Tag Archives: writing

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.

Authors Answer 148 – Selling Your Book’s Film Rights

Popular books are most likely to be filmed. Lord of the Rings became arguably some of the best film adaptations. The Hobbit is another matter. Jurassic Park became a fun action and special effects movie, but lost the intelligence of the book. When authors sell the film rights to their books, they have to consider who’s going to make the movie and how closely they’ll adhere to the original story of the book. Do it for money, or do it for the integrity of the story? This week’s question was asked by C E Aylett.

Question 148 – Given the opportunity, would you sell film rights to your book without question or risk waiting for the right production team to come along later down the line, even if there were no other offers on the table?

H. Anthe Davis

I would certainly want to wait for the right production team. A big part of my series, its themes and its world is the multi-racial and especially the mixed-racial aspect, to the point that I’d want most of the cast to be of mixed heritage. Considering Hollywood’s long-standing whitewashing issues, I would need to trust the casting department of whatever production team I sold it to, or else the whole point of the story would be adulterated.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

It’s entirely possible that my answer would change down the road, based on my present situation, but right now, at this exact moment in time, if someone wanted to buy the film rights to one of my books I’d probably have the contract signed before they could finish forming the sentence. For one thing, I assume the money for selling film rights would be a fairly nice little paycheck, which I could definitely use at this junction in my life. For another thing, I jut think it would be amazing to have someone make a movie of one of my stories. Perhaps they’d butcher it beyond belief, but I guess just the idea that someone would even consider one of my stories worth adapting to film sounds incredible to me.

Jean Davis

That would be like accepting a publisher’s offer without question just so you can be published. No thanks. As awesome as an offer on film rights would be, I have questions and I need answers before signing anything.

Eric Wood

If it were my first book turned movie I would probably sell the rights to the first comer. I would just be so excited to see my work on the big screen that I wouldn’t want to wait for another team to come along. If later books were to become movies I would hold out for the right production team. After the novelty of the silver screen wore off after the first movie, I would want to see my next one done bigger and better and as professionally as possible with an A list cast.

Gregory S. Close

I’m not sure that I’d sell the film rights “without question” but I would probably make some sacrifice in creative control/oversight if the payout meant that I could choose to write full-time. I would rather wait for the right team/studio to make the most faithful adaptation possible for the chosen medium, but I’m too old and have too many bills and obligations to be too picky. I’m in more of a Han Solo frame of mind than Luke Skywalker on this point, I guess!

Cyrus Keith

I have a huge personal stake on my reputation as a person as well as a writer. Opening Hollywood to do the same to my work as what they did to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and so many other novels makes my skin crawl. I couldn’t bring myself to sign off carte-blanche creative control to someone who would make my work mean something totally different from what I wrote.

Paul B. Spence

Hmm. Tough question. I might sell an option without question, but not the rights altogether. I suppose the answer is no, unless they offered me some ridiculous sum of money, in which case they are probably right for the production anyway.

D. T. Nova

I’d definitely have some standards.

I particularly don’t like the thought of having to turn down a later offer because the rights are tied up with something that might not even be made and won’t be good even if it is.

C E Aylett

Ha-ha! My own question and I have no idea. I think maybe it would depend on which book. Some would probably have a higher emotion investment than others (on my part). Also, it might depend on how popular the book was. I mean, let’s say it turned into a cult classic or huge like 50 Shades, then maybe you could afford to wait it out. George R.R Martin says that by the time film options came to him he’d made so much money from the book series he could afford to say no to Hollywood, and did. And aren’t we all grateful for that!

Jay Dee Archer

Without question? No. I don’t think authors are likely to do that. There will be questions. Who wouldn’t ask questions? I’d want to make sure that they aren’t going to completely change the story. If it turns out totally different than the book, I probably wouldn’t want it connected to my book, especially if it flops. Ideally, I’d like to have some creative control with the script of the movie. I’d want to work with the scriptwriters. No, I’d probably want to wait, unless that first offer is actually pretty good.

How about you?

If you’re an author, would you sell the movie rights to your books to the first studio that gives you an offer without question, or would you wait for the right offer? Let us know in the comments below.

Authors Answer 147 – Considering Economic Factors When Writing

Creativity is probably the leading reason authors write. They want to create stories that people enjoy. But how much does economics factor into writing books? There are several factors that may figure into how a person writes, including book length and more. This week’s question comes from Gregory S. Close.

Question 147 – Do you write purely creatively, or do you consider economic factors, such as how long the book will be, and how that would effect production/distribution costs?

C E Aylett

Purely creatively. If you approach it from the other direction you are boxing in your muse. And there’s nothing worse than a story that feels contrived to fit size (think of TV series Game of Thrones — wouldn’t we have liked a little more time to develop the Jon/ Dany relationship? Now it feels inauthentic because it wasn’t afforded the proper amount of time to develop, unlike him and Ygritte.)

