or education projects in that area. If felt like such a waste of young minds and we could see their futures laid out before them, no hope of escape. The people were so lovely. They didn’t have much but they gave us everything they had in terms of hospitality and I would love to go back one day.

Jay Dee Archer

As a strong supporter of education and the sciences, I would probably give to one of many causes that provides good quality science education to those who are not in a good position to receive it. For example, scholarships for low income students who want to study the sciences in university, or an organisation that promotes the sciences in communities to encourage people to be more scientifically literate. With the increase in the number of people who deny climate change, are anti-vaccination, deny evolution, and get fooled by con-artists who promote dangerous pseudoscientific “cures” that don’t actually work, I think science education is more important than ever. Awareness needs to improve. That and I’d like to support clean energy.

How about you?

Which causes and projects would you support? Let us know in the comments section below.

Authors Answer 143 – The First Book Advance

Writing books is a job. Most authors do it with the hope that they can become a full time author, and be able to support themselves on the income they receive. But that first advance is a big milestone in any author’s career. This week’s question comes from our very own C E Aylett.

I would also like to take a moment and thank Beth Aman for her contributions in the past year. She’s going to college, and will be concentrating on that. Good luck, Beth!

Question 143 – What would you/did you spend your first book advance on?

Linda G. Hill

I would spend my advance getting myself out of debt. …wait, how much are we talking? More than $30,000? I’ll probably go out for coffee.

Cyrus Keith

Probably a car. I’ve never had a car that I didn’t have to spend dark, cold evenings in my driveway effecting repairs to get to work the next morning. Even my best cars needed the Desperation Treatment at least once. At least I’m a halfway decent backyard mechanic.

D. T. Nova

I’m not sure what, but I’m sure that whatever special thing I spent part of it on right away wouldn’t cost a very large portion of it.

Paul B. Spence

Cookies? What does anyone spend any money on? Bills? Food? Books? Whatever? I’m not sure that I see an advance as anything other than a paycheck.

Jean Davis

I splurged on a comfortable writing chair. Not that my advance covered the whole purchase, but it did go towards it. I figured if I was finally going to be serious about this writing thing, I should have a chair that I wanted to sit in, one that felt like a reward for years of toiling over words and would motivate me to continue to do so.

Gregory S. Close

Any book advance I receive, if I ever am so fortunate, would go in the bank to pay the bills like any other income. If we’re talking a ridiculous sort of advance, where the money spilleth over… well, then I’d like to do something nice for the family – maybe a remodel of the house, or something really exciting like saving for my daughter’s college.

Eric Wood

I would spend it on a vacation. Naturally, while on vacation I would be looking for more writing inspiration – new characters, new settings, new plot twists, etc. It’s always fun to people watch and it provides ample opportunity to find people to put in a book.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

It really depends on the size of the advance – the average of which I am woefully uneducated in – but after some thought on the topic, I think I’d go with a couple of new gadgets, specifically a new phone and laptop. My current laptop is huge, heavy, and bulky, and is getting old enough that it’s starting to act up in some really annoying ways, which makes things like writing, for example, rather annoying. My phone is way too old, gets way too hot, and I actually recently dropped it and shattered the screen, so…yeah. It’d be nice to have a new one of those right now!

H. Anthe Davis

I’m a saving kinda person, so I’m sure I would deposit any large check immediately and bask in the increase of my overall savings account. Money is fodder for more projects, though, so I imagine I’d at least mentally dedicate part of it to cover art payments and other acts of brand upkeep. Oh, and maybe get some sushi.

C E Aylett

Depends how big it is. If a small advance probably clear the household bills! If anything was left over, take the kids to Disney in Paris.

If it was a big advance, I’d invest in some sort of property and rent it out so I would always have an income to support my writing, no matter what twists and turns came up in my career. I’d still take the kids to Disney, though.

Jay Dee Archer

I have a feeling this will be a common answer. I’ll pay bills. I think for any kind of income, a lot of it will go toward anything that is obligatory. Bills. If it’s a large advance, bills would be paid for quickly, but I’d probably save most of the money. And if it were a ridiculously large advance, I’d go on a trip and buy a car. Or buy a car and go on a trip. Not at the same time, of course! A road trip would be nice, but my wife and I want to travel overseas.

How about you?

If you’re an author, what would or did you use your first advance on? Let us know in the comments section below.

Authors Answer 142 – Becoming Famous

The vast majority of authors never become famous. They never have a bestseller. They are pretty much unknown. But many authors dream of making it big, becoming one of those authors who is a household name. But how would we handle that newfound fame?