D. T. Nova

I’ve paid attention to the length, but with more focus on pacing and tension than on economics.

Paul B. Spence

A little of both, of course. I write the book as creatively as you could wish. I do, however, keep in mind a certain size for the book. I try for ninety thousand to one hundred-fifty thousand words per book. So far so good…

Cyrus Keith

Word count is a factor. Many publishers today don’t want to even look at works less than 75,000 words for a novel. After that, I write what I want to write.

Gregory S. Close

Once upon a time I wrote purely creatively, and assumed that the merit of the work would drive how it was published, rather than things like page count, trim, how much shelf-space it would take up, etc. I thought that I was being economically responsible, but I really didn’t know how things worked until my first experience self-publishing. After surviving that, and realizing how much the size of a book effects the production cost, and thus the potential profit for the publisher and/or author (I only get pennies for every paperback of In Siege of Daylight that I sell, because of the print/production costs of a 600+ page, 240k word beast of a tome that it is), I changed my tune.

Now, I’m a lot more practical in how I consider my writing. I know that the sequel to Daylight will probably be equally huge. I can’t afford to invest the time in another epic and the money in the editing, cover art, trim etc. for another economically doomed novel. So, to be strategic, I have decided that if/when I write at all now, it is to be focused on the shorter, more contained, and potentially more profitable books (Greyspace, short stories and a couple of other ideas I’ve got kicking around). In theory, strategically marketing those more profitable works should allow for me to then pivot back to the GIANT TOTALLY EPIC SERIES. Back and forth I must go, if I ever want to make this work. It takes some of the fun out of it, but ultimately, planning ahead might make the difference between getting a chance to write full time or continuing to write part time, part of the time.

Eric Wood

Seeing as how I’m not published yet, I write solely creatively. I write for free right now, so if someone were to offer to pay me double I’d still make nothing. Perhaps one day I’ll have keep those factors in mind.

Jean Davis

When I set out to write a book, I just write the book. The story is how long it is. However, when it comes to editing that story, I then consider the overall length and what publishing goal would be the best for that particular project. I find it’s easier to focus on embellishing or streamlining after the initial creative process has had its way with the story. Too much pressure to meet a specific word goal makes it more difficult to get that first draft out. I get too hung up on specific word choices, efficient sentence structures or adding sufficient wordy depth to the plot, description, and characters.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

For the overwhelming part, I write purely creatively. I consider small factors, such as ensuring that the book is at least a certain length, but in general I don’t really let that affect my writing. Some would probably say that I should, because it might make my books more attractive to readers/publishers/etc, but for the most part I write because I love it and because I have stories to tell, and I don’t feel like obsessing over those “economic factors” do anything toward writing a good story. Creating something that is enjoyed by the people who read it is more important to me than creating something that checks off all the proper boxes as far as “proper” creation of a book.

H. Anthe Davis

While I’m aware of length and production issues (being an Amazon CreateSpace self-publisher in the print version, and therefore able to see what it costs per unit at certain sizes), I believe a book has to be the length it deserves to be. Can’t shortchange the plot or the characters just for space considerations. That said, there are always tweaks that can be made and extraneous bits that can be trimmed to keep the page count more manageable. I do what I can.

Jay Dee Archer

At the moment, I’m writing purely creatively. I’m not at the point where I’m considering economic factors, such as length of the book. I believe it’s more important to write what I think is a great story. Of course, I have the length of the book in the back of my mind, but also things like cover art. But if I’m thinking about economic factors, it will interfere with my creative process. Write first, worry about the other things later. But once I am considering economic factors, then I will look at what’s best in terms of being published, both independently and traditionally.

How about you?

If you’re an author, do you consider economic aspects while writing, or do you focus on it entirely creatively? Let us know in the comments section below.

Authors Answer 145 – Tropes and Cliches

What’s the difference between a trope and a cliche? In literature, a trope is the use of figures of speech, basically. But it can also refer to common themes to various genres (for example, dark lords and the chosen one type of hero in fantasy). But that sounds like a cliche, doesn’t it? However, a cliche is something that is overused so that it loses its original meaning. This week, we’re talking about that, and the question comes from Gregory S. Close.

Question 145 – Do you avoid tropes and/or cliche in your writing? Why or why not?

Cyrus Keith

Tropes and cliches are WAY too much fun to totally leave behind. Overuse can make a story boring and pat. But if your can combine tropes into something totally new, you can do magic with it. Just learn that fine line on which to balance.

D. T. Nova

I avoid specific tropes that I don’t like.

But there are others that I consciously use, and almost certainly some that slipped in unnoticed.