Question 142 – How do you think you would handle fame if your books become as popular as authors like Stephen King?

C E Aylett

I’m a pretty sociable person so I’d probably be far too open for my own good! I’d also like to think I’d keep my feet on the ground and just keep on being me, with perks.

H. Anthe Davis

Authors are hardly rock stars, so I wouldn’t think the pressure of fame would be excessive. There would likely be convention appearances and book signings, so my antisocial little self might have trouble maintaining a pleasant face, but I’ve manned a sales booth before and it wasn’t so bad. All such things end in their time, just have to be nice and wait them out. I think the worst parts for me would be to have a spotlight and a deadline — fan-made or publisher-made. I don’t like to be pushed. Also I’d probably have to drop out of my Day Job, which would mean losing ruminating time and getting way too wrapped up in my own head… Of course, I’m hardly writing the Great American Novel, so I wouldn’t have a problem writing follow-ups in the same vein as my first popular work. So I think it would be a combination of gratifying and annoying, and make me a surly recluse when I’m not publisher-mandated to put on a smile and sell.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

It’s hard to say, honestly, because you can never really know how you’re going to react in any situation until you’ve been in it. I’d like to think that I’d react well. Being able to support my family with my writing – and subsequently spend more time focusing on my writing as well – is a dream of mine, so I think that I’d be extremely happy, at least to a certain degree.

At the same time, there are definitely downsides that I’m not sure I would deal with all that well. From my tiny, practically insignificant experience with “fame” through my YouTube channel, I’ve learned that having people claim to love and admire you can actually sometimes be very hard on the head in a number of ways. Additionally, growing larger and larger means you end up with more and more expected of you, and that kind of pressure can become like a crushing weight that exacerbates things like anxiety and depression.

So, I guess, without really knowing exactly how I would react, I expect that I’d probably be very happy, but also very stressed.

Eric Wood

If I became as famous as Stephen King (or JK Rowling, even) I would live it up. I would support causes that were important to me (like fighting cancer and making sure the world has access to clean water). I would also make sure I and my family were comfortable and without too many needs. I would do some book tours, too. Perhaps from my RV as I traveled Canada and the US. Because, as long as you aren’t the one driving, you can write while you’re on the road!

Gregory S. Close

If I achieve the sort of mega-success enjoyed by the likes of Stephen King, fame would be a small price to pay for the chance to write full time and make millions of dollars doing it. Unlike some other types of fame, authorial fame still allows for some privacy and anonymity. For example, it’s not like paparazzi are bugging King that much. Regardless, having the financial freedom to write, spend quality time with family, and travel without worrying about allotted vacation time would be worth any added scrutiny. I would also love to support a worthwhile charity in a meaningful way.

Jean Davis

If only one could be so fortunate. I suppose I would make requisite public appearances and attempt to be helpful to other writers who are not yet as popular. I’d spend the rest of my time attempting to write the next great book while under the pressure of people waiting anxiously for it and pray that it doesn’t suck as bad as I think it does.

Beth Aman

Well there’s two answers to this question. The first is that it would be AMAZING to be as popular as Stephen King, because that would mean I’d actually be able to support myself as a writer! (Isn’t that every writer’s dream?) The second is that I’m not sure I’d like being that famous. Sure, it would be amazing to meet people who had enjoyed my work, go to author signings, talk to young writers, etc… but I might go a little crazy being that popular. Hopefully I’d just use my resources to keep writing good stories and keep inspiring others, but I have no idea actually.

Paul B. Spence

Well, I suppose I’d make sure I had some say over who played in the movies… maybe have a look at the scripts, too. Really, I’m not even sure how to answer such a question. I’d quit my day job and write all the time, I suppose.

D. T. Nova

I really don’t know. Of course I’d be glad to have my writing so widely read, but I think I would be overwhelmed by too much publicity. At least at first.

Jay Dee Archer

It’s hard to say. I’ve never been the focus of more than a few hundred people, and that’s on YouTube. I’d probably enjoy the travel, going to book signings, conventions, and being able to afford my own personal travel much more. I like hotels for some reason. Speaking in front of groups used to be an issue for me, but not so much anymore. And if I sold the rights of my books to a movie studio or TV studio, I’d want to be involved in it. I wouldn’t want them to change the story very much.

But, you know, authors tend to not be in the spotlight very much. Even the big, famous authors most likely have a private life, and don’t really have a celebrity status. I’m fine with that.