It’s not possible to avoid all popular tropes, and not productive to try.

I avoid cliches like the plague. Wait a minute.

Paul B. Spence

I’m glad you make a distinction here. A trope is part of what defines a genre. A cliché is a tired, over-used idea that probably needs to go away, at least most of the time. I write science fiction. Tropes of this genre that I use include starships, intelligent machines, aliens, and ancient technologies. The trick to keeping a trope from becoming a cliché is to try to think of new and interesting ways to describe your tropes and don’t get lazy. I try to avoid clichés, although I should point out that I said “probably should go away.” Using a good cliché in a new way makes it interesting.

Jean Davis

It really depends on the story. There are times when relying on tropes can make introducing ideas, characters, or world elements easier for both the reader and writer, allowing them to put more focus on making the original parts of the story shine. Relying too much on clichés and tropes may be seen as lazy writing. However, if you’re writing satire or humor, there is certainly a time and place for both of those things.

Gregory S. Close

A trope is a shortcut. Anytime you use a shortcut, it lets you get where you need to go quickly, but often at the expense of admiring the scenery along the way. Using the shortcut isn’t bad in and of itself, sometimes we really don’t have time to tell every bit of every journey for every character, and a little bit of shorthand can go a long way to keep the story moving. I try to be careful about tropes and cliches, using them to paint broad strokes while taking the time to surprise a little with the fine, detailed, brushes.

Eric Wood

I try to avoid cliches like the plague. I don’t think they add any sustenance to the meat of the story. I lose interest when I read other writers using it. However, a good metaphor will last longer than the leftovers growing in the back of the fridge.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I think I probably avoid a fair number of tropes and cliches, just because I want my stories to be different, you know? For instance, with my zombie novel, Nowhere to Hide, I avoided a lot of the common explanations for the apocalypse, like military testing, nuclear waste, and so on, because I wanted people to get something a bit unusual out of my story instead. That said, I also embraced several common zombie cliches in the writing of the story because sometimes the cliches are what make something fun. I think the key is to look at the tropes and try to decide which are ones that people will be disappointed to not see, and which will make them roll their eyes and groan. It’s not always easy, because peoples’ moods can change like the wind, but if you’re a great lover of the genre you’re writing in, it shouldn’t be too difficult to put yourself in the place of the reader and figure out which cliches they’d like or not like.

H. Anthe Davis

This is a tricky question. First off, not all tropes are bad; they’re just noticeable patterns in the character arcs and stories of several thousand years’ worth of human literature. The idea of a Hero’s Journey isn’t devalued because it’s a recognizable pattern; what may devalue it is in how the trope-y aspects of said Journey are handled. Do you play it straight, in an obvious and hackneyed way? Do you change things up, or start something that seems like a Hero’s Journey but turns into a very different kind of tale? Humans are pattern-makers, and we often enjoy recognizing the bones of a story — no matter if the meat grown on those bones is familiar or strange. I personally can identify certain tropes in my writing and characters, but I make damn sure that the tropes aren’t ALL that defines them — that the characters are people in their own right, breaking out of their constraints wherever they can, and that the story goes in an organic direction defined by those characters. Whether this follows, or twists, or averts other tropes doesn’t matter to me, as long as it feels right.

C E Aylett

Depends on the trope or cliché’s purpose. If it has no purpose and is used out of casual habit, then I would look to eliminate it in edits, but if it has deliberate intention, then yes, I would use it.

Jay Dee Archer

It really depends. I mostly avoid using cliches. If it has a place in something I’m writing, I’ll use it. But mostly, no. As for tropes, I do use them, but I don’t want to use them in the typical way. In some genres, especially fantasy, tropes are extremely common. Quite often, they’re expected. A lot of readers want to see some tropes. I’d rather give them a twist on the tropes, something fresh. But I wouldn’t abandon them. Used correctly, they can work very well.

How about you?

Do you like to see cliches or tropes in the novels you read? If you’re an author, do you use them or avoid them? Let us know in the comments section below.

Authors Answer 144 – The Writer’s Ego

Everyone has an ego, right? The ego is an interesting thing. Some people have a big ego and think very highly of themselves. Others are the opposite, and don’t have much of an ego. They still have an ego, though. It has to do with self-esteem as well as self-importance. But we usually hear about the self-importance part. So, how does it affect authors? This week’s question is from Eric Wood.

Question 144 – Does having a big ego help or hinder a writer?

C E Aylett

I’m sure there have been cases of both — the genius who knows it to be so and is uncompromising in taking advice from others ‘beneath’ him/her and wins out in producing a masterpiece and the humble author who listens openly to suggestions and takes on board what fits with what s/he’s trying to accomplish.

However, in most acknowledgements in most novels, credit is given to those who gave sound advice to the authors during the creation of the book.

If you mean ego = confidence, I don’t think there’s any harm in having confidence in what you do, because nobody else is going to do that for you until you’ve been published and proved yourself to the wider world. Also, if you don’t have some confidence – or ego – in yourself, you’d be too scared to put any of your work out into the world and push for your goals. But ego that takes on arrogance is only going to end up making you look silly if you fall on your face, no one else. I’m thinking of those self-pubbed stories that completely lack a sense of self-awareness because of the author’s ego telling them they’ve written the best story ever without first finding out if that is the case in accordance with the rest of the world.

A writer’s ego is a fragile and conflicted creature, too scared to be brazen yet needing to be so in order to realise its own ambitions. Sweep it too far under the carpet and it will never resurface into the light, but buff and polish it to be too shiny and people will naturally turn away from its garish nature.

H. Anthe Davis

A certain amount of confidence is essential to being able to wade through the pain and suffering of endless edits, rewrites, concrits and reviews. Believing oneself to be the be-all and end-all of writership, though… Well, I guess it works for some people, but personally I believe it eventually turns one’s work into a parody of itself, and keeps one from growing as a writer. It’s important to be able to consider criticisms as well as shrug them off — and big egos can’t do that. If you’ve ever had a favorite writer whose quality of work seems to have gone way downhill the longer they’ve written, ego-issues could be at fault; like a celebrity, a writer can reach a point where they’re only surrounded by yes-men, and lose the ability to edit out their bad ideas.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I think it can be a little bit of both, to be honest. On the one hand, having a big ego can mean that you’re unwilling to accept criticism, even when it’s absolutely warranted. I’ve met fellow writers who were so full of themselves that you couldn’t give them even the tiniest bit of advice, which is a terrible way to be if you actually want to grow as a writer. On the other hand, having no ego at all can also be a bad thing because you’re inevitably going to take a mental and emotional battering as a writer. If you can’t read unnecessarily mean reviews, for instance, without being able to turn around, put on a smile, and know that the reviewer is just an ass who wants to put you down, you’re never going to be able to survive actually becoming popular in any sense. Remember, with views/followers/readers/etc automatically comes trolls.

Eric Wood

I don’t know. That’s why I was asking. I would assume since most writers are introverts, a writer’s ego is usually moderately sized, like a grapefruit. Unlike an athlete with an ego the size of a pumpkin. I guess it just depends on what kind of characters you create. A big egoed writer could more easily write characters who are more boisterous, full of themselves.

Gregory S. Close

Having a big ego will not make or break a writer. Talent will. Ego expressed as self-confidence may help in pursuit of agents or publishers without the pesky interference of self-doubt. Ego expressed as arrogance could alienate an author from fans and hurt sales. In the end, it’s just one trait, and that one trait probably won’t determine much all by itself.

Jean Davis

It would seem that having an ego is necessary to being a writer. If you don’t believe your work is good, you’re not going to submit or publish it. Yet, if your ego gets too big, you may not be open to criticism or advice which can hurt the quality of your writing. There’s a happy medium, somewhere between having your soul crushed and being on top of the world.

Paul B. Spence

I’m guessing a little of both. If you mean an ego about writing… I think it would hurt. A writer has to be able to self-critique and take advice from an editor. On the other hand… you need to have enough ego to put yourself out there and say, “I wrote this. Buy my book, you’ll like it!” You have to believe in yourself and not give up. I think that is at least twenty-five percent of writing.

D. T. Nova

Depending on the situation it could do either one, but I’d say it hinders more than it helps. Especially for anyone who doesn’t already have a big name to go with it.

Cyrus Keith

Depends on how big the ego is. A big ego dreams big, and doesn’t know the meaning of “You can’t do that.” A REALLY big ego has no concept of constructive criticism, because everything they do is “perfect, how dare you question my genius!” In my opinion, a writer has to have a big enough ego to fearlessly push the edge of the envelope without being so self-superior that he/she cannot receive correction.

Jay Dee Archer

It really depends on what you mean by big ego. But I’ll guess that it means someone who has a very high opinion of themselves, extremely self-important. So confident that they’re better than everyone else that they appear arrogant. That kind of person can be an incredible pain, but they also have a lot of confidence in what they’re doing. That can definitely help them. But the drawback could be that they can’t take any kind of criticism. I know there are actors like this. The directors and other actors hate working with them. An author with an ego like this could be difficult to deal with from the point of view of publishers, agents, and editors. That can hurt them.

An ego can be good in terms of confidence. But it can be a hindrance if it means they can’t take criticism.

How about you?

How do you feel about an author having a big ego? Is it an advantage or a hindrance? 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.