How about you?

If you’re an author, how do you think you’d handle becoming famous? Let us know in the comments below.

Authors Answer 141 – Choosing a Title

How can something so simple-looking be so difficult? The title may only be a few words, but it’s very important, especially if it’s to be memorable and eye-catching. A book could go through several titles before the final one is chosen. How do we choose our titles?

Question 141 – How do you come up with the title of your stories?

Gregory S. Close

Things that I think are important in a chapter/story/novel title:  double-meanings, turns of phrase, foreshadowing, and (if at all possible) a pun.  For example, one chapter in In Siege of Daylight is called Storms and Wards.  The title is literal, in that there is a storm involved, and magic (wards).  But there’s a bit of double meaning here, because there’s also a bit of conversation about conflict and politics, and the conversation is between a Master Bard and our hero, an Apprentice Bard (his ward, in a sense, kind of like Robin to Batman, but less grim and with more singing).

Other chapters have a lot more symbolism and/or foreshadowing, some a lot less, but I like to slip it in there when I can.

Cyrus Keith

Sometimes out of the clear blue skies, a phrase drops on me like an anaconda and won’t let go (“Hush Little Baby,” “The Next Fool But One“). Sometimes, I look at the overall theme of the story, and the title is a reference to that (“Becoming NADIA‘”, “The Long, Hard Ride to Midnight“). I keep a spreadsheet for title ideas, and one for story ideas. Sometimes I match them up, and sometimes they just kind of stay on their own.

Linda G. Hill

Titles are the hardest thing for me. They are borne of brain-numbing torture most of the time. Only twice has a title come to me easily. In the first case, the title was the inspiration for my first novel – Trixie in a Box (yet unpublished), and the second is a memoir I’m working on about my life as a hearing woman mothering a Deaf son, which will be entitled Don’t Talk with Your Hands Full!

D. T. Nova

I just think about it until I have a title that both means something important to the theme and also sounds good to me, with a tendency toward simple titles.

Paul B. Spence

Painfully. This is really the only part I struggle with. I usually try to name them something that will evoke a certain emotion from the reader, which still somehow relates to the story without giving the plot away. The working title is rarely the one I end up using.

C E Aylett

At some point in the writing process, several drafts down. Most often, anyway. Something will just crop up from the story that hits me as appropriate. Or something connected to the theme.

Beth Aman

I don’t usually stress too much about this.  Sometimes I find a cool line somewhere later in the book, or a cool concept.  I like it to be somewhat related to the plot, but also sometime that conveys what type of story it’s going to be.  I dunno. They just appear.

Jean Davis

My titles seem to just happen. I found that if I need to have a title, it’s a torture session and everything I come up with will be awful. I’ve had a title before I started writing once. Most often they hit me while writing, when a word, theme, or phrase catches my attention. Otherwise, the file is the name of the MC until the first round of edits, which is the other point that title ideas tend to hit me.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

So far my naming conventions have been extremely straightforward. I tend to simply describe a key aspect of the story. In “Nowhere to Hide“, for instance, the main characters are constantly finding that they can’t hide from the looming horror no matter how hard they try. “The Other World” is literally about an “other world”, and early in it’s life it was called “Parallels“, because it was about a parallel world. A short story that I wrote for a competition was called “Pool of Diamonds” because the key scene has the main character kneeling in a puddle, surrounded by diamonds. In retrospect, describing my “method” this way sounds terribly lacking in creativity, but I feel the straightforward approach has worked for the works I’ve written so far.

H. Anthe Davis

I am a title-hoarder.  I have a file in my story folder that just collects title ideas — little words and phrases that pop into my head or that I hear somewhere, like in a song, that stick with me and gestate an idea in my mind.  When I’m titling novels or chapters, I reference that list to see what best fits.  If nothing does, I look at the overall theme of the novel: what sort of mood or philosophy am I most leaning toward in it?  My first book, The Light of Kerrindryr, got that (possibly hampering) title because the main character is conflicted in his understanding of the Light, which he worships.  Is he truly following the Light he knew back home (in Kerrindryr), or is this some different, twisted version of the Light he’s succumbed to in his travels abroad?  This isn’t ever explicitly stated, but it’s a conflict in him throughout the book, and so it became the title.  Other titles in the series have referenced key events or important objects (The Splintered Eye for an event/creature, The Living Throne for an object/….creature, etc).  I also try to make sure that the covers resonate with the title, because I’m picky like that.

Eric Wood

First, I’ll come up with a working title, usually based on the plan I have in my head. Then I start writing. If the title still matches the piece, I keep it. Otherwise, I’ll retitle it to be a creative interpretation of the story or blog post. I try to keep it mysterious, yet comprehensible enough so readers have an idea of what to expect. Like good lingerie, something needs to be left to the imagination.

Jay Dee Archer

This is definitely one of the most difficult parts of writing for me. The story, characters, and setting are easy by comparison. I go through several titles, usually. But sometimes one sticks out that I feel I really need to use. For my Ariadne series, the web serial is called Journey to Ariadne because it chronicles the preparation and journey to the planet Ariadne. The first novel is likely to be titled The Knights of Ariadne, and it has a double meaning. The family name of one of the colony’s main families is Knight. But also, it can mean warriors. As for the series about the old man traveling through the solar system, I have no title ideas yet. And a fantasy series I have planned is tentatively called The Fractured Lands, but that may change.

Quite often, the title will come early on, but I won’t always stick with it. It can be an inspiration for the story, though. There could also be something in the story as I write it that becomes the title.

How about you?

If you’re an author, how do you choose a title for your books? Let us know in the comments section below.

Authors Answer 140 – Developing Plot

You need characters and setting for a story, but what would it be without a plot? Not much of anything. The plot may be one of the most complex parts of writing. A good plot isn’t predictable and straightforward. There may be multiple story lines running through the plot, but they all lead to one conclusion. So, how do we develop our plots?

Question 140 – How do you develop the plot of your stories?

Eric Wood

To develop a plot I sketch it out much like an artist would. An artist might draw out the art piece in pencil with very light strokes that are easily covered. I sketch out the plot of my stories with short words, a few descriptions, and random ideas to that come to me. It’s when I sit down to write the story in full that I then fill in details and move the story along from beginning to middle to end.

H. Anthe Davis

Plot? What plot? Okay, so I do have plot, even though at base it’s ‘a couple people plunge into adventures to stop a threat against everything’ — standard fantasy schtick. However, I think of ‘saving the world’ as more the end-goal, and all the plot movement is about what the individual characters want, how those wants impact other characters’ needs and ambitions, and how these conflicts turn and twist the story as the characters fight their way toward their end goal. All of my characters have their own little arc — not always very large — which is both based on and also gives them their personality. It may have nothing to do with the main plot but it’s something that drives them, and because of that it influences and potentially bends the main plot in unpredictable ways. I always want to make sure that as the writer, I’m not railroading the characters into certain actions — but it’s okay if the characters themselves are acting on each other to force actions because of their personal motivations. Obviously my stuff is very character-driven.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I’m honestly not quite sure how to answer this question, because actively “developing” a plot isn’t really my style, to be blunt. For better or worse, my writing method has most been, “picture cool scene in head –> write scene –> try to come up with logical reason for that scene to exist”. It’s probably not the most professional approach to writing, but so far it’s been what works for me, and amazingly my plots have manage to work themselves out into coherent stories that my readers seem to be enjoying!

Jean Davis

I usually start writing with an opening scene in mind and just see what happens. Occasionally I’ll know where I want the story to end, most of the time I don’t. Most of my first drafts move along like: if this happens, they need to B to get to C and hmm, to get to D they need to do this thing, etc. So I guess I’d say it’s an organic plot process. There’s a good deal of me looking off into space throughout the day while I run through the next step of the plot in my head before I sit down to write the next scene.

Beth Aman

HAHAHA, what’s a plot? Am I supposed to have one of those? Usually I just start writing and let the plot unfold as I write. (This is called being a “pantser” – ie you ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ as you write.) I really flesh out my plot and have it all start to make sense when I do draft #2, and each successive draft makes more and more sense plot-wise, with adding in smaller plot arcs, micro-tensions, and foreshadowing. It’s like the first draft is me going around making a bunch of dots on the page, and the second draft is connecting the dots to make a picture. For actually coming up with the plot, I take my ideas and then ask ‘what could go wrong here?’ or ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen?’ or sometimes, ‘what’s unexpected?’ Then I let my imagination go wild, and try to make it all make sense at the end. (I wish I was a plotter. I really do. It would make life so much simpler.)

C E Aylett

No set formula. Sometimes, especially if I’ve researched a character particularly well, I’ll just write what comes to me and often it works out roughly to be right — the plot stems from the character. Sometimes, and this happens with the stories that come from dreams or something I heard on the news, I have a major twist or an ending in mind, something that the story pivots on. I then write out a first draft, see where I’m at by the end and how the story arc runs. If needs be, the beginning will be rewritten to accommodate a strong arc.

Paul B. Spence

I decide where to begin. I think of something interesting in the future of the characters to write toward. I fill the space with character development and side-stories.

D. T. Nova

Same as with characters, elements of the plot can be inspired by anything, and once the idea is there it’s mostly down to seeing how it fits together. I go through so many ideas and don’t think its entirely conscious how I decide which ones belong in the same story.

Linda G. Hill

“What if …?” It’s a question I’m always asking in my head, and it often ends up being a story.

Cyrus Keith

Plots come from everything from dreams to sudden revelations, to lessons learned, to random over-hearing “what if…” from across the room. Sometimes, the plot comes after the title. I love plays on words, and sometimes I get a great title idea. For instance, a thriller with a title like “Hush Little Baby” generates so many delicious ideas. That’s my current WIP.

Gregory S. Close

My plotting goes something like this: Come up with the basic story elements, flesh out the world-building and character-building as necessary to begin writing, maybe do a story outline, then start writing. Plot has to be consistent and fun and maybe a little bit complicated here and there, but it should move forward through the eyes/experience of the characters and in context of the world. It has to make sense. The bad guy is taking over the world!! Why? The magic sword has been discovered! Where was it? Why? Who put it there? I adjust plot just like I adjust character and world-building – if the driving story element turns out to be stupid, inconsistent, or otherwise doesn’t work – I change it. My last step in plotting is, after the final draft, go back and add the moments, clues, snippets of dialogue and foreshadowing etc that will glue it all together into a seamless story.

Jay Dee Archer

I start off with the idea, then develop a general direction I want the story to go in. I know how I want to finish the story, and work toward that goal. I start off quite general. I’ll write out the major plot points, then flesh them out. I plan out what I want to do for each chapter, outlining them. I pay attention to what each major character should be doing at the time, even if they aren’t in a chapter or scene. I need to know how each story line is going, and where they intersect. Once I’ve figured out the plot, I start writing. But the plotting isn’t finished. While I write, new ideas pop in my head, and sometimes it takes a new direction. When I finish writing my first draft, I go back to make sure I’ve got all the plot points in that I wanted, and make sure they work. I check that there are no loose ends. And of course, I make sure there’s a bit of foreshadowing in there. I also refer back to all of my character and setting notes to make sure everything is consistent. In the end, I should have a nice, cohesive story.

How about you?

If you’re an author, how do you develop your plot? Let us know in the comments section below.

Authors Answer 139 – Developing Setting

Last week, we talked about characters. But now they need a place. A well-rounded book has a setting. A good setting can create the atmosphere, whether it’s a real place or imagined. Real places are already established for the author, but they have to know it well. Imagined places require world building, and that can be a complex process. How do our authors tackle setting?

Question 139 – How do you develop the setting of your stories?

Gregory S. Close

I develop setting the same way that I develop characters, by establishing a history, economics, rules, laws, mores, religions, geography, species etcetera and then strictly adhering to that until I need to ignore it, modify it, or do whatever else serves the story best. There were a lot of things for In Siege of Daylight that shifted or changed altogether as the story came together, but having the solid foundation at the beginning allowed me the framework to be flexible when needed. Also, thinking thoroughly through things like economics and trade really add some realism and nuance to your cultures and countries.

Growing up, I played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons. A LOT. This can be dangerous, because it can lock you in the stereotypes of RPG races and countries, but the mechanics of world-building really do come in handy when applied properly. Early version of the world of In Siege of Daylight were a campaign setting, and by fleshing out the world with adventures, characters and storylines that evolved unexpectedly it really helped develop the mythology and depth of the world.

For my science fiction setting of Greyspace, its a pretty similar method. I did a lot of research into space travel, emerging bio-tech, military tech, submarines (similar to spacecraft in terms of crew composition and psychology, and then a lot of different stuff on mythology and folklore for the magic elements. Again, a lot changed, but getting that solid footing for your world allows the leverage to pivot when you need to.

Cyrus Keith

Setting is dictated by the story line. On my first published novel, I set out to write a high-tech-hard sci-fi story. But the story line just refused to support it. There’s just so much going on all at once, the story would have been lost in the fog of all the gizmos and gadgets. My current WIP is set in a large city, because it features urban homeless people. As with characters, the specifics come about as the story develops. I don’t waste time on sketches and world-building because it changes as things come together, and I abhor “info dumps” that come with highly-developed worlds that authors are only too eager to show off.

Linda G. Hill

I have a hard time imagining settings, so I use real places to inspire me. Sometimes I name them (Kingston, Ontario, Canada is the main inspiration for the setting of my novel The Magician’s Curse), and sometimes I just observe and describe without making mention of where they are. I love to travel, and do so a lot just for the sake of my novels. In fact, I’m thinking about going to Edmonton in the coming months because the West Edmonton Mall is one of my settings. Maybe we can meet for coffee again, Jay Dee!

D. T. Nova

For the most part I’ve had setting made to fit the plot and characters, and not really standing out otherwise. I’ve been trying to change that and have more interesting settings.

Paul B. Spence

Usually in giant brainstorming sessions. It grows in leaps and bounds, and the options for stories to tell grows exponentially. I have a lot of basic information compiled from over the years.

C E Aylett

Um, same answer as last week? Research. Lots of it. Setting and character can be quite closely connected in the ways they connect and contrast. I have a class on how to build character from setting on Skillshare.

Beth Aman

Sometimes I just write them. Sometimes I’ll kinda prep ahead of time by drawing certain places or objects, or by making lists of sounds and smells of places. Then when I go to write them, I try to remember that settings should use all five senses, and that they should add to the general mood/ feeling of the scene. Often times, I have a lot of work to do in the editing process, because I’ll be so caught up in writing the story that I forget to fully flesh-out the setting. It’s a multi-step process, and I’m always going back and working on it.

Jean Davis

In my first draft, settings are generally utilitarian, whatever is needed to make the scene happen. Most of my focus is on dialogue and action. There might be a couple distinctive characteristics to help me solidify what I see in my head while I’m writing. If the characters end up there more than once, I’ll probably add more details in that first draft and pull it all together with a more polished description during the first major edit.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

A large chunk of my writing, thus far, has been based within the real world, and so I’ve gone about my setting development by simply describing places I’ve actually been. “Nowhere to Hide“, for instance, has the characters moving about in a zombie-infested version of modern-day Earth, so without actually naming specific places, I simply had my characters move around in towns and areas I’ve actually been and worked from there. The beginning of “The Other World: Book One” is similar; the high school I describe is based on the college I actually went to, and the town Tori lives in is based on the town where I grew up. Moving outside of the real world is more difficult of course, which I learned with the rest of “The Other World: Book One“. I find it difficult to to “make up” settings, so I tend to stick to my “real world” method, while adding in “fantastic” elements. Such as, for instance, the scene in which Tori first realizes she’s in a parallel universe: the setting is a simple field with a small cabin, but when she looks up, the stars above come in a variety of shining colors.

H. Anthe Davis

I’ve spent almost two decades developing just one setting, so it’s hard to say how that gestated (beside a bunch of notes in a high school journal that I just started adding onto infinitely). However, I’ve been developing a new setting on the side for a few years, in dribs and drabs, so… I guess it just starts with a core idea or problem to solve (for instance, make a world where zombies/undead are reanimated by ‘tainted’ water) then spin off of it to find the logic and culture that gets wrapped around the concept. Like…what is it about the water that does this reanimation? (It’s a goddess-of-undeath’s blood.) How did it get that way? (Enemies of the locals killed her, it’s her revenge.) Who were the enemies and who are the locals? (Enemies from overseas, locals etc etc…) What conflicts does this produce? What story seeds does it create? How many of those seeds can grow into the background-jungle of the main story, to add complexity to the world and themes but not entirely impinge upon the plot? Then, after I deal with most of those questions, I start researching and image-browsing for stuff that aesthetically suits the idea in my head, to build the visual facade of the setting over the bones of the stories it contains.

Eric Wood

When I start to write a story, the setting comes to me in pieces while I write, much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I know what the final image will look like, but the details fit themselves in during the writing process. Most of my stories take place during modern times in a fictional location. Then I just make up the rest as I go along.

Jay Dee Archer

I enjoy writing stories on other worlds, both science fiction and fantasy. I do a lot of world building. For my Ariadne setting, I started out with the concept, and then I drew a world map. After that, I drew another map with 16 sheets of paper. I created mountains, rivers, seas, oceans, ice caps, and climate zones. I then created countries and cities, expanding the colony organically. I focused on a handful of places that are important for the first book. Although I haven’t done so yet, I plan on drawing city maps and any maps of important locations. You see, I love maps, and they help me visualise places much more vividly and with consistency.

How about you?

If you’re an author, how do you develop setting? Let us know in the comments below.